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Updated: 29 min 19 sec ago

‘Traffic’ On Song As Champion Freshman

Mon, 2018-12-31 15:07

Musicians and writers have often found death to be a lucrative career move, prompting a dramatic spike in sales as the media reminds a neglectful public of what they have just lost. After the passing of B.B. King, for instance, Spotify reported a streaming increase of over 9,000%. That’s human nature. But an equivalent rise in the fortunes of deceased stallions–Scat Daddy being the most conspicuous example–must be attributed to the sheer cussedness of fate.

In the case of Unbridled’s Song, the emergence of Arrogate and Liam’s Map after his death in 2013 not only improved his profile as his sire’s most successful son at stud, it also promises to contribute to an ongoing transformation of his reputation as a sire of sires. At that stage, his sons had largely failed to build on what was proving, collectively, only a respectable impact. Certainly he did not appear to have left Kentucky an outstanding heir. But with Arrogate and Liam’s Map soon to stake their own claims, Unbridled’s Song has ended 2018 with two leading achievers among the freshman sires.

Will Take Charge’s debut crop placed him fifth in the earnings table, while promising to do better yet with maturity around two turns. But the laurels of champion go to Cross Traffic, whose headline act was GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies winner Jaywalk, but who also separated himself from his peers with four other black-type winners from a total of 47 starters. His fee for 2019 has been duly elevated by Spendthrift from $7,500 to $25,000.

Hats off to B. Wayne Hughes, Ned Toffey and the Spendthrift team, incidentally, for also hosting the leading freshman by number of winners in Goldencents (Into Mischief). It looks as though the farm’s top gun is not going to delay as long as Unbridled’s Song in establishing himself as a sire of sires.

The precocity of Cross Traffic’s stock might suggest a contrast with his own profile, as he did not race until he was four. But he quickly proved himself a natural-born racehorse. Trained by Todd Pletcher for GoldMark Farm, the $300,000 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga yearling (bred by Diamond A Racing Corp) hurtled through the ranks to win maiden and allowance races at Gulfstream early in the year; ran multiple Grade I winner Flat Out (Flatter) to a head in the GIII Westchester S., the pair 11 lengths clear; and then was foiled only by the nose of Sahara Sky (Pleasant Tap), with Flat Out back in third, in the GI Metropolitan H. That race has, of course, volunteered many stallion prospects over the years, and Cross Traffic sealed his elite caliber by winning the GI Whitney S. (with subsequent Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Mucho Macho Man {Macho Uno} well held in third). He bombed out in the GI Jockey Club Gold Cup, however, and that proved to be that.

It was meteoric stuff, dazzling but brief. Retired to Spendthrift at $12,500, he took consecutive trims to $10,000 and $7,500 to protect a book that opened at 123 before taking the customary dip to 106, 71 and only 60 mares this year. He will obviously get a massive upgrade in quality as well as quantity now, but must hope that his smaller crops can help him ride things out in the meantime.

If a truncated career is hardly inconsistent with aspersions about the durability of his sire’s stock, it augurs well for Cross Traffic that his dam Stop Traffic (Cure The Blues) won a dozen times in 35 starts, including two Grade I prizes in the Ballerina H. and Santa Monica H.

She is a prolific producer of winners at a lesser level, two in minor stakes company, and half-sister to the dam of four-time Grade III winner Gouldings Green (Charismatic). But the fact is that you’re quickly into the long grass with this family. That’s hardly uncommon with good horses, runners and sires alike, so let’s call it a welcome diversity because something is clearly working.

It also gives Cross Traffic outcross eligibility in being free of Northern Dancer; while New York legend Cure The Blues is a very legitimate conduit of noble blood as a broodmare sire. His dam was by Dr Fager out of Speedwell, who has an auspicious kinship with Secretariat: Speedwell is also by Bold Ruler, and out of Secretariat’s grand-dam Imperatrice. (Dr Fager, incidentally, recurs in the top half of Cross Traffic’s pedigree as damsire of Fappiano, the grandsire of Unbridled’s Song.)

Mind you, we should have known that all this might combine to produce a possible successor to Unbridled’s Song. Cross Traffic won his Grade I at Saratoga Aug. 3, 2013–just eight days after the death of his sire. Later at the same meet ,Will Take Charge won his first Grade I in the Travers. The contest to carve a fitting memorial had begun.

Ken Ramsey On Champion Sire Kitten’s Joy

Mon, 2018-12-31 14:10

It has become commonplace to see Kitten’s Joy’s name not just atop the leading sires of turf runners, but in the top five on the general sire list. This year, he had to come from behind to win the title after Candy Ride’s Gun Runner picked up a cool $7 million in the Pegasus World Cup. Lucas Marquardt sat down with Ken Ramsey, who moved Kitten’s Joy from Ramsey Farm to Hill `n’ Dale for the 2018 season, to talk about the big guy.

TDN: Candy Ride gets a $7-million head start coming into the year with Gun Runner winning the Pegasus. Did you think at the time that Kitten’s Joy could ever make up that ground and be champion sire this year?

KR: I did because he’s been in the top five every single year, and he ran third in 2014, 2015, and 2017, and fifth in 2016, and of course he won the sire of the year for 2013. This will be the sixth year in a row that he’s been the leading turf sire. So he’s in the top five every year. His first year at stud, we bred him to a lot of mares and most of them were not very good. You ain’t got but 14 or 15 outside mares and the rest of them were mine. But some of the outside mares did well for a very small crop to start out with. Since then he’s been right there on the top. After the first three or four years out, he started getting up top 10 and then top five a year later. So I wasn’t shocked.

TDN: As you mentioned, he’s had six great years as leading turf sire. With this being his second general sire title, where do you think that kind of puts him among the modern greats of recent stallions?

KR: Well, I think it puts him right at the top.

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TDN: Last year you sold 50% of them to Hill ‘n’ Dale and you know you kept on going from strength to strength. Do you miss having him here on the farm? I know you kind of view him as family, don’t you?

KR: Yes, as you know Kitten’s Joy was actually (my wife Sarah’s) horse. We’ve been married 60 years as of September the 6th this year. So, we are 50/50 on everything. We don’t quibble about the money or anything like that or horses. Anyway we started out, she had her horses and I had mine. The very first year we would have been the leading owner in the fall meet over at Churchill Downs if we’d have combined forces. Anyway, we didn’t. So I said, “Hey, we need to join forces here.” So we joined forces and we kept the big R. But anyway, Kitten’s Joy was her horse. She named him. I didn’t even want to name him Kitten’s Joy. I thought that sounded too feminine, you know, for a colt. Buy anyway, she said “It’s my horse and I think we’ll have a lot of fun with him. I want to name him Kitten’s Joy.” So, you don’t argue with a woman if you’ve lived with her all this time. So, we named him Kitten’s Joy.

TDN: So you’re the boss, is what I’m hearing…

KR: She got the name and I got a little bit discouraged because I didn’t think the yearlings were bringing satisfactory at the sales. So, I cut a deal with the people over in Europe and had a verbal deal to sell him, nothing in writing. I operate a handshake deal so I give a verbal and that’s it. I mean we were not going to back out on it, not matter if somebody comes along and offers twice as much. But anyway, she has to sign the papers and I thought I was speaking for her too so I cam in and I said “hey I just got off the phone. Decided we are going to send Kitten’s Joy over to Europe. We got a heck of a deal. We get to keep this and keep that.” It wasn’t a bad deal and she says “I am not selling that horse to go overseas.” And I said “you’re not.” And she said “no, I want to keep him here so I can go see him to visit him.” So anyway, I call the people up and say “hey we got a little problem. I’m not trying to back out I’m good for it.” Anyway long story short we worked out a deal. We give ’em three seasons … I won’t go into detail. But anyway, we got out of it honorably, okay. They were happy, they didn’t put up any money at all. They ended up getting several seasons. So, I’m happy and they’re happy and seems like John Sikura is very happy out at Hill ‘n’ Dale.

We decided we need to get somebody else to bring in some good mares because I got tired of breeding the $25,000 and $30,000 claimers. And they were still producing a high percentage of Grade I stakes horses, Grade IIs and IIIs. So anyway, we invited all the people around here. Hank had about six different farms interested in the horse. They all came down and made their pitch. At the end we got it down to two and we had them come back and make a separate pitch. And in the end, John Sikura is young, he’s ambitious, he’s honest, he comes from Canada, he has all the contacts, and he bred him to 164 mares this past year. Some of those were mine, but he got contacts like a who’s who.

We had some good people breed to him, too, like his highness Sheikh Mohammed and his brother. They bred 10. That’s where he got Hawkbill and all the big horses over there. When those started hitting, I mean we saw if we breed this horse to a good mare, A Grade I or II mare or somebody that did something besides break their maiden for $25-$50,000, big things happen. I wasn’t shocked when he got number one on the general sire list again this year.

TDN: How much of selling half of him to John was improving his commercial numbers? He’s always been a terrific race sire, but for whatever reason he just wasn’t quiet as strong in the sale ring?

KR: That is exactly right. That did improve his commercial numbers. The fact that John got him it looks like now he’s going to have a more successful year. He had yearlings out there sell for (700,000 pounds), $725,000, $650,000, $600,000 so the commercial thing has already looked up because John is managing him now and he’s got better mares to him. He’s got a lot of good horses in the pipeline. Of course, what he’s got done now, that’s all of ours because John won’t have any impact on it until the foals of 2019; those will be the ones that he picked out. 2018 was all of ours and ’17 and all of that. We’re kind of proud of the fact that we’ve taken one horse out here and end up winning two Breeders’ Cups with him and come close another year.

TDN: For a long time, if there was a good Kitten’s Joy, it was wearing the red and white of the Ramsey Farm, and now you are seeing Hawkbill and Oscar Performance and Divisidero.

KR: Don’t forget about Roaring Lion. He’s the Cartier Horse of the Year in Europe this year.

TDN: So, is it fun for you to see other people having success with them?

KR: Oh, yeah. We feel like it’s our success. There are three of Kitten’s Joy’s sons going to sire this year. Hawkbill, for his highness Sheik Mohammed. He’sgoing to be standing for(7,500 pounds); Roaring Lion standing over at Tweenhills in England for Qatar Racing stands for 40,000 pounds over there. And Oscar Performance out here that the Amermans have standing out here in Mill Ridge for $20,000. So, looks like there’s gonna be some pedigrees with the Kitten’s Joy’s blood in it for a long time to come.

Pioneerof the Nile Filly a Rising Star at Santa Anita

Sun, 2018-12-30 17:57

Juddmonte Farms’ Anuket, a $575,000 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga yearling purchase, strode home an unchallenged 4 1/4-length winner of her debut at Santa Anita Sunday to become the newest ‘TDN Rising Star.’ In the mix from the start, the 8-5 favorite contested the pace four wide down the backstretch through a quarter in :21.73. She took command at the top of the stretch after a half in :45.08 and strode clear effortlessly, completing the six furlongs in 1:10.59. Miss Ava’s Union (Union Rags) was second and Bizwhacks (Fed Biz) was third.

Anuket is a daughter of graded stakes placed Rashnaa, a half-sister to stakes winner Mistda (Runaway Groom). The filly was bred by Pollock Farms and Town and Country Horse Farms, who purchased her dam for $150,000 at the 2012 Keeneland November sale. The mare, who produced a colt by Medaglia d’Oro last year, died in 2018.

Juddmonte’s Garrett O’Rourke signed the ticket on Anuket at the 2017 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga sale and the filly was part of a group of four fillies purchased there with the long-term plan of breeding to the operation’s champion Arrogate (Unbridled’s Song). The group also included a $750,000 daughter of Curlin who is now named Deep Space. Still unraced, the filly worked four furlongs at Santa Anita Sunday in :50.00. Quotation, an unraced Congrats filly purchased for $400,000 at the auction, worked five furlongs at Santa Anita Saturday in 1:01.80. Click for the Equibase.com chart or and the free Equineline.com catalogue-style pedigree. VIDEO, sponsored by Fasig-Tipton.

