By Sid Fernando
The year 2020 will have an asterisk next to it in racing history, but there will nevertheless be a leading first-crop sire at year's end, and Taylor Made's Not This Time (Giant's Causeway) might be the stallion atop it. As we head into September, Not This Time leads all N. American-based first-crop sires by number of winners, with nine, and he's a close third behind Ashford's Air Force Blue (War Front) and WinStar's Speightster (Speightstown) on the progeny earnings list.
The major 2-year-old graded events the next few months leading up to and including the Gl Breeders' Cup Juvenile races will determine the championship. So far, only two North American-based first-crop sires, Crestwood's Texas Red (Afleet Alex), winner of the 2014 Breeders' Cup Juvenile; and Spendthrift's Hit It A Bomb (War Front), first in the 2015 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf, are represented by graded winners. The former is the sire of My Girl Red, who won the Gll Sorrento S. at Del Mar Aug. 7, while the latter's gelded son Weston won the Gll Best Pal S. at the same track a day later.
Not This Time, however, has several promising maiden winners that look like they're going to have a say in upcoming black-type races, headed by the filly Princess Noor, who won a, Aug. 22 Del Mar maiden special for Bob Baffert so impressively that it's difficult to adequately describe in words alone. I suggest you watch the race yourself by clicking here.
The runner-up, Flash Magic (Pioneerof the Nile), a stablemate of Princess Noor and a half-sister to 2017 Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner and champion 2-year-old colt Good Magic, was impressive herself, with almost five lengths on the third-place finisher, but she was no match under a strong drive for Princess Noor, who won haughtily without being asked.
The race favorite, Princess Noor had been a talking horse from the time she'd worked a quarter-mile in :20 1/5 at the Ocala Breeders' Sale Spring Sale of 2-year-olds in training and sold to Gary Young for $1,350,000 on behalf of Zedan Racing Stables, Inc. Bred in Kentucky by International Equities Holding, Inc., she'd sold to Mark Marino for $135,000 at the 2019 Keeneland yearling sale and was pinhooked at OBS by Top Line Sales. She's expected to start next in a Grade l race, and so far there doesn't appear to be a dirt filly on the landscape that's in her league.
When Princess Noor sold at OBS, Not This Time had already been represented by two winners, and word was out that he was one to watch. This, in fact, was evident from the time his first weanlings sold, and by last year his best yearlings were very much in demand. Those yearlings have trained on to be early 2-year-olds, and those in sales sold off the charts this spring, too. Take a look at this progression of sales averages from weanlings to 2-year-olds, and keep in mind that the stallion's first year fee was $15,000: weanlings, 18 sold for an average price of $76,833 with seven making $100,000 or more; yearlings, 70 sold for a $63,410 average with 16 bringing six figures, including individuals for $375,000, $250,000, and $240,000; 2-year-olds, 37 sold for an average of $175,216, with 15 individuals bringing prices of $100,000 or more, including lots for $700,000, $650,000, and $575,000 in addition to the seven-figure price that Princess Noor made.
Sales prices for unproven horses are nothing more than opinions of horsemen and horsewomen based on what they see in front of them and what's on the catalog pages, but a consensus can indicate either promise or indifference, especially once the juvenile sales arrive and a degree of performance enters the picture. Compare Not This Time's sales results with Gl Kentucky Derby winner and Horse of the Year California Chrome, who entered stud at Taylor Made at the same time and stood for $40,000, and a picture certainly emerges. California Chrome's auction prices decreased each year, with seven weanlings averaging $116,714; 45 yearlings averaging $85,756; and 25 2-year-olds averaging $75,180, suggesting buyers weren't overwhelmed by what they saw developmentally. When Taylor Made got a lucrative offer from Japan to sell California Chrome at the end of last year, that was probably an easy decision. To date, California Chrome is represented by two winners, the first of which came in Russia–something stud managers dread.
