Monday, January 30, 2017

New Sire Series: California Chrome

Note: This New Sires blog is an updated blog first run after California Chrome’s Dubai World Cup victory in 2016.

California Chrome at Taylor Made in 2015.
One of only three Kentucky Derby winners this century to race past his 4-year-old season, California Chrome (Lucky Pulpit) continues to make history years after most high profile horses have been retired. In March of 2016, the horse became the all-time highest earner outside of Japan when he won the $6-million winner’s share of the Dubai World Cup purse and boosted his earnings to $12,532,650. Later that year, he became the first horse to win two Horse of the Year titles in non-consecutive years since John Henry pulled off the feat in 1981 and 1984.

The winner of 16 of 27 races, the California-bred son of Lucky Pulpit was under the radar as a 2-year-old, winning only three of his seven starts but has quickly risen to be one of the most popular racehorses in the world in recent years after dominating the Kentucky Derby trail in 2014 and winning two legs of the Triple Crown.

California Chrome was only a neck short of adding the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Classic to his resume at the end of that year, finishing third to Bayern (Offlee Wild) before closing the season with a Grade 1 win on turf in the Hollywood Derby. His 2015 seasons was derailed a bit when, after a pair of seconds including the Group 1 Dubai World Cup, he went on an ambitious trip to England but never started due to injury. Shipping back to North America and aiming at the Grade 1 Arlington Million, it was discovered that he had bone bruising before he could make another start.

The colt rested for the rest of the year at Taylor Made Farm, who had bought into him that summer with an eye on a 2016 campaign. That decision to return him to the track paid off in spades.

California Chrome returned to the races on Jan. 9, 2016, his first start since the 2015 Dubai World Cup, and looked like he was in top form when winning the Grade 2 San Pasqual Stakes by 1 ¼ lengths. He shipped to Dubai in late January for a prep race in the desert and won that easily on Feb. 25. Looking to avenge his loss from the previous year, California Chrome’s winning run looked nearly effortless in the Dubai World Cup as he pulled away from the field in the final furlong and a half to win by a comfortable 3 ¼ lengths over Mubtaahij (Dubawi) even with his girth turning into a flank strap near the end of the race.

After a freshening at Taylor Made, California Chrome headed back to the track for the second half of 2016.

In one of the more exciting races of the year, California Chrome had to battle with Dortmund (Big Brown) in the Grade 2 San Diego Handicap to stay undefeated on the year but the race was just what he needed to get in to gear. He came back a month later in better shape and romped in the $1-million, Grade 1 Pacific Classic by five lengths over a field that included multiple champion mare Beholder (Henny Hughes).


Confirming that he was the best older horse in the country, California Chrome won his fifth graded stakes of 2016 in the Grade 1 Awesome Again in September before heading to the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Classic. Under what some said was an over confident ride, a Classic win again eluded California Chrome when he finished second by half a length to Arrogate (Unbridled’s Song) with the rest of the field nearly 11 lengths behind them.

As a prep for the Pegasus World Cup and as a salute to all of his fans at his Los Alamitos Race Course base, California Chrome ran in the Winter Challenge. In what amounted to a paid workout, California Chrome never had to put in his full effort when winning by 12 lengths and breaking the track record in his final California start.

California Chrome’s final career start was also his first in Florida when he ran in the inaugural Pegasus World Cup. Unfortunately that start didn’t go as planned with the horse finishing an eased up ninth.

After the Pegasus, California Chrome retired to Taylor Made as a two-time Horse of the Year winner, where he is one of four new sires for the farm. While none of those freshmen stallions have Taylor Made’s foundation sire Unbridled’s Song (Unbridled) in their pedigrees, California Chrome is related to the stallion, as Lucky Pulpit's granddam is also the granddam of Unbridled’s Song.

California Chrome
Overall, California Chrome brings an interesting pedigree to Kentucky for breeders in 2017.

He is by Lucky Pulpit, who showed promise throughout his career but was never able to fully live up to it due to a variety of issues. While Lucky Pulpit never won a graded stakes, he was a stakes winner at five furlongs on the turf and hit the board in two graded stakes during his career.

