Friday, March 28, 2014

The Florida Sale: BNB Sale Picks

Eighty-five horses went through the ring during The Florida Sale held by Fasig-Tipton.  Forty-seven sold for a total of $13,370,000 with an average of $284,468 and a $180,000 median.  Nine of the top ten stallions in the 2013 North American General Sire list and the top three Freshman Sires of last year were represented.  Two colts sold for seven figures and four other juveniles sold for $500,000 or greater.

Of the top dozen sellers, I consider these two juveniles the best from the sale.  Their attributes were well-balanced through their pedigrees, breeze-outs, and conformation.  The filly, Hip No. 41, has a slight advantage over the colt, Hip No. 66.  I was more attracted to the colt’s pedigree, but the filly’s breeze-out was somewhat stronger, making her my first choice.

Hip No. 41 presents an attractive pedigree for the sales industry, for she is sired by Malibu Moon and out of the Touch Gold mare, Touch Here.  While the influence of Mr. Prospector is slightly more prominent than preferred, this filly has worthy bloodlines.  Her dam was Graded Stakes placed, and she transferred this talent into the breeding shed.  Touch Here produced the Kentucky Oaks victress, Summerly. 

In her breeze, she displayed a long-reaching stride, maintaining a level topline and did not unnecessarily waste energy.  She completed the one furlong sprint in a quick 10.0.  Consigned by Wavertree Stables, she was sold for $450,000 to 3-CH, acting as an agent.

A son of the promising sire, Eskendereya, Hip No. 66 garnered a $500,000 winning bid from agent Mark Casse.  Out of the Afleet mare, Call Me Fleet, this colt also presents excess Mr. Prospector blood, but redeems himself with an incredible dam line.  Call Me Fleet was the dam of a Stakes winner and the grand-dam of the multi-Graded Stakes winner/GI-placed, A.P. Warrior and other stakes winners in North America, Ireland, and Australia.  Hip No. 66’s second dam is actually a half-sister to the two-time champion Northernette and the legendary Storm Bird. 

The influences of the compact Northern Dancer blood was apparent in his conformation, but at the start of his breeze, it seemed as if it took him longer to gather his speed.  Nonetheless, he exhibited an aerodynamic stride, and also kept his topline quite level. 

Monday, March 17, 2014

Europeans on the Horizon: War Command

War Command - All photos courtesy Jason Doyle 

 Excitement for the Kentucky Derby grows in North America months before the twenty horse field reaches the starting gate.  It is also time to review last year’s juveniles in Europe as they prepare for the major three-year-old races such as the 2,000 Guineas and Epsom Derby.  In this series, I will be featuring the top ten juveniles in European Thoroughbred Rankings, starting from the highest-ranked horse.
War Command has asserted himself as a force among his three-year-old rivals.  The 2000 Guineas (Gr. I) hopeful has formed a record of remarkable experience during his juvenile campaign: five starts, four wins, and one third place finish.  In all but one of these starts, he had been ridden by Joseph O’Brien.  A Group I winner on soft ground, War Command has also proven capable of performing respectably in less-than-ideal conditions.
Trainer Aidan O’Brien sent out the bay colt for his career debut at Leopardstown in early June and he won the seven furlong race by a neck over his nine rivals.  Just eleven days later, War Command took a considerable step up into Royal Ascot’s six furlong Coventry Stakes (Gr. II).  During the running of this race, he was held up in the back of the fifteen horse field through the early going.  Into the final furlong, he grabbed a hold of the lead and drew away to win by an authoritative six length score over Parbold.
War Command’s striking victory throttled him to the top of the juvenile category.  His next start came a month later in the Curragh’s Phoenix Stakes (Gr. I) where the War Front son went to the post as the favorite in the betting.  However, he finished third in the five horse contest, beaten one length by the victorious Sudirman.
War Command on outside in green and white silks
For his penultimate start in the Futurity Stakes (Gr. II), War Command experienced another quick turnaround.  The Curragh’s grass course came up as good for the seven furlong journey in which the brawny juvenile was again established as the favorite.  War Command led into the final furlong and created a distinct three length winning margin over his nearest challenger, Mustajeeb.
He returned to England to end his year in Newmarket’s Future Champions’ Day feature race – the Dewhurst Stakes (Gr. I). In this premier event, War Command faced a new test when the turf was rated as ‘good to soft’.
His relaxed start set the tone for his performance.  Without restraint, he settled effortlessly off the pace and found a clear position to the outside.  He seemed as if he was getting less comfortable with the heavy surface as the race progressed, but nonetheless, he responded to O’Brien’s urging with a solid kick.  With a furlong to the wire, War Command had gained the lead and kept his adversaries at bay.  He finished 1 ¼ lengths ahead of the runner-up.
Most pundits were unimpressed with War Command’s Dewhurst win because of the slow time and the unremarkable winning margin.  However, his effort showed bright implications for the future due to his calm break and experienced running style.  The concerning aspects of War Command’s effort are simply a product of the slow course.

