Monday, February 25, 2013

Stallion Feature: Commands

Often, a large portion of a horse’s success can be traced back to an ancestor within its dam line. Stallions typically receive the spotlight in the breeding industry, but the mares are very much deserving of respect and recognition, as noted in my article dated July 3, 2012, “Recent Remarkable Broodmares.”

The presence of such a mare – especially one denoted as a Reine de Course mare, or a superior female that has left an undeniable effect on the Thoroughbred – in a horse’s pedigree is certainly an advantage. Commands, Australia’s leading sire, is a grandson of one of the most legendary mares of all time, Eight Carat – a feature in his pedigree that has surely led him to his success in the breeding shed.

Eight Carat, a mare bred in Great Britain, has had an unbelievable effect on the bloodlines of the Thoroughbred racehorse. Born in 1975, the black mare produced an outstanding five group one winners: two-time Australian Horse of the Year Octagonal and the additional group one winners Diamond Lover, Kaapstad, (Our) Marquise, and Mouawad. As if her progeny record of racehorses was not magnificent enough, her offspring also proved to be top producers. She is the granddam of many group one victors, including Danewin, Don Eduardo, Shower of Roses, and Tristalove. The four aforementioned Thoroughbreds are just offspring of Eight Carat’s daughters. Her sons produced the likes of the group one winners Golden Sword, Niello, and Lonhro.

Commands is a son of an unraced daughter of Eight Carat, Cothele House. Bred in Great Britain and exported to Australia, Cothele House yielded not only Commands, but the multiple group one-winning champion Danewin and the stakes winners Jetso (In House) and Prospect Tower.

As a son of the great sire Danehill, Commands is a full brother to his champion brother, Danewin. Danehill, though successful as a racehorse, found his true calling as a sire. The son of Danzig was the leading sire in multiple countries, including France, Ireland, Great Britain, and Australia, the latter in which he was the leading sire for an astounding nine consecutive years. The initial prominent shuttling sire, Danehill produced an astronomical amount of grade/group one winners, including many champions, such as Duke of Marmalade, Dylan Thomas, Peeping Fawn, and Rock of Gibraltar. He has also proven to be an outstanding sire of sires, yielding the likes of the exceptional stallions Flying Spur and Redoute’s Choice, as well as the rather successful sires Desert King and North Light.

Danehill possesses a Rasmussen Factor, being inbred to the Reine de Course mare Natalma 3 X 3, as the daughter of Native Dancer is not only his third dam, but the dam of his grandsire, Northern Dancer. Commands thus descends from the Northern Dancer sire line, which is certainly among the most influential ones of the breed. In the 1970s, the Canadian-bred champion was the leading sire once in North America and four times in the United Kingdom, as well as the twentieth century’s most successful sire. Northern Dancer’s stud record was astounding, as the son of Canadian Hall of Famer Nearctic was an incredible producer of successful racehorses, sires, sires of sires, and broodmares. Among his best sons were the champions Nijinsky and Sadler’s Wells, both of which became leading sires, the latter of which was the leading sire in the United Kingdom for an astonishing thirteen consecutive years and for a total of fourteen years.

Command's pedigree
Commands’ royal breeding was surely a helping factor in his successful racing career. Victorious in four of his fifteen outings, Commands achieved earnings of $417,231 in Australian dollars. Losing just one start as a juvenile, Commands attained his greatest triumph as a two-year-old, capturing the Missile Stakes (GIII), a race that has been won by many a talented racehorse, including Dance Hero and Lonhro.

As a three-year-old, the dark bay made eleven starts, winning the Concept Sports Stakes at Flemington Racecourse, which served as the longest stakes-winning distance of his career at 1417 meters, or a mere shade over seven furlongs. In a remarkable effort, Commands finished second – beaten a nose in The Galaxy (GI) at Caulfield, which was one of two in-the-money finishes in group one company. Commands also finished third in the Caulfield Guineas (GI), beaten by the outstanding Redoute’s Choice.

Commands now stands stud at Darley Australia’s Kelvinside division. For the past three seasons, he has been the leading sire of winners in Australia and in 2011, the son of Danehill eclipsed Encosta De Lago’s record for number of winners in a single season, setting the record on July 22, 2011 with his 148th winner of the season. The stallion has sired nine group one winners, excelling primarily with sprinters and milers like himself, though his daughter Purple was a group one winner at 2000 meters (approximately 10 furlongs) and 2400 meters (nearly 12 furlongs) and his son Erewhon was a group one winner at 2000 meters.

