Kentucky Sires for 2020 IV: First 2-Year-Olds


Not This Time | Taylor Made


Through the first three installments of this series, we've repeatedly complained about ever-more manic investment in unproven stallions and the resulting potential for chronic deterioration in the gene pool. So we won't reprise the theme today, other than to remark that this situation creates a rather more immediate and specific challenge for the next group under review.

Because while second- and third-season stallions can still offer breeders the possibility of riding an early vogue, this lot have just been exposed to the judgment of the yearling market–which history reveals to be wholly unreliable–without yet having had the chance to respond through their first runners.

The whole premise of backing unproven sires, of course, is that the majority will begin to reveal their deficiencies once they actually get stock on the track. Little wonder, then, if the merciless pounding of the auctioneer's hammer, so close to the moment of truth, tends to open fissures in their commercial appeal.

So it is that no less a horse than California Chrome, a dual Horse of the Year who opened at $40,000, has just arrived in Japan after finding a home for 39 of 71 yearlings at a median of $65,000.

The market was always going to hesitate over a son of Lucky Pulpit. If only Chrome had been like his patrician track rival, Arrogate, who was by a renowned Classic influence in Unbridled's Song! Yet Unbridled and Lucky Pulpit not only share the same second dam, but owe their mothers to her respective trysts with Caro (Ire) and Caro's son Cozzene. So maybe 'CC' can now do what a certain 'SS' did when similarly sent off, along with his unfashionable family, to Japan.

Regardless, his fate gives you an idea of why many breeders will be hoping to cut a deal for other stallions in this intake. With many trims being made even to published fees, there is surely some good value about.

NYQUIST (Uncle Mo–Seeking Gabrielle, by Forestry), to his credit, has been able to preserve his opening fee of $40,000 at Jonabell after topping the class averages with 44 of 60 yearlings sold at $236,318. Perhaps one of them can perform a service similar to his own, as a member of Uncle Mo's first crop, when building on a juvenile championship with success in the Kentucky Derby itself.

He was unable to go on, of course, but has ample black-type clustering around his Grade II-winning second dam Seeking Regina (Seeking The Gold)–not least as granddam also of GI Met Mile winner Sahara Sky (Pleasant Tap). With three books in the 150s behind him, Nyquist has jumped through every hoop so far; and his three juvenile Grade Is obviously entitle him to keep doing so, with his more precocious runners.

His studmate FROSTED (Tapit–Fast Cookie, by Deputy Minister) has been eased to the same fee, having started out at $50,000. That had made him the most expensive of their intake, but he punched his weight quite adequately in processing 67 of 94 yearlings at $223,365 (headlined by a $850,000 filly at Saratoga).

That 123 Beyer in the GI Met Mile still glows neon, and his page measures up too. His dam is not only a Grade II-winning half-sister to juvenile champion Midshipman (Unbridled's Song)–himself a solid sire for the same firm, of course, the pair out of a dual Grade II winner–but is also by a broodmare sire legend in Deputy Minister.

There's increasing competition among sons of Tapit now at stud, lately intensified by Constitution, but Frosted looks pretty much the full package to me: a GII Remsen S. second who could tough out a gruelling sophomore campaign (Holy Bull S. thru Breeders' Cup Classic) to prove better than ever in stallion-

making races at four. He maintained a third book of 144, and has as good a chance as any in this intake of making the grade, long-term.

No doubting the star of their sales debut, however, and that was RUNHAPPY (Super Saver-Bella Jolie, by Broken Vow). Pitched into play at $25,000 by Claiborne, the champion sprinter retailed at an excellent ratio (59 sold of 68 offered) for a no less excellent yield (his $227,000 average tipped only by Nyquist).

So the son of Super Saver, with a $700,000 Keeneland September yearling to his name, has plainly been trading very effectively–plus the dash he showed in breaking a stakes record in the GI King's Bishop S., and track record in the GI Breeders' Cup Sprint.

Admittedly, his family limits his genetic eligibility for the stall that famously housed Bold Ruler, but there are nonetheless old-fashioned dimensions to his profile. No Lasix, for one; and also the trademark resistance to avarice of his host farm, in assembling three dance-cards confined to the 120s.

The notion that the huge books favored by more industrial farms are somehow more “commercial” is placed in due perspective by the demand for Runhappy at the sales. And you can virtually guarantee that even some of the bigger prices paid will be parlayed into rewarding pinhooks at the 2-year-old sales: he was invincibly fast at the right distance.