Lucky Pulpit is predictably by Pulpit who has turned into a good sire himself. Pulpit is the sire of 73 stakes winners as of Jan. 25, according to Equineline and is the sire of record-breaking leading sire Tapit. With Tapit leading the charge, it’s hard for any other son to compare to him but there is hope that the Tapit success will carry to other sons and grandsons as well. It definitely doesn’t hurt that one generation behind Pulpit is A.P. Indy (Seattle Slew), who is one of the most influential sires in North America in recent times.

Lucky Pulpit’s dam is out of the multiple graded stakes winner Lucky Spell (Lucky Mel), who has 16 stakes winners under her name on his page. As mentioned before, Unbridled’s Song was a cornerstone of Taylor Made’s stallion program before dying in 2013. Perhaps fittingly, California Chrome is stalled across the aisle from Unbridled Song’s son Graydar at Taylor Made after having a rivalry near the end of his career with another Unbridled’s Song son in Arrogate.

California Chrome’s dam Love the Chase is by Not For Love (Mr. Prospector), a cornerstone of Maryland's breeding program. A stakes placed stallion, Not for Love died in 2016 with the distinction of being Maryland’s leading sire by lifetime progeny earnings and juvenile earnings. Not For Love was also the highest ranked non-Kentucky stallion on the general sires list for many years.

Love the Chase
While Not For Love’s family was always strong as is expected from a Phipps family horse, it has had even more success in the last decade.

Not For Love is out of Grade 1 winner Dance Number (Northern Dancer), who produced multiple successes by Mr. Prospector including champion 2-year-old colt Rhythm (Mr. Prospector). Her biggest success may have been the Mr. Prospector filly Get Lucky, who won a Grade 3 then became the matriarch of a family that includes 2010 Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver (Maria’s Mon) and Grade 1 winners Imagining (Giant’s Causeway), Girolamo (A.P. Indy), Callback (Street Sense), Got Lucky (A.P. Indy) and Bluegrass Cat (Storm Cat).

Not For Love's branch of the family tree may bring the most class of California Chrome’s bottom side but the 6-year-old’s female family also has a decent amount of class.

California Chrome is the first foal out Love the Chase with her only other horses of racing age being full siblings to California Chrome. Both of the siblings who are aged three or older have raced with 4-year-old Hope’s Love placed in her debut before injury forced her to the sidelines. She returned to the races but never showed the level of talent she showed in that first race. California Chrome’s 3-year-old sister has raced five times with two placings in maiden special weight races.

Love the Chase’s dam Chase It Down (Polish Numbers) had three winners herself while California Chrome’s third dam is where the first non-Chrome blacktype appears.
California Chrome and Gilberto Terrazas
That third dam is the Sir Ivor filly Chase the Dream, who won multiple stakes races during her career. She went on to produce the multiple stakes winning filly Amourette (El Gran Senor), who herself has produced the stakes winning Lemon Drop Kid filly Alette. Two of Amourette’s other foals are also stakes placed with the Lemon Drop Kid gelding Lemonade Kid finishing second in a Grade 2.

California Chrome’s fourth dam is a half-sister to the champion Cascapedia (Chieftain) and two other stakes winners with seven winners on her produce record. While California Chrome’s branch is by far the most successful of the family, another of her daughters also produced the stakes placed Mister Deux (Mister Jolie).

Interestingly, California Chrome is inbred 4 x 4 to blue hen broodmare Numbered Account (Buckpasser), the dam of successful sires Private Account (Damascus) and Polish Numbers (Danzig) in addition to the Grade 1 winning mare Dance Number (Northern Dancer). California Chrome’s two crosses to Numbered Account come from Dance Number and Polish Numbers with Dance Number the dam of Not For Love and Polish Numbers being his second dam’s sire. Digging deeper into his pedigree also finds great broodmare La Troienne (Teddy) on his pedigree seven times so California Chrome has some serious mare power behind him.

California Chrome isn’t the only California-bred stallion Taylor Made has had an interest in. The farm is partners with WinStar Farm on two-time Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Tiznow (Cee’s Tizzy). Like California Chrome, Tiznow didn’t come to Kentucky with a familiar or extremely deep pedigree at the time but he has turned into a leading sire in Kentucky.

