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Oscar Performance Kitten's Joy - Devine Actress, by Theatrical (Ire)
Mill Ridge Farm Lexington, KY | 2014 | Entered Stud 2019 | 2019 Fee $20,000

Kentucky Sires 2019 Part IV: First Runners

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Liam’s Map | Photos by Z

By Chris McGrath

So here we are, into a fourth intake of stallions, and we still don’t have even a bullet breeze to show whether or not they can produce stock that actually run. But at least the group we consider today is finally on the brink of testing the water, with their first yearlings now broken and preparing to launch on the track as juveniles of 2019.

Unfortunately for some, the lack of meaningful evidence to this point means that impetuous breeders have already over-reacted to the few straws in the wind. Fees and books are beginning to slide. A stallion’s only chance to protect his reputation has come at the weanling and especially yearling sales–and many breeders will already have fled, knowing that future crops will be judged not according to market whims, but by his stock’s deeds on the track.

It’s hard to feel sorry for those marketed as commercial prospects, if they already find themselves going out of fashion. For it was security from exposure on the track that first drove business their way–and breeders of nervous disposition have meanwhile been offered three fresh cycles of new sires.

The end user, in contrast, is getting better and better value. And, of course, even commercial breeders can strike gold by holding their nerve now. By the time you sell a yearling conceived this coming spring, these sires will have put three previous books into play. In other words, it won’t just be those producing precocious 2-year-olds who will have had a chance to show what they can do.

After all, it’s hardly as though the market has established an unerring sixth sense for the sires that are going to work. Year after year, the table of yearling sale averages is predictably dominated by the sires who retired at the highest fees. There will only be the odd one that slips or climbs markedly out of order, and even these bring no guarantee, one way or the other.

We all know that many of the megasires, like Tapit (Pulpit) and War Front (Danzig), suffered the customary cooling in fee and demand until put in lights by their own flesh and blood on the track. The stallions eligible to sire a good horse are seldom identified through their debut at the yearling sales.

In this latest group to endure trial by sales fire, then, we unsurprisingly find the top four averages achieved by stallions who respectively retired at the top, second, equal-fourth and equal-fourth fees of their intake. (They had filled the same slots, naturally from a smaller sample, in the table of foal averages the previous year.)

Now as it happens they do look a legitimately strong group. But all of them, even the first Triple Crown winner in more than a generation, must take a deep breath now that the moment of truth approaches.

Sure enough, having set out at $200,000 and been listed as “private” last year, AMERICAN PHAROAH (Pioneerof the Nile) courts his fourth book of mares at $110,000–despite having proved able to make even his giddy opening fee stand up at the yearling sales.

With the experienced Coolmore team putting their shoulders reliably to the wheel, he sold 67 out of 85 yearlings at an average of $449,389, including half a dozen at seven figures. One way or another, it’s quite an achievement to keep up his end of the bargain so well that after covering 208 and 214 mares in his first two years, he managed to hold together 182 this time round. Throw in his Australian foals, and he already represents untold millions of investment.

Perhaps the best thing that has happened for him this year is the emergence of his young half-sister Chasing Yesterday (Tapit), who now matches him as a juvenile Grade I winner. Another sibling had already been placed at that level, again at two, while their dam is a half-sister to two GSWs. So, it’s all working somehow, which warms the cockles for those of us who like to see some invigorating diversity along the bottom line: first three dams by Yankee Gentleman, Ecliptical and Tri Jet. As previously noted in this series, there have always been stellar Thoroughbreds who challenge us to think more deeply about the genetic threads they entwine.

TDN Rising Star‘ HONOR CODE (A.P. Indy), in contrast, could hardly have brought a more aristocratic family tree back to Lane’s End. From the last crop of his sire, he’s out of a Storm Cat grand-daughter of Serena’s Song (Rahy), the 11-time Grade I winner whose own date with Storm Cat produced Group 1 winner Sophisticat. It is a family brimming with GSWs and Honor Code played his full part, nosing out Cairo Prince (Pioneerof the Nile) in the GII Remsen and regrouping, after largely missing out at three, to win Grade Is in the Met Mile and Whitney with Beyers of 112 and 113, respectively.

Many of his first yearlings bore an eerie stamp of Honor Code’s dark, glossy glamour and 61 of them changed hands, from 77 offered, at $220,303–with a significantly consistent median of $200,000. These numbers are well able to sustain him at his starting fee of $40,000, bearing in mind the resilience of his book: 154 mates this year, after 144 and 153 in his first two seasons.