AIR FORCE BLUE (War Front–Chatham, by Maria's Mon) started at the same fee but was trimmed to $20,000 and now $15,000 at Ashford, albeit 196 mares across his second and third books amply consolidates the 153 entertained by the son of War Front in his first.

His yearlings fell just short of six figures in claiming fourth in the intake's averages (44 sold 0f 73). Anyway, we'll soon see what they can do, given that three Group 1 wins qualified him as the most accomplished juvenile at Ballydoyle since Johannesburg. The fee takes account of his unaccomplished sophomore year, and breeders prepared to roll the dice on a turf sprinter will remember that his second dam is sister to a dirt champion in Flanders (Seeking The Gold), who herself produced another in Surfside (Seattle Slew).

Another who has been given a helping hand with his fee is EXAGGERATOR (Curlin–Dawn Raid, by Vindication), who opened on $30,000 at WinStar and has taken trims to $25,000 and now $20,000.

The son of Curlin has certainly played the numbers game: having welcomed 162 mares in his first book, he was represented by no fewer than 103 yearlings through the ring. Of these, 63 sold at $85,746, and he maintained a six-figure book into his third season.

For all this commercial action around him, Exaggerator actually offers some pretty old-school wares. He toughed out demanding campaigns at two and three, routing the GI Santa Anita Derby field before chasing home Nyquist at Churchill and turning the tables in the Preakness. Three Grade I wins in 15 starts across 16 months, underpinned by a good Canadian family: that's a profile that entitles him, quaint notion, to get actual runners.

The same farm has been able to peg OUTWORK (Uncle Mo–Nonna Mia, by Empire Maker) at $15,000 after he achieved very similar dividends ($84,234) from 66 yearlings sold of 88 offered. He has welcomed plenty through the revolving door–books of 168, 137 and 102–and you can be sure that as many were seeking the 4 1/2-furlong winner at Keeneland in April (as Uncle Mo's first winner, in fact) as the horse who held out for the Wood Memorial. That was an ordinary field, for a Grade I, and he never resurfaced after running down the field in the Derby. So his true caliber is hard to specify. But we do know is that he's out of a Grade I-placed half-sister to Cairo Prince.

On any sane viewing, FLINTSHIRE (GB) (Dansili {GB}-Dance Routine {GB}, by Sadler's Wells) should be rated a match for any horse in this intake, in terms of the kind of attributes we should be seeking to sow into the breed. At $15,000, having opened at Hill 'n' Dale on $20,000, he offers tremendous value to any breeders who succumb to the eccentric idea that they might actually want to end up with a racehorse.

In the sales ring, he fared no better or worse than you would expect in a business that lies so solemnly about the growing importance of the turf program, physical soundness, yada yada yada. Actually his clearance ratio was very high, with 45 sold of 52, at an average $46,686.

Anyone with the slightest interest in breeding for the future of the American sport might want a piece of Flintshire: by one of the best-bred stallions in Europe in Dansili (GB) out of a Classic-placed mare from the storied Juddmonte program, he became its richest ever graduate through lightning acceleration (:44.56 for his closing half-mile in the GI Manhattan) and a constitution of, well, flint.

The 210 mares across his first two books will have included real quality, from an ownership group still including Juddmonte. So those far-sighted enough to support him now, after a third book of 69, may find themselves complacently ahead of the curve as his early crops mature.

A book of 57 for TAMARKUZ (Speightstown–Without You Babe, by Lemon Drop Kid) in his third season at Shadwell was actually his biggest yet, a remarkable state of affairs about a horse offering so comprehensive a package at a fee of $12,500, promptly trimmed to just $10,000.

Last seen thrashing the next two winners of the Breeders' Cup Classic in the Dirt Mile, Tamarkuz is out of a half-sister to two GI Belmont S. runners-up who has also now come up with a Group 1 mile winner at Royal Ascot in Without Parole (GB) (Frankel {GB}). It's a deep family, all around; and the son of Speightstown showed hardiness to match his class, with wins from two to six, as well as flexibility in terms of racing surface. And he made a very presentable sales debut, moving on 18 of 20 yearlings at $68,222. Relative to his fee, it's hard to know what else to expect.

Another son of Speightstown has been rather busier after joining his sire, whom he closely resembles, at WinStar. SPEIGHTSTER (–Dance Swiftly, by Danzig), in fact, corralled an astonishing 464 mares across his first three books. He remains pegged at $10,000 after processing 71 of 97 yearlings at $63,680.