Taylor Made is doing everything it can to give California Chrome support to become a strong sire including a deal where both it and co-owner Perry Martin sold small percentages of the horse to multiple breeders to help his chance of getting more support. Included in that group is China Horse Club, whose strong broodmare band will be a major asset to California Chrome's book the first few years.

California Chrome stands for a fee of $40,000 in 2017, $10,000 lower than the most expensive new stallion in North America this year (Frosted) and the same price as 2016 Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist (Uncle Mo).

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Digging Into the Data: Sires Flying High in Pegasus World Cup

Noble Bird is one of the Grade 1 winners in the field
In a race that has been in the headlines since it was announced last year, it’s fitting that the Pegasus World Cup has more than just a few interesting bloodline tidbits. From a mare who brings two rivals together to two horses looking to make earnings history, here are 13 pedigree facts you should know before Saturday’s race.

Starters’ Resumes - The headliners of this race are obviously Arrogate (Unbridled’s Song) and California Chrome (Lucky Pulpit) but the 12 horse Pegasus field is actually a decently competitive one when you look past them. Six of the runners are Grade 1 winners, one is a Grade 2 winner, one is a Grade 3 winner, one is a stakes winner and the four who haven’t yet broken through at the stakes level are all graded stakes placed. The field includes two Eclipse winners who have five Eclipse Awards between them (Arrogate and California Chrome) and one Canadian champion (Shaman Ghost). Restricted to horses aged four and older, the field ranges in age from four to nine years of age. Eight of the 12 horses are five or younger.

Kentucky Stallions – Nine of the 12 sires in the field currently reside in Kentucky or stood in the state at the time of their death in the case of Unbridled’s Song and Harlan’s Holiday. Of the other three sires, one currently stands in Pennsylvania (Jump Start), one in California (Lucky Pulpit) and Offlee Wild stood in Turkey at the time of his death last year.

2017 Stud Fees – This year’s stud fees for the living sires range from $7,500 to $250,000. The average 2017 stud fee for the nine living sires is $66,833 with four sires standing for under $10,000 this year and one other standing for under $20,000. The two highest 2017 stud fees are War Front at $250,000 and Curlin at $150,000. They are the only stallions with runners in this race standing for over $100,000.

War Front
Stud Fees at Time of Conception – Five of 11 stallions (due to lack of data on his southern hemisphere fee, Offlee Wild’s (Wild Again) stud fee isn’t counted) with runners in the Pegasus have seen their fees increase since the runner was conceived. The largest increase comes from War Front (Danzig), who stood for $15,000 in 2011 when War Envoy was conceived and now stands for $250,000. Other major notable increases are Ghostzapper, who stood for $20,000 at the time Shaman Ghost was conceived and is now at $75,000 and Curlin, who made a $110,000 jump to $150,000 from $40,000 in 2011. The average stud fee of the sires with runners in the Pegasus at the time of their runner’s conception (excluding Offlee Wild) was $36,591. The 11 runner counted were conceived for a total combined advertised stud fee total of $402,500.

Sire Ages – (Living) sires ranging from 10 to 24 years of age have a runner in the Pegasus. The youngest is Lookin at Lucky (Smart Strike), who at 10 is the youngest by three years, while the oldest is shared by Distorted Humor (Forty Niner) and Northern Afleet (Afleet) at 24. Half of the sires with runners are between 13 and 18 years of age with the sire average sitting at 17 years old. The 24-year-old and 16-year-old generations tie for the most runners with those two sire ages having two runners apiece.

Northern Afleet
My Daddy is Your Granddaddy- It’s no surprise with some older gentlemen in the field that some sires are also the broodmare sires of other runners. Distorted Humor is the sire of Semper Fortis and is also the broodmare sire of Arrogate (Unbridled’s Song). Ironically, Unbridled’s Song is also a sire and broodmare sire, with his daughter Rebridled Dreams the dam of Distorted Humor’s Semper Fortis. While Awesome Again (Deputy Minister) doesn’t have a runner in the race, he also fits into this club of being found on the sire and dam side of runners with his daughter producing Keen Ice (Curlin) and his son Ghostzapper the sire of Shaman Ghost.

