Taking Stock: Coolmore’s New Year’s Gambit

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Maximum Security | Sarah Andrew

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On New Year’s Day, David Grening broke the news in the Daily Racing Form that Coolmore had purchased a 50% interest in the racing and breeding rights of Gary and Mary West’s homebred Maximum Security (New Year’s Day). (Disclosure: The Wests and their racing manager, Ben Glass, are retained clients of WTC, Inc.). The colt is to stand at Coolmore America (Ashford Stud) in Kentucky at the end of his career, but he is scheduled to race this year and has some major targets on his slate, including the new $20-million race in Saudi Arabia, which is incentive enough for Coolmore to want to participate in a potentially lucrative racing season. Moreover, Maximum Security is one of the leading contenders for an Eclipse Award as champion 3-year-old male of 2019, and Coolmore has a penchant for prospects with hardware: American Pharoah (Pioneerof the Nile), Classic Empire (Pioneerof the Nile), Justify (Scat Daddy), Lookin At Lucky (Smart Strike), and Uncle Mo (Indian Charlie) own Eclipses at Ashford.

The Eclipse may not be a foregone conclusion, however, despite an excellent season for a colt who began his career at two in a $16,000 maiden claimer and remarkably ended his 3-year-old season with three Grade l victories–in the Xpressbet Florida Derby, the TVG.com Haskell Invitational S., and the Cigar Mile H.–with an overall career record of seven wins from nine starts and earnings of $1.8 million. After Maximum Security was controversially disqualified from first in the Gl Kentucky Derby, Gary West became something of an unpopular figure in the media by challenging the DQ in court and by challenging some Derby owners to side bets in future races against his colt. West’s recent criticisms of The Stronach Group’s lowering of the Gl Pegasus purse to $3 million–with its 2% levy for aftercare–as the reasoning for bypassing it for the far more lucrative Saudi Cup has only upped the vitriol in some corners, including among some turf writers who’ll presumably be voting on the awards.

To win the championship, Maximum Security’s record alone will have to sway enough voters away from two other worthy and well-connected establishment rivals, Lane’s End owner W.S. Farish’s Code of Honor (Noble Mission {GB}), trained by the venerable Shug McGaughey; and Fox Hill Farms owner Rick Porter’s Omaha Beach (War Front), who’s conditioned by the immensely popular Dick Mandella. Next to McGaughey and Mandella and their owners, Maximum Security’s trainer Jason Servis, whose gaudy win percentage has been fodder for innuendo, wears the same figurative black Stetson that West apparently rocks low on his forehead, tilted down. But Coolmore boss John Magnier is nobody’s fool and he can read the cards as well as anyone, and what the hand shows is this: three aces up for the colt he and his partners bought into.

One, Maximum Security finished first and ahead of Code of Honor in the only two times they met on the track, in the Derby and in the Florida Derby. Two, Maximum Security had 9 1/4 lengths on Spun to Run (Hard Spun) in the Haskell and 3 1/2 lengths on him in the Cigar Mile. And, three, Spun to Run won the Gl Big Ass Fans Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile by 2 3/4 lengths from none other than Omaha Beach. The latter also won three Grade l races in 2019, while Code of Honor won two–one by DQ–but on form, Maximum Security has the obvious edge, personality biases aside.

If Maximum Security does secure the 3-year-old championship in the voting booth, it will give the Wests three consecutive Eclipses with three different colts, which may be unprecedented. West Coast (Flatter) was the champion 3-year-old colt in 2017 and Game Winner (Candy Ride {Arg}) was the champion 2-year-old colt in 2018. Ironically, the latter two were tied up by Lane’s End, the farm whose owner bred and races Code of Honor, though Game Winner is scheduled to race in 2020 as a 4-year-old before he goes to stud. West Coast also raced at four and will serve his second book of mares at Lane’s End in 2020. At the least, nobody can say that West prematurely whisks his colts off to stud at the first signs of big bucks.

Stallion Game

West fielded several offers for both West Coast and Game Winner before deciding on Lane’s End for them, chose Airdrie from several other candidates for American Freedom (Pulpit), and had plenty of interest in Maximum Security before deciding on Coolmore. “I had several people who wanted to buy all of or various parts of Max’s future as a racehorse and/or sire prospect,” West said on Wednesday. “I wanted Max to have a good farm to stand at stud when his racing career was over, and the Coolmore deal made the most sense to me. I am very pleased to have them as a partner. No one makes more stallions than Coolmore.”