His buddy TDN Rising Star‘ LIAM’S MAP (Unbridled’s Song) has fared every bit as well off a $25,000 start-up. He sold 64 out of 80 yearlings at $162,293, with a $150,000 median, again underlining the consistency in his stock. Great work from Lane’s End with these two, then, albeit they have given Liam’s Map a precautionary trim to $20,000 after his book dwindled to 114 this year from 148 and then 157. That’s pretty tempting when you recall the way Liam’s Map carried his speed for 114 Beyers in both his Grade Is, the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile and the Woodward S., while only Honor Code himself could run him down in the Whitney.

Though a late starter on the track, Liam’s Map is a half-brother to a precocious achiever in Not This Time (Giant’s Causeway)–whose own stud credentials got him on the value podium in the previous instalment of this series. As noted in connection with Not This Time, this is a bottom line that soon touches greatness: a third dam, for instance, by Damascus out of the daughter of Secretariat and Dr Fager’s half-sister Ta Wee!

Not This Time’s late sire has another potential heir in TDN Rising Star‘ CARPE DIEM (Giant’s Causeway), whose fee at WinStar is held at $25,000 after he weighed in fourth in the yearling averages with 73 of 94 selling at $134,704. He burned briefly, but brightly on the track, disappearing after finishing down the field in the Kentucky Derby, but an impressive Grade I winner at both two (second start, by over six lengths) and three, besides chasing home Texas Red (Afleet Alex) in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.

At $1.6 million, Carpe Diem was his great sire’s most expensive two-year-old and duly proceeded to become his premier American earner, besides being his only Grade I winner on dirt. That yearling tag reflected not only his physique, but also a page that shows him to be a half-brother to a fellow GI Breeders’ Futurity S. winner in J.B.’s Thunder (Thunder Gulch) and dual Grade II winner Farrell (Malibu Moon) as well as two other GSP siblings. There are some pretty quirky names along the bottom line, but we’ve already observed how that can spice up a pedigree. His book held up pretty well this year–133 partners, after 162 and then 144 in his first two years–and it’s easy to envisage some early firecrackers on the track to keep the door revolving.

At number five in the sales table, punching splendidly above weight off $15,000 at Hill ‘n’ Dale, take a bow TDN Rising Star‘ BAYERN (Offlee Wild). An average of $107,634 for 52 sold, out of 64, represents a nine-fold yield on his fee–highlighted by a $600,000 filly. Bayern covered 139 mares in his first year, followed by books of 105 and 106. Turns out that these latter are ahead of the game.

Had he not persevered for an unproductive campaign at four, nor had such an offbeat sire, Bayern could have retired at twice the fee or more. Once he got rolling at three, he piled it on from the front to win the GII Woody Stephens S. by 7 1/2 lengths (in 1:20.75) and the GI Haskell by 7 1/4 lengths, before regrouping after bombing in the Travers to take the GII Pennsylvania Derby by 5 3/4 lengths, and finally held out to break two minutes for the GI Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Offlee Wild made a promising start at stud, champion freshman sire of a champion juvenile filly, but failed to consolidate and was dispatched to Turkey the year Bayern was making hay. But the bottom line certainly shores things up: Bayern’s second dam is Grade II turf winner Aqualegia (Alydar), daughter of blue hen Courtly Dee (Never Bend); sister of champion juvenile filly Althea; and mother of Bertolini (Danzig), runner-up in three Group 1 sprints in England. Though what is especially fun about this pedigree is how quickly it spans the decades: Bayern’s fourth dam is by War Admiral!

The way Bayern carried his seven-furlong speed is exactly what unites the commercial breeder with the one trying to breed a Derby horse. And with that bottom line, plus a sire and damsire (Thunder Gulch) who excelled at Classic distances, you really can’t put a limit on what you might get for a $15,000 cover. A no-brainer for the value podium.

Next in the sale yields is a stallion who’s finding the going rather stickier in TDN Rising Star‘ TONALIST (Tapit). Lane’s End have done so well with the other pair in this intake–who also, as it happens, had the measure of Tonalist when relegating him to third in the GI Whitney S.–but quickly repented of advertising this four-time Grade I winner at $40,000. Consecutive cuts to $30,000 and $20,000 enabled him to stabilise his book impressively, at 124 after covering 138 and 115 mares in his first two seasons, but he now shrinks to $15,000.