Not This Time
Bred and raced by Albaugh Family Stable and trained by Dale Romans, Not This Time was himself a talking horse. Tall, handsome, correct, and well put together, he was produced from the Trippi Grade lll winner Miss Macy Sue, who'd earned $880,915 for family patriarch Dennis Albaugh and has turned into an outstanding producer for the family, getting the Grade l winner and young stallion Liam's Map (Unbridled's Song), who the Albaughs had sold as a yearling for $800,000 at Keeneland September.
Instead of selling Not This Time, who could have realized seven figures in the sales ring, the Albaugh family committed to racing the colt because their goal is to win the Kentucky Derby and he had Classic potential written all over him, both by physique and pedigree.
Unfortunately, he made only four starts, all as the favorite and all at age two. After losing his debut in a maiden special sprint at Churchill at the end of June, Not This Time won his next two starts impressively to justify the promise: he won a maiden special over a mile at Ellis Park by 10 lengths in mid-August and then took the 1 1/16-mile Glll Iroquois S. at Churchill a month later by almost nine lengths from Lookin at Lee (Lookin at Lucky), who would finish second in the Kentucky Derby the following spring.
Not This time made his final start in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, in which he finished a neck second to champion and subsequent Gl Preakness runner-up Classic Empire (Pioneerof the Nile). Grade l winner Practical Joke was seven-plus lengths back in third. In hindsight, Not This Time's performance was outstanding, because he'd suffered a career-ending soft-tissue injury to his right front leg during the running of the Breeders' Cup. The company he'd kept and the horses he'd defeated in his brief career strongly suggested he would have been a Classic threat had he'd stayed sound.
Taylor Made, though already committed to standing a bonafide Classic winner in California Chrome, jumped at the opportunity to purchase 50% of Not This Time, even with only a lone Grade lll win on his resume, because they saw the potential, and they are on the verge of reaping some rewards over the next few months.
His sheer physicality aside, Not This Time's pedigree has plenty of heft and interesting components. Last year, his half-brother Liam's Map sired two Grade l winners from his first crop, and Not This Time's sire Giant's Causeway had one of the best stallions in Europe in Shamardal, who died earlier this spring after enjoying a banner season in 2019.
Moreover, deep within his female family, Not This Time has some pedigree constructs that were heavily influenced by the legendary John Nerud at Tartan, who in turn was influenced by pedigree authority Leon Rasmussen–an advocate of inbreeding to superior females.
The aforementioned Miss Macy Sue, Not This Time's dam, was bred by Bryan J. Howlett in Florida. Howlett was the former general manager at Tartan, which bred and raced Horse of the Year Dr. Fager and his sprinting champion half-sister Ta Wee, Not This Time's fifth dam.
Nerud had solicited Rasmussen's advice when he stood Fappiano at Tartan in the early 1980s, and Rasmussen had suggested that Nerud inbreed to the great females in Fappiano's pedigree. This practice led to Nerud breeding Quiet American (Fappiano) in 1986 and Unbridled (Fappiano) in 1987, among others, for Tartan. The former was inbred 4×3 to Cequillo (as well as 3×2 to Dr. Fager), while the latter was 4×4 to Aspidistra, the dam of Dr. Fager and Ta Wee (and 4×5 to Rough'n Tumble, the sire of Dr. Fager).
Getting back to Miss Macy Sue and Howlett, her dam Yada Yada (Great Above) was co-bred by Howlett with H & R Stable, and Howlett used the pattern of inbreeding to superior females that Nerud had used with Quiet American and Unbridled to plan her mating in 1995, making Yada Yada intensely inbred 2×3 to the iconic sprinter Ta Wee.
There's plenty of speed, therefore, in Not This Time's female family, and combined with the stamina that his sire provides, Not This Time has what it takes to succeed as a sire. And so far, with limited opportunities in this oddball year, he's showing it.
Sid Fernando is president and CEO of Werk Thoroughbred Consultants, Inc., originator of the Werk Nick Rating and eNicks.