The colt’s breeder/co-owner, Joseph Allen, said, “War Command, so far, has wintered well.  As of now, he is being pointed toward the 2000 Guineas without a prep. This, of course, is subject to change depending on health and conditioning.”  Regarding where the colt would be pointed later in the season, Allen said, “His future races will be planned after the 2000 Guineas and at some point, I expect, he will be tried at longer distances.”
This auspicious colt presents potential not only as a racehorse, but also as a sire.  He inherited his conformation primarily from his sire, War Front, North America’s most popular stallion.  The combination of his quick-developing structure, pedigree and prowess would make War Command attractive in his stud career.
War Command is the result of crossing War Front to Wandering Star, by Red Ransom.  Wandering Star matches well with War Front’s genetics, most significantly consisting of Northern Dancer, Mr. Prospector, and Round Table.  Wandering Star does not descend from the historic Northern Dancer, but she is distantly related through both her sire and dam, whose ancestry includes Nearctic and Nearco respectively.  Her indirect relationship to the 1964 Kentucky Derby winner makes her more ideal for War Front’s book.  Additionally, Wandering Star also has traits of Sword Dancer, through Red Ransom’s broodmare sire, Damascus.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Fireworks at Barretts March

The Barretts March Select Two-Year-Old Sale showed improvements in most aspects and had its first seven-figure two-year-old since 2007 when Noble Lad went through the California auction ring.  Of the 141 horses cataloged, 60 sold for a gross of $10,655,000 which was higher than last year when 61 horses sold for $8,751,000.  This year’s average of $177,750 showed a 23.5% increase from 2013’s $143,459 and the median also increased 12.5% to $112,200.  Unfortunately, the buyback rate was slightly higher at 36.17% compared to last year’s rate of 33.7%.  Sending six horses through the sale, Steven Venosa’s SGV Thoroughbreds was the leading consignor over Hartley/De Renzo Thoroughbreds.

Malibu Moon was the in-fashion stallion at this sale – he sired three of the five highest-priced horses which were each purchased by Coolmore Stud interests.  The first of these three was Hip No. 24, a filly out of the impressive Stakes winner, Necessary Evil.  During the preview show, she breezed an eighth of a mile in a brisk :10.  From the consignment of Wavertree Stables, Hip No. 24 demonstrated her quick turn of foot and her long, efficient stride.  Buyers showed interest in the well-pedigreed filly, who sold for $450,000.

Hip No. 48, the next headliner, was also by Malibu Moon.  Offered by King’s Equine, this colt out of Rosy Humor was one of the three juveniles to gallop in the bullet time of :9 4/5 for the eighth of a mile.  The brawny colt’s speedy breeze was rewarded with a $550,000 winning bid.

Malibu Moon’s filly, Hip No. 140, was the final horse to sell in the one day auction.  This filly out of In the Ghetto ended the sale with a bang, as she was purchased for $950,000.  This filly consigned by SGV Thoroughbreds is the strongest example of Malibu Moon’s female progeny due to her long stride and refinement.

