Value Sires 2020, Part VIII: Regional Sires

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The Big BeastCoglianese

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After our exhaustive survey of Bluegrass stallions, good manners demand at least a browse through the alternatives available elsewhere in North America. But this must be a very different exercise, and a pretty unsatisfactory one too. The Kentucky market is entirely coherent, with hundreds of stallions clustered within a few miles of each other at fees to suit all budgets. Regional stallions, in contrast, serve regional mares. If you're in Ohio, you're not going to van a mare down to Too Much Bling (Rubiano). If you're in Texas, equally, you don't need telling that you can't have too much of that guy.

Each regional market is organic, and value must be judged accordingly. Is your state program sustained by slots, for instance? Are you splitting a fee between 10 buddies from the bowling alley at a couple of hundred bucks apiece? Or are you trying to beat the Bluegrass at its own game–to breed another Chrome in California; or launch another Malibu Moon in Maryland, another Mr. Prospector in Florida?

So this is just a cursory cross-section picked from some (but by no means all) of the principal regions. They're at various stages of their careers, at different fee tiers, and have only one thing in common: the potential–in a single, highly subjective opinion–to punch above their fees.

CALIFORNIA

CLUBHOUSE RIDE (Candy Ride {Arg}–Seeking Results, by Seeking The Gold), Legacy Ranch, $3,500

Here's a curiosity. After a half-hearted debut season in 2015, arriving at stud only in March to cover a couple of dozen mares, this hard-knocking millionaire with a Classic pedigree found himself somewhat out of sequence with his peers. His second crop, from 55 covers, reached the track last year even as he dropped back to just 19 partners. But then those first two books started to show their mettle.

Of 30 starters, no fewer than 22 won. These were crowned by Warren's Showtime, who won the Surfer Girl S. on the grass at Santa Anita and has since made a fine start to her sophomore campaign by running away with the California Cup Oaks.

At his new base, moreover, they are entitled to hope that these flagbearers will only get better. Though Grade I-placed at two, Clubhouse Ride himself kept improving with maturity. As a 5-year-old he finished runner-up three times to Game On Dude (Awesome Again), when that dude was at top of his game, including in the GI Santa Anita H. Freed of his attentions, Clubhouse Ride won the GII California S.–a trophy he then retained the following year.

And it's all underpinned by his genes: he's out of a half-sister to GI Woodward S. and GI Jockey Club Gold Cup winner River Keen (Keen {GB}), while his first three dams are by Seeking The Gold, Caerleon and Never Bend. If you want a two-turn horse that will keep coming back for more, Clubhouse Ride–who made 43 starts himself–looks a highly affordable ticket to the box seats.

GRAZEN (Benchmark–Hazen, by Rubiano), Tommy Town Thoroughbreds, $6,000

No apologies for returning to this guy, having drawn attention to his rise last year. Because he has since written another remarkable chapter in his remarkable story, with Grade III winners S Y Sky and Just Grazed Me, plus champion Cal-bred sophomore Lieutenant Dan taking his lifetime tally to 10 stakes winners from just 113 foals.

Grazen started out at $2,000 in 2010 and mustered just 88 named foals across his first six crops. But his startling dividends from that precarious toehold, including a Grade I podium for multiple stakes winner Enola Gray, earned him a breakout book in 2017–soaring from 31 to 101–and its graduates are juveniles this year. With another 172 covers across the two seasons since, moreover, he is all set to maintain the momentum.

True, he will do well to maintain his stakes ratio from this kind of volume. But it's wonderful to see a horse earn his stripes in this way; and he amply deserves a small hike in fee (from $5,000).

His immediate pedigree does not make it especially obvious where all this might be coming from, albeit it's the family of GI Breeders' Cup Turf winner Prized and seeded by very respectable stallions like Rubiano and Kris S. But there's no question that Grazen himself showed plenty of flair until breaking down, otherwise beaten only once in five sophomore starts on synthetics–and then by a subsequent Grade I winner–including at graded stakes level, flashing some hot speed figures in the process.

