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I've asked this of a couple of racing blogs, because I figure the more the merrier and I'll have a better chance of finding an answer, right? What I'm trying to figure out is, can a horse be offered for stud services before he is done racing? I know it is unconventional and will probably never happen in the US, but I have to wonder. Why retire a horse so early to make money in the breeding shed when you can keep racing and offer services after hes proved himself?

Asked by Anonymous

From what I understand (and this is something I learned from the world of show horses who typically don’t have anywhere near as strenuous a workload as a Thoroughbred), the majority of stallions have issues separating their hormones from their heads, like they’re unable to concentrate on more than one thing at once. Aside from the mental mindset, I think breeding stallions also tend to lose their form and gain weight because they’re breeding, not training. Show stallions are usually retired after they begin their stud careers because they are more interested in getting to know the ladies than competing against them and other horses. Some stables make it work and are able to show and breed the stallion at the same time by collecting and storing their semen for later artificial insemination, but that sort of thing isn’t allowed in Thoroughbreds. For all these reasons, it makes it hard to consider a dual lifestyle for a guy horse.

I do believe the owners of multi-G1 winner Acclamation were considering this because the horse kept having injuries that sidelined him, but they didn’t want to retire him to stud before he had a shot at the Breeders’ Cup. This was a while ago, so I’m not sure if this is still their plan, but some people want to try to make this happen so others might follow their lead and not retire their three-year-olds so soon.

Hot Dates for Zenyatta’s Z14

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I started my homework last month about who the Mosses should send Zenyatta to next if all goes well. Last year I had a top 5 list, and Zenyatta did indeed go to Tapit like I requested! Of course, at this stage it would appear the Mosses are favoring “trendy” sires, but who knows, that could easily change this year with foal #3. I have done a little digging and tried to find new sire picks that are feasible (i.e. Empire Maker and Henrythenavigator will be out of the running, sadly, because they are not in North America). Here it goes!:

Henrythenavigator - Over in Ireland. Sigh.

1) Lemon Drop Kid - A classic winner with a Belmont (I) victory and a G1 winner at ages 2, 3, and 4, LDK is both a really good-looking stallion, an excellent racehorse, and a phenomenal sire with graded stakes winners on every surface type. I’ve always greatly appreciated Kingmambo (and the rest of Miesque’s family). Fee $35,000 (TrueNicks Rating: A)

2) Bullet Train [GB] - Yep, going with a newbie here, but really it’s hard to argue against the spell-binding presence of Frankel’s 3/4 brother, newly-relocated to Kentucky. Should Zenyatta’s connections suddenly start favoring a great turf horse, Bullet Train is basically a perfect match: speed, great bloodlines, and strong classic ability. Fee $7,500 (TrueNicks Rating A+)

3) Lonhro [AUS] - While new to the U.S. and unconventional, it’s hard to knock the black beauty Lonhro who ran an impressive 35 times down under, winning 26 times with 11 Group 1 titles. A truly underrated freak of nature, he represents Australia’s finest with son Pierro taking much attention last year as a sizzling two-year-old. Fee $30,000 (TrueNicks Rating: B)

4) Cape Blanco [IRE] - The first foal crop from the G1-winning titan looks amazing, and I gush at the possibilities. Undefeated at the age of 2 and a G1 winner at 3 and 4, the stunning chestnut son of Galileo [IRE] offers serious substance and distance ability with wins at 12 furlongs. Fee $17,500 (TrueNicks Rating: A)

5) Smart Strike - Grass, poly, dirt, no matter! Smart Strike always seems to have a special one out of every crop: My Miss Aurelia, Salty Strike, Centre Court, Dynamic Strike, Lookin At Lucky, Curlin, English Channel Smart Bid, Never Retreat, blah blah blah. It’s a no brainer. Get Z in before he gets too old, please! Fee $85,000 (TrueNicks Rating: B)

This is all a wish list, and I realize from looking it over that most of these options probably won’t ever happen because of American racing prioritizing dirt over grass. As for what I think will most likely happen, I think the Mosses will go with Medaglia d’Oro, Distorted Humor, or another A.P. Indy boy. I would be surprised if they picked a brand new stallion, but it’s always possible they might go with someone with a lot of early ability and speed like Bodemeister.

I’m okay with this: G1 winner and light of my life Awesome Feather is booked to Medaglia d’Oro for 2013.

I’m okay with this: G1 winner and light of my life Awesome Feather is booked to Medaglia d’Oro for 2013.

I’m sure everyone knows about Rachel Alexandra right now

If not, go here.

Honestly, this is why sometimes horse breeding makes me nervous. I’ve had enough negatives to balance out the positives in my own personal experience being around broodmares at foaling time. Some minor complications are expected when a big baby is foaled, and my folks even had a mare die after an artificial insemination went poorly.