Perhaps the drastic correction to his fee infected the psychology of the market, where 41 of 61 yearlings found a home at $103,036. (Remember that his first weanlings had actually been processed at a far better clearance rate than those of Honor Code, for instance). But his latest fee actually looks very fair value for an exemplary Thoroughbred whose stock, after all, has yet to be given a hearing on the track.

Because Tonalist packages together much that a far-sighted breeder might want to replicate, as a Belmont winner who rounded off with a Grade I win at a mile, in the meantime retaining the GI Jockey Club Gold Cup at the intermediate distance. You could set your watch by his 11 triple-digit Beyers, and he backs all this up with a spectacular bottom line: his dam is a half-sister to the mothers of Horse of the Year Havre de Grace (Saint Liam) and dual Grade I winner Riskaverse (Dynaformer), out of a half-sister to champion Plugged Nickle (Key to the Mint). The next dam Toll Booth was not only Broodmare of the Year, but also a half-sister to Gay Missile, ancestress of A.P. Indy among many other high achievers on and off the track.

PALACE MALICE (Curlin) had a similar career, winning the Belmont before dropping back to win a Grade I mile–the Met, no less–at four and racking up eight consecutive Beyers in three figures. He also joins Tonalist this year at $15,000, from an opening fee at Three Chimneys of $20,000, having sold 59 of 84 yearlings at $74,644. From the first crop of his sire, he could not reward connections for keeping him in training at five, but similar perseverance may yet pay off for breeders. It must be said that his book has dropped pretty steeply, down to 65 this year, but he will have a chance with a first crop of 158 covers.

Splitting Tonalist and Palace Malice in seventh in the sales averages is LEA (First Samurai), a highly creditable achievement for one who started at $12,500. He’s an interesting case. Though his weanlings were very well received, he had meanwhile mustered only 46 mares (down from 100) for his second book so Claiborne threw down the gauntlet with a cut to $7,500.

A characteristically smart move: he received 125 guests this time round, and then sold 41 of 52 yearlings at $87,200. Admittedly that’s more than double his median, but the vendors of a $650,000 colt won’t be bothered about that. Out of a Galileo (Ire) half-sister to three Group winners on turf, Lea nonetheless won the GI Donn H. on dirt and chased home Liam’s Map in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile. Only caught late when switched back onto the lawn for the GI Woodbine Mile, Lea was as versatile as he was hardy (better than ever in his fourth season on the track). By an under-rated sire, he looks a very solid wager at these odds.

No stallion in their intake put more yearlings into the ring than the one who narrowly denied Lea in his defence of the Donn,TDN Rising Star‘ CONSTITUTION (Tapit) moving on 73 out of 98 at $71,424. Having hitherto stood at $25,000, he gets a businesslike cut to $15,000 from WinStar after a typical third-season slide, from books of 172 and 143 to 110. His Donn performance got a 111 Beyer, he already had a GI Florida Derby to his name, and his dam–also responsible for a Group 2-winning juvenile in England–is a Distorted Humor half-sister to Grade I Forego S. winner Emcee (Unbridled’s Song).

The top 10 on the sales chart is completed by FAST ANNA (Medaglia d’Oro), whose 31 sales (from 42 in the ring) worked out at $55,919-good work off his $7,500 start-up at Three Chimneys. As with Lea, that’s quite a lot higher than his median, but again there was one particularly happy customer, who sold a $400,000 colt.

Though unraced at two, he proved full of natural speed when blitzing his first two races and was then only cut down late in no less a race than the GI King’s Bishop S. That proved to be as good as it would get, but that was plenty good enough for 120 mares in his first season. He covered half as many this year, but his performance at the sales may encourage breeders to have a second look at his pedigree.

Obviously his own career reiterates the amazing diversity funnelled through his sire and grandsire, but his family is classy and connects him to another major conduit of that grandsire’s legacy–his second dam being a half-sister to none other than Kitten’s Joy (El Prado {Ire}). And Fast Anna owes his peculiar name, of course, to his dam Dreaming Of Anna, champion 2-year-old filly and a sister to a fast horse in dual GII winner Lewis Michael (Rahy).

Kitten’s Joy, incidentally, is damsire of a stallion that appealed strongly this time last year, after a very warm reception for his weanlings. SUMMER FRONT (War Front)’s yearling sales went well enough–48 of 68 sold at $52,645–for Airdrie to hold him at $10,000. He’s another of those whose average doubles his median, but again that reflects a couple of home-run paydays, for instance a colt for $325,000 and filly for $275,000.

