By Chris McGrath
As his name suggests, there appear to be no half measures with Violence.
He had, let's face it, suddenly been under a bit of pressure. It was only last year that Hill 'n' Dale had been able to hoist his fee from $25,000 to $40,000, his first sophomores having confirmed him as the most glamorous stallion in his intake: clear top of the class in 2018 by earnings, winners, stakes winners/performers, graded stakes horses. Having started out at $15,000, he had just processed his third crop of yearlings for an average $133,600.
Hill 'n' Dale promptly reversed that fee hike for this spring. With the far-sighted John Sikura at the helm, that looked a businesslike move rather than a nervous one. Certainly Sikura's own fidelity remained unshaken. Everything that had made so many people hail Violence as the next big thing remained in place: the sumptuous physique, the aristocratic genes, the athletic caliber. Breeders just needed some encouragement to roll with the punches. As Sikura reminded TDN in March: “Sometimes you have to be a contrarian and jump on something when people are uncertain. That's how you make money in the horse business.”
That said, Sikura plainly needed the horse to regroup–and, in such an unforgiving commercial environment, to do so quickly. Happily, Violence seems to have given himself a long hard stare in the mirror, and has come out with all guns blazing.
Earlier this month, the 4-year-old Volatile–at $850,000, the sire's most expensive yearling to date–produced an extraordinary exhibition in the Aristides S. at Churchill, incinerating his rivals by eight lengths in 1:07.57. And then, last Saturday, the Louisiana-bred 3-year-old 'TDN Rising Star' No Parole similarly showed speed to be his forte when giving their sire a breakout first Grade I score in the Woody Stephens S., dominating his pursuers from the front. Suddenly there is a strong case for crediting Violence with the premier sprinter in both crops.
That's a pretty interesting development, given the diversity of his own sire's influence. Medaglia d'Oro, though by an avowed turf sire in El Prado (Ire), himself operated on dirt and has divided his elite performers not only between the surfaces, but also across disciplines. Though his best stock has tended to operate round a second turn, his sprinters include Astern (Aus), Vancouver (Aus) and Warrior's Reward (GI Carter H.).
Rather notoriously, Medaglia d'Oro's dam Cappucino Bay is by the forgettable Bailjumper. But her own family contributes a double dose of gunpowder: both her damsire, champion juvenile Silent Screen, and her third dam were out of daughters of the Greentree matriarch Sunday Evening.
Herself inbred to that lightning bolt, The Tetrarch, the fast and precocious Sunday Evening includes some notably quick horses among the many good ones to have decorated her family. Silent Screen's mother, for instance, is also third dam of GI Carter H. winner Swagger Jack (Smart Strike) and of an elite South African sprinter All Will Be Well (SAf) (Badger Land); while another daughter fills the same slot in the background of Irish champion sprinter Bluebird (Storm Bird).
Sunday Evening is also an ancestor of some outstanding turf runners, such as Indian Skimmer (Storm Bird) and Henrythenavigator (Kingmambo). As such, her duplication in his family tree may well have contributed to Medaglia d'Oro's ability to parlay class into different environments.
Storm Bird–the sire of Indian Skimmer and Bluebird–also gave the modern breed one of its most important crossover stallions in Storm Cat, a champion sire on both sides of the Atlantic. And Storm Cat's serial matings with the Hall of Famer Sky Beauty (Blushing Groom), besides producing a group-winning juvenile in Europe, also gave us the second dam of Violence.
Then consider Sky Beauty's Grade I-winning dam Maplejinksy. She was by a formidable Classic/turf influence in Nijinsky, yet also a half-sister to the freakish Dayjur (Danzig), one of the fastest horses anyone can remember in Europe who was able to adapt instantly to dirt (if not to sunshine!) in the GI Breeders' Cup Sprint.
Gold Beauty, the dam of Dayjur and Maplejinsky, had been a conduit of unadulterated Mr. Prospector speed on the track; only the second female sophomore besides Ta Wee, in fact, to be named champion sprinter. But then Mr. P. himself developed an increasingly wide repertoire at stud. And Violence's own dam Storming Beauty (a limited talent: won a nine-furlong dirt maiden at four, her only success in seven starts) is by Mr. P.'s son Gone West, whose own versatility as an influence has been emulated, at stud, by fast sons like Speightstown, Elusive Quality and Mr. Greeley.
Overall, this family can give us a grass router like Point of Entry (Dynaformer) or a GI Wood Memorial winner like Tale of Ekati (Tale of the Cat). So nobody should be too dogmatic about what to expect from Violence. He is absolutely entitled to give you a grass runner, for instance. Yet here he is, with two headline acts majoring in molten speed on the main track.