6th-Santa Anita, $56,035, Msw, 12-30, 2yo, f, 6f, 1:10.59, ft.
ANUKET, f, 2, by Pioneerof the Nile 
                1st Dam: Rashnaa (GSP, $394,723), by Tapit
                2nd Dam: Tanuki, by Affirmed
                3rd Dam: Silver Mink, by Vice Regent
$575,000 Ylg ’17 FTSAUG. Lifetime Record: 1-1-0-0, $33,000. O-Juddmonte Farms, Inc.; B-Town & Country Horse Farms, LLC & Pollock Farms (KY); T-Bob Baffert.

Giza Goddess Scores in Blue Norther

Sun, 2018-12-30 16:59

BLUE NORTHER S., $78,435, Santa Anita, 12-30, 2yo, f, 1mT, 1:34.64, fm.
1–GIZA GODDESS, 120, f, 2, by Cairo Prince
                1st Dam: Comfort and Joy, by Harlan’s Holiday
                2nd Dam: Comfort Zone, by Rubiano
                3rd Dam: So Cozy, by Lyphard
($200,000 Ylg ’17 KEESEP). 1ST BLACK TYPE WIN. O-Mercedes
Stables LLC, West Point Thoroughbreds, Scott Dilworth,
Dorothy and David Ingordo & F. Steve Mooney; B-Clarkland
Farm (KY); T-John A. Shirreffs; J-Brice Blanc. $46,440. Lifetime
Record: 6-2-0-1, $92,980. *Second stakes winner for freshman
sire (by Pioneerof the Nile).
2–Colonial Creed, 120, f, 2, Jimmy Creed–Neverthesame, by
Scat Daddy. ($160,000 RNA Ylg ’17 KEESEP). O-Doug Branham,
Richard Baltas & Jerry McClanahan; B-Doug & Felicia Branham
(KY); T-Richard Baltas. $15,480.
3–Thriving (GB), 120, f, 2, Kodiac (GB)–Najam (GB), by Singspiel
(Ire). (30,000gns Ylg ’17 TAOCT; 110,000gns 2yo ’18 TATAHI).
O-Red Baron’s Barn LLC and Rancho Temescal LLC; B-Rabbah
Bloodstock Limited (GB); T-Jeff Mullins. $9,288.
Margins: HF, 2 1/4, HD. Odds: 5.60, 6.00, 4.30.
Also Ran: Lady Prancealot (Ire), Courteous, Splashy Kisses, Cedars of Lebanon (Ire), Data Storm Kitty.

Giza Goddess became freshman sire Cairo Prince’s second stakes with a determined victory in the Blue Norther S. at Santa Anita Sunday. The gray filly was caught four wide going into the first turn before settling off the pace behind a quarter in :23.08. She rushed up to challenge for the lead after a half in :46.54, stuck a head in front in upper stretch. Three furlongs from home, Giza Goddess appeared to shift in about a half lane and at that point, Colonial Creed and Rafael Bejarano got shuffled back a bit. After holding Colonial Creed at bay for the half-length victory, Giza Goddess then survived an inquiry and a claim of foul by Bejarano. The stewards determined the incident did not cost Colonial Creed a better placing and no change was made.

“I was a little worried because she was leaning on horses today,” admitted winning jockey Brice Blanc. “She’s still a little green, but she’s got a ton of potential. I’ve had the chance to ride her on the grass in all three of her most recent starts and she keeps improving every time. I think there’s more potential. She still doesn’t know exactly what she’s supposed to do and that’s what happened today when I passed Rafael. She started to lean a little bit and went on. It was enough to look a little tight.”

Switched to the turf after opening her career with three off-the-board main-track efforts, Giza Goddess was third at Del Mar Nov. 10 before a resounding 5 1/4-length maiden victory at the oceanside oval Dec. 1.

“I think switching to the turf is what has moved her up,” said winning trainer John Shirreffs. “It’s made all the difference with this filly. It was nice to be able to run back again at a mile, but beating maidens is one thing and beating winners is another. After a maiden win you always wonder how they’re going to do against winners. This was a big step up for her and in her last race, she had the outside post so she had to hustle to get to the lead. I was wondering if she’d settle well today, and she did.”

Comfort and Joy, a half-sister to graded stakes winner The Pamplemousse (Kafwain), was bred to Cupid this year. Click for the Equibase.com chart or VIDEO, sponsored by Fasig-Tipton.

 

Noble Mission Filly Debut Winner at Gulfstream

Sun, 2018-12-30 15:59

8th-Gulfstream, $40,800, Msw, 12-30, 2yo, f, 1mT, 1:37.00, fm.
MISSION FROM ELLE (f, 2, Noble Mission {GB}–Wild as Elle, by Elnadim), sent off at 7-1, stalked the pace from the rail through an opening quarter in :23.17. Forced to steady behind foes down the backstretch, she waited for racing room turning for home before sneaking through along the hedge and bounding home a 2 1/2-length winner. Delta’s Kingdom (Animal Kingdom) was second and Silver Kitten (Kitten’s Joy) was third. Mission from Elle, who RNA’d for $70,000 as a KEENOV weanling, is a half-sister to Cougar Ridge (Johannesburg, GSP-Ire & MSW-US, $534,979). Wild as Elle’s weanling colt by Verrazano RNA’d for $33,000 at last month’s Keeneland November sale. The mare, a half-sister to the dam of MGISW Iotapa (Afleet Alex), was bred back to Classic Empire. Click for the Equibase.com chart or VIDEO, sponsored by Fasig-Tipton. Lifetime Record: 1-1-0-0, $24,000.
O-Run Like Elle, LLC; B-Kelly Colliver & Wild as Elle LLC (KY); T-Brendan P. Walsh.

 

NYRA to Offer Wood Memorial, “Ship and Win” Bonuses

Sun, 2018-12-30 14:53

The New York Racing Association (NYRA) has reinstated a bonus program for potential starters in the Apr. 6 GII Wood Memorial S. at Aqueduct in a move that could increase the race’s total purse to $1 million. As an incentive for the 1 1/8-mile Wood Memorial, a purse bonus of $250,000 will be applied if any horse in the field that is declared an official starter registers a Grade I or Group 1 victory prior to running in the race. Should a Grade or Group 1 winner become an official starter and trigger the increase, the Wood Memorial winner would earn $535,000, with the runner-up garnering $185,000 and third-place collecting $100,000.

As part of the “Road to the Kentucky Derby” prep series, the Wood Memorial offers 100 qualifying points to the winner, 40 points to second, 20 to third and 10 to fourth as horses move toward potential starts in the GI Kentucky Derby May 4.

NYRA has also enacted a pair of shipping incentive programs that will return in 2019 at the Aqueduct and Belmont spring meets. Under the “ship and win” program, horses that made their previous start at Oaklawn Park are eligible for a 30% bonus for their first two starts in New York, as well as a $1,500 shipping stipend for a start during either the Aqueduct spring or Belmont spring/summer meets, excluding stakes races.

Additionally, horses who made their previous start at either Gulfstream Park or Tampa Bay Downs may be eligible for a shipping subsidy for a start during the Aqueduct spring meet, excluding stakes races. Owners who ship horses from Florida and make their first start from Mar. 8 through Mar. 31 will receive $2,000, while horses shipped in from the Sunshine State and make their first start from Apr. 5 through Apr. 20 will be credited $1,500. First-time starters are ineligible for either program.

 

Speightstown Filly Overwhelms Rivals in American Oaks

Sat, 2018-12-29 19:03

Klaravich Stables Inc.’s Competitionofideas (Speighstown) didn’t enter Saturday’s GI American Oaks at Santa Anita with quite the profile of a typical Chad Brown trainee competing at the highest level, but the result was what it usually is as the 5-1 shot inhaled her competition to give her conditioner his 20th Grade I win of 2018. The $325,000 KEESEP yearling dropped back to last and tucked in for a ground-saving trip as huge longshot K P Pergoliscious (Ire) (Declaration of War) showed the way through splits of :24.02, :47.86 and 1:11.95 with stablemate Amandine (GB) (Shamardal) in closest pursuit. Given her cue to quicken out wide heading for home, Competitionofideas leveled off powerfully in midstretch and blew away the embattled frontrunners late to air by 2 3/4 lengths. K P Pergoliscious fended off her much more heralded stablemate for second.

Saturday, Santa Anita
AMERICAN OAKS-GI, $301,035, Santa Anita, 12-29, 3yo, f, 1 1/4mT, 1:59.77, fm.
1–COMPETITIONOFIDEAS, 120, f, 3, by Speightstown
1st Dam: Devil by Design (GSW, $268,041), by Medaglia d’Oro
2nd Dam: Beauty’s Due, by Devil His Due
3rd Dam: Beauty’s Sake, by Lyphard’s Ridge
1ST BLACK-TYPE WIN, 1ST GRADED STAKES WIN, 1ST GRADE I
WIN. ($325,000 Ylg ’16 KEESEP). O-Klaravich Stables, Inc.;
B-John D. Gunther, Tony Chedraoui & Eurowest Bloodstock
Services (KY); T-Chad C. Brown; J-Joel Rosario. $180,000.
Lifetime Record: 7-3-1-2, $315,568. Werk Nick Rating: A+++
*Triple Plus*. Click for the eNicks report & 5-cross pedigree.
2–K P Pergoliscious (Ire), 120, f, 3, by Declaration of War
1st Dam: Inkling, by Seeking the Gold
2nd Dam: Number, by Nijinsky II
3rd Dam: Special, by Forli
($70,000 RNA Ylg ’16 KEESEP; $52,000 Ylg ’16 FTKOCT). O-Karl
Pergola; B-Tower Bloodstock (IRE); T-Jeff Mullins. $60,000.
3–Amandine (GB), 120, f, 3, by Shamardal
1st Dam: Kissable (Ire), by Danehill Dancer (Ire)
2nd Dam: Kitty O’Shea (GB), by Sadler’s Wells
3rd Dam: Eva Luna, by Alleged
O-Red Baron’s Barn, LLC, Rancho Temescal, LLC & Shanderella
Stables; B-Lordship Stud (GB); T-Jeff Mullins. $36,000.
Margins: 2 3/4, HD, 1 1/4. Odds: 5.10, 90.70, 4.20.
Also Ran: Colonia (Fr), Paved, Princess Warrior, Californiagoldrush, Retro. Scratched: Kodiak West (Ire).
Click for the Equibase.com chart, the TJCIS.com PPs or the free Equineline.com catalogue-style pedigree. VIDEO, sponsored by Fasig-Tipton.

“She broke well, we saved ground, and we took one shot,” said Rosario, who himself has had a banner year and is in the conversation for an Eclipse Award. “I thought we would be closer but everybody wanted their spot so I just let her settle.

Close, but unable to break through in a trio of tries as the favorite in New York in the spring and early summer, Competitionofideas was off from July 22 to Sept. 7, when she cruised home an 8 1/2-length graduate at Belmont over three next-out winners. She followed up with an allowance tally some six weeks later, but settled for a belated third in the rained-off Winter Memories S. at the Big A Nov. 22.

Brown teamed up with Rosario earlier this month at Del Mar to annex both the GI Hollywood Derby and GI Matriarch S., and he sent out fellow Klaravich Stables colorbearer Identity Politics (Into Mischief) to a runner-up finish in the GI Malibu S. here on opening day Wednesday. This was the fifth Grade I of the year, with five different horses, for Seth Klarman’s Klaravich.