A.P. Indy
No Tapit? – It’s rare these days that Tapit (Pulpit) doesn’t have a runner in a big race but that’s the case here. For those who are fans of his sire line though, have no fear. A.P Indy (Seattle Slew) is the grandsire or great-grandsire of two runners, one of those being through Pulpit’s son Lucky Pulpit. The A.P. Indy/Pulpit sire line is also responsible for the dam of War Story (Northern Afleet). So Tapit may not be represented in this race but his sire and grandsire are both there.

Mr. Prospector – Welcome to North America, where Mr. Prospector’s (Raise a Native) line is alive and well. Mr. Prospector is found in the sire line of six of the 12 runners with his grandson Unbridled (Fappiano) being the grandsire of Birdstone (Grindstone), who has Noble Bird in the race, in addition to being the grandsire of Arrogate. Smart Strike’s (Mr. Prospector) sons Curlin and Looking at Lucky are also responsible for two other runners. Five runners have Mr. Prospector to thank for their damsire with four different Mr. Prospector sire lines bringing in that blood. Arrogate and Semper Fortis both have the distinction of both their sires and damsires being from Mr. Prospector’s sire line.

Northern Dancer – U.S. pedigrees may not be as filled with Northern Dancer sires as Europe, but have no fear – the 1964 Kentucky Derby winner is still going strong here. Northern Dancer is found in the fourth generation of War Envoy’s (War Front) sire line, five generations back in Shaman Ghost’s sire line and six generations back in Neolithic’s (Harlan’s Holiday) and is just as popular as a broodmare sire in this race. Three of the dams who produced Pegasus runners are by sires who trace back to Northern Dancer with two having Deputy Minister (Vice Regent) to thank for that. Overall, Deputy Minister’s branch of the family is responsible for three of the horses in this race with Northern Dancer’s sire line, two runners thanks to his son Awesome Again and another thanks to Mr. Sparkles.

Dams – Dams always have a disadvantage when trying to get more than one runner in a race compared to sires but one dam can brag about having two runners in the Pegasus. Lucky Spell (Lucky Mel), who is the granddam of Unbridled’s Song is also the granddam of Lucky Pulpit, connecting the two biggest runners in the race even more than their rivalry already did.
California Chrome's sire is a grandson of Lucky Spell
Auctions – In an increasingly commercial industry, it’s no surprise that nine of the Pegasus participants sold at auction at least once. While none of them sold for extremely cheap prices, you could have bought Grade 1 winner Keen Ice for only $48,000 as a weanling. He is one of two horses who sold at auction twice and the least expensive of all the Pegasus runners who have gone through the ring. The most expensive horse is Arrogate, followed by Semper Fortis, bringing $560,000 and $525,000 respectively. Seven of the runners sold as yearlings with War Story (Northern Afleet) also selling as a 2-year-old. War Envoy didn’t go through the ring as a youngster but has had auction experience, selling for $150,000 at Fasig-Tipton’s July Horses of Racing Age sale last year. Keeneland’s September Yearling sale has the most entries in this race with six runners selling there.

War Envoy before selling last year
Homebreds – Two of the horses running in the Pegasus are still owned in part by their breeders. California Chrome, who runs under the ownership of California Chrome LLC, is still co-owned by co-breeder Perry Martin with a group that includes Taylor Made Farm. Shaman Ghost is another still owned by his breeder with Adena Springs breeding and owning the horse. It’s a true family affair for that runner as Adena Springs bred both his sire and grandsire (and stands them in Kentucky). Shaman Ghost will likely retire to Adena Springs’ Kentucky farm at the conclusion of his career, giving the farm three generations of sires if Awesome Again is still an active stallion at that time.

Chasing Titles – California Chrome is already the richest North American-based horse in history with $14,502,650 in earnings. But the horse could become one of the richest all time Thoroughbreds, if not the richest if he takes home the estimated $7-million winner’s share on Saturday. On the same vein, while Arrogate won’t become the richest horse he will become one of only three U.S.-based horses in history to have over $10-million in earnings if he wins the Pegasus. He currently has earnings of $4,084,000 with most of that coming from his Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Classic victory over California Chrome last year.

