Taking Stock: New Kentucky Stallions at $10,000


Known Agenda | Spendthrift


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 sires by progeny earnings through the first two months of 2009 are Distorted Humor and Elusive Quality, and both have sired a Kentucky Derby winner. For a while it looked like Sid's pick was going to blow my choice away–Distorted Humor is one of the best stallions in the country and stands for $150,000–but Elusive Quality has made a strong 'stretch run' to narrow the gap, much like his son Raven's Pass's amazing move in the Breeders' Cup Classic last fall.”

Distorted Humor and Elusive Quality aren't the only stallions to enter stud for fees of between $10,000 and $15,000 that later ballooned into six-figures. More recent examples include three of the best stallions now at stud: Into Mischief, who began for $12,500 in 2009 at Spendthrift; Tapit, who started for $15,000 at Gainesway in 2005; and War Front, whose initial fee at Claiborne was $12,500 in 2007.

It's never easy predicting sire success, but what these examples illustrate is that some top-tier stallions are not necessarily the best-raced champions, and it could well pay to scrutinize those horses that enter stud for between $10,000 and $15,000.

So far, in 2022 there will be at least eight new stallions in Kentucky in that price range (they are all entering stud for $10,000), and perhaps one or two of them will turn into a top-class stallion like those mentioned above. Below are some brief notes on each, listed alphabetically.

Code of Honor (Noble Mission {GB}–Reunited, by Dixie Union) at Lane's End: Bred and raced by Lane's End's W.S. Farish, Code of Honor was sired by an exported ex-Lane's End son of Galileo (Ire) who is a full brother to Frankel (GB). Code of Honor is an anomaly as a Grade l winner on dirt for a sire line known for high performance on turf. The great Galileo, for instance, has yet to sire a top-level winner on dirt. Perhaps Code of Honor will be the conduit for dirt success for the Galileo branch of Sadler's Wells, just as El Prado (Ire) was for Sadler's Wells himself? A $70,000 RNA at Keeneland September, Code of Honor is trained by Shug McGaughey and has won seven of 19 starts, earning almost $3 million, and he may yet make another start before he starts stud duty. He won his debut at two and was forward enough to finish second next out to Complexity in the Gl Champagne S. At three, he was second in the Gl Kentucky Derby and won both the Gl Travers and Gl Jockey Club Gold Cup at 10 furlongs–his metier. His dam was a Grade lll winner by the deceased Lane's End sire Dixie Union, and she produced the Grade ll-placed Big League (Speightstown) in addition to Code of Honor. The extended family includes Grade or Group 1 winners Juno, Fiesta Lady, Thorn Song, and Ali Bey, as well as the current Grade lll winner Dr. Post (Quality Road).

The skinny: A Grade l winner with lots of classic-distance form for the fee, plus the Galileo-sire line.

Independence Hall (Constitution–Kalahari Cat, by Cape Town) at WinStar: Bred by Woodford Thoroughbreds, Independence Hall was a $100,000 Keeneland September yearling. Racing for a partnership including Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, Twin Creeks, and WinStar among others, Independence Hall most recently won the Gll Hagyard Fayette S. at Keeneland Oct. 30 for trainer Michael McCarthy, and altogether he's a winner of five of 13 starts and has earnings of $874,000. He'd won both his starts at two, including the Glll Nashua, and was once considered a highly promising Classics prospect for trainer Michael Trombetta but never lived up to that initial hype, and after a fifth-place finish in the Gl Florida Derby, the colt was transferred to McCarthy on the west coast with the year-end Gl Malibu S. as a target–a race in which he also finished fifth. At four this year, the colt did run third to Knicks Go in the Gl Pegasus World Cup Invitational, but he was subsequently unplaced in both the Gl Santa Anita H. and the Gl TVG Pacific Classic before his most recent win. He's from a dam who has two other black-type winners to her credit, including a Grade lll winner. His extended family has had plenty of top-level success, including White Moonstone, Desert Stormer, Better Lucky, Speedy Dollar, Tidal Light, Camp David, Media Sensation, Dorabella, and Insouciant.

The skinny: A Grade ll winner by a top son of Tapit, which makes him ideal for American dirt racing. Has plenty of pedigree, too.

Known Agenda (Curlin–Byrama {GB}, by Byron {GB}) at Spendthrift: Bred and raced by St. Elias Stable and trained by Todd Pletcher–who has trained a boatload of successful stallions–Known Agenda was put through the ring at Fasig-Tipton Saratoga but was a $135,000 RNA. He won three of eight starts, earning $640,000, most of that from winning the Gl Curlin Florida Derby Presented by Hill 'n' Dale Farms at Xalapa–the farm where Curlin, one of the best stallions in the country, stands. Known Agenda's dam is a Grade l winner, and the extended family includes a number of Group 1 or Grade l winners, including Commander Collins, Lit de Justice, North America, Gourmet Girl, Trebrook, Paradisus, Soviet Star, The Very One, Right Con, Fly Till Dawn and Melyno.

The skinny: He's by a top-Classic sire who has already had two sons sire Grade l winners in their first crops, his dam is a Grade l winner, his trainer has a knack for making stallions, and he won the Grade l race that's become the best indicator for future sire success.