“It’s great to finish out the year like this,” said Brown’s assistant Jose Fernandez. “This filly had settled in real good here at Santa Anita and she was doing good coming into this race. She finished up really strong today.”

Pedigree Notes:

Competitionofideas capped an incredible year for co-breeders John and Tanya Gunther, who were also responsible for the likes of Triple Crown winner Justify (Scat Daddy); homebred G1 St James’s Palace S. hero Without Parole (GB) (Frankel {GB}); GII Wood Memorial S. winner Vino Rosso (Curlin); and Justify’s half-brother The Lieutenant (Street Sense), who annexed the GIII All American S. back in May. Dam Devil By Design annexed the 2011 GIII Chicago H. for the Gunthers and Tony Chedraoui while under the care of Bill Mott. A $325,000 yearling herself, Competitionofideas’s year-younger full-brother was Speightstown’s priciest yearling of 2017 when he cost $900,000, but he died earlier this year. This Speightstown–Medaglia d’Oro cross has also produced MGISW sprinter Rock Fall and ‘TDN Rising Star’ and 2018 graded stakes winner Strike Power. Competitionofideas is the 99th black-type winner, 46th graded stakes winner and 15th Grade I winner for the WinStar resident and champion sprinter. Devil By Design produced an Honor Code filly in 2017 and a War Front Colt earlier this term. She was bred back to Curlin.

Accelerate Works Towards Pegasus

Sat, 2018-12-29 16:04

Hronis Racing’s Horse of the Year candidate and GI Breeders’ Cup Classic hero Accelerate (Lookin At Lucky) drilled five furlongs in 1:00.40 (5/86) (XBTV video) over the Santa Anita main track Saturday morning as he continues his preparations for the GI Pegasus World Cup Invitational S. at Gulfstream Park Jan. 26.

“Super, a really good work this morning,” trainer John Sadler told the Santa Anita press office. “The next three or four works are all kind of key. Now we’re starting to let him do a little bit more, and he looked very sharp this morning, maybe better than ever. You hate to say that, but it’s the truth.”

Sadler said that tentative plans call for Accelerate to ship out the week of the race.

“He’ll gallop over the track there,” the conditioner said. “He’s been a good shipper this year. The previous year, he wasn’t a good shipper; this year he’s been fine.”

Several other Pegasus aspirants turned in Saturday morning breezes as well. One of the four horses that clocked a faster time than Accelerate was GI Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile hero City of Light (Quality Road), who stopped the timer in 1:00 flat (XBTV video). The 4-year-old is the last horse to defeat Accelerate, having taken down his colors in a thrilling renewal of the GII Oaklawn H. last April.

Gunnevera (Dialed In), second to Accelerate in the Classic, continued along the road to the Pegasus with a five-furlong breeze over the Gulfstream Park West main track that was timed in 1:01.80 (2/29). In New Orleans Saturday morning, Charles Fipke’s Seeking the Soul (Perfect Soul {Ire}) worked three-quarters of a mile in a sharp 1:11. Runner-up in the Dirt Mile, the homebred was fifth behind Gun Runner (Candy Ride {Arg}) in last year’s Pegasus. Audible (Into Mischief) breezed a half-mile in :49.80 at Palm Beach Downs.

Kentucky Sires 2019 Part V: First Sophomores

Sat, 2018-12-29 15:16

At long last, today we get to consider some stallions who have actually undergone some kind of examination on the track. After surveying four subsequent intakes–collectively the medium for staggering investment, on what in most cases will turn out to have been the flimsiest grounds–we finally encounter the first group to have had half a chance (and still no more than that) to demonstrate whether or not they can produce a runner.

Even by this stage some are already facing an uphill struggle as victims of a wholly unreliable consensus in the sales ring. Stallions find themselves left out in the cold either by breeders anticipating the market, who have sent their mares to the next crop of unproven sires, or by the market itself. And the poor creatures then depend on a bright show from their first crop to stop the rot–even though those most vulnerable to a premature cooling are precisely those whose stock tend to need a little longer to mature.

So these are all guys at a crossroads. One or two come rushing through at full pelt; many more are walking up and down, anxiously looking at their watches. But all are under pressure of some kind or other. Those whose foals and yearlings were well received need to start coming up with the goods–albeit some of these, too, will show their real merit only with maturing stock round two turns. Those who failed to build momentum at the sales, meanwhile, desperately need an early flagbearer after books and fees have plunged steeply through their third and fourth years.

So let’s take a look at how things are playing out for some of the leading members of this intake.

The laurels go to Spendthrift: home to the top performers both by prizemoney, in ‘TDN Rising Stars’ CROSS TRAFFIC (Unbridled’s Song); and by number of winners, in GOLDENCENTS (Into Mischief).

Cross Traffic, headlined by GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies winner Jaywalk, has achieved an off-the-charts ratio of black-type action: five out of 18 winners (from 46 starters) scoring at black-type level. Understandably, that has earned him a big hike to $25,000 from $7,500.

Though a late starter on the track himself, Cross Traffic is quickly suggesting that he can transfer the inborn running ability that enabled him to be nailed only on the line after blazing clear in the GI Met Mile on just his fourth start; and to win the

GI Whitney next time. He is out of a dual Grade I winner and if the rest of the family hardly provides the most familiar seeding, then clearly we are looking at an invigorating brand of diversity. The one caveat is that he will have to ride out a dip after covering 60 mares this year, compared with the 123 who produced this opening crop.

Jaywalk’s big success came too late to spare Cross Traffic the customary dip in sales yield by his second crop of yearlings. Goldencents, in contrast, was able to maintain a virtually identical average ($47,956 for 56 sold out of 84), having had numbers on his side all year. Of 70 runners already, 28 have won through Friday–between them putting him behind only his studmate in the prizemoney table. He, in turn, has been hoisted to $20,000 from $12,500.

True, only a couple have managed black-type success and none a graded-stakes podium, but the conveyor belt is securely in gear now. After a dip to 135 mares last year, he had 190 this time round–the same number as in 2016. It’s another offbeat bottom line (damsire ended up in Cyprus), but again that can bring its benefits. And everyone knows that daddy’s genes nowadays command a dizzy premium at the same farm.

What augurs particularly well for Goldencents is the hardiness with which he carried his speed. You have to love a horse that can drop from a Grade I win at nine furlongs in the Santa Anita Derby and regroup, after disappointing in the first two legs of the Triple Crown, to be beaten only a head in the GI Bing Crosby H. over six panels. Back-to-back wins in the GI Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile speak very well for the constitution of a horse who started so brightly at two.

The contrastingly truncated career of Cross Traffic is consistent with a frequent caricature of their sire’s stock. It augurs well for WILL TAKE CHARGE (Unbridled’s Song), then, that he was equal to 11 starts as a 3-year-old, and was tough enough to bounce back from a nose defeat in the Breeders’ Cup Classic to win the GI Clark H.

That persuasive body of work is, of course, backed up by his dam Take Charge Lady (Dehere): herself a triple Grade I winner and since responsible for Grade I winner Take Charge Indy (A.P. Indy) and the dam of champion 2-year-old filly Take Charge Brandi (Giant’s Causeway).

Sure enough, Will Take Charge once again topped the intake’s yearling sales in 2018 after his first runners did well enough–given that their scope and profile (he’s a lot of horse) commend them as likely improvers with maturity–to protect a $30,000 fee at Three Chimneys. Will Take Charge maintained another book of 144 this spring after his strong sales debut, and he has every right to consolidate on his solid start (two graded stakes performers from 15 winners and 43 starters to date) in 2019.

Will Take Charge was the only stallion able to hold off CAIRO PRINCE (Pioneerof The Nile) in the sales averages for both their first two crops of yearlings. The Airdrie bombshell caused mayhem with his market debut and, moving onto the track, did enough (19 winners from 60 starters) to maintain his $25,000 tag for 2019.

Their momentum improved as the year went on, with a first graded stakes success in September and ‘TDN Rising Stars’ anointed on consecutive days in the fall. If he now has less margin than allowed by his $10,000 starting fee, the fact is that his yearlings have managed a six-figure average twice already and there is bound to better to come once his sophomores get two turns. He has, moreover, maintained books consistently in the 140s.

It’s an interesting page, by the way: obviously the happening sire line of the moment, but an outcross family: first dam, who also produced the Grade I-placed dam of GI Wood Memorial winner Outwork (Uncle Mo), is by Holy Bull; and the second by a son of Damascus.

A smart family was one of the drivers for Rising Star VERRAZANO (More Than Ready) to produce the biggest litter of the intake, with 119 named foals conceived at $22,500. His second and third dams are Grade I winners and the page teems with graded stakes winners in between. Nonetheless Ashford have given him another small trim, to $15,000, to keep him in the game following a fall in his book (77 from 159). This despite a strong $99,567 average for his first yearlings, ranking him number three for the intake; while his second crop held solid at number four, featuring a $750,000 filly at Saratoga.

Yes, it has been a quiet enough start on the track, but of a dozen winners (from 59 starters) two have won at black-type level, while his action has also tended to be at big tracks. Certainly the overall package entitles Verrazano to a little patience. He ran 10 times as a sophomore between New Year’s Day and November, winning his second Grade I in the Haskell by 9 3/4 lengths for a 116 Beyer, and was a close second at Group 1 level at Royal Ascot when switched to the European theatre at four. That confirms he has turf mileage, too, and the slip in fee makes him value given the sheer numbers from which a maturing star can emerge. Definitely way too early to be leaping to any conclusions.

Lane’s End have cut NOBLE MISSION (GB) (Galileo {Ire}) to the same fee, even though he has come up with a very interesting prospect (among 13 winners from 55 starters) in Code Of Honor, a May 23 foal who blew the start before rallying into second in the GI Champagne S. After that plenty of people liked Code Of Honor for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, only for him to be scratched late, and he has just appeared as high as #4 in colleague T.D. Thornton’s first Derby Dozen.

As a straw in the wind you can’t fail to be intrigued that Frankel’s brother should immediately have confounded expectations–evident in some ordinary dividends at the yearling sales–that he would just be a turf specialist. It doesn’t help, however, that Noble Mission’s next crop of runners emerge from a book of just 63 mares, the result not of any diminished interest but of an unfortunate bout of colic (covered 99 this year).

Despite a fairly low-key start, it remains nearly impossible to envisage STRONG MANDATE (Tiznow) failing to repay perseverance at $10,000. It remains very early days, after all, and the Three Chimneys sire just has too much in his favour, as a near 10-length GI Hopeful winner at two out of a Deputy Minister mare, herself one of three consecutive Grade I winners in his first three dams. Strong Mandate duly maintained a pretty solid profile at the sales, not least with a $775,000 2-year-old, and it’s a very good sign that his book size climbed this spring (up to 108 from 88) for the second year running. He didn’t last on the track but his page and imposing build suggest his stock will thrive with maturity.

Kept at the same $10,000 peg by WinStar is FED BIZ (Giant’s Causeway). There’s just something about this guy. A dozen winners to date (from 47 runners) is no more than par, but no fewer than six have immediately earned black-type. And there has been something evocative of his own sire in the competitive spirit shown by several of his maiden winners, rallying to be strongest at the wire.

Fed Biz put together a solid record on the track–only denied a Grade I by the neck of Shared Belief (Candy Ride {Arg}) and beating both Goldencents and the track record over seven furlongs at Del Mar–but is also processing genes dripping with class: he’s out of a stakes-winning half-sister to a dual Group 1 winner in Europe, and to a King’s Bishop winner in the U.S., as well as to the dam of Johannesburg (Hennessy); their dam in turn being a sister to the mother of Pulpit. The granddams of Scat Daddy and Tapit close up, then, and all this translated into a knockout physique that qualified Fed Biz himself as a $950,000 yearling.