One way or another, he's extending the fragile Alydar line in fairytale fashion. And, at 14 and with all those reinforcements imminent, there's no knowing what the next plot twist might be.

 OM (Munnings–Rare Cat, by Tabasco Cat), Harris Farms, $7,500

Alydar's disappointing legacy at stud gets additional mitigation here, as he is responsible for the second dam of a very fast and hardy horse in Om.

Here's a rookie who looks very eligible to consolidate and complement the sterling work his farm has been doing with Smiling Tiger (Hold That Tiger), who's now fully established as sire of a $6,500 Grade I winner in Spiced Perfection.

We won't give Om credit he doesn't need, for happening to have none other than American Pharoah (Pioneerof The Nile) back in fifth in a sprint maiden on the synthetic at Del Mar. More pertinent, in view of his seven-length margin and 98 Beyer that day, is the fact that a reverse on dirt in stakes company next time persuaded connections not only to try turf but also to stretch him out to eight and nine furlongs–over which distances he collected three Grade II prizes and a Grade I podium as a sophomore.

Though exploding from last place to share a photo when dropped back for the GI Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint down the hill at Santa Anita, at four, he did not convert to full-time sprinting until switched to Peter Miller as a 7-year-old last year. He promptly chased home the top-class World Of Trouble (Kantharos) in the GI Jaipur Invitational; set a track record over five and a half furlongs at Churchill in a June 29 allowance; and again finished runner-up in the Turf Sprint at the Breeders' Cup, this time over the bare five furlongs.

Om is the leading earner by a stallion of ample excellence to become a sire of sires, while the Storm Cat line works in any number of ways through broodmares. His female line, meanwhile, goes back to none other than Miss Grillo, the South American nugget who did so much to introduce Horatio Luro to the American Turf (and does so through her daughter Meadow Music, dam of an Irish Derby winner).

There is a corresponding old-school resonance to Om's record, having won or placed in 17 graded stakes, while 14 triple-digit Beyers give him all the commercial appeal he might need today. And if his speed will never go out of fashion, an aptitude for turf may prove to be no bad thing out west in the years ahead. New stallions are hardly ever value but I'd be inclined to make an exception for this guy.

CANADA

SOCIETY'S CHAIRMAN (Not Impossible (Ire)–Athena's Smile, by Olympio), Shannandoe Farm, Can$7,500

We'll have to revisit this story at some stage, because it deserves to be told properly. For present purposes, however, suffice to say that Society's Chairman was retired to stud in 2012 at the worst possible moment–just as the Ontario industry was plunged into its slots crisis. He mustered 35 mares across his first four seasons, for one of which he was basically mothballed altogether. Yet his first book produced not just a Canadian Horse of the Year in Caren, but also a multiple graded stakes winner in Code Warrior, besides a nearly unbroken series of winners at a lower level.

These drew sufficient attention for Society's Chairman to receive 89 mares in 2016. The first graduates of this breakout book include Keep On Truckin, who last year won his first two starts in maiden and black-type company by 11 3/4 and 7 3/4 lengths, respectively. Incredibly, as he waits to catch that big sophomore wave, Society's Chairman now has six stakes winners from just 39 lifetime starters.

He has overcome the odds in apt fashion, given the name of his sire. Not Impossible (Ire) was an unraced son of European titan Sadler's Wells out of a Secretariat mare who also delivered Grade I winner (and Grade I sire) Perfect Soul (Ire); and he has also sired a Queen's Plate winner in Not Bourbon. The maternal family of Society's Chairman contains some left-field names, albeit his dam's millionaire half-brother did win a Grade I in a career spanning 51 starts; while the second dam is by the aristocrat One For All. Anyhow one way or another Society's Chairman himself had the class to be placed three times in Grade I company over a mile on turf. He did this, moreover, at the ages of seven and eight–so we can expect the narrow foundations of his small early books to prove as deep as they have proved strong.

