Breeding Digest: Another Week Full of Mischief

Into Mischief, sire of his latest Grade I scorer Newgate | Sarah Andrew

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The racing year is only just doing up its laces, but already Into Mischief is on the march. Last week we examined the GI Kentucky Derby candidature of his son Timberlake and now, with a little help from the evergreen Dettori, he has a 19th Grade I scorer in Newgate. I must admit that my heart went out to connections of Subsanador (Arg) (Fortify), who led every step bar the last, and would have been John Sadler's fourth winner of the storied Santa Anita Handicap-still dearly cherished by some of us, outflanked as it has been-in seven years.

While the modern booty plundered in the desert by a son of the venerable Mineshaft is temporarily distorting his latest title defense, the opening skirmishes of 2024 have already seen Into Mischief overtake Medaglia d'Oro in the all-time earnings table. He now stands cents shy of $170 million with only Giant's Causeway ($178 million) dividing him from Tapit ($204.5 million). The latter obviously has much unfinished business-and we fervently hope that he can still come up with the Derby winner he so deserves-but the industrial model at Spendthrift means that Into Mischief is about to overtake Tapit's aggregate of lifetime starters, from four fewer crops. And, as often remarked, he's only lately started to bring his elite mares into play.

Newgate himself was conceived at $150,000, but made that investment pay for Town and Country Farms-besides the $360,000 they gave for his graded stakes-placed dam Majestic Presence (Majestic Warrior) at the 2017 November Sale, already amply defrayed by the Runhappy foal she was carrying there and a couple of others-by realizing $850,000 as a Keeneland September yearling. The same farm gave us Adare Manor (Uncle Mo), who similarly made her Grade I breakthrough in her third campaign for Baffert, so they can take credit for raising horses that persevere. (Majestic Presence, incidentally, was returned to Into Mischief to produce the $500,000 yearling Denim and Pearls, who won her first two and has now run second in consecutive stakes.)

Life is hard enough for rival sires without Into Mischief again enlisting Dettori to clinch another narrow verdict in the GII San Felipe S. through Imagination. This colt is yet another tribute to Peter Blum's patient curation of a dynasty tracing to his foundation mare, Mono (Better Self), identified as a priceless conduit of King Ranch blood way back in 1975.

Mono was out of a sister to 1946 Triple Crown winner Assault, from the family of Man o' War himself. But she was actually being sold from the estate of the King Ranch farm manager, and had duly been confined to less expensive covers. The young Blum noticed that she had nevertheless produced good runners, and vowed that he would not leave the Keeneland January Sale without her. He'll never know where he might have stopped, but was able to do so at $17,500.

Blum, of course, has in recent years bred a Horse of the Year. But Authentic came from a rather younger line in his program, and possibly he's deriving no less satisfaction from the emergence of Imagination at a time when GI Preakness winner National Treasure (Quality Road) is also consolidating his own reputation. For both trace to Mono's daughter Mine Only.

Blum's first choice of mate for Mono had been an unproven Florida sire named Mr. Prospector. When the resulting colt won on debut at Del Mar, he resolved to send her back to the stallion at his new base at Claiborne. Their second tryst produced Mine Only, who won no more than a maiden but set a pattern for this family by proving a much better producer. Her three graded stakes scorers (all on turf) included Good Mood (Devil's Bag), who won the GIII Miss Grillo S. and is third dam of Imagination.

National Treasure | Adam Coglianese

Before that Mine Only had already produced a daughter by Secretariat, Chosen Lady, who failed to win but produced not only GI Ashland winner Well Chosen (Deputy Minister) but also the third dam of National Treasure. So while Blum always emphasizes the help he gets from the likes of Doug Cauthen and Bridie Harrison, he must accept the compliment implied to his own patient stewardship by the elite investors who target his program at the sales.

National Treasure made $500,000 at Saratoga, and Imagination $1.05 million at Keeneland September. The latter sum partly reflected the Grade II sprint success of his dam Magical Feeling (Empire Maker), who has always been given nothing but the best: she had four foals by Tapit before more recently being sent to Into Mischief and producing first Occult, sold as a yearling for $625,000 before winning the GIII Monmouth Oaks last year; and now Imagination.

Yes, Nysos (Nyquist) was the specter at this particular feast. But even the supporting roles on this circuit demand real caliber, and it might not require that much more Imagination to aspire to the mature deeds of National Treasure or Newgate this time next year.

 

Mage Page Paying Many a Wage

Let's not get too glum about these sophomores. After all, most enter their single year of Classic eligibility as little more than gawky adolescents. In fact, however diffident a crop they may seem for now, recent history suggests that there's probably a Horse of the Year lurking among them somewhere.

At this stage of his career, Cody's Wish remained unraced and he would only break his maiden, at the fourth attempt, in October. Flightline was also weeks short of his debut. Knicks Go had admittedly established his caliber at two, but at this point was bombing out in the GIII Sam F. Davis and then the GIII Gotham.