The two other top two-year-olds represented sires with international success.  Hip No. 77, a daughter of the prized sire, Galileo, brought a $625,000 winning bid from Diamond 100 Racing.  Son of the American-based stallion Giant’s Causeway, Hip No. 104 was the sale-topper with a price of $1.15 million from Coolmore.

Like most Galileo fillies, Hip No. 77 out of the mare Adoration was an elegant horse. Already named Awesome Diamond, the Wavertree Stable-consigned juvenile completed the gallop in a reasonable :10 2/5 and showed her good turn of foot and long stride.  Hip No. 77 shows promise as a future turf horse.

Hip No. 104 was undoubtedly the most striking horse in the Barretts March catalog.  Offered by SGV Thoroughbreds, he produced an eye-popping time of :9 4/5 with incredible ease.  Though he had a massive chest and shoulder, he had an appealing, graceful stride and an efficient turn of foot.  Hip No. 104 carried his head slightly high, but was otherwise breathtaking.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Europeans on the Horizon: Kingston Hill

Excitement for the Kentucky Derby grows in North America months before the twenty horse field reaches the starting gate.  It is also time to review last year’s juveniles in Europe as they prepare for the major three-year-old races such as the 2,000 Guineas and Epsom Derby.  In this series, I will be featuring the top ten juveniles in European Thoroughbred Rankings, starting from the highest-ranked horse.
"He's the sort of horse that everybody dreams about.  He's very easy to ride and a very laid-back horse with a big engine. We thought he was good but not that good," commented jockey Andrea Atzeni.
The Cartier Champion Two-Year-Old Colt, Kingston Hill established himself as one of Europe’s top juveniles when he won the prestigious Racing Post Trophy (Gr. 1) by 4 ½ lengths.  Currently, he is pointing towards the 2000 Guineas (Gr. I)  in early May.   If he does not show enough speed in his works, he could possibly skip Newmarket’s one mile event and instead pursue the 1 ½ mile Epsom Derby (Gr. I).
Kingston Hill is the rewarding payoff of crossing the popular Mastercraftsman and the Rainbow Quest mare, Audacieuse.  Blushing Groom, Northern Dancer, and Ribot all have appealing appearances in this pedigree.  While Kingston Hill’s lineage meets the high standards of a top-class racehorse, some aspects are concerning for distances greater than a mile.  Mr. Prospector, Lyphard, and Sharpen Up appear in Mastercraftsman’s bloodlines, while Raise a Native (by Mr. Prospector), and Bold Ruler appear in Audacieuse’s pedigree.
Though his bloodlines show implications for success at a mile, his past outings at two suggest he has the ability to carry his form with added distance.  Kingston Hill has also shown increasing professionalism in his three starts.  Unlike many of his juvenile rivals, the Paul Smith-owned colt relaxes behind the pace and saves enough energy to propel him to the lead in the final furlong.  If Kingston Hill’s quality continues into his three-year-old campaign, this grey son of Mastercraftsman will be a distinct force in the English Classics this season. 
Trainer Roger Varian sent out Kingston Hill for his career debut in late September of last year.  Newbury’s turf course came up as soft for the seven furlong journey, but it did not hamper the future star’s debut.  An inexperienced Kingston Hill stayed close to the pacesetters through the early going. With 100 yards to spare, he got a hold of the lead and defeated his ten rivals by 1 ½ lengths.
Kingston Hill moved onto a bigger stage in Newmarket’s Autumn Stakes (Gr. III) in his next outing.  The turf course was in slightly better condition:  this time it was rated as good to soft.  Kingston Hill was held back by his regular jockey, Andrea Atzeni, through the opening fractions, but he gained the lead inside the final furlong.  At the final post, the colt had a two length score over the runner-up, Oklahoma City.
Two weeks later, Kingston Hill had an impressive season finale in the Racing Post Trophy.  The going at Doncaster came up as soft for the one mile contest and Kingston Hill was made the 7-2 favorite in the betting.  The eleven-horse field broke cleanly from the gates and Kingston Hill willingly settled into fifth off the lead. 
Azteni allowed him to stride comfortably in this position until the final ¼ mile, when he asked his mount to close in on the pacesetters.  Instantly, Kingston Hill responded with a throttling kick that brought him neck and neck for the lead within moments.  He showed slight hesitance when passing his final adversary, but drew away under urging.  Kingston Hill’s final strides seemed effortless as he crossed the wire with a winning margin of 4 ½ lengths.   After the victory, Varian said, “He's a beautiful mover and next year will be an open book. He has a great cruising speed and turn of foot so you wouldn't rule out the Guineas. He'll be in everything and we'll see how he develops over the winter and trains in the spring.”

