Oppenheim: The Class of 2015

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Orb | Claiborne

By Bill Oppenheim

According to the TDN Sales Statistics tables (click here), five North American sires have averaged over $340,000 at the 2-year-old in training sales this year. The top two are the same two sires which topped the $600,000 mark in 2016 yearling average: Claiborne’s War Front, who had two 2-year-old colts average $512,500, and Gainesway’s three-time champion sire Tapit, who’s had seven 2-year-olds average $493,571. Darley’s Medaglia d’Oro, the number three commercial sire in North America and number three by 2016 yearling average ($331,749), was number three by 2-year-old sale average, as 11 have averaged $393,548. Hill ‘n’ Dale’s Curlin narrowly missed out on the number four spot, and ranks fifth by North American 2-year-old sale average, with 16 2-year-olds averaging $344,062, including of course Fasig-Tipton Midlantic’s record-breaking $1.5-million colt last week.

Just edging out Curlin for the fourth spot, with really just OBS June to come to finish out the 2017 2-year-old sale season, is the leading first-crop sire by 2-year-old average, Claiborne’s 2013 GI Kentucky Derby winner Orb, who had 19 2-year-olds sell for an average of $345,368, headed by the top colt, sold for $1.25 million, at the OBS March Sale. Orb had already led this sire group by 2016 first-crop yearling average (55 sold for an average of $148,318 off a $25,000 stud fee, which has never moved).

Orb is one of those horses that just about everybody likes. He was bred by Stuart Janney and the Phipps family, by Malibu Moon out of Lady Liberty, an Unbridled mare from the family which produced Ruffian, Icecapade, and Coronado’s Quest. Orb broke his maiden in his fourth and final start as a 2-year-old, over a mile at Aqueduct, then went to Florida where he won three in a row, culminating in the GI Florida Derby, then won the GI Kentucky Derby as the tepid 5-1 favorite, running a Beyer 104. He was then fourth in the GI Preakness S., third in the GI Belmont S. and, after a break, third in the GI Travers S. behind Will Take Charge and Moreno while running his best Beyer (106) that day in defeat. He was then down the field in the GI Jockey Club Gold Cup S., and retired to Claiborne for the 2014 covering season.

It’s not entirely fanciful to point out that Orb is actually bred quite similarly to three-time champion sire Tapit, who is by Pulpit out of an Unbridled mare. Pulpit is himself by A.P. Indy out of a Mr. Prospector mare. Malibu Moon, sire of Orb, is also by A.P. Indy out of a Mr. Prospector mare. Malibu Moon, it is true, is a sire with a pronounced filly bias–18 of his 27 Grade I/Grade II winners are fillies–but that doesn’t mean his best colt can’t make a sire. In fact, given the way things usually work, it probably means he will. The fact that he is out of an Unbridled mare seems equally significant. I’m not a good enough judge to throw away the catalogue page, and to me, Orb looks like he’s out of an Unbridled mare. Unbridled and Fappiano aren’t just rampant right now on the sires’ side of the equation (Pioneerof the Nile, American Pharoah, Classic Empire, Bodemeister, Always Dreaming just to name the current stars), they are also so big on the damsires’ side that there is sure to be a lot of inbreeding to Fappiano going on, intentional or not. Tapit is out of an Unbridled mare; War Front is out of a Rubiano (by Fappiano) mare; Bernardini is out of a Quiet American (by Fappiano) mare. Fappiano was by Mr. Prospector but behaves distinctly differently than other Mr. Prospector lines. They tend to be big, scopey, two-turn dirt horses, and we’ll be seeing more and more of it in American pedigrees in the next few years. But I digress: the subject is Orb. He’s been the top North American F2015 sire by weanling average, by yearling average, and now by 2-year-old average. ‘They’ like him; he’s a real ‘Market Darling.’

Four North American sires with first foals 2015 (F2015), in other words their first 2-year-olds this year, have averaged over $125,000 at the 2-year-old sales so far (click here). Orb, as noted, tops the charts. The surprise commercial number two was also bred by the Phipps family: Point of Entry, by Dynaformer out of a Seeking the Gold mare from the family of Gold Beauty, Sky Beauty, and Dayjur. He never ran at two, never won at less than nine furlongs, didn’t win a black-type race until he was a 4-year-old, and the average distance of his five Grade I wins, all of course on the turf, was nearly 11 furlongs. A recipe for commercial disaster? It seems not: 11 2-year-olds by Point of Entry have averaged $201,048, good for number two on this list, and including colts which sold for $675,000 at OBS March and 390,000 gns (over $500,000) at the Tattersalls Craven Sale. Frank Stronach bought into Point of Entry after his 4-year-old year and he stands at Adena Springs. He’s a rather unlikely commercial play, but once again I don’t dare throw away the catalogue page: he’s by Dynaformer, he looks like a Dynaformer (big), and he was a top-class 10-12 furlong grass horse, like many of the best Dynaformers are. So he may be an unlikely ‘Market Darling,’ but for sure he is a genuine Dynaformer.