FLORIDA

THE BIG BEAST (Yes It's True–V V S Flawless, by Deputy Minister), Ocala Stud $6,000

These are fairly challenging times for Florida stallions, but come rain, come shine, one thing never changes. You can always rely on Ocala Stud to maintain a roster worthy of its status as the enduring cornerstone of the local breeding industry.

The farm's new recruit Girvin (Tale Of Ekati) was the state's busiest stallion last year with 149 mares. It will be fascinating to see how his Classic potential plays in a speed-oriented environment, but if he can match either the explosive start of The Big Beast or the slower burn of Adios Charlie, all will be well.

Adios Charlie (Indian Charlie) remains generously priced at $4,000, having sealed his hard-working rise-runner-up the two previous years–with a first state championship in 2019. He had to make a standing start after an abrupt retirement and his first crop comprised just a couple of dozen named foals. But one of these turned out to be GI Cigar Mile winner Patternrecognition, helping to move Adios Charlie up to 117 mares last year from 48 in 2018.

The Big Beast, for his part, couldn't quite lie up with Khozan (Distorted Humor) in the state freshman table. From a somewhat smaller debut book, however, he punched his weight very satisfactorily. His 16 winners left him just three behind and, most auspiciously, half a dozen more of the crop have already added their names to the roll call as sophomores.

The Big Beast is a GI King's Bishop winner out of a Deputy Minister mare, a profile that offers something for everybody. And there has to be something extremely special about any stallion who can immediately produce an $850,000 2-year-old from a $6,000 cover in Inspiressa, and then have her win on debut and finish second in the GI Del Mar Debutante S. In her only other start to date.

Like his pal Adios Charlie, The Big Beast was in renewed demand with the ladies last spring, up to 113 from 57. With Kantharos and Uncaptured having packed their bags, for Kentucky and South Korea, respectively, Ocala Stud has a young gun primed to fill the breach.

VALIANT MINISTER (Candy Ride {Arg}–Spooky Minister, by Deputy Minister), Bridlewood, $3,000

Everybody knows the stallions, like Danzig and Malibu Moon, that made the big time after flashing their talent on the track only during a very brief window of soundness. It doesn't always work, of course, but last year Khozan catapulted himself into the national top 10 for Journeyman Stallions, with eight black-type operators from 44 starters. And here's another candidate to build tall from a shallow base.

In fact, Valiant Minister was only glimpsed once, posting a 99 Beyer at Santa Anita, before being unfortunately derailed by a stalls accident. For what it's worth, he dragged the runner-up a dozen lengths clear, and that horse went on to win a maiden and a graded stakes in his next two starts. Valiant Minister's only other public exertion (comprising :9 4/5 seconds) had been measured, along with his brawny build, by a June OBS. record of $680,000. In bidding him farewell, Bob Baffert dignified him with comparisons to some of the most freakish talents to have passed through his barn.

Like The Big Beast, he has a solid-gold damsire in Deputy Minister; his second dam is Grade I-winning sprinter Lunar Spook (Silver Ghost), already responsible for Grade I-placed Moe Candy (Candy Ride {Arg}); while the likes of Twirling Candy, Gun Runner and Mastery are attesting to the rise of Candy Ride as a sire of sires.

He will be depending on a decent opening book of 78 to keep him in the game, but I'd be confident that one or two of those who graduate to the 2-year-old sales next spring will turn out to be home-run pinhooks.

LOUISIANA

COUNTRY DAY (Speightstown–Hidden Assets, by Mt. Livermore), Peach Lane Farms, $2,500

Having been reduced to just four mares in his sixth season, last year Country Day was moved from Kentucky to make a fresh start in the Pelican State. How apt, then, that at Fair Grounds on New Year's Day, his daughter Break Even launched her flamboyant spree of six straight wins, highlighted on Oaks day at Churchill by the GII Eight Belles S.