Lexitonian (Speightstown–Riviera Romper, by Tapit) at Lane's End: Bred and raced by Calumet and trained by Jack Sisterson, Lexitonian was a late developer like many top-level sons and daughters of his sire. A winner of five of 21 starts and almost $720,000, Lexitonian won the Gl Alfred G. Vanderbilt this year at five, though he gave notice last year that he was a legit high-level sprinter when he wanted to run, with narrow seconds in the Gl Bing Crosby (by a nose) and Gl Churchill Downs S. (by a head). His winning dam was produced from Grade l winner Swap Fliparoo. The pedigree isn't particularly strong, though fourth dam Flip's Pleasure was a Grade l winner, and the extended family also includes top-level winner Big Macher.

The skinny: A Grade l winner by Speightstown, whose son Munnings, a Grade ll winner of four of 14 starts, began for $12,500 and will stand for $85,000 in 2022.

Modernist (Uncle Mo–Symbolic Gesture, by Bernardini) at Darby Dan: Bred and raced by Pam and Marty Wygod and trained by Bill Mott, Modernist was on the Triple Crown trail after winning the Gll Risen Star S., but after a third-place finish in his next start, in the Gll Twinspires.com Louisiana Derby, the colt was held out of the Kentucky Derby and Gl Preakness for the Gl Belmont S., a race in which he finished seventh of 10. He won the Glll Excelsior S. earlier this year at four and enters stud with a record of three wins from 11 starts and earnings of almost $600,000. What he lacks in top-class race form, he makes up in pedigree. His sire is one of the best young stallions in the country, and his dam is by the best young broodmare sire in N. America. The immediate family includes Grade l winner and champion Sweet Catomine as well as Grade l winner Life Is Sweet–both by Storm Cat–and the extended family includes such as Grade l winners Pirate's Revenge, Cherokee Run, and champion Midnight Bisou.

The skinny: A Grade ll winner, he's by a stallion whose first sons at stud–Nyquist, Laoban, and Outwork–are making an impact, and he's got a family and broodmare sire that add to his resume appeal. He will also appeal to Storm Cat-line mares, with whom both his sire and family have succeeded.

Raging Bull (Fr) (Dark Angel {Ire}–Rosa Bonheur, by Mr. Greeley) at Gainesway: Bred by the Wildenstein family's Dayton Investments and raced by Peter Brant with trainer Chad Brown, Raging Bull sold for the equivalent of $101,000 as a yearling at Goffs Orby. He's been part of a trend of European-sourced yearling purchases to make good for Brown in N. America, winning Grade l turf races at three, five, and six (this year), and all told, he has a record of seven wins from 22 starts and earnings of $1.7 million. Brant is introducing vibrant European sire lines to N. America with him and Demarchelier (GB) at Claiborne, but Demarchelier is by Dubawi (Ire), whose Seeking the Gold sire line is more familiar to American breeders. Raging Bull is from the European-based Northern Dancer line that's known for its specialist sprinter attributes through the sequence Royal Applause (GB)/Acclamation (GB)/Dark Angel, and this could be an important reintroduction of a branch of Northern Dancer to N. America that's been specific to Europe for decades. Raging Bull stayed farther here than typical members of this line do in Europe, but at the end of the day, the line is all about speed. The immediate pedigree isn't particularly strong, but the extended family includes such as top-level winners Shahtoush, Declan's Moon, Montmartre, Kalaglow, Thundering Star, Flying Duel, Dancing Duel, Ramonti, Zabrasive, and Kings Island.

Watch Raging Bull at Gainesway:

The skinny: Grade l winner and a member of an excellent sire line based on a foundation of speed that will introduce some diversity to the breed.

Rock Your World (Candy Ride {Arg}–Charm the Maker, by Empire Maker) at Spendthrift: Bred by Ron and Deborah McAnally and raced by Hronis Racing and Talla Racing with trainer John Sadler, Rock Your World was by far the most expensive yearling of this group, selling for $650,000 at Keeneland September. A winner of three of seven starts and $600,000, he thrust himself into the Triple Crown picture earlier this spring with an impressive front-running score in the Gl Runhappy Santa Anita Derby, defeating eventual Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit by four-plus lengths. I discussed his pedigree in depth in April in this space, and you can read it here.

The skinny: A spring 3-year-old Grade l winner, he's by Candy Ride, whose son Gun Runner is carving up all freshman sires this year. That alone adds heft to his profile, but he's got speed, racing class, and pedigree, too.

Tacitus (Tapit–Close Hatches, by First Defence) at Taylor Made: A Juddmonte homebred trained by Bill Mott, Tacitus has the best pedigree of this group by a mile. His sire is one of the best in the country and has a top-class son in Constitution, and his dam is champion and Grade l winner Close Hatches, who descends from blue hen Best in Show–one of the most influential mares in the Stud Book and the ancestress of too many high-class winners to name here. A winner of four of 17 starts and $3.7 million, Tacitus began his career as if he'd become one of the most expensive young horses to enter stud, winning three of his first four starts, including the Gll Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby and the Gll Wood Memorial S. Presented by NYRA Bets. In fact, he was the favorite in the 2019 Kentucky Derby, but he ran third, and soon thereafter the pattern emerged that he was never quite good or lucky enough to get that Grade l race on his resume, though he tried mightily, hitting the board in such Grade l races as the Belmont S., Travers, Jockey Club Gold Cup (twice), and Woodward.

The skinny: Grade ll winner by the sire of Constitution with so much family that his good-enough race record takes a back seat.

Watch Tacitus at Taylor Made:

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


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