KY Value Sires For 2021: First Foals Due: Part I

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Omaha Beach | Spendthrift/ Autry Graham

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What an interesting crossroads we reach with the next group of young stallions in our survey. On the one hand, you have this new dynamic in the marketplace, with Spendthrift increasingly welcoming blue-chip prospects to build on its blue-collar successes. Yes, these may be looking to build more conventional, fee-based careers, as opposed to relying on the type of innovative promotions that helped Into Mischief evolve from a source of cheap commercial speed into the champion sire of a Kentucky Derby winner (who has himself now joined the roster, of course, so maintaining the general direction of travel). But other aspects of the model, notably books on an industrial scale, apply even to the stallions who this time last year charged the top three fees of the new intake. (Strictly the top, second and joint-third; though we should note that Spendthrift also looked after less affluent clientele with two of the cheapest rookies.)

At the same time, however, we have meanwhile had the dead weight of the pandemic reining in fees nearly across the board. And here again, as so often, it was B. Wayne Hughes and his team who took the lead. So while the farms have largely priced the latest group of rookies with confidence in an unswerving addiction among commercial breeders, some of the fees charged for the preceding group have been trimmed in purposeful fashion.

One way or another, then, the seas are high. But breeders can certainly hope to catch a following wind.
The Spendthrift factory was certainly functioning with its customary efficiency when these horses were launched in the spring. In fact, its big three newcomers corralled 683 mares between them.

Anyone who considers that a grotesque number (not least when two of them have meanwhile done a shift in Australia) will look forward to a time, down the road, when stallions will be confined to 140 partners apiece. The game-changing element here, of course, is that the gene pool is no longer being inundated just by slick commercial blood, but by wholesome two-turn influences as well.

What remains unchanged is that breeders participate in this kind of exercise–not just at Spendthrift, of course, but at all the big commercial farms–with their eyes wide open. Yes, sheer numbers behind a stallion increase the odds of a headline runner, capable of effacing much statistical embarrassment; but the trade-off will always be a potential glut of his stock funnelled into the same sales cycle.

To me, that's a risk well worth running with OMAHA BEACH (War Front–Charming by Seeking the Gold) after he mustered 215 mares for his debut book. Even at the highest tag of the intake, we dared to put him on the “value podium” last year because $45,000 looked such a fair valuation of its standout package. Now that you can get to him for $35,000, then, the shifting market sands are amply secured by the fact that the package itself remains precisely as attractive as before.

True, the farm has not been able to resist trumpeting him as “No. 1 freshman covering sire.” I can't blame them for that, everyone else does it, but I do wish people would stop pretending that covering sire “stats” have the slightest meaning. It's insulting to the mare, against whose primary value the paternity of a foal in utero always remains but an incidental benefit; and, in turn, it's insulting to the intelligence of breeders.
Be that as it may, this is a stallion who doesn't need any such flimsy Christmas baubles. So far as these things are ever predictable, Omaha Beach appears cast-iron.

Though sadly scratched as favorite for both the GI Kentucky Derby and an intended swansong in the GI Pegasus Gold Cup, he demonstrated his class with an accomplishment nearly as rare and auspicious as a Triple Crown as the first in 30 years to win Grade Is at nine and six furlongs in the same campaign. In both cases, moreover, he achieved bona fide elite form: the GI Arkansas Derby runner-up Improbable (City Zip) has himself just retired at $40,000, while Shancelot (Shanghai Bobby) is so fearsome a specialist in the sprint sphere that he returned to course and distance next time to burn off all bar champion Mitole (Eskendereya) at the Breeders' Cup.

We'll happily indulge Omaha Beach his own defeat at that meeting, a creditable enough effort in a race that played out all wrong; while the flair of his third elite success, in the Malibu, only heightened regret that his trainer was not asked to explore the full range of his potential at four. Even as it was, however, he is the most accomplished dirt runner by a sire who is beyond the reach of most. Omaha Beach trademarked his speed, and his ability to carry it, in consecutive wins at 1:49.91 and 1:08.79.

