2023 Mating Plans, Presented by Spendthrift: Stonehaven Steadings

Stonehaven Steadings celebrated an unforgettable Keeneland September Sale in 2022. Learn more here. | Keeneland

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With the breeding season underway, the TDN staff is continuing the '2023 Mating Plans' series, presented by Spendthrift Farm, to find out what stallions breeders have chosen for their mares this year, and why. Here Aidan and Leah O'Meara of Stonehaven Steadings talk us through their plans for the year. Before getting into their individual mares, Aidan discusses their process for drawing up the farm's mating plans each year.

We usually begin our matings by drawing up a short list of stallions that we intend to use for the coming season. We'll break them into three groups of proven, up-and-coming and freshmen sires and we try to diversify as much as possible amongst our broodmare band of 30 mares. We'll have a short list of potential mates for each mare which, when considering stud fee ranges, usually ends up being a list of four or five stallions. This is refined further with pedigree and conformation considerations before reaching the ultimate choice.

This year we had a particularly deep draft of incoming freshman sires and you're not always able to use as many of the younger stallions that you would like to depending on a mare's particular fit or the make up of your broodmare band. Some of the up-and-comer stallions can take a huge and somewhat unwarranted jump in stud fee due to supply demands. That can make you sit out a year and wait to see if it's legit or not, especially if a younger stallion has a couple of weak crops coming down the pipeline.

Proven

VENETIAN SONATA (m, 14, Bernardini – Moonlight Sonata, by Carson City) and STUNNING SKY (m, 6 Declaration of War – Sky Walk, by Unbridled's Song) to be bred to Quality Road

This will be Venetian Sonata's second time to Quality Road. One of our top two yearling fillies for this year is her daughter by Quality Road and he has been the pick for her again for this year for quite some time. She is smaller mare, but despite that she has been a big producer at the track and in the sales ring. Quality Road is one of the better stallions out there to get a little commercial leg under a mare and he has already had a significant filly out of this family in MGISW Abel Tasman. The Quality Road-Bernardini cross has been a potent one.

We had some great success mating a classy turf filly with Quality Road in the past and hope lightning might strike twice here with Stunning Sky, who was herself a Grade III winner at Keeneland and was Grade II placed at Saratoga. She is a big, robust filly and will benefit from the refinement Quality Road brings to his offspring.

JILTED BRIDE (m, 6, Wicked Strong – Cry At My Wedding, by Street Cry {Ire}) and MISS COSTA RICA (m, 5, Hit It a Bomb – Five Star Daydream, by Five Star Day) to be bred to Into Mischief

These are two new graded stakes fillies we added to the broodmare band this year. We try to give the younger mares as much opportunity as possible and there is no better sire than Into Mischief for that job. Both are bigger, well-conformed mares. Those traits will complement Into Mischief physically. Pedigree selection is a little easier with Into Mischief as he works so well with so many lines.

BECKLES ROAD (m, 14, Smart Strike – Padmore, by French Deputy) to be bred to Gun Runner

Beckles Road is another mare that has been a big producer for us at the track and sales. She has another beautiful Into Mischief filly this year that rivals her full-sister Class on Class that we sold in Book 1 last year at Keeneland September. When breeding at the upper echelons of the stallion ranks, we try to use mares that have shown us that they can consistently produce the kind of quality and ability in their offspring to warrant such a strong investment. She is a big, beautiful-profiled mare who is a little offset in front, but hasn't been passing that on. Gun Runner will suit her beautifully in the pedigree and physique department.

Figure of Speech broke her maiden on debut at Saratoga in 2019. This year she will be bred to Curlin | Sarah Andrew

FIGURE OF SPEECH (m, 6, Into Mischief – Starlight Lady, by Elusive Quality) to be bred to Curlin

Figure of Speech is a young, Grade I-placed Into Mischief filly currently in foal to Gun Runner. Curlin is the preeminent sire of Classic horses in the country and a mix of blood of these two stallion rockstars can only be a positive thing. Figure of Speech is a very classy-looking filly who will complement Curlin's powerful physique.

LUCY IN DIAMONDS (m, 11, Rock Hard Ten – Spritz, by Relaunch), THISSMYTIME (m, 6, Carpe Diem – Seraphic Too, by Southern Halo), CHAMPAGNE IVY (m, 5, Shackleford – Wonder Upon a Star, by Street Cry {Ire}) and BERNIN MIDNIGHT (m, 8, Midnight Lute – Venetian Sonata, by Bernardini) to be bred to Uncle Mo

These are all young mares and Uncle Mo is probably the best value now of the top-tier stallions. All are very clean-legged fillies in front, which tends to help with this sire too. Uncle Mo brings such diversity in his offsprings' abilities, whether it's distance or surfaces, and he works so well with such a variety of sire lines that he helps make the decision-making process a lot easier. He gives breeders a great shot at building a strong foundation under their younger mares.

