By Katie Petrunyak
Three of Ashford Stud's Grade I-winning stallions will be in the limelight in the coming weeks as they are represented by their first crop of yearlings in the sales ring.
Three-time GIW Practical Joke (Into Mischief), the regally-bred Cupid (Tapit) and juvenile champion Classic Empire (Pioneerof the Nile) all ranked amongst the top of their class with the sale of their weanlings, and now look to continue the streak with their yearlings.
We sat down with Coolmore's Adrian Wallace and discussed two of the young sires.
Classic Empire (Pioneerof the Nile):
Classic Empire headlined Ashford's trio of freshman sires in 2018 with a $35,000 stud fee. He covered a book of 185 mares in his first year and averaged $108,925 with his weanlings and short yearlings with 27 of 36 sold. Now in the coming weeks, 22 of his yearlings are cataloged at the Fasig-Tipton Selected Yearling Showcase, and an additional 61 are slated for the Keeneland September Sale.
KR: What were some of the big moments in Classic Empire's juvenile season that led to his Eclipse Award for Champion 2-year-old?
AW: While Practical Joke may have done his best racing in New York, it's safe to say that Classic Empire did his best racing in Kentucky. He broke his maiden in May at Churchill Downs, followed by the GIII Bashford Manor S. and the GI Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland. To win in front of the breeders at Keeneland is very important for any stallion prospect, but then to go on and win at Santa Anita in the GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile really cemented his future as a stallion.
KR: What qualities do you believe defined his racing career?
AW: His longevity and determination as a 2-year-old, and the fact that he then came back as a 3-year-old and won the GI Arkansas Derby and finished second in the GI Preakness S, really showed what a tough horse he was not only to stay on the track for so long, but to be as brilliant as he was in all of those races.
KR: What have you seen in Classic Empire's first crop? Are there any yearlings you're excited to watch sell?
AW: The thing that struck me most about the Classic Empires is that they sold very well as weanlings. As a group, they were a very nice bunch. I think breeders were happy with what they saw.
The highest-priced Classic Empire colt to go through the sale at Keeneland was bought by Empire Bloodstock for $285,000 last November. He now sells at Keeneland as Hip 8. He's out of Victory Party (Yankee Victor) and is from the same family as Into Mischief, Mendelssohn, and Beholder. He's a wonderfully-moving horse with lots of quality and a great walk to him. He's a horse that looks the complete package.
With a $12,500 initial stud fee, Cupid covered 223 mares in his first book before averaging $44,987 with 39 of 45 weanlings and short yearlings sold. This year, he will be represented by 13 yearlings cataloged at the Fasig-Tipton Selected Yearling Showcase and 50 more at the Keeneland September Sale.
KR: Could you tell us about Cupid's racing career that was campaigned by Coolmore?
AW: He's from a family that we've had a long association with and Cupid was the one that really stood out for us. We paid $900,000 for him at the Keeneland September Sale.
Early on, he showed us that he was a horse that was going to win a lot of races. He famously won the GII Rebel S. early on in his career. Unfortunately, he didn't make the Kentucky Derby, but he did come back later in the year to win the GII Indiana Derby and the GII West Virginia Derby, and then he got his Grade I in the Gold Cup at Santa Anita S. as a 4-year-old.
KR: What have been Cupid's biggest selling points as a sire?
I think everyone wants a Tapit. We see it happening now with Constitution. Tapit is well on his way to becoming a sires of sires, and Cupid is our Tapit. He was a tough horse. I think what we remember most about his racing style was his ability to get into a rhythm quickly and maintain that high cruising speed.
He covered a lot of mares in his first book and he was very popular with the breeders. His stock ooze quality. They sold very well, with top prices last year including two selling for $130,000 and a third for $127,000.
KR: How have the yearlings reflected their sire? Are there any that come to mind as strong representations of Cupid himself?
AW: The thing about the Cupids is that they all have a lot of quality. You look at him- he's a very attractive horse and stands over a lot of ground. With his progeny, I think they're horses that are going to get better as they go farther. They're very good looking, very correct and good movers.
One I really like is a colt out of Lisdoonvarna (Bodemeister), selling as Hip 209 at the Fasig-Tipton sale. He's very well conformed, very strong and has lovely quality to him. He's got a lovely head. He was one of the highest-priced Cupids that sold last year when selling for $127,000, and I think he will be very popular in the sales ring.
Another one I'm really looking forward to seeing is Hip 296 at Fasig-Tipton, a colt out of the mare Perdy (Tale of the Cat). I think the mating looks really good on paper. He is a lovely horse, picked up by Renne Dailey for $95,000 in January. I think he'll do very well also.