Having been confined to four starts, Violence's own best game was never definitively established. He won on debut over seven furlongs at Saratoga, with a green outsider named Orb (Malibu Moon) creeping into third; Violence still looked raw, off an enforced break, when stepping up a furlong to win the GII Nashua S.; and he then adapted well to a synthetic surface for his Grade I in the CashCall Futurity. Resurfacing in the GII Fountain Of Youth S., he thrived on a hot pace to lead into the stretch but was worn down late by Orb, by now on the curve that would lead to the GI Kentucky Derby itself.
Violence emerged from that first defeat with a sesamoid fracture that ended his career. As a result, he was never tested at a Classic distance and we can't know quite how far he would have eked out the speed and precocity he had shown.
What had seemed auspicious, in that regard, was the kind of glossy, lengthy build we associate with Medaglia d'Oro. As a yearling–bred by Dell Ridge Farm, and sold through Hill 'n' Dale–he had duly realized $600,000 from Black Rock Stables on the third day of the Keeneland September Sale. He was the session's top colt and that noted judge of horseflesh, Donato Lanni, described him as “the best-looking yearling by far” he saw in 2011.
That physical allure helped crowd as many as 181 mares into Violence's debut book, behind just four other stallions in North America; and his immediate traction, first in the ring and then on the track, means that the pipeline has remained loaded throughout. His juveniles this year graduate from a book of 187 mares; and his yearlings, from one of 214.
With numbers like that behind him, Violence was in growing need of a standard-bearer to advance cumulative indices–32 black-type horses at 8%, for instance, or 14 graded stakes performers at 3.5%–that do not quite stand up (as yet) to such underrated achievers, at this tier of the marketplace, as Lookin At Lucky, Sky Mesa or Violence's own studmate Midnight Lute. Just as well, then, that he is again walking the walk, after last year's stumble, with the simultaneous emergence of two such theatrical dashers as Volatile and No Parole.
As is true of any talented horse, of course, credit must be divided with their own families. Last month, colleague Steve Sherack anticipated Volatile's sensational Churchill display with a profile of her granddam Lady Tak (Mutakddim); and No Parole's Louisiana antecedents also merit a separate treatment. In the meantime, it's worth noting that his first two dams are a reverse mirror of his sire: one by a son of Storm Cat, in Bluegrass Cat; the next by a son of Mr. Prospector, Miswaki.
One way or another, connections of No Parole seem to have renounced the two-turn experiment that backfired in the GII Rebel S. Prior to that, he had smashed up Louisiana-breds to the tune of 34 lengths in three starts (including, admittedly, a two-turn mile); and he effortlessly dominated his rivals when dropped to six furlongs next time.
Violence does have a Group 1 winner over 10 furlongs on dirt in Argentina, the result of early shuttling to Haras La Pasion. But it's intriguing that one of his first graded stakes winners, Talk Veuve To Me, ended up dropping back to sprinting despite deep seams of stamina in her pedigree.
Clearly these two darting swallows, No Parole and Volatile, “do not a summer make.” There are literally hundreds of young horses by Violence out there who remain entitled to go a second turn, and extend the impact achieved by this pair around one. For now, the fact that they share such blazing velocity must remain no more than a striking coincidence.
Arguably the El Prado branch has given the Sadler's Wells sire-line greater reach, in terms of where and how its scions operate, than has the record-breaking European colossus Galileo (Ire). That's largely the work of Medaglia d'Oro; and that is also how Violence can most validly assume the mantle of his 21-year-old sire.
It scarcely needs reiterating of the breed-changing Northern Dancer that his legacy was as much about versatility as class. And, besides representing the El Prado sire-line, Violence entwines other branches of the dynasty through two of his first four dams: his granddam's sire Storm Cat did a similar service for Storm Bird to that performed by Medaglia d'Oro for El Prado; and then there is Maplejinsky's sire Nijinsky.
The other epoch-making name that recurs in Violence, incidentally, is that of Somethingroyal: one son, Sir Gaylord, gave us Sir Ivor to sire El Prado's Classic-winning dam Lady Capulet; and daughters of another, Secretariat, foaled the sires of both Violence's first two dams, Gone West and Storm Cat.
So while it's often pleasing to find something exotic behind a good horse–the Bailjumper element in Medaglia d'Oro, for instance–it's pretty hard to argue with the way Violence blends so many dominant colors of the modern breed. By the same token, it would be premature to predict that these especially vibrant streaks, freshly daubed in sprints by Volatile and No Parole, will necessarily end up dominating the whole palette. But it looks like it could be fun to watch.