Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Keeping It In the Family: Star Families in the Epsom Oaks and Derby

The month of May be walking out the backdoor this week but classic fans worry not, the next two weeks are full of classic races on both sides of the Atlantic.

This week two of the most important races in the world, the Epsom Derby and Oaks, take place on Friday and Saturday in England with participants from multiple countries running. While “Keeping It In the Family” has focused on one race per blog this year, this week’s observations will combine both races as they have some very interesting similarities.

Note: Due to publishing date and time, the Derby entry stats reflect runners before the final entry stage.

Scat Daddy was a Coolmore stallion at the time of his death.
Coolmore – It’s not unusual to see Coolmore stallions dominate races around the world with the Oaks and Derby being no different. While their ace stallion Galileo (Sadler’s Wells) has seven entries between the two races (six in the Derby at this entry stage and one in the Oaks), he isn’t the only Coolmore star here. Of the 30 runners in the two races, 14 (46.7 percent) are sired by stallions who either currently stand at the farm or stood there at the time of their death.

Dubawi – Dubawi (Dubai Millennium) has been a little quiet this year as rival Galileo has taken the spotlight in the early European classics but he has an interesting distinction here. Both runners in the Epsom Oaks who aren’t from Northern Dancer’s male line are sired by Dubawi. He doesn’t hold the same distinction in the Derby but is the sire of two of the four runners who aren’t from the Northern Dancer line. One other is from the Mr. Prospector line that Dubawi also descends from.

Commercial Run – It isn’t too unusual to see stallion ads in Europe noting that if the breeding to a stallion produces a filly, the dam can have a free return to the sire and there’s even the #ThisFillyCan campaign in the United Kingdom to try to get fillies a little more credit in the industry. But there’s also an interesting trend when looking at the number of fillies vs. colts that went through the ring who are entered in these races. Nine Derby entries (45 percent) sold at public auction while only two fillies sold at public auction (20 percent) and one other went through the ring but was a buy back.

Whisperview – Aidan O’Brien and wife Anne-Marie are important parts of the Coolmore puzzle, but did you know they also breed horses? Breeding under the name Whisperview, they have had much success through the years and are responsible for two entries in the Derby at this entry stage. Both are trained by Aidan O’Brien for Coolmore.

Aidan O'Brien with Coolmore's Michael Tabor after a Breeders' Cup victory.
Young and Old – There seems to be a nice balance between the younger and older sires this time around with the eight stallions with runners in the Oaks averaging 15 1/2 years of age and 13 ½ for the Derby. While there are the old faithfuls like Galileo, Invincible Spirit, Cape Cross and the like, there are also some exciting youngsters coming up with Frankel having two Derby entries in his first crop, Nathaniel having three between the Derby and the Oaks and the ill-fated Campanologist also having a Derby entry in his first crop. The first 3-year-olds sires did fare better in the Derby than the Oaks with Nathanial the only one from that group to have at least one Oaks entry.

Sadler’s Wells Sons – While it’s been many years since a Sadler’s Wells son or daughter has run in a classic, these races are putting his sons and grandsons in the spotlight. As said earlier, Galileo has seven entries between the two races but High Chaparral’s second-to-last crop has yielded two Derby entries and Montjeu’s son Pour Moi, who was recently moved to Coolmore’s National Hunt division, gives Montjeu representation here as a grandsire with Wings of Eagles. Even Yeats, who has shown a lot of promise as a jumps racing sire has an entry here with Diore Lia, though she’s a bit of a controversial Derby runner. Also mentioned earlier were runners by Frankel and Nathaniel, who are sons of Galileo along with Teofilo, taking Sadler’s Wells count of sons and grandsons with runners in the Oaks and Derby up to seven.

Nathaniel (Newsells Park photo)
Kingmambo – The late U.S.-based stallion Kingmambo (Mr. Prospector) has proven to be more of a top broodmare sire than a real siremaking machine and these races are no different. While his late son Campanologist has a runner in the Derby, his daughters account for two more of them. Perhaps his best son at stud is Lemon Drop Kid, who is also the broodmare sire of a runner in the Oaks along with another son in Dubai Destination. All but one of these runners duplicate a distant version of the successful Northern Dancer/Mr. Prospector cross of a few decades ago. Interestingly, the two Oaks entries both come from the Green Desert branch of the Northern Dancer line though through two different stallions. In the Derby, Campanologist’s Pealer is the only one who doesn’t duplicate that cross with his dam by Big Shuffle, who is a grandson of Bold Reasoning.

