New Recruits in Demand at Spendthrift

Three-time Grade I winner Taiba is one of the four new stallions at Spendthrift for 2024 | Sarah Andrew


The TDN team barely had time to stop in at Spendthrift Farm to visit Forte this past November before the champion was booked full for 2024. Here's our video feature on the son of Violence. But Forte is just one of the four in-demand newcomers at Spendthrift, where the breeding shed is sure to be busy as ever this year as Into Mischief continues his reign as the leading sire in North America and the top four freshman sires of 2023 take on their fifth season at stud. To learn more about the other new kids on the block at Spendthrift, we sat down with Mark Toothaker.

TAIBA (5, Gun Runner – Needmore Flatter, by Flatter)

   Standing for an introductory fee of $35,000, this son of Gun Runner trained by Bob Baffert and campaigned by Zedan Racing Stables was a leading 3-year-old in 2022 with three Grade I victories on his resume.

KP: A seven-figure 2-year-old and a TDN Rising Star in his debut, it's fair to say that expectations were high for Taiba from the start. How did he rise to those?

MT: Taiba certainly got the whole racing world on edge when he brought $1.7 million at the 2-year-old sales. Being by Gun Runner out of a Flatter mare, he is a gorgeous horse. He probably has more bone and body than any Gun Runner that I've seen.

Taiba got off to such a start as a TDN Rising Star. It was just one of those races that gives you chill bumps. He won so effortlessly and so easily that day and then to come back in start two in the GI Santa Anita Derby, doing something he'd never done before going a mile and an eighth, and be able to win the way he did just lets you know right off the bat that this horse is as talented as maybe anything we've seen in a while.

From there, he would go on to win the GI Pennsylvania Derby in impressive fashion and he closed out his 3-year-old year with a win in the GI Malibu S. He was a very talented horse to be able to do what he did early on, but still be good late in the year. It was asking a lot of him, but it tells you how mentally tough that horse was.

KP: You said he stands out from other progeny of Gun Runner physically. How so?

MT: I think it's just his body. He's got a great way of moving, but he's got a lot of bone and a lot of muscle. I've had many people out here tell me that they've not seen another Gun Runner with a body like that.

His dam was in the Night of the Stars Sale. She was a mare that had tons of bone and tons of substance to her. Anybody out there that got a chance to peek at her can see what Taiba got.

KP: Last year you added dual Grade I winner Cyberknife to your roster and now this year you have Taiba. What has the demand been like in offering two new sons of Gun Runner to breeders within two years?

MT: Well we say around here that you can't have too much Into Mischief blood, but you also can't have too much Gun Runner blood.

When we had a chance to go get these two horses, we bought them both during the same year. We knew they wanted to run Taiba again as a 4-year-old and so that fit our program fine with them doing that. We were able to get Cyberknife 223 mares last year. He was a great breeder, a very fertile horse. Now we have Taiba standing for $35,000 and he sold out in about an hour. It was crazy, the demand for him. We've got him at 180 mares. We'll get to mid-April and see how he's breeding and if it's going well, we'll slide some more in.


Arabian Lion will stand for $30,000 in 2024 | Sarah Andrew

ARABIAN LION (4, Justify – Unbound, by Distorted Humor)

   This speedy son of Justify was his sire's first Grade I winner when he edged away to win the 2023 GI Woody Stephens. Another TDN Rising Star for Bob Baffert and Zedan Racing Stables, Arabian Lion will stand for $30,000 in his debut season.

KR: Speaking of red hot stallions, this year you have the first son of Justify to retire in Kentucky.

MT: We were so excited to be able to get Arabian Lion because of him being a son of Justify. We have Bolt d'Oro here that was in a great battle with Justify and Good Magic for leading freshman sire in 2022. We were thrilled that Bolt wound up coming out on top and then in 2023, it was all just Justify, Justify, Justify. So you tip your hat to that horse on the year that he's had that culminated with what he did out at the Breeders' Cup.

For us to be able to go out and get a Grade I-winning son of one of the hottest stallions here in North America–plus the success he's had in Europe and Australia–it's a very cool thing. But what makes him even more special is that his female family is all a Phipps family. His mother is a Distorted Humor mare that was stakes placed. His third dam is the great Personal Ensign. So when you back up that this horse ran a 109 Beyer when he won the Woody Stephens and he's by Justify and out of a Phipps family that's as deep as you could ever hope for, it gives you a lot of hope that five years down the road, what could he be standing for? We've seen what Justify started out at and where he's at now and we're hopeful to have a son that can go follow in his footsteps. We were overwhelmed with interest in him and he sold out extremely quickly.