Pegasus World Cup Entries

Unbridled’s Song
Distorted Humor
Prayer for Relief
Jump Start
Sparklin Lil
Mr. Sparkles
Harlan’s Holiday
Victory Gallop
Noble Bird
War Story
Northern Afleet
Belle Watling
War Envoy
War Front
La Conseillante
Elusive Quality
Shaman Ghost
Getback Time
Gilded Time
Semper Fortis
Distorted Humor
Rebridled Dreams
Unbridled’s Song
Keen Ice
Awesome Again
Breaking Lucky
Lookin at Lucky
Shooting Party
Sky Classic
Offlee Wild
Express Time
Shy Tom
California Chrome
Lucky Pulpit
Love the Chase
Not For Love

Monday, January 23, 2017

New Sire Series: Awtaad

Only months after his son Golden Horn topped off a stellar career with a Cartier Horse of the Year award in 2015, Cape Cross was back with another big horse with Awtaad.

Awtaad started his career on Oct. 11, 2015, a week after Golden Horn won the Group 1 Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. While it wasn’t a victory, with Awtaad getting nosed out for second close to home, it was the final time he’d lose for over six months.

From his debut, Awtaad went on a four race win streak, winning those four starts by a combined 11 ½ lengths. While he looked the real deal early on in Ireland, it was the Group 1 Irish 2,000 Guineas that confirmed that fact when he faced Group 1 QIPCO 2,000 Guineas winner Galileo Gold (Paco Boy), who was looking to win back-to-back classics.

Awtaad took the lead with less than two furlongs to go and won by 2 ½ lengths over Galileo Gold. The win made him his sire’s second classic winner in as many years after Golden Horn’s win in England’s Group 1 Investec Derby Stakes in 2015.


In one of the most competitive races in the miler division last year, Awtaad lined up in the Group 1 St. James’s Palace at Royal Ascot. While good fields are always expected for Royal Ascot races, the St James’s Palace brought together the winners of the English, French and Irish 2,000 Guineas in the field of seven horses.

Coming down to the wire, Galileo Gold was in the lead but Awtaad was closing quickly with French 2,000 Guineas winner The Gurkha (Galileo) close behind. With time running out to catch Galileo Gold, the real battle was between the other two horses for second as The Gurkha closed on Awtaad with every step. Awtaad fought hard, but in the end The Gurkha proved to be too fast, finishing half a length in front at the wire.

The three met up again in the Group 1 Qatar Sussex Stakes but in an uncharacteristically dull performance, Awtaad finished eighth in his only performance on a Good to Firm track.

The colt retuned back home to Ireland for his next race, running at Leopardstown for the first time since he’d broken his maiden for the Group 2 Clipper Logistics Boomerang Stakes. Back on a track labeled yielding, a surface he had seemed to like in the past, he took on a field that included Breeders’ Cup winner Hit It a Bomb (War Front) and multiple group stakes winners Custom Cut (Notnowcato), Sruthan (Arakan) and Gordon Lord Byron (Byron).

The track and drop in class seemed to help the colt as he went from third to first in less than a furlong and extended his lead to 1 ½ lengths in the final furlong. That would be the final victory for Awtaad, with the colt retiring to Derrinstown Stud after a fourth place finish behind Minding (Galileo)  by 3 3/4 lengths in his final start.

Golden Horn
Cape Cross doesn’t have many sons listed on the Weatherbys’ Stallion Book site with four, including the aforementioned Awtaad and Golden Horn. The only four of those to have horses of racing age is Sea the Stars. Though if they can all throw racehorses as good as that sire, Cape Cross is going to be a good sire-of-sires.

Cape Cross has produced 13 Grade or Group 1 winners and 54 group winners overall with the stallion having 107 horses (as of Jan. 19) win at the stakes level. Perhaps fittingly, Golden Horn joined Cape Cross in Darley’s stud barn at just the right time with Darley announcing Cape Cross was pensioned due to fertility issues in late March last year. A quietly successful stallion, Cape Cross holds the distinction of being one of only four stallions in the last 60 years to produce the winners of the English versions of the 2,000 Guineas (Sea the Stars), Derby (Sea the Stars and Golden Horn) and Oaks (Ouija Board).

Awtaad is the first foal out of maiden winner Asheerah (Shamardal), who was trained, bred and owned by the same connections as her son. A young mare at just nine years of age, Asheerah’s 3-year-old daughter Aneen (Lawman) is keeping the family active as her half-brother goes to stud. Following close in his footsteps, she finished fourth (of 18) in a Leopardstown maiden in September before breaking her maiden at the Curragh on Oct. 10 by 4 ¼ lengths. Not surprisingly, the filly holds an early entry to the Group 1 Darley Irish Oaks in July.