Galileo over Danehill and Family – The most successful cross in reason seasons seems to be Galileo over the Danehill/Danzig family and it will get another chance to show off this weekend. Of Galileo’s seven runners, four are out of mares sired by Danzig, his sons or grandsons. The cross is also being tried with Galileo sons with Nathanial’s Glencadam Glory out of a mare from Danzig’s line though that is the only cross with a Galileo son.

The cross is also working in reverse with Derby entry Crowned Eagle (Oasis Dream) by a great-grandson of Danzig and out of a Sadler’s Wells granddaughter.

Variety – While the sires in this race don’t provide much sire line diversity with 24 of the 30 (80 percent) by stallions from Northern Dancer’s male line and another five from the Mr. Prospector line, the broodmare sires represented in this race are here to help out. Yes, 14 of them also come from that same Northern Dancer line but the other 15 are from six different sire lines. Mill Reef, Blushing Groom and Atan all get shout outs here though as Atan and Blushing Groom have two runners each and Mill Reef has four with one in the Derby and three in the Oaks.

Active Broodmare Sires – They may be old enough to be “grandfathers” but no fewer than five stallions whose daughters have runners are still active breeding stallions. Galileo has the added distinction of being both the broodmare sire and sire of runners with runners on both sides of the coin in both the Derby and the Oaks. Giant’s Causeway gets credit for being the grandsire of a stallion with a runner in the Oaks in addition to being the broodmare sire of another runner (Lope de Vega’s Isabel De Urbina and Alluringly). 

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Keeping It In the Family: International Bloodlines in Irish 2,000 Guineas

War Front
After a classic-heavy month around the world, Ireland takes its place in the spotlight this weekend with the Irish 2,000 and 1,000 Guineas. The 2,000 Guineas attracted a small field of six for Saturday’s race but Galileo isn’t the man in charge with multiple runners here. U.S. sire War Front has the most runners with two in the field with four other stallions also having entries.

Galileo – Galileo only has one runner here but it’s a good one with his son Churchill winning the Qipco 2,000 Guineas three weeks ago and now going for the Irish equivalent. He also has one grandson in the race, sired by Teofilo. Galileo has had a decent amount of representation in classics as a broodmare sire the last few years but neither he or his sire, Sadler’s Wells, have any daughters with runners here.

War Front – War Front (Danzig) has been a huge hit in Europe and this year has sired the most Irish 2,000 Guineas runners of any sires. Not surprisingly, both War Fronts are owned by Coolmore and partners with that global powerhouse heavily supporting the stallion the last few years. This is arguably the best crop of 3-year-olds to date for War Front and they could go extremely far in helping erase the reputation he has in Europe of only being a 2-year-old sire if they perform well in races like this.

The Next Generation – The sire power of the newer sires around the world has been a large topic of conversation on this blog lately and the Irish 2,000 Guineas in another race where the young guns in the breeding shed are represented. Of the five different sires with horses in the race, two are stallions with their first 3-year-olds (Casamento and Helmet) and two others are still fairly young with their first crop hitting the ground in 2009 (Teofilo and War Front). Galileo has six years on all of them with that stallion entering the shed in 2002, the year War Front was born.

Stud Fees – Last week when looking at how stud fees had risen with the sires who had runners in the Preakness, it looked like there was a big fee increase for multiple U.S.-based stallions between 2013, when this crop was conceived, and 2017. Kentucky-based War Front follows that U.S. theme with a jump from $80,000 (approx. €71,190 today) in 2013 to $250,000 (approx. €222,469) in 2017. Stud farms in Europe seem to be a bit more conservative when raising fees and this group of stallions shows that. Galileo has been private for years, so it’s hard to know exactly how his fee has moved (odds are very good that it has risen steadily) but Casamento has pretty much stayed the same with his stud fee just changing from euros to pounds (5,000 in both denominations, though moving to pounds raised his fee by a few Euros in today’s exchange rate) and Helmet doing the same in the €10,000 fee range. The only European stallion to make a fee jump was Teofilo, who moved from €35,000 in 2015 to €40,000 this year.

Because of War Front’s large stud fee jump, the average stud fee of the four stallions with advertised fees jumped from €30,297 in 2013 to €69,950 this year.