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Bunny's Derby Darlings 2014: Cairo Prince

Cairo Prince winning the Holy Bull Stakes - All photos courtesy of Matt Wooley/EquiSport Photos 
At Gulfstream Park, Florida Derby hopeful Cairo Prince proved himself a legitimate force on the Kentucky Derby trail when he won the Holy Bull Stakes (GII).  He had shown some promise in 2013 when finishing second by a nose to Honor Code in the Remsen Stakes (GII), and now seems to have solid chances to perform well in the Triple Crown.  The talent displayed in his performances rank him among the top tier of this year's three-year-old crop. 
Always ridden by Luis Saez, Cairo Prince has made four starts in his career, earning just over $510,000 in his three wins and one runner-up effort.  The Kiaran McLaughlin trainee won at first asking in an early October maiden at Belmont Park.  He led the field after the half mile in 45.76 and finished with a solid 2 ¾ length score over his nearest rival.  Cairo Prince completed the six furlong journey in 1:10.21 on a fast track.
He had his second outing a month later, this time stepping up to Grade II company in Aqueduct’s Nashua Stakes where he would face the likes of Noble Moon.  Cairo Prince raced in fifth after Awesome Wildcat’s opening ¼ mile in 23.16 and moved up three wide on the turn.  Nearing the ¼ pole, he gained the lead and drew off by five lengths down the stretch.  However, his winning margin at the wire was 2 ½ lengths and he finished with a time of 1:37.59. 
Later that month, Cairo Prince was a starter in the Remsen Stakes, where he would suffer his first defeat at the hands of Honor Code.  He was the second-choice in the nine furlong event at Aqueduct and raced in third throughout the first ¾ miles.  Cairo Prince had the lead in the stretch, but Honor Code came flying from the rear to nose him out for the win passing the wire.  Though Honor Code showed a considerably higher level of class, Cairo Prince carried six pounds more.
The auspicious Cairo Prince would continue to show potential in his 2014 debut – the Holy Bull Stakes.  As the favorite of the eleven horse contest, he was farther back than usual in fifth after Coup de Grace’s opening ¼ mile in 23.63.  Cairo Prince gradually advanced his position and gained the lead in the stretch.  Carrying six more pounds than the runner-up, Cairo Prince romped to the final post an uncontested winner by 5 ¾ lengths.  He completed the 1 1/16 mile race in 1:42.16. 
Cairo Prince winning the Holy Bull Stakes

Princely Pedigree
Cairo Prince is a remarkably well-bred three-year-old colt.  His sire, Pioneerof the Nile, was the runner-up in the 2009 Kentucky Derby (GI) and his dam is a daughter of the 200- Triple Crown hopeful Holy Bull.  Notably, six generations removed on his dam line is the 1939 Champion Two-Year-Old Filly, Now What. 

