By Andrew Caulfield
One common misconception in horse-racing is that speed equals precocity, but these two assets don't necessarily go hand in hand–as the GI Breeders' Cup Sprint's roll of honor sometimes reminds us. The latest winner, Work All Week, is a 5-year-old who gained his first Graded success as recently as October; Amazombie, successful in 2012, was another five-year-old to whom Graded success came late; and Speightstown, the hero in 2004, didn't become a stakes winner until the age of six in a sporadic career hampered by some very lengthy absences.
However, when Speightstown's first runners hit the track in 2008, there were soon signs that some of his progeny possessed the 2-year-old ability that Speightstown had been unable to exhibit on his only juvenile start. In England a colt called Lord Shanakill found the winner's enclosure as early as May and then acquitted himself very well in several of Europe's top juvenile prizes, winning the G2 Mill Reef S. and ending his first season with a very narrow defeat in the G1 Dewhurst S.
Similarly swift rewards looked destined for another of Speightstown's sons, Munnings, after he had made an eye-catching debut over six furlongs at Saratoga in late July. That display earned him the “TDN Rising Star” accolade, but that wasn't the only reason to anticipate a sparkling career.
Although Munnings had cost no more than $150,000 as a yearling, potential buyers had seen him in a new light at Fasig-Tipton's February sale, when his price soared to $1,700,000 following a 10-second work.
Munnings had maintained this encouraging impression with a series of impressive works for Todd Pletcher at Belmont Park, building up to his debut by covering four furlongs in :48 3/5 and five furlongs in 1:00 3/5.
It was therefore a little disappointing when Munnings could finish no closer than third behind Vineyard Haven after stumbling at the start as favorite for the GI Hopeful S. at the start of September. Vineyard Haven again proved much the better when the pair filled first and second places in the GI Champagne S. and Munnings' first season ended on a disappointing note when he beat only two home in the GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile.
Although Speightstown's first juveniles also included Reynaldothewizard (third in the GII Saratoga Special), Gemswick Park (third in the GI Frizette S.) and the stakes-winning Haynesfield, the son of Gone West ended 2008 still awaiting his first Grade I winner.
That soon changed and no fewer than five of Speightstown's first-crop foals were to develop into
Grade I winners. It wasn't always a fast process, though. Lord Shanakill became the first Group 1 winner when he took the Prix Jean Prat in 2009, followed in 2010 by the 4-year-olds Mona de Momma (Humana Distaff), Haynesfield (Jockey Club Gold Cup) and Jersey Town (Cigar Mile).
Finally, the 7-year-old Reynaldothewizard completed the quintet with his victory in the 2013 Dubai Golden Shaheen.
Munnings, for his part, never quite rose to Grade I heights. He did, though, confirm his status among America's best sprinters with three Grade II successes, but we had to wait until the June of his second season for the first of them, in the Woody Stevens S., in which he wasn't far off Belmont's seven-furlong track record. He was similarly impressive against older horses in the Tom Fool H. the following month, with the third of his GII victories coming the following February, in the Gulfstream Park Sprint Championship.
So, when Munnings retired to Ashford Stud at a fee of $12,500, breeders could be forgiven for expecting him to supply plenty of speed, with a dash of precocity thrown in. After all, his dam La Comete is a well-connected daughter of Holy Bull, who began his brilliant career with an unbeaten four-race juvenile career.
However, Munnings' progeny didn't make the explosive start I half expected, and even now he has had no more than 46 starters from a first crop of 104. Fortunately, he has rapidly been gaining momentum over the last few months, to the extent that he now has more winners–19–than any of the other first-crop stallions.
Unfortunately most of these didn't come early enough to help any commercial breeders who supported Munnings in his second season, in the understandable expectation that he would be one of the front-runners in the rush for first-crop honors. Consequently his yearling average for his second crop stands at around $31,000, compared to a figure of over $47,000 for his first crop. His median is also markedly lower this year.
Buyers of second-crop Munnings yearlings now have good reason to be pleased with themselves. Not only has he enjoyed a surge in his number of winners but also in his number of stakes horses, which now stands at five. He enjoyed a particularly productive time three days ago when his sons No Problem and Alright Alright supplied the exacta in the GIII Bob Hope S. at Del Mar, with Lake Sebago also becoming a stakes winner.
If Munnings can maintain this sort of momentum, pinhookers can look forward to a rewarding time at next year's 2-year-old sales. After all–as I mentioned earlier–Munnings was himself a $150,000 yearling who was transformed into a $1.7 million juvenile.
Munnings' surge must also be very welcome news to the other farms standing young stallion sons of Speightstown, as any sins of the eldest sons tend to be visited on their younger counterparts. There is also reasonably good news of Speightstown's first Group 1 winner, Lord Shanakill. He commenced his stallion career at a fee of only €7,500 at the Irish National Stud, so won't have been blessed with top-level mares. Nonetheless he has sired 15 winners from 32 runners across Europe.
Next to face the racecourse test will be the Airdrie-based Haynesfield, who will be starting out with a crop of 81 live foals. Some 50 of them found buyers at the yearling sales, averaging more than $57,000, off a fee of $10,000. His second-crop weanlings averaged nearly $43,000, so it should pay to keep an eye on this tough horse, who defeated Blame to take the Jockey Club Gold Cup. But perhaps we shouldn't expect fireworks before next fall, as Haynesfield didn't gain his first stakes success until the December of his first season.
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