Auspiciously he has in turn stamped much of his stock and duly continued to perform at the sales, notably with the top first-crop score at Fasig-Tipton’s Gulfstream sale of 2-year-olds at $725,000. The owners of 169 mares kept the faith this year, actually his largest book to date. In terms of runners, we’ve only seen the tip of a pretty big iceberg and this might well turn out to be the worst possible moment just to back off and see how he goes.

A $10,000 fee also sits pretty well with MUCHO MACHO MAN (Macho Uno) at Adena Springs. As recently highlighted by colleague Andrew Caulfield, he was a June 15 foal who nonetheless showed something of his parents’ precocity before making the podium in the Kentucky Derby and then maturing into his very tall frame to finish second and first in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at four and five.

Breeders had backed right off him by his third season–his book shrinking from 99 to 35, despite a cut from his opening fee of $15,000–only to find his first crop proving a far more compelling proposition at the breeze-ups than they had been at the yearling sales last year. He duly entertained 96 partners this year, and that renewal of interest has since been vindicated by his first runners.

TDN Rising StarMucho Gusto, a $625,000 breezer, became his sire’s first graded stakes winner in the GIII Bob Hope S. before chasing home Improbable (City Zip) in the GI Los Alamitos Futurity; while Fortin Hill, a $575,000 Ocala graduate, was anointed aRising Starhimself after a stylish Belmont debut. Mucho Macho Man will have to ride out that dip in production, and his family is certainly outcross territory, but it’s promising that he should have made any kind of impact when his stock seems bound to prosper with time and distance.

Adena also have CAPO BASTONE (Street Boss) at $4,000, trading on his Grade I day in the sun when a shock winner of the King’s Bishop. Three of his five starters have won, but with 14 named foals in his first crop he is going to struggle to become more than a curiosity.

The remainder of this intake in Kentucky features several who were set adrift by their first sale averages–but some are clinging on pluckily through the efforts of their first runners.

Take ATREIDES (Medaglia d’Oro) at Hill ‘n’ Dale. He showed wild speed and flair in a fleeting window of opportunity–soon derailed by injury–and he’s out of a Grade I winner and producer. At just $6,500, he had every right to be risked in the same spirit as Maclean’s Music (Distorted Humor) on the same farm.

So far, Atreides has had 10 winners from 24 starters, including two at black-type level. One was admittedly in Panama, but he is working off the same statistical program as every other stallion. The trouble is that it takes a degree of courage beyond most commercial operators to back a sire, however auspicious his first results, who was down to 19 mares this spring–despite selling a $175,000 filly in his first crop of yearlings. Regardless, nobody could be surprised if he pulled a champion out of his hat at $5,000.

Then how about MARK VALESKI (Proud Citizen)? He started out standing for peanuts in Florida, covered barely a handful of mares in 2018, and is listed as “private” back at Airdrie. But he has fired out nine winners and three stakes horses from just

15 starters–including Network Effect, a debut winner at the Spa who subsequently made the podium in both the GIII Nashua S. and GII Remsen S. Mark Valeski himself didn’t really punch at a much higher weight, in his own career; and he’s a big outcross, for sure, albeit with some good horses in there (second dam a half to Silver Buck). But will he ever get a real chance to show whether he can build on this unexpected foundation?

At Spendthrift, in contrast, CAN THE MAN (Into Mischief) covered no fewer than 321 mares in his first three seasons. While even a fee of $3,500 has secured him only a limited yield on his yearling sales, he entertained another 82 this year.

The theory with this guy is that the dash he showed in a brief career was supported by one of the stronger pages offered to his remarkable sire while making his name. Can The Man is out of a G1 Coronation S. runner-up by Danzig, herself a daughter of Kentucky Oaks winner and blue hen Blush With Pride (Blushing Groom). Given the way the big man at Spendthrift has upgraded his mares, these genes make Can The Man a fair bet at the odds and his dozen winners have come from only 28 starters. With numbers behind him, you could argue that now is the time to take a roll of the dice.

His studmate ITSMYLUCKYDAY (Lawyer Ron) also enjoyed brisk opening business, assembling 127 mares at $8,000. He could only muster 27 this year, after failing to make it pay with his yearlings, and is down to $3,500. Quite tempting, given the way he carried his speed (broke a Gulfstream track record) to finish second in the GI Preakness and then held his form to win the GI Woodward S. at four. He’s had 13 winners from 37 starters but is obviously just hanging in there for now.

Yet another recruit to the Spendthrift factory was SHAKIN IT UP (Midnight Lute), who had 92 mates at $10,000, but his fee and book have meanwhile halved after a fairly tame start at the sales. He was quick, winner of the GI Malibu S., and is out of a daughter of none other than champion Silverbulletday (Silver Deputy). Just half a dozen winners to date (from 28 starters), but they do include a dual stakes scorer.

Auspiciously Deputy Minister is not only grandsire of Silverbulletday, but fills the parallel slot in the top half of the pedigree as the grandsire of Midnight Lute’s dam Candytuft (Dehere). And Shakin It Up’s second crop of yearlings did sell rather better than implied by their modest place in the table: he achieved a much higher clearance rate than most and, as we’ve often observed, the averages are skewed to “reward” failure in that regard. Arguably he can still turn things round at $5,000.

It’s a similar story with REVOLUTIONARY (War Pass) at WinStar. He has been clipped to the same tag from $7,500 after a cool reception for his yearlings, and his book this year was down to 40 from an opening 146. But you get a pretty rare cocktail of blood for that money: his ill-fated sire was a brilliant juvenile who had very little chance to create a legacy, while Grade I-winning dam Runup The Colors (A.P. Indy) is a half-sister to the Grade I-winning dam of Mineshaft (also, of course, by A.P. Indy). Revolutionary himself ran third in the Kentucky Derby and his 15 winners to date, from just 35 starters, include a stakes winner.

Finally we’ll add an outlier to this intake, as it’s hard to know where else to place DADDY LONG LEGS (Scat Daddy). He has had a fairly nomadic career to this point–a Group 2 winner at two for Aidan O’Brien and then winner of a synthetic UAE Derby, but bombing out in demanding experiments on the dirt at Churchill either side. He actually covered 11 mares in Florida in 2016, but by then he had already had a first stint in Chile–the country where his late sire originally drew attention to his extraordinary potency.

That initial Chilean crop, headlined by a champion juvenile, proved so evocative of his sire’s work down there that Taylor Made have brought Daddy Long Legs onto their roster at $10,000. The race to find heirs to Scat Daddy is so critical that Coolmore have catapulted champion European rookie No Nay Never straight up to a giddy €100,000 from €25,000. It’ll be fascinating to see how this horse’s odyssey continues from here.

CHRIS McGRATH’S VALUE PODIUM

Gold: Fed Biz $10,000, WinStar

Silver: Verrazano $15,000, Ashford

Bronze: Strong Mandate $10,000, Three Chimneys

 

Rafha’s Influence Still Going Strong

Sat, 2018-12-29 08:08

We all like the idea of ‘stallion-making races’, even if such a concept is clearly nonsense. We rarely, if ever, hear of ‘broodmare-making races.’ If we did, it seems safe to assume that the 1990 G1 Prix de Diane would often be mentioned. With Rafha (GB) beating Moon Cactus (GB), that race produced not merely a quinella for their sire Kris (GB) (Sharpen Up) and their trainer Henry Cecil, but also for two fillies who would go on to become hugely influential broodmares (it should be noted that Moon Cactus actually finished third, but was promoted to second when Colour Chart was taken down two places for having caused interference).

From Moon Cactus we had four stakes winners in the first generation headed by the Sadler’s Wells full-siblings Moonshell (Ire) and Doyen (Ire), with the likes of Miss Finland (Aus) (Redoute’s Choice {Aus}), Stay With Me (Aus) (Street Cry {Ire}) and Miss World (Bernstein) coming along afterwards. Rafha has been an even greater gem, and 2018 has seen further chapters written in her story.

Born in 1987, Rafha was a first-generation Prince Faisal homebred. Operating as Nawara Stud, Prince Faisal started to build up his stud through the 1980s. Both the stud and Rafha’s influence on it are still going strong, with its credits in 2018 including the homebred Prix de Saint-Patrick winner Orbaan (GB) (Invincible Spirit {Ire}), who is inbred 2×3 to the great mare. Prince Faisal bought Rafha’s dam Eljazzi (Ire) (Artaius) for 92,000gns as a yearling in 1982, presumably aiming to have a smart filly who could become one of his foundation mares. He could hardly have chosen more wisely.

Eljazzi would have made a lovely broodmare even if she had not been a good racehorse. She was a half-sister to two high-class sons of Petingo: Pitcairn (Ire) and Valley Forge (Ire). The former was particularly topical as he had been champion sire of Great Britain and Ireland two years previously (albeit that he was already standing in Japan by that time) largely thanks to the exploits of his outstanding 4-year-old son Ela-Mana-Mou (Ire). Border Bounty (GB) (Bounteous {GB}), dam of Pitcairn, Valley Forge and Eljazzi, had been a terrific filly, runner-up in both the Yorkshire Oaks and Park Hill S. in 1968, while Border Bounty’s half-sister Brief Chorus (Counsel) was also placed in the Yorkshire Oaks (in 1966). As it was, Eljazzi, trained by Henry Cecil, retired to stud with a racing record which was decent, if not quite as smart as her pedigree. She was an impressive winner on debut as a juvenile at Leicester and, while she did not win at three, she ran extremely well in defeat at Newmarket when beaten in a photo-finish by Scottish Derby winner and GI Breeders’ Cup Turf and GI Hollywood Turf Cup Invitational S. place-getter Raami (Ire) (Be My Guest).

Conceived in 1986, the year after her sire Kris had been champion sire of Great Britain and Ireland thanks to his fillies’ Triple Crown-winning daughter Oh So Sharp (GB), Rafha proved to be the best of Eljazzi’s 10 winners. She was a very good 2-year-old, winning a six-furlong maiden at Goodwood on debut and ending her campaign by beating subsequent G1 Irish Oaks victrix Knight’s Baroness (GB) (Rainbow Quest) in the G3 May Hill S. over a mile at Doncaster. At three she was at least as good, winning the Princess Elizabeth S. at Epsom by 10 lengths, beating Spurned (Robellino) who subsequently became dam of seven black-type performers headed by Passing Glance (GB) (Polar Falcon); the Lingfield Oaks Trial S., again beating Knight’s Baroness; and the G1 Prix de Diane at Chantilly. Nearly as good was Rafha’s half-sister Chiang Mai (Ire) (Sadler’s Wells), who landed the G3 Blandford S. over 10 furlongs at The Curragh, while another black-type performer among Eljazzi’s 10 winners was Al Anood (Aus) (Danehill), who was born in Australia when her dam was aged 22.

All three of these fillies became excellent broodmares. Chiang Mai’s several winners are headed by Chinese White (Ire) (Dalakhani {Ire}), winner of five black-type contests including the G1 Pretty Polly S. and the G2 Blandford S. Al Anood has bred one even better: Pride Of Dubai (Aus) (Street Cry {Ire}), who completed the G1 Blue Diamond S. and G1 AJC Sires’ Produce S. double in 2015 and now spends his time shuttling between Coolmore in Australia and Ireland. Rafha is the true star, though, with 11 winners to her credit. Four of them are stakes winners headed by G1 Haydock Park Sprint Cup and G3 Duke Of York S. winner Invincible Spirit (Ire) (Green Desert) and G3 John Porter S. and G3 Ormonde S. winner Sadian (GB) (Shirley Heights {GB}). Even more to her credit is that she has bred two top-class stallions: Invincible Spirit and his three-parts brother Kodiac (Ire) (Danehill). The extent of their achievements is illustrated by the fact that in 2019 they will be standing at the Irish National Stud for €120,000 and at Tally Ho Stud for €65,000, having started out at those properties for €10,000 and €5,000, respectively.