But enough of my harping. I hope to God that Rachel will be ok. She is  receiving the best of care and we all know how much of a fighter she is.

Five Suitors for Rachel Alexandra

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What’s the fun in following the crowd and producing the same group of sires’ progeny? MEH, I can do better! Let’s play bloodstock expert for a second here with Rachel Alexandra, seeing as she’s due to foal her Bernardini filly in the coming weeks.

The tough part about nicking good matches with a horse like Rachel Alexandra is finding proven horses that equate well with her pedigree as well as her natural ability. Her sire Medaglia d’Oro was an accomplished classic horse on dirt, but is by El Prado [IRE], who is synonymous with top grass horses. Being that Rachel has wins going long but could easily pass as a gifted miler to boot further complicates things, as she tosses her head to what her ancestry suggests about her on paper. If you look on TrueNicks, a lot of the “suggested” picks for Rachel that have high ratings are horses that I know would not work with the goals of what Stonestreet has in mind, nor likely what would mesh with Rachel’s own record: grass/classic sire Street Cry [IRE], Street Cry’s speedy son Street Boss, and grass champ Midshipman.

This particular genetic puzzle is probably more soluable from the conformation approach than going by bloodline statistics, so we ought to ignore the grass and try to reinforce the mighty prowess, or complement it further with long-distance genes:

  1. Tizway - One of the most fantastic modern milers, Tizway was untested classic potential with distance-getter Tiznow on top and esteemed sprinter Dayjur on the bottom. He’s similar to Rachel in this regard and also has Northern Dancer/Mr. Prospector. I’m a bit of a fan of the Danzig in this largely unproven cross. (Fee: $25,000, No rating)
  2. Eskendereya - Much like Rachel herself, “Esky” was a freakish success at three and looked every bit the champion had he been able to continue on to the Triple Crown. A big, well-built character, it’s hard to nitpick his bloodlines which are largely Euro-influenced: by European champion and prolific sire Giant’s Causeway and out of the Seattle Slew mare Aldebaran Light. Esky would tack on some considerable size, scope, and promise of speed. (Fee: $17,500, Rated B+)
  3. Hard Spun - A throwback to really good classic pedigree, while I don’t consider him a perfect specimen it’s hard to argue that the first few rounds of Hard Spuns racing haven’t been anything less than nice. Heavy on the Native Dancer is probably my biggest complaint, but it would be an interesting gamble. (Fee: $60,000, Rated D)
  4. Speightstown - A sire with some appeal but largely ignored due to the pileup of trendy stallions, Speightstown was a career miler/sprinter but throws a ton of variety in his progeny with G1 winners sprinting and going the classic distance. His conformation is excellent and similar crosses have done very well including Kentucky Oaks winner Believe You Can (by Gone West son Proud Citizen out of an El Prado [IRE] mare) and Ballerina Stakes (I) winner Hilda’s Passion (by Gone West son Canadian Frontier and out of an El Prado daughter [IRE]). Rachel was always on the cusp of being a phenomenal speed horse and router, so it would be all the more interesting to see this pan out. (Fee: $60,000, Rating A++)
  5. Drosselmeyer - I like what I’ve seen already in Drosselmeyer’s first foals, and the Belmont-Breeders’ Cup Classic double is appealing should the desired result be a foal that can carry speed and last. Nijinsky and Danzig make him an attractive option with two G1 winners as his parents. (Fee: $17,500, Rating: A++)

I absolutely love it when these things happen! I mentioned a little while ago how the far-cheaper, full brother to Unbridled’s Song, Spanish Steps (fee: $3,000), was the proud sire of Arlington Million (I) winner Little Mike. It was great to see yesterday how a little-known Pennsylvania sire Wiseman’s Ferry (fee: $3,500) sired multi-G1 winner and champion of the $1 million Woodbine Mile (I), Wise Dan, AND the fourth-place runner Riding the River. Yay for small-time breeding!

Potesta: A Short Glimpse of Pedigree-Related Breakdowns

If you heard the unfortunate news yesterday of Hollywood Oaks (II) winner and track record-setter Potesta's breakdown during a workout, you were probably reasonably upset and maybe a little determined to find out what the heck happened. Potesta seems an unlikely candidate for a potentially lethal breakdown, as the 3-year-old filly was not racing at the time. We do know that she was “galloping out,” or gearing down after the work, when exercise rider Adalberto Lopez heard the cracking sound and leapt off her back.

