Taking Stock

Taking Stock: Sharp as a Tack

Pan the camera away from Saratoga and Del Mar, where the glamorous juveniles debut one after another, and focus for a moment on two lower-profile tracks that hosted two eye-popping performances this weekend. On Saturday at Prairie Meadows, Tyler's Tribe, a 2-year-old Iowa-bred gelding by Sharp Azteca (Freud), won the 5 1/2-furlong Iowa Stallion Futurity by 12 1/2 lengths in 1:04:18 to remain undefeated in three starts. He earned a 90 Beyer Speed Figure--you read that correctly--for the easy score. It wasn't a fluke, either, because in his previous start...

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Taking Stock: The Phipps Influence

Last Thursday, I received an email out of the blue from someone I didn't know. Evidently Jason Brooks listens to me every Wednesday on Steve Byk's "At the Races" radio show where we discuss pedigrees among other things, and Brooks wanted to inform me that there were "21 graded stakes wins in the first half of 2022 for horses with Phipps pedigrees." According to Brooks, he does social media for Phipps Stable and operates the account @PhippsStableFan on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. Curious, I took a look at his...

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Taking Stock: Intrigue From Two Derbys and an Oaks

What an excellent weekend of European Classics, which featured a sprinkling of some intriguing "what ifs" to flavor what's to come in the months ahead. On Friday, Aidan O'Brien won his 41st British Classic--yes, you read correctly--when Tuesday (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}--Lillie Langtry {Ire}, by Danehill Dancer {Ire}) short-headed the unlucky John Gosden-trained Emily Upjohn (GB) (Sea The Stars {Ire}) after an exhilarating face-off in the waning stages of the G1 Cazoo Oaks at Epsom. It was a familiar affair in more ways than one. The fillies are by champion half-brothers,...

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Taking Stock: First Crops Yield Classic Winners

Rich Strike (Keen Ice), upset winner of the Gl Kentucky Derby at 80-1, and Secret Oath (Arrogate), the powerful Gl Kentucky Oaks winner, are members of the first crops of their respective sires, both of whom were late-developing Classic-distance horses. Keen Ice and Arrogate each won his first stakes race at Saratoga in late August at three, in the Gl Travers S. at 10 furlongs. Keen Ice won the "Midsummer Classic" in 2015 at 16-1, defeating Triple Crown winner American Pharoah in a shocker. Arrogate won the race the next...

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Taking Stock: Young Stallions Dominate Derby Points Leaders

Led by Three Chimneys's Gun Runner (Candy Ride {Arg}), young stallions with either first- or second-crop representatives account for 11 of the 20 leading point getters for the GI Kentucky Derby, and quite a few of these stallions, Gun Runner included, have the top 12 leading points earners for the GI Longines Kentucky Oaks as well. First-Crop 3-year-olds Gun Runner, whose first crop is three, has, incredibly, sired four individual Grade I winners so far, the latest of which is Zedan Racing's remarkable Taiba, who won the GI Runhappy Santa...

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Taking Stock: Tampa Bay's Big Day Showcased Top Outfits, Bloodstock

Tampa Bay Downs in Oldsmar, Florida, is a gem of a racecourse that doesn't get the accolades it should. Owned by Stella Thayer, president of the track and a member of The Jockey Club, and her brother, Howell Ferguson, Tampa Bay Downs is expertly managed day to day by Peter Berube, vice president and general manager, and Margo Flynn, vice president of marketing. This was obvious on Saturday--"Festival Day 42"--when the track showcased its signature event, the Gll Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby, one of five black-type events on the...

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Taking Stock: Quality of Baffert and Hancock with The Avengers

Bob Baffert is banned from Churchill Downs for two years and his 3-year-olds are ineligible for points in qualifying races for the Gl Kentucky Derby and Gl Kentucky Oaks. He may also get banned (again) from NYRA, which hosts the Gl Belmont S., which could leave only the Gl Preakness open to horses from his barn. So perhaps it's appropriate that he won a race over the weekend--the El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate--that gives the winner a guaranteed entry to the middle leg of the Triple Crown. Blackadder,...

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Taking Stock: Constitutionality Matters

Last Friday, on the same day that Bob Baffert's New York Racing Association (NYRA) suspension hearing was ending in New York, the Texas attorney general filed a motion in a Texas federal court to join the National Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association (National HBPA), et al., in arguing that the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act (HISA), enacted late last year, was unconstitutional. Baffert had challenged his suspension, which was summarily instituted by NYRA without a hearing May 17 after the Baffert-trained Medina Spirit (Protonico) had tested positive for betamethasone in...

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Taking Stock: Courting Rituals of Breeders and Stud Farms

In about three weeks, another breeding season will begin, but that's the easy part for stud farms. Getting those mares was the hard part, and that process played out over the last four or five months, an annual courting ritual of farms and breeders. It includes behind-the-scenes hustling, heavy-duty advertising campaigns, and some occasional arm twisting or deal making, because except for a handful of elite or popular sires that breeders are banging doors down to get into, most stallions need mares, usually as many as possible to fill books...

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Taking Stock: Varola, Hewitt Discuss Vaguely Noble & Caro

If you are a student of pedigrees, you'll know of Franco Varola and Abram S. Hewitt. If not, take my word for it that they were two giants in the field of pedigree research, and both were excellent writers. Varola, an Italian whose first name was Francesco, is known for two iconic books, "Typology of the Racehorse" and "The Functional Development of the Thoroughbred," both of which examined influential stallions by aptitude and classified them as "chefs-de-race" within the dosage framework originally developed by Lt. Col. J.J. Vuillier at the...

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Taking Stock: Notes on Medina Spirit and Breeders Hertrich lll and Fielding

As I sat down to write this column Monday, I got a text from a bloodstock agent that said, "Heard Medina Spirit broke down at Santa Anita a little while ago. Gonna be a shit storm." I checked Twitter right away, but there was nothing yet about Medina Spirit (Protonico). I didn't have to wait long. Some minutes later, the "I heard Medina Spirit..." tweets started trickling out, and then the dam burst. Everyone had something to say, and most of it was derogatory or innuendo about his trainer, Bob...

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Taking Stock: New Kentucky Stallions at $10,000

Back in March of 2009, in the Werk Thoroughbred Consultants blog, the late Jack Werk recounted a wager we'd made years earlier. This is what he wrote: "The year that Elusive Quality went to stud, pedigree expert Sid Fernando and I had a small side bet: Who was the best sleeper or long shot from that crop? Sid picked Distorted Humor, standing for $12,500, a pretty astute choice at the time. I, of course, picked Elusive Quality, who also went to stud very cheap--$10,000. "As it turns out, we both picked wisely! The top two...

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