By Bill Oppenheim
New York racing is finally on the way back. When Martin Panza moved from defunct Hollywood Park to NYRA in 2014, one of his ambitions was to create ‘event’ cards and days, and, as Bill Finley wrote in Sunday’s TDN (click here), even those of us who weren’t there could see it was a great success. Saturday, for sure: 10 black-type races, six of them Grade I; 57,000 people and $93 million in handle. Even though they were very much supporting cards, Martin is laying the groundwork for the festival to get more important for more days: three black-type races on Thursday, five on Friday; 18 black-type races–with 54 black-type wins and placings–over the three days. Very important for professionals, and, as Bill wrote, increasingly appealing to a younger crowd who like being at big events. The impact of social media is of course huge, and mostly new, but we shouldn’t underestimate the impact of NBC Sports, which is showcasing racing as a viable, fun, interesting entertainment option for the hundreds of millions of Americans who do still watch television.
For fans who actually follow racing maybe the most interesting story was the return of ‘TDN Rising Star’ Songbird, the now 4-year-old Medaglia d’Oro filly whose only loss in 12 career starts came when Beholder nailed her by a dirty nose in last year’s epic GI Breeders’ Cup Distaff, in Saturday’s GI Ogden Phipps S. She had to fight off maybe a career best by the 5-year-old Candy Ride mare Paid Up Subscriber, recording her third Grade I second, but ultimately prevailed to go 12-1-0 from 13 lifetime starts. From the point of view of breeders, Songbird’s win was one of two wins and another Grade I placing for Darley’s Medaglia d’Oro over the weekend. His 3-year-old filly New Money Honey, who had won the GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf last year, won the GIII Wonder Again S. on Thursday (9 furlongs, turf), and the 5-year-old ‘Medaglia’ mare Dickinson (winner of the GI Jenny Wiley S. last time out) was third to ‘Rising Star’ Antonoe (First Defence) and Sassy Little Lila (Artie Schiller) in the GI Just A Game S. (1m, turf) on Saturday.
Of course the biggest story was Gainesway’s three-time champion sire Tapit siring Tapwrit, his third winner of the GI Belmont S., in four years. What doesn’t Tapit do? Well, one area the odds are against him is collecting a fourth consecutive sires’ championship; ‘Rising Star’ Arrogate has earned $13 million in two starts this year, so his sire Unbridled’s Song looks a heavy favorite to be North America’s Leading Sire of 2016, considering he currently holds a lead of over $8.5 million (click here) over Lane’s End’s Candy Ride and Tapit on the TDN North American Year-to-Date General Sire List. And yes, Candy Ride is currently ahead of Tapit in the race for second in 2017. Candy Ride had upset GI Manhattan S. winner Ascend as well as Paid Up Subscriber throwing a scare into Songbird, so is sustaining his momentum–and he has the 4-year-old Gun Runner, second in the G1 Dubai World Cup to Arrogate in his last start, slated to come back off the bench in this coming weekend’s GI Stephen Foster H.
It still strikes me as significant that four sires who all had their first foals the same year, 2006, have had such a huge impact on North American breeding: Tapit, Candy Ride, Medaglia d’Oro, and Speightstown. They’re all just finishing covering their 13th crops, so it’s not going to go on forever, but Tapwrit and company are from Tapit’s ninth crop, foaled in 2014. It’s also very interesting to look at North American sires’ 2014 foal crops (click here). We find here that Spendthrift’s Into Mischief still, even after the Belmont, leads Tapit by over $1 million in 2014 crop earnings. Into Mischief has 77 winners from 123 starters, including 19 black-type horses in this, his first big crop, and as we’ve said all along for him to lead this pack is really impressive. Tapit is second, including crop-leading totals of 13 black-type winners, nine Graded SW, and three Grade I winners. The next three spots are occupied by two sons of Empire Maker standing at WinStar, leading second-crop sire Bodemeister and Classic Empire’s sire, Pioneerof the Nile, then in fifth is Gainesway’s repatriated Empire Maker himself, from his crop of 3-year-olds sired in Japan (because the parameters are: standing in North America, worldwide earnings). Interestingly, when we factor in Europeansires as well (click here), Galileo has 14 BTW, 10 GSW, and four Group 1 winners from this crop (154 named foals vs. 117 for Tapit and 158 for Into Mischief), so leads Tapit by one in each of those categories; but Into Mischief still leads them both in total crop earnings.
Speightstown, also a WinStar sire, is the number two F2006 sire based on his 2014 foal crop’s earnings, ranking seventh on this table. Just ahead of him in sixth is Lane’s End’s Quality Road, who has six GSW from this crop, including the one-two in Saturday’s GI Acorn S., Abel Tasman and Salty. This is Quality Road’s third crop of 3-year-olds, and a lot of times third crops are not that good; but his is (click here to read Andrew Caulfield’s piece on Quality Road from yesterday’s TDN). In 2015 Curlin and Scat Daddy were among what turned out to be a really hot group of sires standing for $35,000 that year. Quality Road’s been standing for $35,000 this year, but he’ll be going up for sure for 2018; he deserves to, anyway.
Bob Baffert ran four horses at Belmont Saturday and saddled four winners–West Coast (Flatter), Abel Tasman (Quality Road), American Anthem (Bodemeister), and Mor Spirit (Eskendereya) –all ridden by Mike Smith, who added Songbird to make it a five-win afternoon for him. Bodemeister had already rocketed to the top of the North American second-crop sire list when Always Dreaming won the GI Kentucky Derby, but American Anthem’s convincing win in the seven-furlong GII Woody Stephens S. stamps him as an elite racehorse, so that’s two for Bodemeister. A lot of people just assume ‘top-class’ equates to ‘Grade I’ but we find that it really equates to ‘Grade I + Grade II.’ So Bodemeister leads the North American second-crop cumulative ‘money list’ (click here), and adding a second GI/GII winner shows it’s not just a one-horse show.
Three other second-crop sires had important black-type performances. F2014 North America cumulative number three, Lane’s End’s Union Rags, got an important Grade I and Classic placing for a colt when Patch ran third in the Belmont; all four of Union Rags’s first GSWs, including three Grade I winners and a Grade II winner, are fillies, so that starts to even it up a little. Claiborne’s Algorithms, a son of Bernardini who was three-for-three lifetime but broke down after thumping the previous year’s 2-year-old champion, Hansen, by five lengths in the 2012 GIII Holy Bull S., had two flashes of speed on show. On Friday, the 2-year-old colt He Hate Me swooped to win the 5 1/2-furlong Tremont S. over a couple of more fancied runners; and on Saturday, the 3-year-old colt Recruiting Ready, who had blitzed stakes fields at six furlongs in his two previous starts, ran a very creditable third to American Anthem in the Woody Stephens at seven furlongs. Both are owned by Maryland’s Sagamore Farm. Also on the weekend black-type scoresheet: Crestview Farm’s Get Stormy, whose good filly Fifty Five ran second to New Money Honey in Thursday’s Wonder Again (9 furlongs, turf).
North American third-crop sires Uncle Mo, Lonhro (now back in Australia, where he has been champion sire), Girolamo, and General Quarters had black-type placings at the three-day racing festival; and two first-crop Spendthrift stallions recorded stakes placings: Waki Patriot, by Awesome Patriot, ran third in the fillies’ race, the Astoria, on Thursday; while Admiral Creed, by Jimmy Creed, was third in a hot-looking Tremont on Friday.