He’s a physical knockout: War Front was not yet War Front, remember, when he changed hands for $475,000 as a second- crop yearling. And he underwrote his class with a fifth Grade I podium at the age of six, having held his form every season from two onwards (GSW at three, four and five). He’s a half-brother to one Grade I winner in Laragh (Tapit) out of a half-sister to another in Siphonic (Siphon {Brz}), and managed a third three-figure book after starting out with 137 mares.

Perhaps the most remarkable set of covering statistics has been assembled by TAPITURE (Tapit) at Darby Dan. Having started off with 176 partners at $7,500, he covered 165 last year and this time round maintained an industrial output of no fewer than 184. Transactions were also brisk at the sales, 67 yearlings processed out of 88 at $50,219.

A multiple GSW who also chased home Goldencents (Into Mischief) in the GI Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, he does have a pretty plain page–first graded success appears only under the fourth dam–albeit he has two stakes-placed brothers. Actually his damsire Olympio (Naskra), if hardly a potent influence, is a quietly effective broodmare sire: daughters have produced elite winners in France, Japan and the U.S.

Another son of Tapit hoping to contest what is becoming a pretty competitive legacy is RACE DAY, who started at Spendthrift off $7,000 and has had a small trim to $6,000 after 38 of 52 yearlings averaged $32,263. His books have proved less resilient than those of Tapiture, down from 155 to 96 and 82, but he is a triple GSW with a bunch of big times to his name; and he’s out of a half-sister to GI Kentucky Oaks winner Lite Light (Majestic Light).

On the face of it COMPETITIVE EDGE (Super Saver) took a pretty thin page to Ashford, albeit his third dam produced a GII Blue Grass S. winner. But the next dam Anjelicco (Angle Light) produced several elite performers or producers, and there was no denying the natural speed manifested by Competitive Edge as a juvenile at Saratoga: a 10-length maiden winner early in the meet, and then a 5 3/4-length success in the GI Hopeful S. The world appeared to be at his feet when he resumed the following spring with two more daylight scores, but he lost his way terminally in only three more starts.

Predictably there was plenty of commercial demand for that precocious speed, and he covered 160 mares at $12,500 in his first season, and moved on 62 of 80 yearlings at $48,252. But he will need help from that big initial crop if he is to regroup, after two troubled years since, at $7,500.

COMMISSIONER (A.P. Indy), nailed on the line by Tonalist in the Belmont, later won two Grade IIIs and a Grade II to earn as many as 154 partners for his first season at WinStar, at $7,500. His two subsequent books measured 119 and 92, but his GSP dam is by a model broodmare sire in Touch Gold and has also produced GI Breeders’ Cup Sprint runner-up Laugh Track (Distorted Humor).

Besides being one of his sire’s last sons to retire to stud, Commissioner has a lot of senatorial names up-and-down his family tree: notably that of Buckpasser, who recurs as damsire of both Touch Gold and A.P. Indy’s dam Weekend Surprise (Secretariat). That gives a legitimate foundation for his 55 yearlings sold, out of 72, at $44,534. In fact a bottom line tracing to the venerable Rough Shod II clinches him a place on the value podium.

Another venerable sire, though one sadly departed, also makes PALACE (City Zip) of interest. He was very fairly priced indeed by Spendthrift, at $6,000, given that he was the hard-knocking winner of two Grade I dashes at Saratoga as resonant as the Forego S. and the Vanderbilt H. Much less accomplished racehorses in the intake nonetheless benefited from bigger opening books than 134 and 93, so it’s good to see his third book rallying to 116 after a $170,000 filly crowned 39 yearlings sales (of 52) at $41,467. His is admittedly not the deepest page you’ll ever see, but his dam is a half-sister to a Grade II winner out of a Grade II-placed mare.

The same farm found a staggering 190 escorts for the opening book of WICKED STRONG (Hard Spun) at $10,000–exceeded nationally only by Uncle Mo (Indian Charlie), Into Mischief (Harlan’s Holiday), American Pharoah (Pioneerof the Nile) and Kitten’s Joy (El Prado). The inundation did not pay off at the sales, 67 of 88 moved on for an average $29,221, and he has dropped to $7,500 after his book shrank to 139 and now 67.

