'Speaker' Latest to Cry Freedom for Sire Line

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Speaker's Corner Sarah Andrew

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Not quite nailing the GI Kentucky Derby with Essential Quality (Tapit) felt like one of very few omissions from a spectacular 2021 for Godolphin on both sides of the Atlantic. And while it seems that Sheikh Mohammed must wait at least another year to satisfy that particular craving, his team certainly won't have felt too marginalized during the coast-to-coast sequence of rehearsals that gripped our attention last Saturday. Because they now know for a fact that they have one of the outstanding talents of the previous crop in Speaker's Corner (Street Sense), whose spectacular performance in the GI Carter H.–one of four graded stakes winners on the weekend for Godolphin–represented an unmistakable coming of age.

A 114 Beyer set a formal seal on that breakout, as the highest of the year so far, but it's been clear for a while that a Bill Mott master class is coming together with the maturity of Speaker's Corner. In his two previous starts he had extended his superiority over runner-up Fearless (Ghostzapper) from just over a length in the GIII Fred W. Hooper S., to 5 1/2 lengths in the GII Gulfstream Park Mile. Dropping back in trip at Aqueduct, he showed high energy throughout to dominate a solid field by 4 1/2 lengths, volunteering himself as a third dimension to the showdown everyone wants to see between Flightline (Tapit) and Life Is Good (Into Mischief). If all three happen to converge on the GI Met Mile, then the Triple Crown series may have to produce something pretty special to keep open the status of Horse of the Year.

The blossoming of Speaker's Corner will be all the more gratifying to the Jonabell team because his pedigree is royal blue top and bottom. The solitary dissent on the farm may come from Maxfield (Street Sense), who's entitled to feel nervous about a future rival bred on the same cross with such an abundance of commercial speed.

Regardless, it's good to see their sire now giving himself every chance of extending a line that for a while had a fairly tenuous look. To start with, he had appeared to emulate his own father Street Cry (Ire) by majoring in fillies. Without Street Sense himself, who famously exorcized the GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile curse in the 2007 Derby, the legacy of Street Cry (Ire) would have been uncomfortably vested in his female legends Zenyatta and Winx (Aus). (Albeit Street Boss, also at Jonabell, has proved a stalwart at his level). And while Street Sense did come up with Hallowed Crown (Aus) and one or two others in Australia, his first five Grade I winners in the U.S. were fillies and he had to wait until his seventh crop for McKinzie to start redressing the balance.

But now Street Sense is finally scraping out a promising foothold in Kentucky for the extension of the line. Next year Speaker's Corner will presumably jump into the slipstream of McKinzie and Maxfield, respectively launched over the past two years at $30,000 and $40,000 by Gainesway and Jonabell.

If this momentum feels pretty timely for a stallion now 18-years-old, then we must remember how he was obliged to regroup after being loaned to Darley Japan in 2014, when at a real crossroads of his career. (Having also shuttled to Australia five times early on, Street Sense has a pretty tattered passport).

Fair enough, the Japanese migration he shared with Hard Spun served a valid wider agenda for their owner. And it actually created a lasting opportunity for Kentucky breeders in one of the last sons of Danzig: Hard Spun, standing at $60,000 before he left for Hokkaido, resumed here at just $35,000 and is again standing at that fee in 2022. But while Hard Spun at least matches the lifetime ratios of his buddy, across all indices, Street Sense will nowadays cost you more than double at $75,000.

That's how precious was the emergence of both McKinzie and Maxfield to win Grade I races at two. Hard Spun's diverse portfolio, in contrast, has seldom extended to precocity. As such, it reflects very well on Street Sense that both those horses, having unfortunately been sidelined during the Classics, continued to do so well in maturity. (McKinzie even persevered into a fourth campaign, albeit with mixed results).

Just like Maxfield, Speaker's Corner represents a deferred reward for the expensive recruitment of an aristocratic granddam. Maxfield is out of a daughter of Caress (Storm Cat), a $3.1 million graft from a Harbor View family at Keeneland in November 2000; while Speaker's Corner is the belated yield on an even bigger investment at Fasig-Tipton seven years later.

Round Pond (Awesome Again) entered that ring after a truncated third campaign, having won the GI Breeders' Cup Distaff by 5 1/2 lengths at Churchill in 2006. In giving as much as $5.75 million, Sheikh Mohammed perhaps felt a sentimental hook in her kinship to one of the more charismatic European colts to have carried his original, maroon-and-white silks.

Round Pond's mother, who was by the stamina influence Trempolino, had failed to break her maiden in 10 attempts, but the next dam Coral Dance (Fr) (Green Dancer) had not only been Group 1-placed as a juvenile in France but also produced no fewer than three elite scorers. Her second named foal was Nasr El Arab (Al Nasr {Fr}), a group winner in France exported to California where he harvested four Grade Is, three on turf and one on muddy dirt. At the other end of her breeding career, 13 years later, she produced a top miler for Ballydoyle in Black Minnaloushe (Storm Cat), winner of the G1 Irish 2,000 Guineas/G1 St James's Palace S. In between, however, she had produced the memorable Pennekamp, a champion juvenile for Andre Fabre before winning a famous duel with the odds-on Celtic Swing (GB) (Damister) for the G1 2,000 Guineas. Pennekamp proceeded to the Derby as hot favourite, but finished down the field and was not seen again. Sadly his stud career was also an anti-climax, and he ended up covering jumping mares in Ireland at €3,000.