U.S. Damsires – Six different stallions sired the broodmares who produced this year’s Irish 2,000 Guineas runners. The U.S. holds a few bragging rights here with three of the six runners out of mares by U.S.-based stallions. Of those stallions, two are still standing with More Than Ready (Southern Halo) at a fee of €53,392 in 2017 and Grindstone at a fee of €1,334. Race favorite Churchill is out of a mare by the legendary U.S. stallion Storm Cat (Storm Bird), who obviously has a few European connections outside this horse through his own sire Storm Bird and his son Giant’s Causeway. Giant’s Causeway also gives Storm Cat some representation through the male line of runners with Giant’s Causeway grandson Casamento siring Glastonbury Song.

More Than Ready
Auctions – After looking at the Preakness field last week where all but one of the horses had been sold at public auction at least once, it’s interesting to note that according to Equineline, only two horses in this field have sold at auction. There are a few who are running under names other than their breeders, making it look like they were probably sold privately but only $850,000 (€756,396) Keeneland November weanling purchase Spirit of Valor (War Front) and €31,0000 Goffs Sportsman’s Sale yearling Glastonbury Song (Casamento) have sold in the ring.

With every runner in the race coming from the Northern Dancer sire line in this race, the chart below shows the broodmare sire line of each runner.


Horse (Sire)
Broodmare Sire
Broodmare Sire Line
Churchill (Galileo)
Storm Cat
Northern Dancer
Glastonbury Song (Casamento)
More Than Ready
Irishcorrespondent (Teofilo)
Mark of Esteem
Shirley Heights
Lancaster Bomber (War Front)
Indian Ridge
Orderofthegarter (War Front)
Northern Dancer
Pipes of Peace (Galileo)
Northern Dancer
Spirit of Valor (War Front)
Mr. Prospector
Thunder Snow (Helmet)
Dubai Destination
Mr. Prospector
War Decree (War Front)
Street Cry
Mr. Prospector

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Keeping It In the Family: Mr. Prospector Reigns in Preakness

Mr. Prospector (WikiMedia Commons/Pawneese photo)
It seems like it’s only been days since Always Dreaming (Bodemeister) crossed the line first in the Kentucky Derby but it’s time to get back on track for the Preakness Stakes. The field attracted 10 horses with five familiar faces from the Kentucky Derby and five fresh faces who sat out the run for the roses out.

With new horses comes a new set of pedigrees to analyze and there are a few interesting points to know as we head into the second leg of the United States’ Triple Crown.

Mr. Prospector – If you like Mr. Prospector and sons, this is the race for you. Mr. Prospector (Raise a Native) is responsible for the sire lines of five of the entries (50 percent) and three of the damsires. Recently repatriated Empire Maker is responsible for the morning line favorite and second choice with son Bodemeister siring Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming and another son, Pioneerof the Nile, siring last year’s champion 2-year-old Classic Empire. Empire Maker’s sire Unbridled's branch has three of the Mr. Prospector lined horses in the field (two sire lines, one damsire line), including being the damsire of Gunnevera. Forty Niner also gives the Mr. Prospector blood to two horses with Cloud Computing being a great-grandson and Multiplier out of a Trippi (Forty Niner grandson) daughter.

Interestingly, though Mr. Prospector’s line is found on both the top and bottom sides of pedigrees in this race not one horse doubles up on his sireline, which you don’t see often. Overall, eight of the Preakness runners (80 percent) can trace their sire or damsire line to Mr. Prospector.

In Excess – In Excess (Siberian Express) seems to always quietly pop up in stakes races and this race is no different. His grandson Uncle Mo (Indian Charlie) has spread his line far and wide the last few years and is in here with 2016 Keeneland November $8,500 purchase Conquest Mo Money. But that’s not the only place you’ll find the late In Excess. He is also the damsire of Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming, who is trying to win the second leg of the Triple Crown in this race.

Mineshaft – Horse of the Year Mineshaft may not be the first son thought of when you think of A.P. Indy (Seattle Slew), but thanks to him, the Indy sireline is alive and well at the Preakness. While A.P. Indy is the damsire of two Preakness contenders (Hence and Cloud Computing), Mineshaft is the grandsire of two Preakness contenders in Gunnevera (Dialed In) and Senior Investment (Discreetly Mine) as the only A.P. Indy son with representatives here. Mineshaft is sneakily starting to keep his branch of the Seattle Slew line’s sire-of-sires reputation going with Dialed In being the No. 1 ranked First-Crop sire by earnings in 2016 and a few other nice sons coming up over the next few years.


