Breeding Digest: The Real Dazzle Behind Encino

Encino | Coady Photography


His contentious prohibition from Churchill penalizes many others besides Bob Baffert and his loyal patrons. A shot at the GI Kentucky Derby, once-in-a-lifetime for most, is also being denied to everyone else with a stake in his horses' development, from those on duty at the foaling shed to the pre-trainer to the feed company. And, of course, there's nothing like a Derby winner to market a stallion.

As things have turned out, a setback means that Nyquist would have lost the services of Nysos even had he moved to another barn. But now Nyquist has come up with a proxy in Encino, who switched surface to harvest the last available starting points in the GIII Stonestreet Lexington S.

Those whose solution to the puzzles of breeding is to elevate the damsire above an entire female family will cherish the fact that Encino, just like Nysos and indeed Nyquist's other scintillating prospect Knightsbridge, is out of Bernardini mare. We'll leave them to make their millions, as they doubtless will from another magic “cross” that has allowed daughters of Bernardini to give Street Sense sons as accomplished as Speaker's Corner, Maxfield and last weekend's nine-length Keeneland maiden winner Jefferson Street.

Knightsbridge, remember, is a half-brother to Speaker's Corner. In our aversion to “systems,” we'll merely note that Bernardini bequeathed his reputation as an outstanding distaff influence through various sire-lines; and that Nyquist and Street Sense happen to belong to the same lavish program that bred, raced and stood Bernardini himself. Plenty of stallions out there would love to meet some Bernardini mares, but few have as many of his best daughters in their home herd as Nyquist and Street Sense.

Knightsbridge | Lauren King

But wait: Encino is out of a half-sister to none other Street Sense! So instead of twisting sire-lines into alchemical brands, let's just settle for acknowledging some kind of assonance between Bernardini and Bedazzle (Dixieland Band), dam of both Street Sense and Encino's mother Glittering Jewel?

The latter started her career in Britain, winning only an uncompetitive maiden, before placing on both dirt and turf over here. As such she barely amended Bedazzle's bleakly unproductive record after Street Sense, her very first foal. Three further foals by Street Cry (Ire) mustered a single racecourse appearance between them, and Bedazzle fared little better from the best opportunities in-house (Dubawi (Ire), Shamardal) or elsewhere (Into Mischief). Only her second foal, a filly by Elusive Quality, managed either stakes success (by a head at Prairie Meadows) or stakes production (a gelding in Australia, unsurprisingly by Street Cry {Ire}). Yet here's Glittering Jewel coming up with a Derby colt at the first attempt.

That's far less surprising than the collective failure of Street Sense's other siblings, because his excellence-between racetrack and stud-always appeared to have obvious foundations. For Bedazzle is out of a stakes-winning His Majesty half-sister to that fast racehorse and versatile sire Mr. Greeley (Gone West); and next dam Long Legend (Reviewer), lately celebrated as the third dam of Vekoma, is out of Lianga (Dancer's Image), an elite winner in France from five furlongs to eight. Lianga is in turn third dam of the rags-to-riches (3,500 Irish guineas to €115,000) Coolmore sire Danehill Dancer (Ire).

Working with such material, turf-bred Street Cry (Ire) hardly gave Street Sense blatant eligibility for iconic dirt races. Fear not, I'm not going to repeat my usual sermon on versatility-but will just note how slickly Encino has now adapted from one surface to another.

As for the other part of the equation, Nyquist has regrouped impressively after a brief flat spot. Last year he produced his third and fourth Grade I winners, and was only denied a fifth by the tragedy of New York Thunder. Moreover his incoming juveniles were sired at $75,000, up from $40,000 in response to his 2020 freshman laurels.

He subsequently had to be throttled back to $55,000 after a solitary graded stakes winner in 2021, but that has proved an aberration and he's now up to $85,000 with Encino, Nysos and Knightsbridge all later-developing talents in the same crop as last summer's precocious Royal Ascot winner Crimson Advocate. The 4-year-old Flying Connection, already a six-time stakes winner, meanwhile finished second in the GI Apple Blossom H. last Saturday. Nyquist has packed in a lot already, for a horse still only 11 years old, yet it feels as though he's only just getting started.


