By Andrew Caulfield
To the question, “Which stallion is going to be the next big thing in American breeding?” I guess quite a few people would nominate Into Mischief. One fully paid-up member of the Into Mischief fan club is Garrett O'Rourke, judging by the fact that nine of Juddmonte's 2017 American foals are by the up-and-coming Spendthrift stallion. The 12-year-old son of Harlan's Holiday also has eight Juddmonte mares in foal this year, including five daughters of Empire Maker.
The stallion's admirers can point to the 3-year-old Practical Joke, winner of Saturday's GI H. Allen Jerkens S., as a fine example of Into Mischief's talents. Indeed, Into Mischief's entire 2014 crop–which runs to 170 foals–has helped highlight the stallion's potential. Sired at an increased fee of $20,000, this crop produced 37 individual juvenile winners, of which six enjoyed black-type success. They earned Into Mischief the title of champion sire of two-year-olds, ahead of War Front, Pioneerof The Nile, Tapit, Scat Daddy and Harlan's Holiday.
Practical Joke was comfortably the best of them, as he showed with his victories in the GI Hopeful S. in his second start and the GI Champagne S. in his third. He rounded off his first season with a respectable third behind Classic Empire in the GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile. These efforts earned Practical Joke a figure of 122 on the Experimental Free H., just 4lb below Classic Empire.
This year has shown that Practical Joke–like Into Mischief's previous GI winner Goldencents–is much more than just a 2-year-old. Victories in the GIII Dwyer S. and the GI H. Allen Jerkens S. have seen him remain unbeaten around one turn, and his efforts around two turns haven't been too shabby either, as he showed with his close third behind Girvin and McCraken in the GI Haskell Invitational. His recent efforts drew fulsome praise from trainer Chad Brown, who pointed out that “he's so versatile. It was his third race in seven weeks. He's our iron horse.”
It's still early days for this year's 2-year-olds, but Into Mischief currently ranks a close second behind Scat Daddy among the sires of juveniles, with 15 winners already in the bag. Two have enjoyed black-type success and there's good reason for thinking there are more to come. Although this crop was also sired at a fee of $20,000, it achieved an average of $212,104 at this year's 2-year-old sales, where his best price for a colt was $600,000, with his fillies selling for up to $450,000.
The demand for his best stock was also evident at Saratoga a few weeks ago, with colts selling for $850,000, $500,000 and $320,000, even though they are off a fee of only $35,000. This suggests there could be fireworks at the upcoming Keeneland September Sale, where Into Mischief has three youngsters in Book 1 and 36 in Book 2.
Needless to say, Into Mischief hasn't always enjoyed this type of popularity. I mentioned earlier that his 2014 crop was sired at $20,000, but he was priced at only $7,500 when Spendthrift originally announced its stallion fees for 2013. But then his first-crop 2-year-olds began to shine. November 2012 saw Goldencents land the rich Delta Downs Jackpot, and the last month of the year saw the smart Vyjack record the first of stakes successes, while Sittin At The Bar won a couple of Louisiana stakes races. This propelled Into Mischief into a close third place among the freshman sires.
Demand for Into Mischief's services grew so great that Spendthift took the unusual step of revising his fee, firstly to $10,000 and then to $20,000. Of course, Into Mischief's profile was also benefiting from the exploits of his remarkable half-sister Beholder. This daughter of Henny Hughes recorded the first two of her 11 Grade I victories in 2012, when she landed both the Del Mar Debutante and the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies. It is worth mentioning that the sires of Into Mischief and Beholder were both grandsons of Storm Cat.
Then there was the fact that Into Mischief's sire Harlan's Holiday, who was to die towards the end of 2013, was 2012's champion sire of 2-year-olds. The end result was a 2013 book of 210 mares for Into Mischief, which was in marked contrast to his first four seasons. Having started with a book of 61 in 2009, he covered 44 mares in 2010, 54 in 2011 and 50 in 2012. In other words, Into Mischief covered one more mare in 2013 than he had done in the whole of the previous four years. His new-found popularity has endured, with Into Mischief continuing to rank among America's busiest stallions (218 mares in 2016).
There are some parallels between the careers of Into Mischief and of the one-turn-specialist Practical Joke. Into Mischief ventured beyond seven furlongs only once during his six-race career, when he defeated Colonel John to take the GI CashCall Futurity over 1 1/16 miles.
It could be argued that Practical Joke's career is more similar to that of his grandsire Harlan's Holiday. A four-time stakes winner during his six-race juvenile campaign, Harlan's Holiday trained on so well that he won the Florida Derby and Blue Grass S., to move to the top of the Kentucky Derby betting. There were times, including in the Derby, when Harlan's Holiday's stamina didn't seem to stretch to a mile and a quarter, and Practical Joke also ran out of stamina in the final stages when fifth in this year's Derby. Practical Joke may be best at up to a mile, but it is possible to argue that he stays a mile and an eighth–the distance of several of Harlan's Holiday's best wins, including all three of his Grade I successes.
With Practical Joke's future stallion career in mind, it is encouraging that his sire and both of his grandsires, Harlan's Holiday and Distorted Humor, did well enough to multiply their original stud fee. His broodmare sire Distorted Humor is another who was at his most successful over seven furlongs and a mile, even though he stayed a bit further.
Distorted Humor is making his name as a sire of broodmares, with his daughters also being responsible for Arrogate and for the Florida Derby and Donn H. winner Constitution, in addition to the Grade I-winning fillies New Money Honey, Book Review, Molly Morgan and Elate (recent winner of the Alabama S.).
Practical Joke's good looks helped him sell for $240,000 as a yearling. His second dam Gilded Halo was bred along similar lines to Moment of Hope, a smart sprinter-miler who was good enough to win at Grade II level and to finish second in the GI Vosburgh S. Whereas Moment of Hope was by Timeless Moment out of Careless Moment, Gilded Halo was by Timeless Moment's champion two-year-old Gilded Time out of Careless Moment's daughter Careless Halo.
With this background of precocious speed, Practical Joke looks sure to be in demand as a stallion when his racing days are over.