Stud Fees – Looking back now, the stud fees for the sires of this year’s Preakness entries probably looks like a deal. Combined, the 2013 stud fees for those stallions cost $234,000 going off of advertised fees with an average of $23,400. The least expensive was Maclean’s Music (Distorted Humor) at $6,500 while the most expensive was Tiznow at $75,000. That average has risen to $47,611 (as of the time fees were announced for 2017 this winter) for the nine stallions still standing in the U.S. with Discreetly Mine sold to Uruguay last summer when standing for a $5,000 fee in the U.S.

There have been some major price hikes since this crop was conceived in 2013 with Pioneerof the Nile rising from $15,000 to $110,000 and Uncle Mo from $35,000 to $150,000. Overall, six of the 10 stallions have had their stud fees raised from 2013 to 2017 with Bodemeister’s fee recently going private after standing for an advertised fee of $25,000 earlier this year.

Uncle Mo has had a large fee increase since 2013.
Auction Prices – All but one horse in the Preakness Stakes sold at auction as a weanling or yearling, averaging $185,333 with 2-year-old champion Classic Empire being the most expensive at $475,000 and Gunnevera the least expensive at $16,000. Only Conquest Mo Money has been through the ring since selling as a weanling or yearling, bringing $8,500 during the Conquest Stables Dispersal last November. Each of the nine horses to sell brought over two times their sire’s 2013 stud fee with every horse to sell going through the Keeneland sales pavilion (Conquest Mo Money originally sold through Fasig-Tipton as a yearling but was reoffered last year at Keeneland.) None of the horses in the Preakness went through the ring at a 2-year-old sale and Hence (Street Boss) is the only horse to be raced by his breeder (Calumet Farm).

Horse (Sire)
Sire Line
Branch of Sire Line
Always Dreaming (Bodemeister)
Mr. Prospector
Classic Empire (Pioneerof the Nile)
Mr. Prospector
Cloud Computing (Maclean’s Music)
Mr. Prospector
Forty Niner
Conquest Mo Money (Uncle Mo)
In Excess
Gunnevera (Dialed In)
A.P. Indy
Hence (Street Boss)
Mr. Prospector
Lookin at Lee (Lookin At Lucky)
Mr. Prospector
Smart Strike
Multiplier (The Factor)
Northern Dancer
Senior Investment (Discreetly Mine)
A.P. Indy
Term of Art (Tiznow)
In Reality

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Young Guns Hope to Usher in U.S. Breeding Golden Era

If you’ve been on social media the last few years, you’ve probably seen people complain about the lack of good young sires in the U.S. gene pool.

After Bodemeister (Empire Maker) became the second consecutive first-crop sire to produce a Grade 1 Kentucky Derby winner last Saturday, I decided to dig into the data to see if the younger stallion pool is as weak as some claim. I looked at the top three finishers in every Kentucky Derby from 2010 to 2017, since that’s often theoretically where you should find the best-of-the-best routing sires in North America represented, to see if the young guns stack up.

What I found actually looks pretty decent for the younger generations.

In the time period that was reviewed, 24 different stallions had a horse hit the board in the Kentucky Derby with no stallion having more than one horse hit the board in that time. Sixteen of those 24 stallions (67 percent) produced that on-the-board finisher in one of his first four crops. Of the eight stallions to sire a winner of the Kentucky Derby, six (75 percent) have done so in their first four crops with Bodemeister and Uncle Mo the only two to achieve the feat in their first crop.
It is traditionally said that years two through four in the breeding shed are generally the hardest time for a younger sire because for the most part they fade a bit in breeders’ memories until 2-year-olds hit the track. Interestingly, those corresponding crops (numbers through five) count for 11 (46 percent) on-the-board finishers in the Kentucky Derby from 2010 through 2017.

The average age for the stallions in this exercise was 13 years of age with the oldest stallion to sire an on-the-board performer being Smart Strike (Mr Prospector), who sired this year’s third place finisher Battle of Midway in his 16th crop. The last Kentucky Derby where older stallions dominated the board was 2010 when the youngest stallion was Pulpit (A.P. Indy), whose Ice Box came from his ninth crop. Since then, stallions with more than five crops of 3-year-olds have only hit the board in 2013, 2016 and 2017. The last stallion with more than four crops of 3-year-olds to win the race was Malibu Moon (A.P. Indy) in 2013.