Because I hate playing the blame game on one factor or another, I aimed to research what may have happened with Potesta. The filly was going a good clip over 6 furlongs at the synthetic-based Hollywood Park, completing the second-fastest of 27 moves in 1:14 1/5 when the incident occurred. Makers of synthetic surfaces— which Potesta obviously favors as all 3 of her career wins were over a synthetic surface— tout that it’s safer than dirt and occurs with slightly fewer breakdowns/euthanizations, but really, that’s hardly a factor when it’s just a slight percentage less. Trainer Mike Mitchell has only one newsworthy suspension to his credit from 2010, a 15-day exile from elevated CO2 levels (milkshaking) of a lower-level horse named The Phenom. His 2012 start count, 252 races, is dwarfed in comparison by Doug O’Neill’s 352, Bob Baffert’s 374, and Jerry Hollendorfer’s 771 in the western training ranks.

Now that we’ve covered track conditions and trainer rep, it’s time to look at Potesta’s pedigree:

It’s not unusual for a horse to retire due to soundness issues or injury, and by that account, Potesta looks relatively good on paper. She has absolutely no inbreeding present (a rarity nowadays!) in the first 5 generations, with a lot of distance influence in her heavily American-based pedigree including Danzig and Blushing Groom [FR]. However, looking closely at some of the entries have some soundness issues: Danzig was retired after 3 races due to knee issues, grandsire Holy Bull broke down while dueling Cigar in the 1995 Donn Handicap, and sire Macho Uno had many on-again, off-again small injuries throughout his career, but most notably did not race early on at 3 because of “bone density immaturity.”

Could this be our missing link, that Potesta’s bones were just a bit too thin to withstand her great speed? Very possibly it could be, as this influence is not only very close in her breeding, but is the most prominent factor as to why she may have sporadically broken down. Regardless, I hope to see her survive surgery and live out a long retirement.

Can We Just Stop for a Minute

And give serious props to Awesome Again? I was thinking about this stuff the other day and figured I just had to write it down before some big-wig elsewhere borrowed my thought process and acted upon it.

I’ve had a soft spot for Adena Springs since I started really following modern horse racing. My visit to Calder spotted me several Adena-sired horses, and I can’t help but respect the people who not only bought for big money, but continued racing my favorite juvie from 2010, Awesome Feather. Adena Springs is a pretty good-sized breeding and racing operation with a little bit of their own rehoming program to boot, standing names like Macho Uno, Einstein, Ghostzapper, and the truly awesome Awesome Again.

This gorgeous bay stallion really doesn’t get the credit he deserves in the era of Bernardini spam, A.P. Indy orgies, and Empire Maker circlejerks (sorry for the graphic choice of words, but really, it fits). Rewinding back to the glory days when he still raced, he won 9 of 12 races with a top Equibase speed rating of 123. He broke his maiden by 6 lengths on his second try at a distance-digging 1 1/16 miles. He won the Queen’s Plate, the Breeders’ Cup Classic, and the Whitney by daylight. His Classic win was especially memorable, as Awesome came flying from the back of the pack to stay undefeated in 1998 over a top field that included Silver Charm, Victory Gallop, and Skip Away. His racing career ended with a back injury while running fifth in the Super Derby (then a G1 stake).

A lot of excellent racehorses turn out to be not-so-awesome sires, but in this case, it’s where Awesome Again really started humming. After winning in excess of $4.3 million at the races, Awesome Again would spur a legacy of millionaires, G1 winners, and Breeders’ Cup winners, thereby becoming one of those rare, excellent horses that produced even better than himself. In his first crop born in 2000, he caught fire immediately with the impeccably fast Ghostzapper, who won sprints as in the Vosburgh (I) before taking the Breeders’ Cup Classic (I) in record time (which still stands!). Hotstufandthensome, Round Pond, Spun Sugar, Awesome Action [CAN], Eishin Newton, Wilko, Awesome Gem, Ginger Punch, and Game On Dude are easy adds to the “most awesome” Awesomes list.

In more recent seasons, unfortunately, the number of big money winners by Awesome Again took a decline with many progeny never even having a start at the track. Rooted at a good $50k per season price, Awesome was little match for the wave of new popular blood (i.e. Unbridled’s Song) that begat fast, precocious talent. Even top broodmares were not spitting out bona fide racers with Awesome Again (see Finder’s Fee [an Acorn Stakes (I) winning daughter of Storm Cat] who has two Awesome Again foals earning less than $100k combined).