Asheerah has two other foals on the ground, a 2-year-old filly by Tamayuz and a yearling full brother to Awtaad.

Awtaad’s second dam, Adaala (Sahm) was a stakes winner herself, taking the Kilboy Estate Stakes in 2005. The mare was also third in the Group 3 Derrinstown Stud 1000 Guineas Trial and the best horse produced by her dam. Adaala has produced four stakes placed horses with the best being Group 3 winners Aaraas (Haafhd) and Alshahbaa (Alhaarth). She is also a full sister to Glow Stakes third place finisher Biggerbadderbetter with those two being the only stakes horses out of Alshoowg (Riverman).

Fourth dam Ghashtah (Nijinsky) was unraced but is a full sister to Seattle Dancer, a multiple group stakes winner, and a half-sister to U.S. Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew (Bold Reasoning). She is also the granddam of Group 2 winner Nasheej (Swain), who was also third in the 2006 Group 1 Stan James 1,000 Guineas.

Interestingly, Awtaad is a fourth generation homebred for Shadwell Farm, who started the family on their farm when they bred Ghashtah to Riverman (Never Bend) to produce Alshoowg.
Shamardal's sire Giant's Causeway

Not surprisingly for a European family, all but one of the stakes horses under Awtaad’s first two dams are by grandsons or great-grandsons of Northern Dancer (Nearctic). That lone horse who finds Northern Dancer farther back in the sireline is Awtaad’s dam, whose sire Shamardal has Northern Dancer in his fourth generation.

When looking at the damsires of Cape Cross’ Grade/Group 1 and 2 winners, it’s easy to see that the stallion has a bigger range of mares he’s been successful with. Of his 32 Group 1 and 2 winners, only nine of his winners are out of dams by stallions from the Northern Dancer sireline. Granted, some of the mares not included in that count have Northern Dancer elsewhere in their pedigrees, though not as many as may be expected.

Mr. Prospector (Raise a Native) was also a popular cross found in the pedigrees of these winners with five mares who produced those group stakes winners by Mr. Prospector, his sons, or grandsons. Most came from daughters or granddaughters of his son Kingmambo but one was a Mr. Prospector daughter and the other was a granddaughter (Urban Sea) of Mr. Prospector from another line.

With those two lines only producing 14 of the 32 stakes winners (44 percent) and no other line having more than one or two successes, Cape Cross didn’t seem to have a particular nick breeders had to stick to. If Awtaad is able to replicate that as a sire, it could be very helpful for the stallion.

Awtaad is already an outcross of sorts with the only Northern Dancer in his first five generations moving to the fifth generations in his foals. The stallion also shows relatively little inbreeding with the closest on his pedigree being a 4 x 5 cross to Mr. Prospector and the only other inbreeding being 5 x 5 to Never Bend.

At a reasonable €15,000, Awtaad could be worth a chance for many breeders. Especially those who are trying not to add much more Northern Dancer blood. He is one of nine new stallions in Europe to stand in the £10,000 - £15,000 range who are listed on Weatherbys and the only one by Cape Cross.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Sires to Watch: Young Stallions in Europe

Born to Sea (Gilltown Stud photo)
Jumps season is still in full swing as the first month of the year ticks by, but in yards across Europe runners by a variety of stallions are preparing for the 2017 flat season.

Stallions young and old will again be trying to catch the attention of owners and breeders by producing as many winners as possible during the year but younger stallions still have something to prove as they try to establish themselves as “go-to” sires in the years to come.

Here are six young stallions standing Europe – from Ireland to Turkey (a country that sits in both Europe and Asia) – with a few crops on the track who are worth keeping an eye on in 2017.