KR: That 109 Beyer Speed Figure was one of the best numbers on the year in 2023. How does that speak to Arabian Lion's talent?

MT: He was always one that Bob had at the top of his list as a horse with tremendous talent. He ran a very good race at Keeneland when he was second in the GIII Lexington S. and Bob decided to go the conservative route and run him in the Sir Barton S. on Preakness day. He came out of that weekend with the fastest Beyer of anything that ran that weekend [103]. Bob said he probably should have run him in the Preakness and I think if they would have, he would have been a tough customer in there. To bounce out of that race and come back three weeks later on Belmont Day in the GI Woody Stephens, the horse just left there running and was in a great spot all the way around. When he made the lead, he was gone.

KR: This guy is built a bit differently than his sire. What type of horse do you expect him to throw?

MT: What's funny about Arabian Lion is that he looks very much like a Distorted Humor. He looks like his mother's side of the family. We have Jimmy Creed, who is a Distorted Humor, and Arabian Lion reminds me a little bit like Jimmy with the really good body and great hip. He looks like he would throw a precocious, fast, early horse–just like he was.

It'll be interesting to see what he throws when we start seeing the foals on the ground. We'll have to see when that chapter comes up in his career, but we're trying to breed mares to him with a little bit more stretch. I think that will suit him.


GI Blue Grass S. winner Zandon at Spendthrift | Sarah Andrew

ZANDON (5, Upstart – Memories Prevail, by Creative Cause)

About as consistent as they come, this Brereton C. Jones-bred placed in all but two of his 14 lifetime starts for trainer Chad Brown and owner Jeffrey Drown. Zandon was a leader on the Kentucky Derby trail as the winner of the 2022 GI Blue Grass S. and this year at four, he claimed the GII Woodward S. The $2.2 million earner will stand for $12,500.

KR: Zandon always caught my eye in the mornings, whether it was at Churchill Downs ahead of the Derby or this summer up in Saratoga. How have his looks factored into his resume as he launches his stud career?

MT: Well Zandon is Black Beauty. From the first time we saw him, he was a big, scopey, stretchy horse. He's an Upstart out of a Creative Cause mare. Mike Ryan, one of the best eyes of anybody in the horse business, bought him as a yearling out of the Airdrie consignment. It's an Airdrie family that Governor Jones and his son Brett have really cultivated for many generations. We're excited that they are doing the Share The Upside on the horse with us and so it's fun to have them involved.

I think he's at a price point at $12,500 where he fits a lot of breeders' programs. He gives them what they're looking for and hopefully will get them a gorgeous sale weanling or yearling.

KR: When you look back on his career, what do you think of as his best race?

MT: I think his best race was probably when he won the GI Blue Grass. He worked his way through horses in the stretch and when he finally found daylight, he was gone. I thought he showed a great turn of foot that day and it was an impressive trip to be able to work it out the way he did. Any time you win a Grade I right here in front of all the breeders at our home track, that gets your attention.

KR: He was on the board in 12 of 14 starts–all of those were graded after his debut win and half of his placings came in Grade I contests. For him to be so consistent at the top of the game at two, three and four, what does that indicate about his potential ability as a sire?

MT: Zandon was a very good 2-year-old and he had a great 3-year-old year–not only winning the GI Blue Grass S., but he ran a very good third in the GI Kentucky Derby. He's a horse that danced all the dances–on the board in the GI Travers and the GI Pennsylvania Derby. He's had a very good 4-year-old year. He was second in the GI Met Mile and the GI Whitney. He won the GII Woodward. We had big hopes for him out on Breeders' Cup weekend and unfortunately we didn't get the Cinderella ending we were hoping for. It was a tough track to close ground on out there on both days, but he ran hard. He always tries hard and so we were very proud of the horse to make $2.2 million. He was an extremely consistent horse that always gave his all. That's something that you can hang your hat on as a breeder. You know the horse had a lot of try in him and he was always going to come out there and compete as hard as he could.

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