It had been on the equivalent card the previous year that a member of Country Day's debut crop, Will Call, had become his first graded stakes winner. He went on to run fifth in the GI Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint–the race in which Country Day himself had enjoyed his finest hour, when second in the 2011 running. Only a few days ago, moreover, Will Call's sister, Play On, landed her third black-type success; and their sire's overall record now stands at 59 winners from 78 starters.

You have to look past Country Day's relatively modest track career to account for a runner as freakish as Break Even, albeit his versatility in terms of surface was replicated when she switched to turf to run away with a Saratoga stake last summer. You very seldom see a horse clock such wild fractions with such a contained, relaxed air. The most striking thing about Country Day's pedigree is that the bottom line so closely mirrors that of Giant's Causeway; and, farther back, it traces to the Calumet foundation mare Blue Delight, through one of her three GI Kentucky Oaks winners. His dam, meanwhile, was a graded stakes winner who has produced four stakes scorers besides Country Day.

So it all makes sense, quite apart from the emergence of Munnings and others to advertise Speightstown as a sire of sires. Country Day, remember, produced Break Even from the most unpromising material: under the first two dams, there is otherwise a solitary black-type third at Canterbury Downs. And nor has he been a one-trick pony.

Country Day was welcomed to his new home only by a couple of dozen mares, but that surely has to change. It's not hard, after all, to break even at this kind of money–and you might yet get a Break Even of your own.

MARYLAND

FRIESAN FIRE (A.P. Indy–Bollinger {Aus}, by Dehere), Country Life Farm, $4,000

It should be totally superfluous, in a survey like this, to highlight a stallion whose excellence is so transparent in the earnings table. Friesan Fire was state champion in 2017 and has been consecutively runner-up since. At 14, he is in his prime. He now has a wildly talented son getting plenty of interest at stud in Kentucky. And yet he covered just 32 mares last year.

Much of the buzz in Maryland is about the golden boy, Golden Lad (Medaglia d'Oro), whose 2019 book was just about three-times larger even before he started getting those big results at the sales and on the track. But Friesan Fire should not be dismissed as some kind of dour, worthy, blue-collar alternative.

Yes, he does consistency and quantity, but he does quality, too. Most obviously, in his dazzling GI Carter H. winner Army Mule, but last year Call Paul added the GIII Swale S. to his GII Saratoga Special success/Grade I podium at two.

At this stage of his sophomore career, remember, Friesan Fire looked the most talented member of his crop: his seven-length GII Louisiana Derby romp completing a sweep of the Fair Grounds preps (GIII Lecomte S. and GIII Risen Star S.) and sending him to post as the GI Kentucky Derby favorite. But he finished out the back and was never really the same again.

Plenty of stallions trade a similar track history at bigger fees in Kentucky. But, few of those are by a sire of sires like A.P. Indy, or out of a Group 1-winning mare, herself by the model broodmare sire Dehere; or with a second dam who also scored at the elite level, as did champion Bint Marscay (Aus) (Marscay {Aus}) when beating the colts in the G1 Golden Slipper.

The bottom line is that nobody should be at all surprised if Friesan Fire were to sire a Kentucky Derby winner someday. Actually, the bottom line is $4,000. I hesitate to offer any conclusion from the juxtaposition of those two statements. Because, once again, it should be obvious…

NEW YORK

DESTIN (Giant's Causeway–Dream Of Summer, by Siberian Summer), Sequel New York, $5,000

Competition is strong in Kentucky among heirs to the late Giant's Causeway, but nowhere is his legacy more prized than in the Empire State. His venerable brother Freud's state championship in 2019 extended his record of top two finishes to 12 straight years, while his son Frost Giant is another longstanding achiever round here. Little wonder, then, that Destin was so warmly received on his arrival at Sequel last year.

Indeed only Central Banker (Speightstown), who seduced 127 mares with his freshman endeavors the year before, entertained more than the 84 who visited Destin. No prizes for imagination, then, in commending perseverance, but he really does look a solid bet, as one who would have had ample traction in Kentucky on performance, physique and pedigree.