Invincible Spirit and Kodiac have both had yet another extremely good year with their runners. The former (whose progeny tally of Group 1 victories currently stands at 32) was represented by three top-level winners in 2018: G1 Commonwealth Cup winner Eqtidaar (Ire), G1 Vertem Futurity Trophy winner Magna Grecia (Ire) and G1 Criterium International winner Royal Meeting (Ire). He came very close to making it four as Inns Of Court (Ire) failed by only a short head in the G1 Prix de la Foret. Kodiac has had two Group 1 winners this year: the remarkable Best Solution, winner in 2018 of the G1 Grosser Preis von Berlin, the G1 Grosser Preis von Baden and the G1 Caulfield Cup, and Fairyland, who showed herself to be more typical of her sire’s stock by taking the G1 Cheveley Park S. over six furlongs at Newmarket. Fairyland thus became Kodiac’s second Cheveley Park S. heroine following the brilliant Tiggy Wiggy (Ire), who won the race in 2014. Jash (Ire) came close to making it three individual Group 1 winners in 2018 for Kodiac by finishing second, beaten only half a length, in the G1 Middle Park S. at Newmarket.

Another aspect of the excellent year enjoyed by Invincible Spirit is how well some of his sons are doing at stud. The real star is the remarkable I Am Invincible (Aus), who finished second to Snitzel (Aus) (Redoute’s Choice {Aus}) in Australia’s general sires’ premiership last season and who is currently lying second behind the same horse this term. Particularly creditable is the fact that I Am Invincible has had at least one stakes winner this season (which is particularly good as the season is not yet five months old) from each of his crops of racing age, ie., of ages seven to two inclusive. Two of these winners have scored in Group 1 company this season: G1 Winterbottom S. hero Voodoo Lad (Aus) and G1 NZ 1,000 Guineas victrix Media Sensation (Aus).

Lawman (Ire) ranks as the senior Invincible Spirit stallion in Europe thus far, particularly now that he is getting established as a broodmare sire too, largely thanks to the brilliantly fast Battaash (Ire) (Dark Angel {Ire}). However, Kingman (GB) is looking particularly promising. His first batch of 2-year-old runners through the season has marked him down as potentially a leading sire of the future; while one could also make bullish noises about Charm Spirit (Ire). Mayson (GB) continues to churn out winners, and high hopes are held for the likes of Shalaa (Ire), Territories (Ire), Profitable (Ire), National Defense (GB) and Cable Bay (Ire).

The ongoing success of both Invincible Spirit and Kodiac will be very encouraging for Coolmore, who not only have Pride Of Dubai on the roster, but also Gustav Klimt as a new recruit for 2019. Kodiac’s full-sister Massarra (GB) has proved to be the most notable of several distinguished fillies produced by Rafha, a group which also includes G3 Princess Royal S. winner Acts Of Grace (Bahri). On the track Massarra’s finest hour came when, trained (like Invincible Spirit, Kodiac and Acts Of Grace) for Sheikh Faisal by John Dunlop, she landed the Empress S. at Newmarket in 2001. Later that season she was placed in the G2 Prix Robert Papin at Maisons-Laffitte, while the following spring she finished second in the G3 Nell Gwyn S. at Newmarket. At stud she has, like her dam, been a great producer. Her 10 winners are headed by G1 Gran Criterium heroine Nayarra (Ire) (Cape Cross {Ire}) who was trained for Prince Faisal by Mick Channon. She has also bred four black-type performers by Galileo: Wonderfully (Ire), Cuff (Ire), Mars (Ire) and Gustav Klimt (Ire). The latter showed himself to be one of the best colts in Europe in both 2017 (when he won the G2 Superlative S. at Newmarket) and 2018, when he took the 2000 Guineas Trial S. at Leopardstown as well as finishing second in the G1 St James’s Palace S. at Royal Ascot and third in the G1 Irish 2000 Guineas at The Curragh, the G1 Haydock Park Sprint Cup and the G1 Prix Jean Prat at Chantilly.

One presumes that Prince Faisal was hoping that Eljazzi would be a useful asset to his stud when he bought her as a yearling back in 1982. Not even in his wildest dreams, though, could he have foreseen just what a pearl she would prove to be. Her Classic-winning daughter Rafha can take the lioness’s share of the credit for her influence, and recent evidence is that that influence is still very, very strong.

The Last Word With Dale Romans

Fri, 2018-12-28 15:57

Dale Romans is among the sport’s top trainers. His wins include the G1 Dubai World Cup, the GI Preakness, the GI Travers, three Breeders’ Cup races, and in 2012 an Eclipse Award as the sport’s top trainer. But there’s a lot more to the person than what you see on the racetrack. In this edition of “The Last Word,” we touch all the bases with Dale Romans.

TDN: You once said your most prized possession is a watch that came from Bill Clinton. What’s the story behind that?

DR: When we won the (GI) Travers, we got a Longines watch. I decided to give it to my assistant. One of the owners of Keen Ice was a very close friend of Clinton’s and he was really impressed by that gesture I made giving the watch to my assistant. Clinton had had 10 Shinola watches made up and my owner and his friend had one of them. They have the presidential seal on the back and the Bill Clinton presidential seal on the front. He took it off his wrist and gave it to me and said he’d have no problem getting another one for himself from the president.

TDN: You’re a big guy. You have the perfect body to be, say, an offensive lineman. Did you play any sports in high school and were you any good?

DR: I played high school football and I had an opportunity to play at Morehead State, but my grades weren’t very good. So I didn’t make that, so I went into training horses instead. My struggles in high school have been well documented.

TDN: You struggled academically because you have dyslexia. To this day, how does that affect your life?

DR: I have never sent an email and I’ve only read one book in my life. But I’ve found a perfect career for someone like myself. Dyslexia is a very broad term. There are a lot of different versions. My mother, she worked around the clock with me to make sure I got all the best treatments, all the best help. To me, the most impressive thing I’ve ever seen a person do is sit down in front of a computer or a typewriter and write a letter. For me, that would never be possible.

TDN: School must have been a nightmare for you?

DR: School was a nightmare, but I had a lot of good support. We didn’t have much money, but my mother was never going to let me slip through the cracks. She did everything she could to make sure I survived. She made a deal with me when I got to high school. She said, “I’ll never talk about your grades. Just get straight A’s in context and do whatever you have to do to graduate high school.” And I did.

TDN: If I gave you a shot of truth serum, would you still tell us you really thought you were going to beat American Pharoah in the Travers with Keen Ice?

DR: I thought we had a very good chance to beat American Pharoah and not because we were a better horse than him. He was obviously a great, great horse. But we had a great horse and we had a great horse that was going in the right direction and we just thought Pharoah had to be getting a little bit tired. If we were ever going to beat him, it was going to be that day.

TDN: What do you consider your biggest accomplishment in the sport to be?

DR: My biggest accomplishment has been being able to do it with my family and the crew of people working with me. It’s not an individual race because we’ve had so many great moments in individual races. One of the great things about the game is it’s a family game. My family is always together and my team is also my family. My assistant and I have been together for 30 years and his wife has been with us the same amount of time. I have grooms that have been with us for 20 years. I’m proud of the fact we are all one big family and one team.

TDN: You are a second-generation trainer, following in the footsteps of your father, Jerry. Will there be a third generation from the Romans family to go into training?

DR: Probably not. I have two children, Bailey, 25, and Jacob, 22. He’s now an agent. Jacob is in the industry and doing very well and I’m very proud of him. Bailey, as soon as she got out of college, went to work on the political scene. She worked for Hillary Clinton for two years, then she ran a campaign for someone trying to win a house seat in New Jersey. Now she lives in Chicago raising money for Democratic candidates.

TDN: Few trainers interact with the fans as much as you do. You have a podcast where fans can send in questions and you answer them and you never turn down an interview. Why are those things important to you?

DR: There are two people who put money into this game and that’s the owner and the bettor. The forum the fans have to get inside the industry is through the media or with social media. To me, it’s just logical. This is such a great game from all aspects. It’s not just about betting $2. The more we can expose them to the greatness of the game, the more we can develop fans and the bigger and stronger the game is.

Click here to read the rest of this story in the December TDN Weekend.

Taking Stock: The Horse of the Year Debate

Fri, 2018-12-28 14:30

What a time to be alive!

I’ve seen it said on Twitter and elsewhere that the Triple Crown races are nothing more than a series of “restricted” races for 3-year-olds, and, therefore, not as important as the “unrestricted” Grade I races for older horses. To diminish the accomplishments of Triple Crown winner Justify (Scat Daddy) in this way is either ignorance or a line of historical revisionism used by some to make a case for Accelerate (Lookin At Lucky) as Horse of the Year.

Racing is a microcosm of society, and just as some longstanding institutions of the social order are under threat these days, perhaps it’s not that surprising to see the Triple Crown, one of racing’s greatest institutions, spoken of so cavalierly. We are living through a period where the significance of the past is being conveniently ignored for the construction of newer narratives within a historical void. But this conceit won’t hold water in the long run because it is on precedence that historical significance is measured. And historical significance should be at the heart of the debate of Accelerate versus Justify for Horse of the Year.

In the modern era of the last 50 years or so, there have been five Triple Crown winners in the U.S.: Secretariat (’73), Seattle Slew (’77), Affirmed (’78), American Pharoah (’15), and Justify (’18). Each of these colts had to win the 10-furlong GI Kentucky Derby, the 9.5-furlong GI Preakness, and the 12-furlong GI Belmont S. within a period of five weeks, which is a debilitating task and an exceptional achievement, and it’s why there have been so few to accomplish the feat. In fact, as the 37 years between Affirmed and American Pharoah dragged along, there was talk from many quarters about changing the format of the Classics, either by reducing race distances or extending time between them, as a method for manufacturing the possibility of another Triple Crown winner. That’s how hopeless things seemed, and breeders specifically were blamed during this span for producing softer and speedier horses lacking toughness and the requisite stamina. But in the end, the institution stood as it had, despite repeated efforts for change, and American Pharoah and Justify arrived as examples of excellence that linked them by achievement to America’s past Golden Age.

Some have forgotten this. Others, including Andy Beyer, who recently said that Accelerate should be Horse of the Year over Justify, have changed their minds. But what Beyer compellingly wrote in the Washington Post in ’93 is still the case today: “The Triple Crown is exceptionally demanding and difficult–but that’s what it’s supposed to be. There are no tests in horse racing, and few in any sport, that are so reliable as a measurement of excellence. One might think that in a weak year a moderately talented animal might be able to get lucky and dominate his rivals over a five-week period. But this never happens. The four horses who have swept the series in the last 45 years–Citation, Secretariat, Seattle Slew, and Affirmed–ran among the very best of all time.”

The Classics are for 3-year-olds–as they are in Europe, from where they were modeled–and the best of each crop is aimed for them. They are the races that make reputations, garner the most prestige for owners and breeders, and have the greatest fan interest, particularly when a Triple Crown is on the line. And as Beyer wrote, to sweep all three has never been easy. There have been only 13 Triple Crown winners dating back almost 100 years. And every Triple Crown winner since the ’70s, except for Justify–who was retired after the Belmont because of an injury–has also gone on to defeat older horses. More tellingly, however, each was voted Horse of the Year at three, because those voters at the time knew the enormity of their accomplishments.

Some Case Histories

Justify was undefeated and the winner of four Grade l races in six starts. He didn’t race at two. The last horse to win the Kentucky Derby without a start at two was Apollo in 1882, which is quite something when you think about it. Justify’s rise to Triple Crown winner, then, was as historic as it was meteoric and improbable, but the fairytale ended when a bothersome ankle forced his premature retirement.