However, the future remains bright for Awesome Again as both he and his finest son Ghostzapper are having a breakthrough year with stakes winners and top performers. Fast Falcon looked game enough to win a paltry edition of the Travers (I) and was a close runner-up in the Dwyer (II), but most notably, it is the son Paynter who has shown some of the most promise in a year bloated with excellent sophomores. While he did not start until he was 3 and was slow to progress, Paynter nearly upset the Belmont Stakes (I) in front-running fashion and then capped off a tremendous Haskell (I) to become the early Travers favorite. In a sense, it’s paramount that Paynter survives his current bout of illness to continue to buoy the stud career of his sire. Between Paynter and multi-G1 winner Game On Dude— who looks to be a key favorite in avenging his close Breeders’ Cup Classic loss— 2012 could mean the revival of Awesome Again as a relevant sire should his progeny collect his 5th Breeders’ Cup win in November, an historic 2nd Classic winner by a Classic winner.

Here’s to an awesome fall, Dude.

English Channel Coming Up Roses

Back in his heyday, the turfer English Channel was among the best grass horses the U.S. had to offer who wasn’t an import. While that might not be saying much in the grand scheme of things, he was consistent as the day is long with rare stamina to boot, never faring worse than 4th and winning 6 times at 1 1/4 miles or farther. With powerful bloodlines backing him up (by the millionaire classic sire Smart Strike and out of a Theatrical [IRE] daughter), it’s tough to argue that English Channel would not have a place in the classics.

However, fast-forwarding to his first crop racing in the Triple Crown, his lone competitor son Optimizer was spotty at best. While he was the only horse to run in all three legs, his performances grew sour by the hour, reaching a rank moot point in the Belmont where he uncharacteristically ripped out of the gate and dropped back by the end. It was best for all connections involved to quietly tuck any mention of Optimizer away.

But now that the season has worn on and the three-year-olds are a little older, it’s time to take another look. English Channel himself was a late-bloomer and progressed slowly yet surely as a grass runner. His son, Blueskiesnrainbows, made a big splash as a greenhorn in the Santa Anita Derby (I), nearly besting I’ll Have Another and Creative Cause who finished together just a length ahead. He won today’s Swap Stakes (II) over some nice competition including G1 winner and stablemate Liasion. Not bad for a horse who was a bargain binner at $33,000.

Adding to the short list of promising progeny is the favorite and eventual winner of Canada’s beloved Queen’s Plate (I), Strait of Dover. A struggling claimer on the dirt, upon switching to Woodbine’s synthetic surface, the colt boomed, improving vastly to break his maiden and only got emphatically better as more distance was given to him. He would go on to win the Plate in a steady, track record-breaking try.

There are others, but with stuff to prove including D. Wayne Lukas’s on again, off again stakes winner Skyring (similar to his stablemate Optimizer, dare I say!). It’s not popular cheap speed fare, but I expect with a little more sitting and waiting, we’ll see more English Channel in the winner’s circle.

私は別のものがあるでしょう

That’s what “I’ll Have Another" is in Japanese. Or roughly, because I used Google Translate and you know how that goes.

It’s been a good few years since the Far East snapped up one of our Triple Crown winners, and while I’m saddened to see our Cookie Monster set sail for a new land, I have to wonder what impacted this sale. No doubt, there have been offers in the past for other Triple Crown leg champs, so what was the big sell point? Was it the [likely] possibility that I’ll Have Another’s value at stud would be abysmal? Was it the soundness issue that threatened? Let’s look at past winners bought by Japan:

  • Empire Maker - The heavy favorite for the 2003 Kentucky Derby came in second to Funny Cide after some hoof issues likely plagued his trip. He roared back to win the Belmont Stakes in the slop before shuttling to Japan in 2010 to begin a powerful career at stud, siring winners such as In Lingerie, It’s Tricky, Royal Delta, Bodemeister, Grace Hall, and Pioneerof the Nile. Big mistake, U.S.
  • War Emblem - The almost-Triple Crown winner of 2002, while War Emblem has a short progeny list due to lack of interest in breeding, he already has a few millionaires to his credit and shows all signs of a great influence on the Japan industry. He likely would not have been as sought-after in the States, but nonetheless, had some intriguing potential in his pedigree.
  • Sunday Silence - The black almost-Triple Crown winner of 1989 is no doubt one of Japan’s most influential foundation sires period, with more than a decade topping the national sire list and multi-generational winners spanning the globe. His conqueror Easy Goer, who stayed in the States, was also successful but not even close to this degree. I mourn that hit.

I don’t personally think I’ll Have Another will have as large an impact as these past Triple Crown leg winners; if anything, I would compare him to other sales made by Japan with Roses in May and Conduit— nice horses, but nothing awe-inspiring seen in their long-term influence. The purchase by Japan was completed largely for financial reasons, as no one farm in Kentucky was willing to make a decent offer on I’ll Have Another in comparision to Big Red Farm in Hokkaido.

Our loss, their gain I guess. It’s all just a disappointing end to a disappointing Triple Crown run.

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