As a half-sister to those three elite winners, Coral Dance's daughter by Trempolino was threatening to prove as mediocre in her second career as she had been in her first, and she was sold for $20,000 at Keeneland November in 2004. By then she was 15, and unfortunately the foal she was then carrying turned out to be her last-meaning that her new owners could not profit when her unraced 2-year-old filly by Awesome Again, much her best cover, emerged the following year to win the GI Acorn S. and then at the Breeders' Cup.

Round Pond's lucrative transfer to Darley represented a huge return for Fox Hill Farms, John Servis having signed for her as a $105,000 yearling. (Unfortunately for Servis, she was later switched to Michael Matz). After that kind of outlay, Round Pond was obviously guaranteed commensurate coverings, but she evidently had her troubles and was confined to the sporadic production of six named foals.

She made a fair start with Long River (A.P. Indy), a longshot third behind Tonalist (Tapit) in the GI Jockey Club Gold Cup before serving in Dubai as a veteran, actually coming up trumps in a G1 Maktoum Challenge at the age of seven. And her final foal by Dubawi (Ire) won at Saratoga last summer and is still chipping away at black type (one podium to date) at the age of five. Her Tapit was gelded after failing to build on a promising start, while two daughters by Bernardini never even made it to the starting gate.

Now all was not yet lost, clearly, for this pair. A Bernardini filly out of a Breeders' Cup winner by Awesome Again is about as resonant a formula as you can find, in terms of distaff branding. And one, Tyburn Brook, has promptly salvaged the whole investment in her dam by producing Speaker's Corner as her very first foal.

He must always have been a standout, as the Jonabell team doubled down and sent Tyburn Brook straight back to Street Sense. Actually the resulting sophomore, Town Branch, was also in action last Saturday, stepping up on his debut to run fourth in a Keeneland maiden. Tyburn Brook has since delivered colts by Maclean's Music and Nyquist.

And while Mott is hardly known for detonating newcomers, on debut Speaker's Corner was made odds-on in a sprint on the last day of Saratoga's “ghost” meet in 2020. Third that day, he then won a Belmont maiden that in hindsight warranted graded status: chased home by GI Arkansas Derby runner-up Caddo River (Hard Spun), GII Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth winner Greatest Honour (Tapit) and GI Runhappy Travers S. third Miles D (Curlin), with GII Wood Memorial S. winner Bourbonic (Bernardini) down the field on debut.

In a vexing coincidence, Speaker's Corner followed Maxfield and McKinzie in having to sit out the Triple Crown and was relaunched with an allowance win back at Saratoga. He took a backwards step in the GI Pennsylvania Derby and it was a similarly fitful story in New York last fall, when he blew apart an allowance field before being run down late over a ninth furlong. As we said at the outset, however, everything now seems to have fallen into place.

There's no question that the Street Sense legacy is a precious one with its elusive balance of brilliance and staying power. The brilliance is perhaps rooted in the dam of Street Cry's sire Machiavellian, Coup De Folie (Halo), who was a pretty smart miler herself but above all a genetic powder keg: the great Almahmoud matches up her daughters Natalma and Cosmah respectively as Coup De Folie's second dam and mother of Halo. But there's also plenty of dash along Street Sense's bottom line. Fourth dam Lianga (Dancer's Image) was a top-class sprinter in Europe, while his second dam is a half-sister to both Mr. Greeley (Gone West) and the granddam of Vekoma-whose own Carter success, a couple of years ago, arguably qualifies him as the briskest son of Candy Ride (Arg).

This dynasty has also produced a couple of very quick horses in Europe, but is leavened by some sturdy Classic influences. Machiavellian sired Street Cry from an Irish Oaks winner by Troy (GB); and Street Sense himself is out of a Dixieland Band mare, though again she was another to have run rather quicker than the label (just missed black-type in sprints on both surfaces). Obviously this brings Natalma back into the equation through her son Northern Dancer, as sire of Dixieland Band.

As we've already seen, the family of Speaker's Corner has itself been repeatedly seeded with two-turn depth: first four dams by Bernardini, Awesome Again, Trempolino and Green Dancer. But he has plainly drawn pretty lavishly on the strands of speed behind his sire. In other words, he will have something for everybody in his next job.

Street Sense capped off his Saturday with slow-burning sophomore Whelen Springs at Oaklawn becoming his 73rd domestic black-type scorer. These include 30 at graded level and eight (plus four in Australia) in the top tier. Bernardini, for his part, is now up to 14 Grade I winners already as a historically precocious broodmare sire.

One final footnote: among all the credit owing to the Sheikh's team, don't overlook the wit with which he was named. His dam Tyburn Brook was named for a stream, nowadays subterranean, through Hyde Park in London; and the combination with Street Sense prompted Speaker's Corner, as a longstanding platform for amateur “soapbox” orators in Hyde Park.

But it goes without saying that this horse is the result of some rather more important calls, from the choice of Tyburn Brook's first date to the forbearance of Mott. With such good people in his corner, here's a speaker only now warming to his theme.

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