There are numerous reasons why Cairo Prince’s pedigree is so intriguing, but most noticeable are the appearances of Unbridled and Great Above.  This creates a strong influence of Dr. Fager.  Pioneerof the Nile is a grandson of the Kentucky Derby-winning Unbridled (by Fappiano, whose broodmare sire was Dr. Fager).  Holy Bull is by Great Above (Rough’N Tumble-Ta Wee) and this heightens the Dr. Fager line-breeding since he was also sired by Rough’N Tumble and his dam, Aspidistra, also produced Ta Wee.  Similar breeding was popular last fall in the two-year-old fillies’ division:  She’s a Tiger’s broodmare sire is a full-brother to Unbridled and her second dam is by Great Above.
Cairo Prince also has the common influence of Northern Dancer blood on a muted level.  His grandsire’s dam was by Northern Dancer’s son, El Gran Senor.  Cairo Prince’s third dam was a daughter of Nearctic, and his fourth dam was by Northern Dancer’s broodmare sire, Native Dancer.  There is also a smaller influx of Bold Ruler blood on the top and bottom halves of his pedigree, which ties nicely with the Unbridled/Dr. Fager lineage.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Europeans on the Horizon: Toormore

Excitement for the Kentucky Derby grows in North America months before the twenty horse field reaches the starting gate.  As the New Year begins, it is also time to review last year’s juveniles in Europe as they prepare for the major three-year-old races such as the 2,000 Guineas and Epsom Derby.  In this series, I will be featuring the top ten European juveniles in Longines World’s Best Racehorse Rankings, starting with the highest-ranked horse, Toormore.

Arakan–Danetime Out, by Danetime
Though his immediate lineage is not considered mainstream, Toormore possesses a quality pedigree for shorter distances such as a mile.  His sire performed best at 6-8 furlongs during his racing career which included a Gr. 3 victory and multiple Gr.-placed efforts.  Arakan’s best son, Dick Turpin was a dual Gr. 1 victor at no more than a mile, amassing earnings of nearly £1,000,000.  Middle distance success runs through Arakan’s blood – his sire Nureyev won at a mile, and his dam was by a son of Kris, a two-time champion miler.  Kris’s sire, Sharpen Up, also had won in sprints.  The bottom half of Toormore’s pedigree adds American short distance genes through Bold Ruler.
Two other interesting elements of Toormore’s blood are the Northern Dancer influence and Arakan’s classy dam-line.  Arakan’s fifth dam, Queen Sucree, was a daughter of the celebrated broodmare, Cosmah, and therefore a granddaughter of the pivotal mare, Almahmoud.  2010 American Kentucky Derby hopeful, Eskendereya, proved the lasting influence of this dam-line – Queen Sucree appears as his fourth dam.
With a rating of 122, Toormore was the top juvenile in the Longines World’s Best Racehorse Rankings.  He had a two-point score over the second-highest rated two-year-old, Kingston Hill.  Trained by Richard Hannon, Toormore went unvanquished in his three starts last year.  With earnings of£141,046, he proved too strong a force against some of Europe’s classiest juveniles. 
Carrying the colors of Middleham Park Racing IX and James Pak, Toormore made his career debut in late May at Leicester.  He pursued the leaders early in the twelve-horse race.  Toormore led the field into the final furlong, and won by a head over Ertijaal.  His final time was 1:14 for the six furlong contest on good footing.
Toormore did not make his next start until July 31 in the Vintage Stakes (Gr. 2) where he would face a challenging seven-horse lineup including the eventual Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (GI) winner, Outstrip.  The ground was rated as good-to-soft for the seven furlong journey over the Goodwood course. 
Garnering favoritism for his Group-class debut, Toormore was held back throughout the early stages by regular rider, Richard Hughes.  He advanced his position a furlong from the wire and responded well to his jockey’s urging.  Toormore led nearing the final post, but could only get a neck ahead of the runner-up, Outstrip.  He completed the race in 1:27.57.
The attractive bay colt’s final outing of 2013 came in the Vincent O’Brien National Stakes (Gr. 1) at the Curragh.  Two horses withdrew from the seven furlong event, but nonetheless, the five-horse field included quality runners.    Bettors sent Toormore off at even odds to win the race which would be contested over good grass. 
Upon breaking from the stalls, the Arakan son was keen to set the tempo and covered the ground with long, graceful strides.  Toormore always appeared as the obvious winner but could not shake the field until the final strides.  He drew away easily passing the wire to win with a 2 ¾ length score over Sudirman and Giovanni Boldini.  He completed the race with a time of 1:22.67.  After his victory, Tim Palin, racing manager of Middleham Park, said, “The further he goes, the better he gets, and he’s a Guineas horse all over.”
After this performance, Toormore was pointed towards the Racing Post Trophy (Gr. 1) and was made the ante-post favorite for the race.  However, he was scratched just days before the race due to the soft ground.
Toormore has proven himself as a top-class juvenile and will probably fare best in Europe’s best one mile races should he continue his success at three.  It is reasonable to predict solid performances in races such as the QIPCO 2,000 Guineas (Gr. 1) and St. James’s Palace Stakes (Gr. 1) at Royal Ascot.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Bunny's Derby Darlings 2014: Noble Moon Rising