Practical Joke | Coolmore

1-2 Punchline Completes Joke's Warm-Up

Quite apart from his other prowess, Into Mischief's historic achievements also owe much to the libido and fertility that have maximized the industrial model operated by his farm. He has maintained output against a soaring fee, even a hike from $175,000 to $225,000 eroding his 2021 book only from 250 to 216 mares. But that was also the year that the three busiest stallions in the land were his more affordable sons Practical Joke, Goldencents and Authentic, with 231, 230 and 229 respectively.

Of that trio, only Practical Joke maintained quite such giddy demand last year, when a couple of farms seemed to be making rather a point about the mare cap, with his 252 partners notoriously exceeded by rookies Golden Pal (293: gosh, still hurts your eyes) and Epicenter (262). Practical Joke has sufficiently converted all this opportunity into results to hoist his fee this spring to $65,000, from $25,000, and the challenge now is to emulate his sire by reflecting the upgrading of his mares in the range of his stock's performance.

For now, however, we can salute his 1-2 in the GIII Count Fleet H. as a perfect signature to the opening phase of his career. The prolific winner Skelly and runner-up Tejano Twist are both millionaire sprinters from his debut crop and both, as geldings, look set to keep thriving with maturity.

Practical Joke did get a breakout Classic candidate from his second crop, albeit Practical Move was palpably at the bottom of the tank when just holding out over the ninth furlong of the GI Santa Anita Derby, duly targeting the GI Dirt Mile when suffering that tragic breakdown at the Breeders' Cup. Practical Move was scratched from the Kentucky Derby with an elevated temperature, but his sire's competence to stretch speed for that race will be tested this year by Domestic Product, who broke his maiden over nine furlongs at two and definitely has more talent than generally appreciated.

In the meantime, Practical Joke's real poster girl remains Becky's Joker, who won the GIII Schuylerville S. at Saratoga last summer-on debut! For it is primarily precocity and speed that have driven all this fervent commercial support. After two Grade I scores as a juvenile, Practical Joke himself flattened out for fifth in the Derby before reverting to a single turn for his sophomore Grade I success. His own dam was a talented sprinter by Distorted Humor out of a Gilded Time mare, so we'll have to see whether Practical Joke can match a degree of success over longer distances among his Chilean stock.

Skelly | Coady Photography

Skelly himself was bred by Allen Poindexter and prepared by his frequent partners at Wynnstay Farm to bring $250,000 in the difficult yearling market of 2020. (Fortunately for purchasers Red Lane Thoroughbreds, they retained him at $350,000 at the 2-year-old sales.) His unraced dam Adande (Bwana Charlie) almost shared a remarkable Saturday with half-sister Call to Service (To Honor and Serve), whose son The Wine Steward (Vino Rosso) was meanwhile thwarted only narrowly by Encino.

Poindexter acquired Adande in utero with his dam Game for More (More Than Ready) for just $8,000 in a Heiligbrodt dispersal at Fasig-Tipton 12 years ago. That proved an inspired purchase, as from that mare Poindexter also bred three horses Grade I performers in Isotherm (Lonhro {Aus}), Giant Game (Giant's Causeway) and Gio Game (Gio Ponti).

If Practical Joke's overall ratios are solid sooner than earth-shaking, that goes with the territory when you throw so much volume at a horse. There's no question that he is the one rival to have slipstreamed Gun Runner with least embarrassment in what is otherwise proving, certainly since the loss of Arrogate, anything but a vintage intake overall.


Grief Calls For Resilience

How poignant, for our community to lose Marty Wygod even as Resilience (Into Mischief)-a colt donated to his daughter and a longtime friend-closes on a Derby challenge. Only last week we were celebrating how GII Wood Memorial winner is preserving a fragile legacy for his dam, the solitary filly delivered by Tranquility Lake (Rahy). Now those grieving Wygod must ask themselves whether the apparently haphazard fortunes of the Turf may yet align in a way that gives some solace and meaning to life without him.

Resilience | Sarah Andrew

Wygod himself was clear about the process. “The business side of my life, that's a matter of skill and luck,” he once told DRF. “The racing and breeding side is all luck. It's the racing and breeding gods that have smiled on me.”

Let's hope that they may still have a parting glass to raise.

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