The last foal out of supermare Urban Sea, Born to Sea (Invincible Spirit) didn’t live up to the lofty race records of his half-brothers Sea the Stars (Cape Cross) and Galileo (Sadler’s Wells) but held his own on the track. Born to Sea was a listed winner in addition to being second to Camelot (Montjeu) in the 2012 Irish Derby and started his stud career in 2013 at Rathasker Stud. From a family that gets better at three, Born to Sea had a 25 percent strike rate with 11 winners from 44 runners with his first 2-year-olds last year including Group 3 winner Sea of Grace and two listed placed horses. It’s worth noting that he got his first group stakes winner before Galileo, though it’s hard to see him – or any other stallion – hitting the lofty heights of that half-brother any time soon. He joined another half-brother, Sea the Stars, at the Aga Khan’s Gilltown Stud in 2015, which looks promising for his future stallion career.

The most obvious stallion to keep an eye on this year is Frankel (Galileo). The undefeated champion racehorse had many hopes sitting on his shoulders when his first runners hit the track and he didn’t disappoint. Six of his runners won group stakes races, including Group 1 winner and Japanese champion Soul Stirring, and one other was multiple stakes placed Cunco. Frankel seemed to get better with age so there’s no reason his foals won’t as well and he still has enough well-bred runners who haven’t yet started to make 2017 an even better year than 2016.


With his first crop just turning five this year, Lope de Vega’s (Shamardal) 44 stakes performers and 14 group winners is impressive. The Giant’s Causeway grandson’s numbers should only get better as his later crops – and probably better bred – crops start hitting the track. Granted that first post-first crop rush won’t hit the track until 2018. But with Lope de Vega’s early success so far, including multiple classic placed horses I don’t expect him to have a quiet year by any stretch of the imagination. He has 71 2-year-olds, which isn’t as many as some of his counterparts but more than enough to make the year a memorable one.

Mastercraftsman (Danehill Dancer) came out on fire with his first few crops, including multiple classic winners and 2017 is the year we’ll see the benefit those runners had on his books. Coolmore has advertised that the first of his best bred crops will be hitting the track this year so it could be his best year yet. His runners seem to be better at three than two so it could be a case of getting ahead of myself by putting him on the list of sires to watch this year, but it’s not hard to imagine that these better bred 2-year-olds may have a little more precociousness, which makes for an interesting thought when he has had 2-year-olds with stakes form in his earlier crops.


Mayson (Invincible Spirit) had 19 winners last year with his first 2-year-olds including seven stakes horses and three listed stakes winners. That list includes Group 2 placed Global Applause and Group 3 placed Rosebride. Mayson himself got better with age, getting his Group 1 win at four so it has to be thought his runners will as well. He did better with his runners and number of wins last year than some highly anticipated horses so it will be interesting to see if he can carry on that success into the new year. With a large group of horses who were placed as 2-year-olds but didn’t quite hit the winner’s enclosure, it won’t be a surprise to see his win numbers go up, and him get his first group winner, as the season starts rolling.

A Turkey-based stallion, Native Khan (Azamour) is a bit harder to follow than other young stallions but that didn’t keep him from catching the eye with his first crop’s success. From the stallion’s 20 starters last year as 2-year-olds, 15 won races. He has 20 2-year-olds this year according to the Jockey Club of Turkey and 20 3-year-olds who have yet to start as well. While his impressive 75 percent strike rate will almost certainly fall as more of these horses hit the track, if his first time starters and current maidens show the same talent as his first winners Turkey may have a breed changing sire on its hands.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Digging Into the Data: Eclipse Finalists

With 12 categories and 31 horses, it's to be expected that there's some overlap in the bloodlines found when the Eclipse Award finalists are named in early January. This year was no different with some stallions making their marks in more than one category. From Mr. Prospector to A.P. Indy, here are some of the more interesting things you’ll find when digging into Eclipse award pedigrees this winter.

Mr. Prospector (WikiMedia Commons/Pawneese photo)
Mr. Prospector – It’s never a big surprise to find Mr. Prospector (Raise a Native) in pedigrees but it may be a surprise to see how dominate he is when it comes to this year's Eclipse awards. Of the 31 finalists, Mr. Prospector is found in the sire or damsire line of 18 (58 percent) of the horses, including all three of the Horse of the Year candidates. Horse of the Year and 3-year-old Male finalist Arrogate (Unbridled’s Song) and female sprinter finalist Finest City (City Zip) both have Mr. Prospector in their sire and damsire lines.