And all this is underwritten by one of the most vigorous contemporary pedigrees around: he's a half-brother to champion juvenile filly Take Charge Brandi (Giant's Causeway) out of a half-sister to two other Grade I winners in Will Take Charge (Unbridled's Song) and Take Charge Indy (A.P. Indy), their dam Take Charge Lady (Dehere) herself a multiple elite scorer. The pairing with War Front, meanwhile, doubles the vibrant influence of Rubiano–responsible for Omaha Beach's third dam, besides being damsire of War Front. Rubiano, of course, was a half-brother to the dam of Tapit and duly represents the kind of knot in a pedigree you know to be woven from strong material.

With scopey looks and personality to match, Omaha Beach has all bases covered. If he ends up following the usual commercial cycles, taking cuts until his first runners restore momentum, then he looks one to stick with throughout.

You can only wonder what Omaha Beach might have achieved at four, when you consider the example of his neighbor VINO ROSSO (Curlin–Mythical Bride by Street Cry {Ire})–whose strong career finish was rewarded by a staggering 238 mares, exceeded nationally only by Uncle Mo and Mendelssohn, at Ashford, and his own farm's flagship Into Mischief. Nonetheless he gets a clip from $30,000 to $25,000 to keep that door revolving.

The theory with this horse is that if it looks like a Curlin, swims like a Curlin, and quacks like a Curlin, chances are that it will be a Curlin. He certainly made the resemblance stronger in his third season, transforming himself from likeable slugger into the brilliant author of a 111 Beyer when taking his bow in the GI Breeders' Cup Classic.

And I must say it's a lot easier to tolerate such huge books for unproven stallions when they match such sturdy, worthy track performance with a pedigree that is so well balanced. Like Omaha Beach, Vino Rosso is out of a dam who combines the Mr. Prospector sire-line with that of broodmare sire legend Deputy Minister. But he goes a step farther: both sire and damsire are by sons of Mr. Prospector; and sire and dam are out of mares respectively by Deputy Minister and his son Touch Gold.

This is somewhat reminiscent of the way inbreeding to Mr. P. is counterweighted by an influence for toughness and class (namely Nijinsky) in Justify (Scat Daddy), who was born the previous day on the same farm. Glennwood had been typically astute in acquiring Vino Rosso's dam before her weanling half-brother blossomed into GI Belmont S. runner-up Commissioner (A.P. Indy) and another sibling, Laugh Track (Distorted Humor), was foiled by a similarly narrow margin in GI Breeders' Cup Sprint.

Another striking physical, Vino Rosso is a fascinating test case for the commercial proliferation of a really edifying, old-school template. Can you get too much of a good thing? What a pleasant change to find out!

Pure commercial speed, however, was still available from the other big gun rolled into the Spendthrift arsenal last year. MITOLE (Eskendereya–Indian Miss by Indian Charlie) was correspondingly busy, entertaining 230 guests, yet gets an eye-opening slash in fee to $15,000 from $25,000.

Mitole bestrode the sprint division in a fashion that would have made him a perfectly legitimate Horse of the Year, spreading his four Grade I wins between six and eight furlongs, with a stakes record in no less storied a race than the Forego at the intermediate trip. Any horse that can sandwich a performance like that between success in the Breeders' Cup Sprint (112 Beyer) and the stallion-making Met Mile has the kind of deep-grained speed that holds. Witness times in those races of 1:09 flat, 1:20.8 and 1:32.75.

The new fee offers a helpful nudge to those seeking a little more breadth to his pedigree, albeit his dam is a half-sister to a Grade II winner; but they should comfort themselves that Mitole's sire, though hastily exported, represents a truly aristocratic family and this was his second Met Mile winner in three crops.