Interestingly from a pedigree standpoint, Mr. Prospector (Raise a Native) has been a dominant force in the Kentucky Derby in recent years. The stallion’s sire line swept the top three spots in 2017 and 2012 with Smart Strike (Mr. Prospector) playing a huge part this year as the grandsire of the second place finisher and sire of third place finisher. Last year he was also the grandsire of the second place finisher.

In all, 10 of the top three finishers in the Derby in the last eight years have been from the Mr. Prospector sire line with the Fappiano branch accounting for half of them (getting even farther down, Empire Maker has accounted for three of that branch’s representatives). Smart Strike for another three while Machiavellian and Forty Niner bring in one a piece.
Empire Maker
Much like when looking at this year’s Kentucky Derby field last week, A.P. Indy’s (Seattle Slew) sire line comes in second with five representatives, including the exacta in 2014 with California Chrome (Lucky Pulpit) and Commanding Curve (Master Command) and winning the year before that with Orb (Malibu Moon). The Northern Dancer (Nearctic) line takes up third place with four runners hitting the board including the second and third place finishers in 2015.

The Kentucky Derby has seen multiple father and son pairs with runners hitting the board in this time period. The latest was Smart Strike and Lookin at Lucky this year (as mentioned earlier, Smart Strike’s Curlin also had one finish on the board last year). Empire Maker is a bit unique in that he is joined by sons Bodemeister and Pioneerof the Nile in this stat as well with Bodemeister being both the runner who got him on the board and a son who got him his second win as a grandsire (Pioneerof the Nile also finished second in the Kentucky Derby but that was before the time period discussed in this article). Pulpit and Lucky Pulpit also join the group with Pulpit’s Ice Box finishing second in 2010 and Lucky Pulpit’s California Chrome winning in 2014.

While some peoples’ worries seem to be that we have no younger sires to take up the slack when stallions such as Tapit (16 years old), Medaglia d’Oro (18 years old) and Candy Ride (18 years old), just to name a few, are pensioned it looks like there is a nice group coming up behind them who are already building their credentials.

Perhaps a bigger worry may be that only three lines seem to control the Kentucky Derby (and perhaps gene pool), though the many branches sprouting from those main sires seems to provide some genetic diversity that should help with that as well.

Crop Number
Sireline (Son)
Always Dreaming
1st (2017)
Mr. Prospector (Fappiano)
Lookin at Lee
2nd (2017)
Lookin at Lucky
Mr. Prospector (Smart Strike)
Battle of Midway
3rd (2017)
Smart Strike
Mr. Prospector
1st (2016)
Uncle Mo
Caro (Siberian Express)
2nd (2016)
Mr. Prospector (Smart Strike)
Gun Runner
3rd (2016)
Candy Ride
Mr. Prospector (Fappiano)
1st (2015)
Pioneerof the Nile
Mr. Prospector (Fappiano)
Firing Line
2nd (2015)
Line of David
Northern Dancer (Storm Bird)
3rd (2015)
Big Brown
Northern Dancer (Danzig)
California Chrome
1st (2014)
Lucky Pulpit
A.P. Indy (Pulpit)
Commanding Curve
2nd (2014)
Master Command
A.P. Indy
3rd (2014)
Street Boss
Mr. Prospector (Machiavellian)
1st (2013)
Malibu Moon
A.P. Indy
Golden Soul
2nd (2013)
Perfect Soul
Northern Dancer (Sadler’s Wells)
3rd (2013)
War Pass
Blushing Groom (Runaway Groom)
I’ll Have Another
1st (2012)
Flower Alley
Mr. Prospector (Forty Niner)
2nd (2012)
Empire Maker
Mr. Prospector (Fappiano)
3rd (2012)
Even the Score
Mr. Prospector (Fappiano)
Animal Kingdom
1st (2011)
Blushing Groom (Candy Stripes)
2nd (2011)
A.P. Indy
Mucho Macho Man
3rd (2011)
Macho Uno
Rough’n Tumble (Minnesota Mac)
Super Saver
1st (2010)
Maria’s Mon
Majestic Prince (Majestic Light)
Ice Box
2nd (2010)
A.P. Indy
Paddy O’ Prado
3rd (2010)
El Prado
Northern Dancer (Sadler’s Wells)