Performance identified him as one of the best Classic operators in his crop, winning the GIII Sam F. Davis and the GII Tampa Bay Derby (track record) before running sixth to Nyquist (Uncle Mo) in the Kentucky Derby and was just caught on the line in the GI Belmont S. I would question whether his success in the oddball GII Marathon S., at four, told us much about his real strengths–quite the reverse, in fact. Certainly he wouldn't be the first to fade after soaking up the Triple Crown trail, nor the first such to succeed at stud.

His handsome looks can be judged from a $400,000 yearling tag, and he's a full brother to the excellent Airdrie stallion Creative Cause, out of Grade I winner Dream Of Summer, with some intriguing but effective outcross influences in behind. Creative Cause was admittedly more precocious, but functioned at a very similar level as a sophomore, fifth in the Derby and third in the Belmont. The whole package just looks a cut above the local standard, and Destin could soon prove a very eligible heir to the crown worn by his ageing uncle.

REDESDALE (Speightstown–Harpia, by Danzig), McMahon of Saratoga Thoroughbreds, $5,000

A roll of the dice, for sure. But it speaks well of this guy that he has been recruited by a farm putting together such a solid roster. They already have Central Banker making a very strong start, with cumulative earnings putting him in the top five of his intake nationally; while in Solomini (Curlin) they launch a legitimate Grade I-juvenile from a family packed with sire power, out of a Storm Cat half-sister both to Jonabell's splendidly consistent stallion Midshipman (Unbridled's Song) and to the dam of his exciting young studmate Frosted (Tapit).

But just as intriguing is Redesdale, who must be taken seriously after securing a foothold of 81 partners in his debut book. It's always hard to know how a stallion with this kind of profile–a top-class pedigree, but a teasingly brief track career–will be received, but it looks as though New York breeders bought into the idea. That's important, because this horse was once knocked down for $18,000. It would have been easy to conclude that he must be too good to be true.

Certainly few stallions in the world, never mind in New York, have such aristocratic genes: his dam, the Grade III winner Harpia, is a sister to the breed-shaping Danehill; meaning that his third dam is a half-sister by the distaff paragon Buckpasser to the epoch-making Northern Dancer. (Duly the family of Halo and Machiavellian too.)

Many regional programs would make a stud career viable even for an unraced horse with such a page. As it was, however, Redesdale clocked some big numbers in winning his first three starts before derailing in his fourth.

Those who persevere with Redesdale at his new base now know that he will have a valid shot at establishing credibility. If it's still something of a gamble, it's one with minimal downside–and the scope to develop into a remarkable story.

PENNSYLVANIA

FLASHBACK (Tapit–Rhumb Line, by Mr Greeley), Diamond B Farm, $3,500

Alas, there are venerable boots to fill in the Keystone State, following the death of local legend Jump Start. But morale in the local industry is upbeat as attested by the arrival of Hoppertunity (Any Given Saturday), the classy and hard-knocking earner of $4.7 million, at Northview Stallion Station.

And, granted that horses seldom co-operate in this fashion, we make no apologies for returning to the equivalent exercise last year–when our pick for the state was a young stallion who appeared to have been evicted from Kentucky with surprising haste, having numbered the Grade I-placed Boujie Girl among his first runners in 2018.

Flashback, of course, has since hit the ball out of the park with his second crop through GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies winner and Eclipse Champion British Idiom. While only 22 mares could be assembled to roll out the red carpet last spring, he has a cavalry of Kentucky-breds to maintain the momentum he will surely now renew after finding such a dazzling poster girl.

After all, he is a full-brother to dual Grade I winner (and GI Kentucky Oaks third) Zazu, from a family seeded by Classic influences; and himself won the GII Robert B. Lewis S. by six lengths before chasing home Goldencents (Into Mischief) in the GI Santa Anita Derby. Rivalry among sons of Tapit in Kentucky becomes ever stronger, but Flashback should quickly find his feet in these shallower waters.

Certainly he could not have asked for a better springboard. To neglect him after British Idiom would be, well-“just not cricket, old bean…!”

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