Pulpit – Pulpit (A.P. Indy) may be best known as the sire of Tapit but this year he can also be known as the king of the Older Dirt Male division. All three finalists in that category are either sons or grandsons of the stallion with Tapit only siring one of them. All three of those finalists will be carrying on Pulpit’s successful line this year as new stallions in Kentucky.

Distorted Humor
Multiple Finalists – A few sires and broodmare sires have multiple finalists going for Eclipse awards, not surprising when they also had a lot of Breeders’ Cup success. Medaglia d’Oro (El Prado) is the sire of Horse of the Year and 3-Year-Old Filly finalist Songbird and 2-Year-Old Filly finalist New Money Honey. If New Money Honey wins the category, it will be back-to-back wins for Medaglia d’Oro daughters after Songbird won the award last year. Curlin’s (Smart Strike) hot streak continued this year on the track and he’s also been rewarded with multiple finalists. Last year’s champion 3-Year-Old Filly Stellar Wind is back again, this time as an Old Dirt Female finalist while Preakness winner Exaggerator gives his sire another finalist in the 3-Year-Old Male category after Palace Malice in 2013. England-based Dansili (Danehill) is the only European with multiple finalists after his daughter Queen’s Trust won the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf to be named a finalist for 3-Year-Old Filly and Flintshire ended his career by being named a finalist in the Male Turf Horse Category.

Distorted Humor was a hit at the Breeders’ Cup as a broodmare sire and that continued here as well. He is the damsire of Arrogate, who is a Horse of the Year and 3-Year-Old Male finalist, 2-Year-Old Male finalist Practical Joke, and 2-Year-Old Filly finalist New Money Honey. The 24-year-old active sire went a long way toward helping Mr. Prospector’s dominance here, as he is a grandson of the stallion.

A.P. Indy – Pulpit’s sire A.P. Indy (Seattle Slew) has been one of the top U.S. sires for decades and it shows here. A.P. Indy is found in the sireline of five finalists, ranging from Female Sprinter (Haveyougoneaway) to Horse of the Year (California Chrome). He is also in the damsire lines of 3-Year-Old Filly finalist Cathryn Sophia (Street Boss), Older Dirt Female finalist Stellar Wind (Curlin), and Male Sprinter Finalist A.P. Indian (a division where he’s also the grandsire of another finalist.)

A.P. Indy
Storm Cat – Perhaps A.P. Indy’s biggest rival at stud was Storm Cat (Storm Bird), who is carving out his own line in the Northern Dancer (Nearctic) dynasty. Storm Cat is nearly as popular as Mr. Prospector here with 11 horses coming from his sire line through their sire or dam. All three of the 2-Year-Old Male finalists have Storm Cat in their pedigree with Not This Time (Giant’s Causeway) and Practical Joke (Into Mischief) having him on their sire’s side and Classic Empire (Pioneerof the Nile) produced by one of his granddaughters2.
Age of Sires – The sires of the Eclipse finalists trends to more middle aged with the average sitting at 16.45 years of age. Not surprisingly the youngest sire with a finalist is Uncle Mo (Indian Charlie), with the stallion turning nine this year, followed by 11-year-old Pioneerof the Nile (Empire Maker). The oldest is the late Unbridled’s Song (Unbridled), who would have been 24 in 2017. The median age of all sires with a finalist is 16 with sires born in 2004 having more finalists than any other age at five. They are followed by the 20-year-olds, who have four finalists.

Pioneerof the Nile's Classic Empire
Sadler’s Wells – A son of Northern Dancer, Sadler’s Wells was based in Ireland during his stud career but that doesn’t mean his influence didn’t touch the U.S. He is the grandsire of Medaglia d’Oro, who has two finalists, in addition to being found in the sire or damsire line of two Male Turf Horse finalists and in both the sire and damsire line of Steeplechase Horse finalist Scorpiancer (Scorpion).

Champions Siring Champions - It’s always a breeder’s hope that the foals born in their foaling barn become champions, but it’s even better when those champions produce champions. That’s the case for the breeders who produced the sires of 11 of the finalists, with those stallions being named champions before they retired to stud duty. Of those finalists, three have champions on both sides of their pedigrees with their damsires also being named champion during their racing careers. Overall, 18 finalists have U.S., Canadian or European champions as their sire or damsire.
Highland Reel is by a champion and out of the daughter of a champion