That he was a pretty natural racehorse is clear, winning maiden, allowance and GIII Dwyer S. in his first three starts. But he disappeared after losing next time out, and the fleeting impression he made must instead be corroborated by his genes: his dam, though herself unraced altogether, is a sister to Canadian champion Dance Smartly (Danzig) and a half to Smart Strike (Mr Prospector). You won't have the only one in the sale, but sheer weight of numbers will doubtless keep his name in lights on the track.

The same farm has given another trim to TOURIST (Tiznow–Unbridled Melody, by Unbridled's Song), now $7,500 after opening at $12,500. He could hardly have a more different profile, better the longer he raced and ultimately shocking Tepin (Bernstein) in the GI Breeders' Cup Mile in 1:31.71. He sold 41 of 58 yearlings at $27,996, but we've already lamented the market's turf myopia–and he remains absolutely entitled to turn things round where it counts (or should count) on the track.

His dam has produced three stakes winners by lesser sires than the splendid Tiznow, and the 70 mares in Tourist's third book can be sure that his first two, comprising 236, will lay down some sustainable groundwork–judging, at any rate, from the way he banked $2.17 million through four seasons on the track.

UPSTART (Flatter–Party Silks, by Touch Gold) has found the going tougher since welcoming 146 mares to Airdrie in his first season. But the son of Flatter, standing at $10,000, hit one out of the ballpark when selling a colt for $510,000 at Saratoga–headlining a fertile $63,608 average for 56 yearlings sold of 86 into the ring. Fifteen of them made six figures and it's not hard to see why when you see dad, a lovely specimen himself.

Granted plenty of early action, as would seem very likely, those who persevere now could well find themselves having the last laugh. After all, he had multiple Grade I placings three seasons running, including at two, while his dam–by a copper-bottomed broodmare sire in Touch Gold–is a half-sister to a Grade II winner and traces to an elite Tesio mare.

Sometimes it seems like even the market can't even follow its own obsessions properly. It received Upstart so well that he'd be a very plausible candidate, as a juvenile maiden and stakes winner at Saratoga himself, for champion freshman. If anything, then, I'd say now is absolutely a smart time to get aboard.

Two potential heirs to the late Giant's Causeway also merit fidelity. NOT THIS TIME (–Miss Macy Sue, by Trippi) was never able to disclose the full extent of his brilliance, unraced after closing within a neck of Classic Empire (Pioneerof The Nile) in the GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile, the pair miles clear of Practical Joke (Into Mischief). Those other two started out at much higher fees, but Not This Time yields nothing to them in terms of physique nor, above all, pedigree.

His sibling Liam's Map (Unbridled's Song) sired two Grade I winners in his own debut season, while their Breeders' Cup-placed dam is line-bred to Dr Fager's champion half-sister Ta Wee. He looked value when starting out at Taylor Made on $15,000 and, favoured by Leslie's Lady (Tricky Creek) herself among 361 mares in his first three books, looks even better value at $12,500. He moved on 63 of 90 yearlings at $67,352, which could yet come to seem a bargain.

Albaugh Family Stable, breeders of Not This Time, also launched another heir to “The Iron Horse” in BRODY'S CAUSE (-Sweet Breanna, by Sahm) at Spendthrift. A Grade I winner at two and three, his bottom line becomes truly regal as you go back. Yet another of these to have taken a dip in his third book, he still had a couple of hundred covers over the previous two to get him started; and had already received a businesslike cut from $12,500 to $7,500 when selling 33 of 51 yearlings at $50,166.

He looks very fair value, and so does MSHAWISH (Medaglia d'Oro–Thunder Bayou, by Thunder Gulch) standing alongside Not This Time at Taylor Made, where his fee was soon halved from an opening $20,000. Here's another who appears to be a little too worthy for commercial tastes, as a very handsome, hardy and accomplished son of Medaglia d'Oro, who realized $39,338 for the 42 yearlings he sold of 56 offered.

He's the author of seven consecutive triple-digit Beyers, a Grade I winner on dirt and turf, while his second dam is a Storm Cat half-sister to both a five-time GSW and the dam of champion Halfbridled (Unbridled). Mshawish held his form through 24 starts for a bank statement of $2.4 million, and he'll surely get you a runner.

Calumet's BIG BLUE KITTEN (Kitten's Joy–Spent Gold, by Unaccounted For) sold his yearlings efficiently (28 of 29) but cheaply. He won his third and fourth Grade Is at seven, before sharing the Breeders' Cup Turf podium with two Arc winners, and offers the kind of ore the breed needs today at $10,000.    Remember that while Kitten's Joy had to make his name with modest mares overall, this guy has a strong family spreading under his third dam. (The same farm, incidentally, is offering more of the same-classy genes plus competitive longevity on turf-through OPTIMIZER (English Channel-Indy Pick, by A.P. Indy) at half that fee.)