Out of action for the second half of the year, Justify’s brief campaign became fodder for the what-have-you-done-for-me-lately crowd, especially on Twitter. With a big syndication price around his neck and the notion that his record was being protected; a trainer, Bob Baffert, who’s not popular on social media; an ownership group of multiple partnerships, including the ubiquitous Sol Kumin, that was ridiculed on social media; and the stigma of not having beaten older horses, Justify’s popularity started to wane as the year wore on and Accelerate’s wins accumulated.

Accelerate had an excellent year and won six of seven starts, including five Grade l races and the important year-end target of the last quarter-century, the Gl Breeders’ Cup Classic. He became a natural “populist” opponent to Justify for Horse of the Year, a disruptor to the establishment.

I won’t address the “social furor” surrounding Justify and his connections, but I can address the issue of the colt not defeating older horses with this: Neither did Seattle Slew or Affirmed as 3-year-olds.

Seattle Slew lost to J.O. Tobin, the English champion 2-year-old of ’76, in his only start after the Triple Crown and never faced older horses at three, while Affirmed, who did, lost to Seattle Slew and Exceller the only two times he faced his seniors. That didn’t stop either from being named Horse of the Year during their Triple Crown seasons, because of the weight of those three elusive wins.

I don’t necessarily believe that winning the Triple Crown should guarantee automatic Horse of the Year selection–and for the record, I don’t vote–but as I said on Twitter recently, a Triple Crown winner’s “competition must be of such lofty status as to deny him the honor. In ’77, Forego wasn’t enough to deny Slew, and in ’78 Slew wasn’t enough to deny Affirmed.”

In fact, the vote for Horse of the Year in ’77 was close. Forego, an all-time great and the reigning three-time Horse of the Year, had won four of seven starts and was weighted at 136 pounds for the Grade I Marlboro Cup after winning the Grade I Woodward under 133 pounds to end a three-race losing streak. Unfortunately, the popular weight carrier’s famously fragile ankles didn’t hold up and he was forced to miss the Marlboro Cup and was put away for the year. Had he won that race, he’d have been the first to pass the $2 million earnings mark and would likely and deservedly been voted his fourth consecutive Horse of the Year title over a Triple Crown winner.

The next year, Exceller defeated both Seattle Slew and Affirmed in the Grade I Jockey Club Gold Cup to finish the season with a sparkling record of seven wins from 10 starts, including six Grade I races on turf and dirt, but he won no awards, with Affirmed voted Horse of the Year and Seattle Slew best older horse. That was a tough break for a thoroughly top-class horse.

In this context, Accelerate doesn’t stack up next to such greats as Forego or Seattle Slew and maybe not even Exceller, and if those three couldn’t turn the tables on Triple Crown winners, it beggars belief that Accelerate could topple Justify. But we’re living through some strange times where norms have been discarded, and the ultimate decision on which horse is voted Horse of the Year will probably say more about us than him.

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

TDN Rising Star Watch 2019: Mucho

Fri, 2018-12-28 14:02

Members of the TDN staff reveal what TDN Rising Star they’re most excited to see race in 2019.

When a trainer as patient as Hall of Famer Bill Mott unleashes a win-early, blowout maiden winner on the dirt–standouts like Royal Delta, Close Hatches, Elate, To Honor and Serve and Speightster all come to mind–there’s a very good chance that you may have just witnessed something special.

The lightly raced Mucho (Blame) obviously has a long way to go to join that illustrious honor roll, but he certainly hinted that he could be any kind after airing by 9 3/4 lengths at the Spa and earning a 90 Beyer Speed Figure at second asking this past summer.

The Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider homebred’s subsequent runner-up finish a month later with a wide trip as the even-money favorite in the prestigious GI Hopeful S. may look even better in hindsight now as well after Walker Hancock revealed in TDN APBs last week that the bay exited that performance with an ankle issue.

After getting plenty of time to recuperate-no surgery was required–Mucho is back in training at Mott’s Payson Park base and could launch his highly anticipated sophomore campaign in an allowance race in late February. –Steve Sherack, Senior Editor

East vs. West in American Oaks

Fri, 2018-12-28 13:14

An intriguing cast of locally based runners and East Coast invaders will square off in Saturday’s GI American Oaks at Santa Anita. Alice Bamford homebred Californiagoldrush (Cape Blanco {Ire}) took the first two starts of her career locally before checking in third in the GI Del Mar Oaks Aug. 18. She made the reverse journey to Belmont to annex the GII Sands Point S. over yielding sod Sept. 15 and will be looking to provide Hall of Famer Neil Drysdale with a first American Oaks trophy.

Paved (Quality Road) also merits consideration among California contingent mostly due to the strength of her second-place finish over this course and 10-furlong distance when facing her elders in the GI Rodeo Drive S. Sept. 29. The winner was Vasilika (Skipshot), who was taking her seventh of eight straight that day. Paved also boasts a convincing victory in the GII Honeymoon S. here in June, but is looking to bounce back from a 12th-place run in the much-tougher GI Breeders’ Cup F/M Turf Nov. 3.

Amandine (GB) (Shamardal) is now two-for-two in the States after an impressive score in the Lady of Shamrock S. here Wednesday. Trainer Jeff Mullins told TDN‘s Bill Finley Friday that a decision about wheeling back on short rest likely wouldn’t be made until raceday.

Colonia (Fr) (Champs Elysees {GB}) was extremely impressive going last to first in her Stateside debut in Arlington’s Hatoof S. in July, but she settled for fifth and third, respectively, behind Californiagoldrush in the Del Mark Oaks and Sands Point. She returned to winning ways in Keeneland’s Oct. 19 GIII Pin Oak Valley View S. after weaving her way through horses and then avoiding a foe who crashed into the rail.

Ken McPeek shipped in Daddy’s Lil Darling (Scat Daddy) to score here 12 months ago, and he’ll look to double up the Nov. 23 GII Mrs Revere S. upsetter Princess Warrior (Midshipman).

Chad Brown will look to check another Grade I off his ever-shrinking career checklist with Competitionofideas (Speightstown). A $325,000 KEESEP yearling, the relatively under-the-radar runner paired up maiden and first-level allowance wins at Belmont before finishing a late-on-the-scene third in the rained-off Winter Memories S. going a one-turn mile at Aqueduct Nov. 22. Brown teamed up with pilot Joel Rosario earlier this month at Del Mar to annex both the GI Hollywood Derby and GI Matriarch S., and he sent out fellow Klaravich Stables colorbearer Identity Politics (Into Mischief) to a runner-up finish in the GI Malibu S. here on opening day Wednesday.

 

Dual Role Makes Pim Best Supporting Actor

Fri, 2018-12-28 10:30

Jacket stretched across his square, rugby flanker’s shoulders, he stands ramrod at the rostrum and extends those long hands, one clasping the head of the gavel as though a mere pipe, in a gesture that somehow combines scorn and supplication.

“In fairness,” Alastair Pim says. “We’re not selling chickens.”

A bid duly coaxed, he spins round to the rival protagonist.

“Last of the big spenders,” he mutters. Then up goes the singsong exclamation: “Goodness gracious me lads, a ridiculous price…”

In the moments of the highest theatre–when seven-figure bids strain across ever more agonised intervals, and the Tattersalls ring is both at its most crowded and most silent–Pim waves the gavel as Toscanini did his baton. But that flair, that sense of timing, that blend of authority and mischief: if anything, all these Pim flourishes are still more valuable at the other end of the market. And if that is true even for the bored bystander, then how much more so for the small breeder or pinhooker to whom every extra guinea is precious.

“To be honest I get a bigger kick out of getting three grand for a horse that’s worth 300 [gns] than out of getting three million for a horse,” Pim admits. “The other one’s going to make three million anyway. Anybody can sell a good horse. And the guy who gets the three grand will be the more grateful. I remember when Ollie Fowlston first came over to sell in Fairyhouse, he couldn’t believe the farmers coming up after getting their two or three grand and saying: ‘Thanks very much, you did a great job.’ He was flabbergasted. But I think that’s where the work comes in–and the buzz, too, for me.”

But then Pim knows just where those people are coming from. Now that another selling year at Tattersalls has drawn to a close, Pim has returned to Anngrove Stud–which he runs with wife Gillian–to resume his own daily battle with the challenges, exasperations and joys of the bloodstock business. The family farm at Mountmellick in Co Laois is home to four stallions, largely oriented to National Hunt but with plenty of dual-purpose eligibility, extending a history that extends from winners of the Queen Mary to the Cheltenham Festival Bumper.

Nor is it just the traffic of mares through the farm, year in and year out, that makes Pim even better known and trusted among Irish horsemen than in his sporadic public turns as a Tattersalls auctioneer. Because here is a living, breathing validation of the horsebreeding community’s faith in heredity.

Pim’s late father David was, of course, for many years an equally cherished performer at the Tattersalls rostrum. And, from the time Pim first appeared there himself, the voice and mannerisms were uncannily familiar.

“He never coached me at all,” Pim says with a shrug, pouring a pot of tea in the charming old kitchen at Anngrove. “I stood up in Fairyhouse one afternoon with Edmond Mahony for an hour and that was it. It’s just in the genes, I suppose. I didn’t set out to be like him but people come round here and say: ‘Jeez you’re the image of your father, and you speak just like him too.’

“Dad did a lot of musicals in Portlaoise, so he was a man for the stage. He had a very good singing voice. He used to sit in the bath with the old cassette tape recorder, and a little microphone, practising his auctioneering.”

Whereas his father had been a relatively late starter at the rostrum, young Pim was soon immersed in the environment at the old Ballsbridge sales–moving lots after selling, or twisting his tongue round the arcane conditions listed on vets’ certificates.

Eventually he was given a chance selling the “end-of-days” at Fairyhouse: unsold horses brought back in, without reserve, meaning that there was no need to get vendors “on the right step.” After soaking in the Park Paddocks environment as a spotter for a couple of years, he made his debut there at the Horses-in-Training sale where, similarly, reserves were infrequent.

If Pim is now himself, at a youthful 52, a timeless presence in one of the crucibles of the game, he is hardly going to get carried away any time soon. “Glorified bingo callers, a friend of Ollie called us,” he says. “But I must say I get a good kick out of it now. When you walk up the back of the rostrum there in Book 1, or December, and see every seat’s taken and the stairs too, you do get a few butterflies. You know what they’re there for. Or usually you do. Occasionally I’ve walked in and didn’t even know I had a good horse coming up, and thought: ‘What the hell are all these people doing here?’ But once you get going, you’re grand. You’re selling a horse for a few quid more, and that’s it.”

And that’s because an auctioneer makes no pretence of sharing the wider neutrality of the sales company, which must serve as an impartial broker between purchaser and vendor. Once you are actually up there and inviting bids, your allegiance is unequivocal. “You have to be fair to everybody but my one and only job is to look after the vendor,” Pim emphasises.

That said, some bidders can make themselves more equal than others. “I’d always look after the guy who’s looked after me,” he says. “The guy who’s been in from the start, who puts them on [the market] when you need someone to put them on. If he needs to make up his mind, or has someone on the phone, you’d be giving him a bit more time than a guy who has jumped in with one bid.”

Pim’s other great genetic legacy was on the rugby field. He only made the bench for Leinster himself, but his father played for the province (albeit disgusted to be dropped the week before they played the All Blacks), as did his brother Chris–for two years as captain–while son Josh has played at senior level for Connacht.

Josh is also a dual European eventing gold medallist, while daughters Hannah and Sophie competed nationally. But while Pim views himself as “born and reared to the game”, the fact is that his family had never made horses their business before his father trained a few point-to-pointers, and then brought Lucifer over from the U.S. in 1970. Before that Anngrove had a very long history as a centre of Quaker entrepreneurship, ranging from candles and textiles to brewing and malting.