To be fair, it is every bit as silly to write him off without seeing his stock on the track as it was to stampede to an unproven stallion in the first place. He was good enough at two to get within half a length of Honor Code and Cairo Prince in the GII Remsen, got his Grade I in the Wood Memorial and finished fourth in the Kentucky Derby before beating Tonalist in the GII Jim Dandy S. Though he couldn’t win at four, he kept the best of company and showed up every time. He’s out of a half-sister to several Graded stakes animals and a big initial footprint on the track could very easily renew his momentum.

KARAKONTIE (JPN) (Bernstein) represented an awful lot of horse at an opening fee of $15,000 but Gainesway have now had to trim him to $10,000 to help myopic breeders see the sheer class on offer. It’s rather pathetic to see him dignified by just 57 and 43 mares over the past two seasons, down from an opening book of 113, but these things tend to be self-fulfilling and his 50 yearling sales, from 63 offered, averaged no more than $38,770.

Hardly the only turf sire to struggle at auction in the U.S., of course, but those who have kept the faith will surely have the last laugh. A Group 1 winner at two and Classic winner at three in his homeland, he advertised his genetic wares to the American market in the Breeders’ Cup Mile with a 110 Beyer. And what wares! Out of Miesque’s granddaughter by Sunday Silence, he is from one of the elite families in the book. It did not help his cause that he was unable to justify his owners in persevering on the track at four, or that his sire remains underrated despite Tepin. But Karakontie certainly offers real value to the end-user.

DAREDEVIL (More Than Ready) has a more obvious profile for many commercial breeders, having melted the clock in the GI Champagne S. He didn’t go on, but does have a proper page: his dam, also responsible for GI Donn H. winner Albertus Maximus (Albert The Great), is out of a Grade I winner who has also produced a couple of elite turf runners in Europe. His 43 yearling sales, out of 61, achieved an ordinary $33,939 off a $12,500 cover, but WinStar had already taken action, cutting him to $7,500. And they had a very auspicious response, getting him his biggest book in his third year-up to 140, from 123 and 113.

Lane’s End have held MR SPEAKER (Pulpit) at $10,000 despite a low-key market reception, 36 of 48 yearlings selling at $31,630. Obviously losing a year after his suspension for Chilean ticks made his an uphill cause, but he’s a good-looking Grade I winner out of a Grade II-placed daughter of the great Personal Ensign. He was welcomed back by 86 mares this year and Mr Speaker deserves a second hearing.

SECRET CIRCLE (Eddington) was a very accomplished runner, winner of the GI Breeders’ Cup Sprint and G1 Golden Shaheen, and you have to love the way he held his form through five years. Hill ‘n’ Dale made full allowance for the fact that he’s much the best by his sire when starting him at $5,000, and he’s out of a half-sister to a Grade I-placed GSW. His book this year was small, but he did sell his yearlings at a very brisk ratio, 21 out of only 25 weighing in at $36,673-including one filly for $180,000.

The same fee will get you access to some stellar genes through SKY KINGDOM (Empire Maker) at Darby Dan, albeit he could not translate them into success beyond Grade III level. His dam is out of a Classic-placed sister to A.P. Indy, and his good looks and page told in a $185,000 filly, one of 16 yearlings sold out of 19 at $31,281.

CONVEYANCE (Indian Charlie), standing for the same tag at Buck Pond Farm, was an unbeaten juvenile who resumed with two Grade III wins as a sophomore. He did not appear to stand regular racing thereafter but had plenty of dash on his day, sold all but one of his 25 yearlings at $25,041, and has a bottom line that gets pretty royal in time.

That is also true of JACK MILTON (War Front), who extends a classy Claiborne family for $6,500 at Crestwood. Winner of the Grade I Maker’s 46 Mile, he is a brother to a Grade III winner (also on turf) and their second dam is a half-sister to the dam of champion juvenile War Pass (Cherokee Run).

His yearlings found the going tough at market, however, and likewise the Spendthrift pair MEDAL COUNT (Dynaformer) and Kentucky Derby third DANZA (Street Boss). The latter pair struggled for mares this year and now stand at $3,500, but all these sires–from American Pharoah down–now have the chance at least to let their runners do the talking.

CHRIS McGRATH’S VALUE PODIUM

Gold: Liam’s Map $20,000, Lane’s End

Silver: Bayern $15,000, Hill ‘n’ Dale

Bronze: Commissioner $7,500, WinStar

 

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