It's that time of year to roll out "Bunny's Derby Darlings 2014"!  In this series, I will feature promising 3-year-olds on the Kentucky Derby trail.

Noble Moon confirmed himself as a contender on the 2014 Kentucky Derby trail by winning his seasonal debut – Saturday’s Jerome Stakes.  He settled on the pace this time out, proving his versatility in race strategy.

Now having earnings of nearly $200,000, Noble Moon was the favorite for the Jerome on the merits of a promising juvenile campaign.  The Lea Gyarmati-trainee made his career debut in mid-September of last year at Belmont.  Noble Moon’s first race pitted him against eleven opponents.  Sent off at high odds, he won by ¾ length and paid $53.50 for the win.

Carrying the colors of Jeff Treadway’s Treadway Racing Stable, Noble Moon returned to the races in early November and joined Graded Stakes company for the Nashua Stakes.  The colt finished third-best in the one mile race, but nevertheless showed promise.  Though the victorious Cairo Prince and runner-up Financial Mogul defeated him by 3 lengths, he was bumped at the start, raced six paths wide into the homestretch, and responded to jockey Alex Solis with a strong closing kick.

The Jerome was a stark contrast with a correspondingly different result.  With Irad Ortiz, Jr. aboard, this bay left the stalls a step slowly, but was keen to stay near the frontrunners.  The long-striding colt led the field after the opening half mile.  Coming out of the turn, he seemed to be an obvious winner, but Classic Giacnroll provided a challenge.  However, the opponent would not pass and Noble Moon won the 1 mile, 70 yard event with a final time of 1:45.08. 

Lea Gyarmati stated that Noble Moon will probably opt out of the Withers Stakes on February 1 in order to race in the Gotham Stakes the following month.

Noble Blood

The cross that created Noble Moon could only result in a lovely horse.  He is by Malibu Moon – sire of last year’s Kentucky Derby winner, Orb – and out of the Kingmambo mare, Mambo Bell.  Along with some other appealing qualities of these bloodlines, there is a solid influence of Princequillo.

From the estate of Edward P. Evans, Noble Moon has a most attractive pedigree.  However, it raises a concern for stretching out in distance. Though Malibu Moon sired a Derby winner, the traits of Bold Ruler, Mr. Prospector, and Nijinsky could result in a miler when matched with a mare such as Mambo Bell.  Malibu Moon’s sire, A.P. Indy is by Seattle Slew and out of a Secretariat mare, which means both his sire and broodmare sire are from the Bold Ruler line.  Malibu Moon is out of a Mr. Prospect mare whose damsire is the Nijinsky son, Green Dancer.

Mambo Bell is a daughter of the prestigious Kingmambo.  The celebrated bay stallion presents the ideal pedigree for a miler - by Mr. Prospector and out of the great mare, Miesque (by Northern Dancer’s son, Nureyev).   

Kingmambo’s miler-build is sometimes very apparent in his grandsons, which has generated concern when adding distance.  Noble Moon is a good example of this, as he is more muscular than his Classic distance rivals.  Perhaps his compact physique will prevent injury on the Triple Crown trail.  His powerful, efficient stride comes as the result of his favorable conformation.