But the farm has since included Monksfield, Welsh Term and Alderbrook on a roster that now comprises Vendangeur (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}), Tobougg (Ire) (Barathea {Ire}), Aiken (GB) (Selkirk) and Famous Name (GB) (Dansili {GB}) (the latter hosted for the Irish National Stud).

“Look, it’s a small, family-run operation,” Pim says. “It’s not easy, and probably getting more difficult, to compete with the big lads. These days in National Hunt we nearly need to stand a Group 1 horse. If I stood one that won a Group 3 over a mile and a quarter, you might get a couple of half-bred mares, but that’d be it.

“I was having dinner with an English breeder recently and he was saying that his father would turn in his grave, to see the kind of horses people are breeding to now. All they want is speed, and early 2-year-olds.

“There’s absolutely no reason why Famous Name, for instance, shouldn’t produce good Flat horses for an end-user. Commercially, it’s like flicking off a light switch once a Flat horse starts covering National Hunt mares; and, again, once a National Hunt horse starts covering half-breds. People have such tunnel vision.”

Famous Name could certainly cope with bigger books, being the most efficient and fertile mating machine the family has ever had. “All he wants is 300 mares,” Pim grins. “That’s all! That wouldn’t be a bother to him. I think he covered 70 last year. He’s a tough, hardy little horse now. Remember he ran as a 2-year-old and finished at seven. He won 21 races. They used to call him ‘the cash machine’ at Dermot [Weld]’s because every time you took him out you brought back money. I’d say you just couldn’t get to the bottom of him. He was sound, his legs are absolutely unbelievable.”

The horse’s first big advertisement was the listed success of juvenile hurdler Famous Milly (Ire), but she promptly disappeared after injury on her next start. Similarly Vendangeur had a Grade 1 jumps winner in his first crop, who dropped dead three weeks later.

“He’s by Galileo out of an Alysheba mare, the Wildensteins bred him,” Pim says. “As a stamp of a National Hunt horse, he’s just what you want: size, substance, wonderful step to him, and we’re delighted with his foals.

“But Cheltenham makes all the difference. It’s a bit like the Oscars. Just to have a runner is like getting a nomination, and a winner is like getting best actor. It can make the difference of 100-plus mares.”

Persevere long enough, mind you, and your time will come. Rudimentary covered 310 in his first season here; and Robin Du Pres, 280. And, in a game of such patient cycles, you never know what a horse might yet achieve–as Pim well knows, having in his youth broken in a grey Henbit yearling who, as Kribensis (GB), eventually won fame as a champion hurdler.

“Take Monksfield, he didn’t get a lot on the track but ended up being a very good broodmare sire,” Pim notes. “He was the most incredible horse. We had him up at the main yard, in the middle of the mares. You could tease mares outside his box and he’d never bat an eyelid. But when you threw the shank at the door he knew it was him.”

Character has never been in short supply at Anngrove. The first thing you notice when you pull up is a sign that cautions: “Stay in the car and beep the horn.” But there is neither bark nor bite to one of the most engaging personalities on the Irish Turf, one whose whole nature follows the deep grain of honesty and empathy into which he was born.

“My father always used to say that the less money was involved, the nicer the people,” he reflects. “But if you go from selling million-guinea yearlings in Newmarket to €100 ponies up in Cavan, you keep your feet on the ground.

“You’re dealing with a very different man there. But it’s amazing how the blood still gets up. We’ve all been there. With some people, the agents on the phone, they shake their head and you know that’s the end of it. But the ordinary Joe Soap who’s coming up to buy a mare, the excitement takes over: ‘I’ll have another one, I might just get her.’

“But I always say the auctioneer makes very little difference. You might get an extra couple of bids but look, the one thing you’ll do is work hard for the vendor–whether they’re getting 300 or three million.”

Audible a Go for Pegasus

Thu, 2018-12-27 17:17

Despite a stunning defeat as the 1-10 favorite in the Dec. 15 GIII Harlan’s Holiday S., Audible (Into Mischief) has been given the green light to make his next start in the Jan. 26 GI Pegasus World Cup at Gulfstream Park. The Harlan’s Holiday was always expected to be a Pegasus prep for Audible, but his camp was non-committal about his next start after the runner-up effort in the 1 1/16-mile race.

“At the time, I was definitely discouraged over the defeat,” said Elliott Walden, the president and CEO of WinStar Farm, a co-owner of Audible. “I was disappointed with his race, but when you stand back and look at it, it was on a sloppy racetrack and he had a very wide trip. With those two factors, we will give him the benefit of the doubt. If you stand back and look at his record, it’s pretty solid. He has never been off the board and has won four of seven starts. It’s a pretty stellar record and he deserves the opportunity to go in the Pegasus.”

Audible’s defeat in the Harlan’s Holiday was among the biggest upsets in racing this year. In what was supposed to be little more than a paid public workout on his way to the Pegasus, he finished second, a half-length behind 25-1 shot Sir Anthony (Mineshaft). It was the first time Sir Anthony had competed in a graded stakes race. He will not be coming back for the Pegasus.

“It was an odd race, a very odd race,” Walden said. “He’s a very talented horse and we believe he’s one of the best horses in the country. Hopefully, it will be fast on Pegasus Day. Javier [Castellano] didn’t think he has handling the track and didn’t put his best foot forward.”

The winner of last year’s GI Florida Derby at Gulfstream, Audible seemed to be getting back on track after an injury knocked him out of the GI Belmont S. and sidelined him until Nov. 3. He returned that day with an easy win in the Cherokee Run S. at Churchill and seemed primed to take another step forward in the Harlan’s Holiday.

In other news out of the WinStar camp, Walden reports that major Kentucky Derby contender Improbable (City Zip) will not have his 3-year-old debut until March. Undefeated in three starts, he is coming off a five-length win in the GI Los Alamitos Futurity. Though the races have yet to be determined, Improbable will likely have one start in March, another in April and then head to the Derby. With his trainer, Bob Baffert, having several top colts aiming for next year’s Derby, Walden realizes there’s a chance Improbable may have to leave his base at Santa Anita.

“We wanted to freshen him up,” Walden said. “He’ll have back-to-back races before the Derby and then, if he’s successful [in the Derby], he could again have back-to-back races. So we wanted to take this time to give him a break. We haven’t talked about any particular races. I am sure Bob would want to split his 3-year-olds up and so would we. We’ll figure all that out when the time comes.”

Although WinStar is involved with some other talented 2-year-old colts, Walden said at this point Improbable is the only one the team considers a Derby prospect.

Bulletin (City Zip) is two-for-two and won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf. Walden said he some day could have a start on the dirt, but he is not viewed as a distance horse. Instead, the goal for next year for Bulletin will be a win at Royal Ascot.

“He’s very fast and we are looking at Royal Ascot,” Walden said. “The first part of the year, we’ll start looking at how we get there. We’ll mainly look at the [G3] Jersey S. or the [G1] Commonwealth at Ascot.

“We also have a horse we really like named Preamble (Speightstown),” Walden said. “He’s trained by Rodolphe Brisset and is two-for-two. We’re looking at the major one-turn 3-year-old races, like the [GI Woody Stephens] with him. He’s also a very fast horse.”

Joe Harper to Receive Eclipse of Merit

Thu, 2018-12-27 16:28

Joe Harper, Chief Executive Officer of the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club, will be honored with the Eclipse Award of Merit in recognition of a lifetime of outstanding achievement in Thoroughbred racing, the National Thoroughbred Racing Association, Daily Racing Form and the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters announced Thursday.

“American Racing has the tradition of Saratoga, the history of the Triple Crown, the majesty of Santa Anita, and the unbridled joy of summer at Del Mar,” said Hall of Fame trainer and four-time Eclipse Award winner Bob Baffert. “Joe Harper is the maestro of that summer celebration, the exuberant leader who makes sure, every year, that Del Mar maintains its special place in racing’s heart. Joe Harper is Del Mar, Del Mar is Joe Harper, and no one deserves the Eclipse Award of Merit more than Joe.”

During Harper’s time at Del Mar’s helm, the track underwent an $80-million grandstand reconstruction, introduced its now-signature GI Pacific Classic, added a fall meeting, and hosted its first Breeders’ Cup in 2017.

“I’m certainly honored to be selected for an award that has gone previously to so many exceptional people in our wonderful world of horse racing,” said the 75-year-old Harper. “But I’d like everyone to know that I am going to accept it on behalf of the incredible employees of Del Mar who have–for over all the years–been the backbone of our success. My first job at Del Mar was as a cinema photographer during the 1967 summer meet. I saw and could tell right away that this was a family working together for a good cause that they all believed in. I think we’ve been successful in keeping it that way for the half century or so I’ve been involved with it.”

In 1978, Harper took on a leadership role at Del Mar after serving at Santa Anita as Executive Vice president of the Oak Tree Racing Association. At Del Mar, Harper first served as executive vice president and general manager. In 1990 he took on the roles of president and chief executive officer. He relinquished the role of president in 2018, but continues as the track’s CEO. He has been a director of DMTC since 1985.

“Under Joe Harper’s leadership, the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club has been one of Thoroughbred racing’s great success stories for many years,” said Alex Waldrop, President and CEO of the NTRA. “Joe’s acute attention to the customer experience, his ability to assemble an extremely talented management team, and his willingness to adapt to the changes confronting our sport over the years while maintaining the highest standards make him a very worthy recipient of the Award of Merit.”

Harper will receive the Award of Merit during the Eclipse Awards Dinner and Ceremony Jan. 24 at Gulfstream Park.

A Ramsey Stable of 10 Horses?

Thu, 2018-12-27 15:27

Two weeks ago, Ken Ramsey was sitting with family in his lower-level season seats at Rupp Arena, watching the Wildcats, when a cousin made a pitch about a 51-day cruise he was planning.

“We got talking about it, and he just begged me to go on this cruise,” said Ramsey. “He brought the itinerary, showed me all the ports. I said, ‘Fifty one days! I can’t take that much time off!’ But I got home and started to think on it. And I came to a conclusion: my money’s making a slave of me.”

That confirmed to Ramsey what he’d already been thinking, that it was way past time to drastically reduce the size of his stable and refocus his energies on enjoying life.

Over the past five years alone, horses owned by Ken Ramsey and his wife Sarah have made 2,782 starts. Those starters won 601 races and banked $36.5 million. The Ramseys have four Eclipse Awards as the nation’s leading owner and two Eclipse Awards as the nation’s leading breeder. They’ve won four Breeders’ Cup races, placed in 11 others, and three times have led the country’s owners by earnings. They almost single-handedly turned Kitten’s Joy into America’s best turf sire and have raced six Grade I-winning homebreds by him.

The operation, in short, has been a juggernaut.

So it’s hard to imagine Ken Ramsey even talking about a racing stable of just 10 to 15 horses. But that is the goal, Ramsey said during a recent TDN interview at his Ramsey Farm in Nicholasville, Kentucky. In fact, Ramsey began cutting his numbers in earnest earlier this year. The stable is down by over a third and will continue to shrink, Ramsey said. His broodmare band will ultimately number around 50, he said.

“Would you believe that at one point, a year or so ago, we had 747 horses?” Ramsey said. “Right now, as we speak, we are down to 478 horses. And we are selling another 11 broodmares out here at Keeneland [January] and Fasig-Tipton [February]. I’ve got 164 broodmares; 116 racehorses, including 2-year-olds; 77 yearlings; 116 weanlings, two stallions and three teasers. I’ve just got too many.”