Commands has chiefly found success with mares that, like him, descend from the Nearco sire line, especially flourishing with mares who have the presence of Northern Dancer in their sire lines, thus producing a line-bred foal. Seven of Commands’ nine group one winners have descended from the Nearco sire line, three of them being from the Northern Dancer sire line. Commands has also crossed well with mares from the Star Kingdom (a grandson of Hyperion) sire line, producing the group one victors Paratroopers and Undue.

Breeding to Commands provides a foal with the luxury of tracing back to one of the most prodigious international dam lines of all-time. A proven, exceptional sire, Commands will surely only continue to find success, serving as a stallion breeders should strive to breed their mares to. 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Derby Hopeful: Super Ninety Nine

Derby Hopefuls feature the horses I view as the best contenders leading up to the Kentucky Derby. Each horse spotlighted in a Derby Hopeful will join the 2013 PTG Derby Hopeful roster, found on the right side of the blog. Horses will be listed in an order that corresponds to how highly I think of them, with the horse I think most highly of ranking at the top. A horse featured in a Derby Hopeful may be taken off the roster if its performances after its article are published are not up to par or if that horse is taken off the Triple Crown trail, though those articles will remain on my blog.

With many paragraphs drawn from "Super Ninety Nine: Something to Look Forward To", dated 11-16-12

Super Ninety Nine
Photo by Terri Cage
He tossed his head, flashing his radiant white blaze as his red mane flowed, his neck arched as his rich chestnut coat gleamed in the morning sun. My eyes focused upon the Bob Baffert trainee's Breeders' Cup saddle towel, reading his name: Super Ninety Nine. Prior to seeing him in person, I had not been incredibly impressed by the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Sprint contender. However, as soon as the colt graced my vision, he became my top selection.

Super Ninety Nine displayed great muscularity for his age, possessing the powerful build of a Quarter Horse. It was impossible to deny that the colt reminded me of a former grade one-winning Baffert trainee, Euroears. Sharing the same chestnut coloring and similar markings, Super Ninety Nine was also powerfully built just as Euroears had been and also galloped in the same robust manner.

Unfortunately, after being cast in his stall, Super Ninety Nine was withdrawn from the Juvenile Sprint and thus was unable to reveal what he was capable of on Breeders' Cup weekend. But Super Ninety Nine had impressed me enough in the mornings to land a position on my radar.

The colt's debut was clearly exciting enough for his connections to enter him in the Breeders' Cup. His first start came in a seven-furlong maiden special weight over Santa Anita's main track, in which the chestnut was sent off as the third choice in a field of twelve. Super Ninety Nine did not briskly leave the starting gate, but with slight urging from jockey Martin Garcia, the chestnut colt rocketed to the lead as the field commenced its run down the backstretch.

However, the Tanma Corporation-owned colt was soon overtaken by the favorite, Quietasacat, off of whom Super Ninety Nine raced just to the outside. Just a half-length separated the two as an initial quarter-mile split of 23.05 was set, but Super Ninety Nine gradually began to decrease Quietasacat's lead as the pair led the field into the turn.

Super Ninety Nine matched strides with his nemesis midway through the curve, gaining a slight advantage as they reached the quarter pole. With asking from Garcia, Super Ninety Nine began to kick clear, lengthening his lead at the top of the stretch, holding off the charges of his rivals. In the final yards, the colt seemed to find his best stride despite changing leads, crossing the wire 1 1/4 lengths in front.

Kept out of the Breeders’ Cup, Super Ninety Nine instead made his graded stakes debut in the seven-furlong Hollywood Prevue Stakes (GIII), racing mid-pack prior to closing willingly to finish just a ½-length behind the winner. A lackluster fourth-place finish in his next start, a six-furlong allowance at Santa Anita, instilled worry that this colt was not as talented as he appeared.

But he proved this doubt to be wrong in his sophomore debut, which was also his first two-turn race. Despite a slightly rough beginning, Super Ninety Nine initially settled off the leader prior to gaining ground on that rival, finding himself on the lead as the field rounded the far turn. Entering the homestretch, the chestnut colt kicked clear, drawing off to an easy 3 ¼-length victory.

Following Baffert’s trend of succeeding with gifted three-year-olds shipping into Arkansas from California, Super Ninety Nine faced nine rivals over a sloppy track at Oaklawn Park in the Southwest Stakes (GIII). Breaking sharply, Super Ninety Nine quickly went to the lead, never looking back from there as he set steady fractions prior to drawing off to an effortless 11 ¼-length triumph. Though his performance may have been enhanced due to the sloppy track, the colt was clearly the best of the group.