West has long-admired Coolmore’s abilities in that arena, particularly while he was trying his hand at making New Year’s Day (Street Cry {Ire}), Flashback (Tapit), and Power Broker (Pulpit) at Hill ‘N’ Dale through the mid-parts of the decade. What he found was an unforgiving commercial marketplace that was particularly hard on less-expensive horses, especially after their first two years at stud, even though the Wests had offered significant bonuses and breeding incentives on them.

New Year’s Day, winner of the Gl Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, was sold to Brazilian interests in November of 2018, when his first crop was three. At that juncture, the stallion was represented by only three moderate black-type winners–Day Raider and Dat Day, winners in British Columbia; and Cafe Du Monde, a restricted stakes winner in Louisiana–and the prospects of attracting mares in Kentucky in 2019 were dim. In fact, New Year’s Day is represented by only 18 foals of 2019 and 20 foals of 2018, big drops from his first three crops, which were aided by some moderately priced mares West and Ben Glass had purchased at auction specifically for the horse and for Flashback–who has since been moved to Pennsylvania but is still owned by the Wests. Power Broker was sold to Saudi Arabia.

Timing is everything with young sires, and unfortunately for West, New Year’s Day didn’t come up with Maximum Security until after the sale. Since, New Year’s Day has been represented by two other 2019 graded winners as well, in Bourbon Resolution and Fighting Mad. The former, from New Year’s Day’s first crop, won the Glll Ben Ali S. at Keeneland, and the latter, like Maximum Security from the stallion’s second crop, won the Glll Torrey Pines S. at Del Mar. In total, New Year’s Day is now represented by seven black-type winners and five black-type-placed runners, and it’s notable that the Wests have bred seven of these 12, including all three of the stallion’s graded winners as well as the Grade l-placed Yesterday’s News. Had these runners struck a year earlier as a group, New Year’s Day would still be at Hill ‘N’ Dale instead of in Japan at Shadai Stallion Station, which purchased him from the Brazilians for a reported $5 million after the success of Maximum Security. As a top-level winner by Street Cry and a half-brother to graded winners Mohaymen (Tapit) and Kingly (Tapit), New Year’s Day will have new life at Shadai and a chance to build on his successes. Shadai lost its two top sires, Deep Impact (Jpn) (Sunday Silence) and King Kamehameha (Jpn) (Kingmambo), in 2019.

New Year’s Day’s rehabilitation probably helped Coolmore’s decision to buy into his son, whose dam Lil Indy is by the obscure yet well-bred A.P. Indy stallion Anasheed. Lil Indy, too, has been rehabilitated. A half-sister to multiple Grade l winner and $3.6 million earner Flat Out (by Flatter, by A.P. Indy), Lil Indy was part of a small group of mares that West and Glass had purchased at the Keeneland January sale in 2014 to breed to their stallions, and she cost $80,000. She was sold by them for $11,000 in 2018 at Keeneland November in foal to New Year’s Day but reappeared last fall at the same venue to make $1.85 million in foal to Quality Road, thanks to Maximum Security. (Glass also purchased the mare Rose and Shine {Mr. Sekiguchi} for $50,000 at the same sale as Lil Indy, and she is the dam of the New Year’s Day black-type winner Parade of Roses. Rose and Shine was sold for $21,000 at the Keeneland January sale in 2017, carrying the Flashback foal who became Grade l winner British Idiom, the leading contender for the Eclipse award for champion 2-year-old filly.)

Coolmore’s interest in Maximum Security makes sense from other vantage points as well. For one, he’s a viable outlet for their Galileo (Ire) (Sadler’s Wells) and War Front (Danzig) mares in the Northern Hemisphere, where Street Cry already has a very good son in Street Sense, who’s at Darley. And in the Southern Hemisphere, Coolmore Australia stands the young Street Cry Group 1 winner Pride of Dubai (Aus), who is from a Danehill (Danzig) mare and whose first crop is just now at the races and showing promise. The Street Cry/Danehill cross has been terrifically successful–there are at least six Group 1 winners on the cross–and Maximum Security could very well benefit from shuttling to Australia, where Street Cry sired one of his greatest runners in Winx (Aus). All of this makes the play for Maximum Security a good bet for Coolmore, which operates globally but thinks locally.

Sid Fernando is president and CEO of Werk Thoroughbred Consultants, Inc., originator of the Werk Nick Rating and eNicks.

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