He added, “I don’t travel around as much as I did at one time. [My wife Sarah] doesn’t like to travel all that much, so it’s just getting it down to a more manageable number. I think we’ll both enjoy it more.”

Ramsey has already sent a half-dozen 2-year-olds each to Eddie Woods and Woodford Thoroughbreds and will offer them at next year’s juvenile sales. He figures to lose some runners at the claim box, and will sell privately, as well. He also has floated the idea of conducting a dispersal at either Keeneland or Fasig-Tipton. Ramsey said he’d be active selling at yearling sales in 2019 and, at the breeding stock sales, would offer mares in foal to Kitten’s Joy, as well as a number of mares in foal to outside sires.

“My farm manager Mark Partridge and I are working on it right now, trying to figure which stallions will be commercial come November,” said Ramsey.

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A Public Option…

Ken Ramsey is still spry at 83. He speeds his red Lexus around Ramsey Farm’s many roads and knows every nook of the property. He proudly shows visitors the farm’s natural springs, including one that provides water to three nearby fields. On this visit, he ambles into the little shack that cover’s the spring’s source and, bending down, drinks directly from the water bubbling up from the limestone. “Try it,” he said. “That’s the best, purest water you’ll ever taste.”

Near another of the springs on his farm is a small covered bridge he had built by Amish workers.

“I told them to not nail down the floorboards, ’cause I like to hear them rattle when I drive over them,” he says.

According to Ramsey, he’s the largest landowner in Jessamine Co., and in total owns some 2,600 acres in myriad locations.

Ramsey has already made some major changes to his operation. For years, the Ramseys stood homebred champion Kitten’s Joy at Ramsey Farm, but last year sold a 50% interest in the stallion to Hill ‘n’ Dale Farms and relocated him there.

“We decided to take a little money off the table,” said Ramsey. “You’ve got to stay in the black.”

The Ramseys didn’t get entirely out of the stallion business. They still have We Miss Artie at Ramsey Farm, and the Grade I-winning son of Artie Schiller will be represented by first-crop runners in 2019.

Though the Ramseys are scaling back, there are no plans to sell Ramsey Farm. In fact, Ramsey just bought adjacent acreage to the property that includes two houses, and, in the midst of estate planning, he says he expects the farm to one day be split among his children and grandchildren, many of whom have shown an interest in racing. That includes grandson Nolan Ramsey, who is currently an assistant to trainer Mike Maker.

Ramsey also stresses that this isn’t a portent of him getting out of racing entirely. While he downsizes, he says he’ll put a renewed emphasis on two long-time goals: winning the Kentucky Derby and winning a stakes at Royal Ascot. To that end, he’ll begin breeding what mares he does retain to prominent dirt sires.

“We bred to Gun Runner and Arrogate last year, so we’ve got those coming on,” he said. “I probably can’t afford Justify, but I’m real high on him. But I’m going to focus on getting a really good dirt horse and try to win the Kentucky Derby. And if I can’t win the roses, maybe I can at least start smelling ’em! And we’ll try to win a stakes race at Royal Ascot. That’s been on my bucket list for a long time.”

Another of Ramsey’s aims, he says, it to figure out how to best utilize the land and facilities at Ramsey Farm. One option is to turn the farm public and open a boarding and sales-prep operation.

“I’ve got all the infrastructure I need,” he said. “I’ve got what we call Kitten’s Spa, which is an underwater treadmill and a vibrating platform that’ll really help the yearlings. We’ve also got a training center out here, as well, and could have horses ready to roll for the races. I’ve got three exercise riders coming out here now.”

He added, “If someone wants to come out here and lease a few hundred acres and use the facilities, we’d be tickled to death to talk with them about that.”

Ramsey is also hoping to possibly attract an outside stallion to stand at the farm.

“I’d be interested in partnering in up with someone to stand a stallion if they had one I thought had some promise,” he said.

Other big changes are afoot for Ken Ramsey. On the first of the year, Ramsey is turning over all his non-racing businesses to his son Kelly.

“I’ve got a lot of real estate holdings and rental properties, and we’re developing a subdivision and two industrial parks,” he said. “And I have six radio stations in the Midwest. I’ve been dabbling in all of it and not doing a good job in any of it.”

On the farm, Ramsey says he’s turning the day-to-day operations over to his son Jeffrey, currently the director of publicity and marketing, and to Mark Partridge.

“I’ll be dealing strictly with the horses and where to spot them,” said Ramsey. “I’m getting too old to put in 12 hours a day. Hell, my phone starts ringing every day at 6:30 a.m.”

In 2019, one of the horses Ramsey will be spotting is Backyard Heaven (Tizway), impressive winner of the GII Alysheba S. in May. Backyard Heaven subsequently disappointed in the GI Stephen Foster and GI Whitney S. Tests revealed foot bruising and he was given time off.

“There’s nothing wrong with him and he’s here on the farm,” said Ramsey. “We’ve had him in the spa here and we have a vibrating platform. So he’s been standing on that so his feet are toughened up, and we’ll send him to [trainer] Chad Brown down at Gulfstream in a few weeks.”

In some ways, Backyard Heaven is symbolic of Ramsey Farm’s future. He’s a dirt horse from an operation known for its turf stars. And he’s named after the Ramseys’ vacation house in Saratoga, a lifestyle Ramsey is intent on embracing more.

“I read Ecclesiastes the other day, and King Solomon says what you should do in life is eat, drink and be merry,” said Ramsey. “You’re not taking any of the money with you, and life’s too short. I’ve got a beautiful lake here on the farm with benches around it, and I drive past on my way to another meeting or whatever, and there are the farm employees out there fishing, enjoying themselves. And I don’t have time to do that. There’s something wrong with that picture, right? Anyway, the stark reality set in and I decided that, after all, I could be mortal. We need to kick back and take life a little easier.”

 

Pregnancy Problems: How to Increase Your Chances of Delivering a Healthy Foal

Thu, 2018-12-27 14:00

What could be that difficult about breeding? You select a stallion that suits the mare and your goals, breed your mare, then keep her fed and watered for 11 months until you’re rewarded with a healthy foal.

If only it were that simple.

There are many reasons a mare can prove difficult to get into foal, or to stay in foal. It could be as simple function of age. It could be results from a complicated delivery. Or, it could be a multitude of other reasons.

Regardless, now is the time breeders should be paying special attention to preparing their breeding stock for the upcoming season, and for those with known issues there are added safeguards and steps breeders can take she gave themselves and their horses the best chance at a successful pregnancy.

Issues that Can Impact Conception

There are many reasons a horse may have issues getting impregnated, the most basic of which are her age, not breeding her at the appropriate time during her cycle, or poor reproductive health of the mare or stallion.

A typical mare’s ovum, or egg, begins to lose viability within just five to six hours post-ovulation, and typically loses all viability within 24 hours. While a stallion’s semen typically remains viable for 48 hours, a reduced number and quality of a stallion’s semen can limit its viability to just a few hours. Age can negatively impact these timeframes for both sexes.

The mare’s body condition can also play into her chances of becoming pregnant. Most veterinarians recommend mares to rank around a 5 or a 6 on the Henneke Body Condition Score (BCS). When a mare’s weight and overall health decline, so too does their reproductive efficiency.

Outside of age and general health-related issues, endometritis is the most common reason for infertility in mares. This condition, which is an infection or inflammation of the lining of the uterus caused by foreign contaminants such as bacteria or spermatozoa, can either be acute as a result of breeding (both artificial and natural), reproductive examination or as a result of poor conformation.

“There are simple, but important steps one can take to improve the chances of conception, including a physical examination of both the mare and the stallion, a careful and thorough reproductive exam of the mare prior to the breeding season and during the estrous cycle during which breeding is to occur and to optimize the overall health of the horse,” said Kristina Lu, VMD, an equine reproductive specialist with Hagyard Equine Medical Institute.

Early vs. Late Term Pregnancy Loss

Just as there are a number of reasons a mare can be difficult to impregnate, the same can hold true for keeping her in foal. Most pregnancy losses occur in the initial weeks and months of pregnancy.

Again, age can play a role. As mares age, they may experience uterine fibrosis, which can lead to a placenta that is less-efficient in getting nutrition to the growing fetus.

Other causes for early-term pregnancy loss can be unavoidable complications, such as genetic defects or embryonic abnormalities. They can also be due to uterine infections that may have been low-grade and undetectable at the time of breeding/conception but proliferate in the subsequent weeks and months.

Late-term losses can have their own set of culprits.

“Placentitis, umbilical cord torsion, systemic illness can all cause late, and in some cases mid-term abortion in mares,” said Lu. “Diseases such as leptospirosis, equine herpesvirus 1 or 4 and equine viral arteritis are threats to a healthy gestation as well, some of which can spread quickly through a herd and may not generate obvious clinical signs other than abortion.”

Then there are also those mares that have little trouble carrying a foal to term, only to be prone to dystocias (difficulty giving birth), which can be caused by congenital abnormalities, such as contracted limbs that prevent the foal from properly fitting through the birth canal. This, in turn, can lead to oxygen deprivation in foals.

Safeguards to Protect Both Mare and Foal

While some complications are simply unavoidable, there are safeguards and protocols that can be implemented to support the gestation and delivery of a healthy foal.

“Some simple things horsemen and women can do to protect their mares and future foals are to maintain good general health of a mare, conduct thorough reproductive examinations, monitor the mare’s reproductive tract before and after breeding, ensure regular core vaccinations, consider screening for placentitis if the mare has a previous history and consider vaccinating for herpes or leptospirosis if appropriate,” said Lu. “Breeding as close to ovulation as possible can also be of benefit. On the other hand, repeated breeding during an estrous cycle (average 21 days) may increase opportunity for endometritis in some mares.”

Above all else, staying in regular communication with your veterinarian is one of the best forms of protection one can afford their mares.

TDN Rising Star Watch 2019: Game Winner

Thu, 2018-12-27 13:42

Members of the TDN staff reveal what TDN Rising Star they’re most excited to see race in 2019.

How can you not be excited about an undefeated juvenile colt, who is a three-time Grade I-winner, is soon-to-be a champion and is trained by Bob Baffert? Game Winner (Candy Ride {Arg}) has done absolutely everything right and I’m not just referring to the fact he is a perfect four-for-four. The bay has been the consummate professional in each of his racetrack appearances, winning impressively and with ease every time. He has also displayed versatility and the ability to overcome adversity, two important qualities for both a good racehorse and a GI Kentucky Derby hopeful.

Drawn in post nine in his six-panel debut at Del Mar Aug. 18, the $110,000 KEESEP buy forced the issue four-wide and blew them away in the lane to graduate by 5 3/4 lengths (video). Given another outside post in the GI Del Mar Futurity Sept. 3, Game Winner put away a strong field that included his more-fancied stablemate Roadster (Quality Road) with ease (video). Navigating two turns for the first time in the Sept. 29 GI American Pharoah S., he handled it with aplomb, shrugging off a talented runner in the stretch to win as he pleased (video). Facing his toughest test yet in the Nov. 2 GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, held beneath the same Twin Spires the colt hopes to see on the First Saturday in May, Game Winner overcame another outside post, wide trip and bumping in late stretch to forge clear for a determined score (video).

In each of his starts, Game Winner performed like a horse that would only get better with distance. He is bred to run all day being a son of Candy Ride out of an A.P. Indy mare, who is a daughter of MGISW Fleet Indian (Indian Charlie). The bay has the right connections for the job with owners Gary and Mary West and two-time Triple Crown-winner Baffert. Bred by Summer Wind Farm, the colt is one of three horses born at Jane Lyon’s facility to win at the highest level for Baffert this year with the other two being fellow ‘TDN Rising Stars’ McKinzie (Street Sense) and Chasing Yesterday (Tapit).

–Christie DeBernardis, Associate Editor

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