All three, of course, would only achieve their peak with age. But this time last year even the horse that went on to win the GI Kentucky Derby had just been beaten seven lengths in the GII Fountain of Youth S.

Puca selling at the 2023 Keeneland November Sale

The success of his full-brother Dornoch (Good Magic) in the same race last weekend has elicited some faint praise, thanks to the decimation of the field, but the fact remains that he's far more seasoned than was Mage at this stage. True, the latter was duly on a steeper curve of improvement, but whatever happens John Stewart can be gratified that his $2.9 million investment in their dam Puca (Big Brown) at Keeneland last November has stood up to both its first big tests, in the GII Remsen S. and now here. Just like Mage, Dornoch is advertising the expert grounding he received at storied Runnymede Farm, which raised and then consigned both colts on behalf of breeders Grandview Equine.

Mage proved a fairly marginal pinhook ($235,000 to $290,000) when resold at two, but events in the meantime make the extra investment on Dornoch at the Keeneland September Sale ($325,000 from Oracle Bloodstock) look pretty inspired. Those supporting Mage in his first year at stud, meanwhile, must be feeling similarly comforted by the way his page is evolving. Remember that Puca is a half-sister to a Grade I winner on turf, Finnegan's Weake (Powerscourt {GB}); was herself runner-up in the GII Gazelle S.; while her only previous foal-the Gun Runner filly she was carrying when acquired by Grandview for $475,000 at Fasig-Tipton in November 2018-was herself twice stakes-placed. Not least granted the parallel strides since made by her rookie sire, what a stroke of luck for Grandview that she failed to meet her reserve as a yearling!

By the time Puca sent her son by McKinzie into the Keeneland ring last September, her genetic wares were sufficiently known for Mayberry Farms to have to go to $1.2 million. Yet only that January, Puca's own dam Boat's Ghost (Silver Ghost) had been discarded in the same ring, in foal to Raging Bull (Fr), for just $17,000. That indignity, at the age of 19, was redressed by finding herself on a peerless farm of its type, Nursery Place, where she safely delivered a filly, apparently a good specimen too; and was then given a typically astute covering in Hard Spun.

 

Lonesome Days Long Forgotten for Pounce

Another interesting mare in Hard Spun's book last year was Bouncy (Twirling Candy), whose daughter Pounce (Lookin At Lucky) won the GIII Herecomesthebride S. at Gulfstream last weekend. In fact, if you ever needed a cross-section of our community to offer its most considered judgement, you could do worse than simply consult those breeders using Hard Spun. In an environment so childishly prey to fashion, those sticking with the Darley stalwart instead prize proven value in the last commercially accessible son of his breed-shaping sire.

Those who sent him Bouncy have four resonant surnames: Pounce's breeders are registered as Bell, Rankin, VanMeter and Hancock. From these familiar clans, it turns out we are dealing respectively with Gatewood, Hunter, Ike and, “the rose among thorns,” Lynn. One or two of them have evidently followed Bouncy from the outset, though along the way she also appears to have caught the attention of a couple of Texas rangers.

Bred and raised by the Hancock family's Stone Farm, she was pinhooked as a $85,000 yearling by Bell's Cromwell Bloodstock Agency; made $170,000 from “Augustus McRae” at OBS the following April; showed plenty of ability in both her starts in the silks of Augustin Stables, winning on debut at Keeneland before a close second to a stakes winner at Belmont; and was then picked up by “Joshua Deets” for just $37,000 in the Covid market of the 2020 Keeneland November Sale.

At that point Bouncy was pregnant to a maiden cover by Lookin At Lucky, an excellent choice to prove a mare despite his appalling treatment by the commercial market. That came at an initial cost, in that Pounce was a $20,000 RNA at the Keeneland September Sale-but in the long run it has paid off handsomely.

For she had caught Mark Casse's eye in the back ring. “When she didn't sell, we approached Mark to work out a deal so we could make sure she got into good hands,” Hancock explains. “And we are fortunate that she did! He trained her up to a certain level, to acquire interest in the filly, and we were partners from there on out. We are very appreciative of Mark for taking a chance on her and obviously he has done a spectacular job.”

Yes, he has: Pounce won on debut at Churchill in November and again at Turfway in February, after which she topped Fasig-Tipton's Digital Sale at $370,000 from Resolute Bloodstock. As with Puca, noted above, John Stewart has been quickly vindicated in a bold investment with Pounce's graded success at Gulfstream, still for the Casse barn, coming just 11 days later.

Hancock says that Bouncy has now delivered a “lovely” Hard Spun filly, but the gang is still debating-or maybe we should say bouncing around-her next cover. Maybe they should ask Woodrow Call what he thinks…

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