Animal Kingdom is by a sire foaled in Brazil, where his dam was banished before she became a half-sister to the great broodmare Hasili (dam of Dansili etc). Leroidesanimaux was sired by Candy Stripes, a very successful son of Blushing Groom in South America, and Leroidesanimaux himself was brought up from Brazil by the Torrealba family’s (now Three Chimneys) Stud TNT. He won eight in a row over two seasons for Bobby Frankel, including three Grade Is, and his streak was only snapped by Artie Schiller in the 2005 GI Breeders’ Cup Mile. Meanwhile, Animal Kingdom’s dam, Dalicia, had been sourced from Germany, where she once defeated Soldier Hollow in a Group 3 race over 10 furlongs, by Barry Irwin’s Team Valor. Though ‘Leroi’, as he was known, was a dead ringer for his grandsire, Blushing Groom, Animal Kingdom has thrown to his German side physically. On the racecourse, Animal Kingdom proved to be Team Valor’s greatest triumph, winning the GI Kentucky Derby for trainer Graham Motion in his first start on the dirt, then coming back as a late 4-year-old/early 5-year-old to run a bang-up second to Wise Dan in the 2012 GI Breeders’ Cup Mile and went to Dubai, when Meydan was still synthetic, to win the 2013 G1 Dubai World Cup. Ironically, in his prep race in between, he ran second in the GI Gulfstream Park H. at nine furlongs on the turf. Guess who beat him? Point of Entry. Anyhow, now owned primarily by Australia’s Arrowfield Stud and Darley, you wouldn’t really expect Animal Kingdom to sire precocious 2-year-olds, so the fact he has had 16 sell for an average of $149,005–they must be pretty good-looking horses to command that kind of average at the 2-year-old sales.

Just as Point of Entry and Animal Kingdom have previous history, this is also the case with North America’s number four first-crop sire by average at the 2-year-old sales, Hill ‘n’ Dale’s Violence, who has previous history with Orb. A $600,000 yearling by Medaglia d’Oro raced by Black Rock Stables and trained by Todd Pletcher, Violence went three-for-three as a 2-year-old, breaking his maiden at seven furlongs at Saratoga in August. He didn’t reappear until taking the GII Nashua S. at Aqueduct in November, after which Pletcher skipped the GII Remsen S. and shipped Violence to California, where he won the GI Cashcall Futurity S. (also won by Into Mischief, in case there’s any doubt that race can produce a sire). His next start was in the 2013 GII Fountain of Youth S., where he went off at 3-5 but was cut down late by none other than Orb. Injury intervened and Violence never ran again, but his second career has begun auspiciously, as he is already the sire of the Kentucky Juvenile S. heroine Buy Sell Hold in his initial crop. Violence has had 40 2-year-olds sell from his first crop, so it’s some testimony that his average so far at the 2-year-old sales is $139,531, off just a $15,000 stud fee.

Though Europe now has a thriving 2-year-old sale market, not nearly as many 2-year-olds are sold there as in America; no sires with 40 sold, in fact none even with 20. But three European F2015 sires have had five or six sell each from their first crops for averages over $125,000 (click here). Intello, bred and raced by the Wertheimers, by Galileo out of a Danehill mare and winner of the 2013 G1 Prix du Jockey-Club (French Derby), stood his first two seasons at Cheveley Park in England, but is now back at Haras du Quesnay in France. An Intello colt brought 575,000 gns from John Ferguson at the Tattersalls Craven 2-year-old sale, and Intello is the leading European 2-year-old sales sire so far, with an average of $232,704 for six sold. Darley Kildangan’s Dawn Approach has had five 2-year-olds average $138,224, while Coolmore’s Camelot has had six sell, for an average of $134,657. The leading sire of 2-year-olds in Europe (click here), with more than one sold, is Haras de Bonneval’s Siyouni, whose nine sold averaged $326,517. Contact Bill Oppenheim at [email protected] (cc [email protected]).

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