Taking Stock: The ‘Speightstown Effect’ Revisited


Speightstown | Louise Reinagel


No, WinStar’s Speightstown (Gone West–Silken Cat, by Storm Cat) is not an underrated sire, as some said on social media shortly after the stallion’s Competitionofideas won the Gl American Oaks at Santa Anita Dec. 29. Speightstown is by all standards a top-class stallion, and at age 21 he’s just as appealing now as he’s been the last decade. He may, however, be a bit misunderstood.

Competitionofideas became her sire’s 15th individual winner at the highest level and his 99th overall black-type winner, numbers commensurate for a stallion who will stand for $80,000 live foal this year, his 15th season. A prolific sire of winners that act on dirt and turf over a variety of distances (when bred accordingly), Speightstown is a throwback to the established sires of the past in several ways, notably this: from named foals of racing age–not starters–he gets more than 80% runners, more than 60% winners, and 10% black-type winners–stats reminiscent of leading stallions from the pre-big-book age. Speightstown is a bit of a bargain now as his fee has dropped from the $100,000 he commanded from 2016 to 2018, and this may be a nod to age and to the distinct pattern of development of his Grade l winners, something I labelled “The Speightstown Effect” four years ago in a blog post at my day job at Werk Thoroughbred Consultants (WTC). You can read it here, and I suggest you do for more textural background, but if you read on you’ll get the gist of the argument plus the added data that’s brought it up to date.

A winner of 10 of 16 starts and the earner of $1,258,256, Speightstown was the champion sprinter at age six in 2004, when he won the Gl Breeders’ Cup Sprint and four other black-type races. He wasn’t a stakes winner before that, and his career was marked by long gaps away from the track due to various mishaps and injuries from two to five. Because, as a $2 million yearling, he was always highly regarded, he was patiently persevered with and finally rewarded his connections, even if it was years later than anticipated.

An attractive, muscular, and compact horse, Speightstown entered stud at WinStar in 2005 for a $40,000 fee, and the common and altogether natural assumption was that he’d get fast and early horses–which he does. Almost a quarter of his black-type winners are 2-year-olds and about 20% of his named 2-year-olds win; and many of his top runners are sprinter/ milers. Because of his impeccable consistency, Speightstown’s fee has never dropped below $35,000 (in 2009 and 2010 after the global economic collapse), and from 2011 until the drop in fee this year it only went up, first to $50,000 (2011 and 2012), then to $60,000 (2013), $80,000 (2014 and 2015), and finally to $100,000 (2016 to 2018).

The Speightstown Effect…

What is the “Speightsown Effect?”

It’s this: Speightstown doesn’t get 2-year-old Grade l winners or spring 3-year-old Grade l winners. From 11 crops through the end of 2018 numbering almost 1000 foals and including 2-year-olds, Speightstown has never had a 2-year-old Grade l or Group 1 winner to date, and none before July of their 3-year-old seasons. All rules, of course, may eventually be broken–see Apollo and Justify–but from a broader perspective the “Speightstown Effect” is perhaps an indicator that the stallion’s best progeny need more time than expected to mature–just as he did–and aren’t necessarily the best classic prospects, even though he can get runners that win at 10 furlongs or dirt and turf.

This is easier to conceptualize with a tall and scopey horse like, say, Unbridled’s Song than it is with one that looks like he’s built for early speed, but there’s similarity between the two sires because both sired progeny that demonstrated early ability despite some immaturity but were kept on with, sometimes to bad effect. When trainers finally started to give the Unbridled’s Songs more time to mature later in his career, he got some of his best runners, and those did a lot to alter the earlier notion that he got a lot of brittle horses. These included champions Arrogate and Forever Unbridled, plus Grade l winners Cross Traffic and Liam’s Map, among others.

Likewise, Speightstown’s Grade l profile to date has been based on second-half 3-year-olds and older runners, irrespective of distance or surface, and it’s likely that he may have had more top-level winners earlier on if some of his more promising runners hadn’t been pushed as hard at two and early at three.

At any rate, here are Speightstown’s 15 Grade l winners with the time of their first win at the highest level:
Reynaldothewizard (2006) won the G1 Golden Shaheen at seven in 2013.
Haynesfield (2006) won the Gl Jockey Club Gold Cup at four in 2010.
Lord Shanakill (2006) won the G1 Prix Jean Prat at three (July) in 2009.
Jersey Town (2006) won the Gl Cigar Mile at four in 2010.
Mona de Momma (2006) won the Gl Humana Distaff at four in 2010.
Poseidon’s Warrior (2008) won the Gl Alfred G. Vanderbilt at four in 2012.
Golden Ticket (2009) won the Gl Travers at three (August) in 2012.
Dance to Bristol (2009) won the Gl Ballerina at four in 2013.
She’s Happy (Arg) (2009) won the G1 Estrellas Sprint at end of SH season at three.
Seek Again (2010) won the Gl Hollywood Derby at three (December) in 2013.
Lighthouse Bay (2010) won the Gl Prioress at three (July) in 2013.
Tamarkuz (2010) won the Gl BC Dirt Mile at six in 2016.
Rock Fall (2011) won the Gl Alfred G. Vanderbilt at four in 2015.
Force the Pass (2012) won the Gl Belmont Derby Invitational at three (July) in 2015.
Competitionofideas (2015) won the Gl American Oaks at three (December) in 2018.

The results are stark and have practical application.

At WTC, we’ve been a strong backer of Speightstown from the beginning and have recommended him without qualms all the way up to $100,000, as his record has always warranted the fee increases. In fact, this year I’ve personally booked two mares to the horse on behalf of a client and recommended him for eight other client mares. But about five years ago, we added a qualifier to our recommendations: don’t push too hard too early with the Speightstowns. Several clients have benefitted from this advice.

Speightstown is the type of horse that pedigree scholar Franco Varola might have labelled as “Trans-Brilliant”–that is, a fast or brilliant type that grafts well to stamina–which is something obvious in the horse’s ability to get 10-furlong Grade l winners like Haynesfield (from a Deputy Minister-line mare), Golden Ticket (from a Deputy Minister mare), Seek Again (from a Danehill mare from a Blushing Groom {Fr} mare), Force the Pass (from a Dynaformer mare), and Competitionofideas (from a Medaglia d’Oro mare). But quality sprinter/miler speed is his métier, and he consistently imparts it to his progeny, which makes him a popular sire for owners and breeders. And because his offspring are sound (with 80% runners from named foals, as noted earlier), win regularly, and get black type at above-average rates, he’s an elite sire–no questions whatsoever.

He’s just got an effect you need to be aware of.

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

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