Lucy In Diamonds had her best foal to date by this horse that sold well in September to SF Bloodstock and company. Part of the play here would be anticipating that this colt may develop into a promising runner by the time a full sibling gets to auction in a couple of years.

Thissmytime is a young, stakes-winning filly and a track record holder. She lacks a little size and Uncle Mo is one of the better stallions out there to help a mare in that department.

Bernin Midnight's first three foals have been impressive, most notably the Street Sense yearling from last year, and she continues to get an increased opportunity with quality of her perspective mates.

Champagne Ivy is a maiden stakes filly with a big family backing her up.

 

Freshmen

Aidan O'Meara with the Quality Road colt out of True Feelings that topped the 2022 Keeneland September Sale | Keeneland

TRUE FEELINGS (m, 14, Latent Heat – Grand Charmer, by Lord Avie) to be bred to Flightline

True Feelings is the jewel of our broodmare band. She has consistently produced quality stock from multiple sire lines that have different looks physically, but all had the quality physical and stylish walk that has stood them well in the sales ring. Flightline is a rare talent that is arguably the most impressive dirt runner of the modern era. The plan in this case was simple: breed a special mare to a special stallion and hope for something special.

NOTAPRADAPRICE (m, 9, Paddy O'Prado – Brenda's Slew, by Straight Man) to be bred to Life Is Good

We are very fortunate this year to have two very high-caliber incoming freshmen sires that had that “next level” natural ability. Life Is Good's Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile was arguably the most impressive performance in that race's history and, coupled with his ability to take that speed a little further, his physique takes him to the top of the list of the best-looking sons of Into Mischief.

Prada is a graded stakes winner and a stakes winner on both surfaces. She is a big, beautiful filly who should work well physically with Life Is Good.

EASY LIVING (m, 12, Big Brown – Jaramar Miss) and EARLYBIRD ROAD (m, 19, Cherokee Run – Kiss N Make Up, by Private Terms) to be bred to Corniche

Corniche is obviously our pride and joy and we are fortunate enough to still be minor shareholders in him, so we are trying to play our part in helping him in his future career. Both mares are quality stakes producers and consistently throw the right kind of physical.

Easy Living's Into Mischief colt will be our best colt headed to auction this year and her daughter My Kentucky Girl (American Pharoah) is a current-year stakes filly with potential to add to her resume as the year progresses. She had a beautiful Quality Road filly a few years back and should hopefully work well here again.

Corniche was a magnificent-looking foal. Still to this day he is the most impressive-looking foal we've ever had on the farm and he has the potential to be one of the standouts of this very deep group of freshmen sires when the first foals hit the sales next year and go on into their yearling stages.

Up-And-Coming

DEBBY D'ORO (m, 10, Giant's Causeway – Dashing Debby, by Medaglia d'Oro) and QUIRL (m, 8, More Than Ready – Beckles Road, by Smart Strike) to be bred to Good Magic

STEELIN MEMORIES (m, 3, Quality Road – Steelin' by Oreintate) and CANNY (m, 9, Big Brown – Sharp Instinct, by Awesome Again) to be bred to Justify

SCOOTER BIRD (m, 13, War Pass – Miz Emmalou, by Well Decorated) to be bred to Bolt d'Oro

PRINCESSDIANE (m, 7, Uncle Mo – Romantic Fibs, by Prized) to be bred to Violence

MIZ KELLA (m, 11, Harlan's Holiday – Steelin' by Orientate) and MIDNIGHT DIVA (m, 5, Midnight Lute – Pizza Lady, by Dance With Ravens) to be bred to Constitution

In any given year, we are lucky to have one stallion that shows enough early ability with his first crop of two-year-olds to suggest long-term viability as a major Kentucky stallion. But the deep group this year has three very solid candidates, all with strong early commercial success and strong groups of mares bred each year to help maintain the momentum.

All the above mares are younger and these stallions give breeders the opportunity to access a somewhat proven stallion without the steep stud fees of the older brigade.

Violence has the potential to have a huge year with Forte on the Derby trail, Newgrange headed to the GI Santa Anita H. and Dr. Schivel back on the warpath.

Constitution is entering the upper echelons of the sire ranks, but with his current production and more importantly his potential  for even further success when his bigger, better-bred crops hit the track, we think he is still in the up-and-coming stage. Some of the best opportunities for breeders comes with riding the success of these young stallions as they climb the ladder and it has stood us well in the past.

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