Body & Soul: How Quickly the Tide Turns…

The late A.P. Indy, flanked by sons Mineshaft and Honor Code at Lane's End in 2018 | Justina Severni


Those of us who grew up in New York City in the 1950s and 1960s were not only blessed with some extraordinary major league teams and athletes, as well as more than enough superior racehorses, but were also lucky that so many of the radio and television play-by-play announcers were among the greatest of all time–ranging from Vin Scully in Brooklyn to Mel Allen in the Bronx to Fred Capossela at Aqueduct, Belmont and Saratoga.

But the voice that sticks in our mind is that of the man who called the Knick games (Knickerbockers to us luddites): Later a legend in Hawaii, his name was Les Keiter and he kept your interest even in runaways until in some games one team would go on a streak into which he would exclaim, “How quickly the tide turns in basketball!”

Well, dear reader, keep that line in mind because when it comes to stallions whose first foals are yearlings, we have a crowd that has come in on a strong tide that has carried a select group of potentially “big fish” for buyers to consider starting with the upcoming yearling sales.

More specifically we refer to the Freshmen stallions whose offspring would be most likely in demand. We have determined that there will be 27 of them, most of whom stand in Kentucky, and of those 20–or 74%–represent only three sire lines: A.P. Indy, Fappiano and Smart Strike. We have checked our data for the past decade and found that only the Freshman crop of 2010 was close to being as concentrated with specific gene pools with A.P. Indy, Distorted Humor and Storm Cat accounting for 40% of 46 in the base group.

For the purposes of this report, we have grouped together stallions which we have analyzed biomechanically as well as a few that are not in our database yet have enough foals and credibility in their regions to indicate they will have followings. In any case there are only a few of the latter and are not likely to tip the scales dramatically when it comes to the attending Phenotype Targets.

Representing the A.P. Indy line are Malibu Moon's sons Mr. Z, Gormley and Stanford; Pulpit's sons American Freedom and Lord Nelson; Tapit's sons Cupid, Divining Rod and Mohaymen; and Greenpointcrusader, by Bernardini.

From the Fappiano line we have Candy Ride (Arg)'s sons Gun Runner, Unified and Mastery; Unbridled's Song's sons Arrogate (deceased) and Bird Song; and from the Empire Maker branch Classic Empire and Midnight Storm, both by Pioneerof the Nile.

We chose Smart Strike as a foundation sire because he has come on strongly through his son Curlin, who has Connect, Keen Ice and Union Jackson in this crop; in addition, Smart Strike now has Lookin At Lucky, whose son Madefromlucky is the first one by that suddenly desirable sire to get a chance at stud.

Let us clarify a few things here. First, we are not necessarily wedded to the concept of sire lines that remain viable as definitive expressions of the aptitudes of a line's namesake over a long period of time. We have seen so many physical variations within lines over the years that we tend to keep an eyebrow arched when it comes to evaluating whether such a progenitor's descendants fit a given pattern. In our world that pattern is loosely defined by similarity in Phenotype.

A Phenotype is loosely defined as any characteristic (structural, physiological, or behavioral) which has been determined by its genotype (genetic code) and environment (competitive racing).

Three Phenotype charts, which we have utilized before, illustrate how members of a peer group might resemble each other phenotypically. They are color-coded to identify the sire of each horse, and those sires are also in the group. Caveat: Not every one of the 20 stallions we have mentioned above is depicted on the charts but as we indicated the ones which are not there are not going to significantly shift the patterns shown.

When we first looked at this crowd, we were struck by the impression that over the years what might not have been expected from sons of Fappiano, A.P. Indy and Smart Strike was that they would develop phenotypical tribes of their own. This was especially surprising when it came to Fappiano, who was as structurally balanced as one could hope for (he would be a dot in the center of his target) and yet remains influential today thanks to Cryptoclearance and Unbridled. These were two large individuals who may have appeared to be completely different to the naked eye–Cryptoclearance was rangy and somewhat light while Unbridled was solid and muscular. In fact, they were close to being the same phenotypically and relatively close to each other on the Fappiano chart.

Cryptoclearance went on to be a decent sire (Victory Gallop won the GI Belmont S.), but few would have predicted that one of his more modestly accomplished sons, Ride the Rails, would sire Candy Ride (Arg). Although we have no biomechanical data on Ride the Rails, we did inspect him in Argentina in the year Candy Ride was foaled and he seemed a combination of Fappiano and Cryptoclearance whereas Candy Ride favors his broodmare sire Candy Stripes, a son of Blushing Groom (Fr). All that said, this tribe expresses itself on the chart in a way that roughly corresponds to their racing aptitudes–powerful, but not overpowered to be considered one-dimensional speedballs.

Except for one representative of Malibu Moon, the A.P. Indy cluster is much more uniform in biomechanical expression–it's a clear reflection of the fact that breeders wanted to bring more speed in the broodmares to him and his sons and the result is a virtual uniform phenotypical identity.

Smart Strike's crowd may appear to be all over the place but in some respects it's actually reflective of what a Phenotype target would look like for his sire Mr. Prospector and his more accomplished sons–some with almost unbalanced power and others more blended with stride factors. We find this intriguing and if Curlin and Lookin At Lucky can continue to throw out high-class colts, we might be on the verge of a line being solidified.

So, which Freshmen sires do we like? Not so fast, please. We have not been able to inspect a whole lot of this crowd because of the pandemic, and we will need to deploy our troops widely in the upcoming months to hone our algorithmic projections. In addition, there are some very nice prospects with first yearlings whose sires are by Into Mischief (Practical Joke), Ghostzapper (Shaman Ghost), Medaglia d'Oro (Astern {Aus}), Put It Back (Bal a Bali {Brz}), Quality Road (Blofeld, Hootenanny and Klimt) and War Front (War Correspondent).

Like Les Keiter, we'll be watching for any shifts in the tide.

(Bob Fierro is a partner with Jay Kilgore and Frank Mitchell in DataTrack International, biomechanical consultants and developers of BreezeFigs. He can be reached a [email protected]).

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