ANCHOR DOWN (Tapit–Successful Outlook, by Orientate) is cut from the same cloth as his sire Tapit, and joined him at Gainesway at $10,000, soon clipped to $7,500. He flashed lurid speed on his day, notably in beating Tamarkuz for the GII Kelso H. in 1:32.9, and is a half-brother to GI Test S. winner Sweet Lulu (Mr Greeley). He won't have huge numbers behind him, in terms of his books, but sold his yearlings briskly enough (34 out of 39 at $44,647).

TEXAS RED (Afleet Alex–Ramatuelle {Chi}, by Jeune Homme) never quite managed to match the eclat of his Breeders' Cup Juvenile success, which was backed up by the clock; but then nor could many other horses, and he did beat Frosted in the GII Jim Dandy S. at three. The son of Afleet Alex looks a very viable outcross at this level, as conduit of some formidable South American blood, and don't worry about his low-key numbers: everything on the imaginative Crestwood roster represents some kind of value.

The same duly applies to FIRING LINE (Line of David–Sister Girl Blues, by Hold For Gold), who's really a very interesting prospect. He was denied a Grade I at two only by the nose of Dortmund (Big Brown); and the Kentucky Derby itself, only by a Triple Crown winner. True, he soon disappeared after that–and obviously appeared to have his work cut out at stud, as a son of Line Of David. But his sire-line has strengthened in the meantime, thanks to Kantharos and friends; while in that context his own $240,000 juvenile auction tag tells you plenty about his elegant physique.

And keep in mind how his female family underpins the big numbers he clocked on the track: his dam is a Grade I-placed sibling to the mothers of two Grade I-winning milers in Sharp Azteca (Freud) and Bowies Hero (Artie Schiller), their line soon reaching Broodmare of the Year Kamar (Key To The Mint). Firing Line sold all but one of 21 yearlings into the ring, for as much as $150,000, and to those of sufficient imagination he'll be an appealing proposition at that kind of fee.

Another packing a lot of pedigree at just $5,000 is IRONICUS (Distorted Humor–Meghan's Joy, by A.P. Indy), who extends an important Paul Mellon family-third dam a Grade II-winning half-sister to Sea Hero-at Claiborne and is himself a sibling to five other graded stakes winners. He was a smart turf operator in maturity, a dual Grade II winner who fell a stride short of adding a Grade I. He must build from shallow commercial foundations, but everything else goes deep and he is perfectly entitled to produce a millionaire like himself.

Off the same tag, HIT IT A BOMB (War Front–Liscanna {Ire}, by Sadler's Wells) was explosive when things fell right, as in the GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf. The son of War Front was, in fact, unbeaten at two and, while unable to go on thereafter, is a brother to another elite juvenile scorer in Brave Anna. He'll need to make an early impact to divert the traffic at Spendthrift, whereas CINCO CHARLIE (Indian Charlie–Ten Halos, by Marquetry) maintained a quite impressive third book of 77 at the same farm. This son of Indian Charlie matched precocity (GIII Bashford Manor S. second time out) with hardiness, racking up eight wins in 18 starts, and you don't find Halo as close as the second dam too often these days.

A similar merit applies to V.E. DAY (English Channel-California Sunset), as a son of a Deputy Minister mare; moreover the second dam is a sister to champion Sunshine Forever (Roberto). As a son of English Channel, V.E. Day did well to parlay his turf genes into a GI Travers S. success and duly offers a versatile package off $6,500 at Buck Pond Farm.

Finally PROTONICO (-Alpha Spirit, by A.P. Indy) is the most affordable of the three sons of Giant's Causeway in this intake, on $5,000 at Castleton Lyons. His dam is by A.P. Indy out of Chilean Horse of the Year and later GI Ruffian H. winner Wild Spirit (Chi) (Hussonet), and he showed due iron in banking a few dimes short of a million.

Chris McGrath's Value Podium

Gold: NOT THIS TIME, Taylor Made $12,500

Too talented a horse, with too good a pedigree, to pass up at his reduced fee

Silver: FLINTSHIRE, Hill 'n' Dale $15,000

If he doesn't sire Grade I winners I'll eat my hat

Bronze: UPSTART, Airdrie $10,000

Time to get back aboard as a promising first crop hits the track

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