Having started on the same peg, AUDIBLE (Into Mischief–Blue Devil Bel by Gilded Time) gets a mild trim to $22,500 after receiving 219 mares–apparently the biggest herd that WinStar has ever rounded up for a rookie. Obviously plenty of breeders out there agree that what counts most about Audible is the visible, his farm lauding this fine mover as “the best-looking son of Into Mischief.”

He evidently made a lasting impression in the GI Florida Derby, despite subsequently taking six months out after a storming third to Justify (Scat Daddy) in the GI Kentucky Derby and then disappearing for good after a fine effort in the G1 Dubai World Cup. In hindsight the relaxed, long-striding Audible was a real pathfinder for Authentic (Into Mischief) in showing how their sire, with the upgrading of his mares, would stretch his speed round a second turn to become a legitimate player at Classic level.

But fear not, Audible had all the trademark speed and precocity, too, as a $500,000 2-year-old who was really rolling by the time he romped in the GII Holy Bull S. in 1:41.92. And if the page is somewhat patchy in between, his fourth dam is multiple Grade I winner Classy Cathy (Private Account).

It's perfectly understandable for Claiborne to hold CATHOLIC BOY (More Than Ready–Song Of Bernadette by Bernardini) at $25,000. His genes, physical and track record are just the same, after all, albeit the world around us may be a rather different place. Needless to say, this is a very different kind of farm from Spendthrift anyway, typically favoring conservative books (Catholic Boy began with 131 mares) to avoid flooding the market. Besides, as one breeder recently complained to me, it can be demoralizing when the value of your foal's paternity is diminished when still in utero.

Claiborne has a long history of standing stallions of international reach and Catholic Boy absolutely fits as a Grade I winner on both dirt and turf at three. And it's worth remembering that he had laid down a very similar marker as a juvenile, impressing in the GII Remsen S. after closing to within two lengths in the GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf.

He was also a graded stakes winner at Saratoga in that first campaign, so would seem perfectly entitled to get his stock up and running. The immediate family is solid without being regal, but the first three dams are by highly edifying broodmare influences in Bernardini, Seeking the Gold and Nijinsky, while beyond that you get to the same Argentinian family that gave us La Lorgnette (Val de l'Orne {Fr}), the Canadian champion who produced an extraordinary European talent in Hawk Wing (Woodman).

While entitled to breed a two-turn dirt horse, Catholic Boy can plainly cater to proliferating turf/synthetic opportunities and would merit the kind of enterprise we don't see enough from European shoppers. Maybe it's just a case of whether the future arrives in time, but he's “More Than Ready” for it.

Much the same is true of YOSHIDA (Heart's Cry {Jpn}–Hilda's Passion by Canadian Frontier), who gets a clip to $15,000 from $20,000 after entertaining 148 clients at WinStar. His principal service might be to repatriate the line of Sunday Silence, whose breed-shaping impact on turf in Japan duly extends the versatility we associate with the overall Halo brand (not least through WinStar's own international flagship, the sire of Catholic Boy).

Sure enough, Yoshida crowned a tough and consistent career over three seasons with elite success on both grass and dirt, and was additionally beaten under two lengths both over a straight mile at Royal Ascot and behind Accelerate (Lookin At Lucky) in the GI Breeders' Cup Classic.

His page offers a corresponding blend, tracing to a half-sister to Damascus via a granddam by El Prado (Ire). There is rather more quantity than quality in between, and the damsire won't help in that regard, but something is certainly working: Yoshida's dam won the GI Ballerina S. by nine lengths and clocked a 1:20.45 track record in the GII Inside Information S. Certainly his own sire is a Thoroughbred of the very highest class, while you can judge his physical allure by a yearling tag of $750,000.

Read part two of Chris McGrath's Value Sires-First Kentucky Weanlings in Friday's TDN, with coverage of World of Trouble, Catalina Cruiser, Preservationist, Divisidero, Enticed, Flameaway, Maximus Mischief, Coal Front, Demarchelier, Heart to Heart, Lost Treasure and Qurbaan, plus Chris's top three on the value podium.

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