Due to the speed he has shown, Super Ninety Nine has been primarily viewed as a sprinter, but he has clearly blossomed around two turns. He certainly has been distance questions to tackle, but he may find support in his pedigree. Bred by Northwest Farms LLC, this rising star brings to life bloodlines that are like a web of speed and stamina. Mated on a cross of two of the most powerful sire lines of the breed, Super Ninety Nine possesses a pedigree that is not lacking in strength on either side.

Super Ninety Nine
Photo by Terri Cage

 Sired by Pulpit, Super Ninety Nine shares the same sire as such grade one winners as Corinthian, Ice Box, Purge, Pyro, Rutherienne, Sky Mesa, Stroll, and Tapit. Pulpit is of course a son of the great A.P. Indy, the sire of nearly thirty grade one winners, including Bernardini, Flashing, Mineshaft, Little Belle, Music Note, and Rags to Riches. The A.P. Indy sire line from which Super Ninety Nine descends has been highly successful, as A.P. Indy is also the sire of such productive studs as Bernardini, Congrats, Malibu Moon, Mineshaft, and Stephen Got Even. 

Super Ninety Nine's dam, Exogenetic, is a three-quarters sister to Exogenous, an ill-fated multiple grade one winner, and is also the dam of the multiple black-type-winning Elusive Horizon. A daughter of Unbridled's Song, Exogenetic provides Super Ninety Nine with the same broodmare sire as the group one winner Better Than Ever, as well as the graded stakes winners Etched, Hold Me Back, and Out of Bounds.

War Exchange, Super Ninety Nine's fourth dam, was a stakes-winning mare who produced two graded stakes winners, one of which was Barbarika, two-time Horse of the Year Curlin's granddam, thus making War Exchange the multiple classic winner's third dam. War Exchange is also the third dam of the grade one-winning champion Countess Diana.

A colt that caught my attention as soon as he stepped into my vision, it will be exciting to see how he progresses. Bringing to the table eye-catching conformation and movement, as well as a beautiful pedigree, Super Ninety Nine continues to show great promise and could be on the path to glory.

Friday, February 15, 2013

After the Auction: K. O.'s Touch

As an avid fan of sales with possible aspirations to become an adviser/bloodstock agent, auctions are one of my favorite topics to write about on Past the Grandstand. This is the tenth edition in a blog series called "After the Auction" that will feature horses I selected in sales that have found success after the sale. 

Whether a horse is being pointed toward the Triple Crown or not, the beginning of a Thoroughbred’s sophomore season is always an exciting time. It is especially exciting when such a commencement is the kick-off of that horse’s career. For K. O.’s Touch, a Triple Crown bid is not the plan, but this filly seems to have a bright future ahead.

Upon debut, K. O.’s Touch set the pace in a six-furlong maiden special weight over Tampa Bay Downs’ dirt surface. Though pressured by rivals to the inside and outside of her down the backstretch, the dark bay filly only had one opponent alongside her as the field rounded the far turn. She led by about a length as the field entered the homestretch, but the favorite, Putitinmypocket, caught her in the final strides, defeating K. O.’s Touch by ¾ of a length.

After finishing third in her next start, K. O.’s Touch found the path to the winner’s circle. Breaking sharply from the rail in a seven-furlong maiden over a sealed Tampa Bay oval, K. O.’s Touch achieved an early, easy lead. After being pressed by rivals in the early stages, the filly edged away from her adversaries to lead by a comfortable distance down the backstretch. She accelerated going into the far turn, putting more ground between herself and the others. Leading by 4 ½ lengths as the field turned for home, K. O.’s Touch remained clear of her opponents, effortlessly coasting to a near-3-length victory.

A full sister to the multiple graded stakes-winning and multiple grade one-placed Crown of Thorns, K. O.’s Touch is sired by Repent, a multiple graded stakes winner that has also produced the graded stakes winners Atoned, Diva Delite, and Sweet Repent. With Preakness Stakes (GI) winner Louis Quatorze as her grandsire, Repent descends from the Northern Dancer sire line, which has been responsible for an astounding plethora of champions
. In the 1970s, the Canadian-bred champion was the leading sire once in North America and four times in the United Kingdom, as well as the twentieth century’s most successful sire.

The dam of K. O.’s Touch, Crowning Touch, is a half-sister to the grade one-winning champion Smoke Glacken, the multiple graded stakes-winning Smokey Glacken, the stakes-winning and graded stakes-placed Capote’s Crown, and the graded stakes-placed Argyle Pink. Crowning Touch is a daughter of Thunder Gulch, a champion who captured three classics as a three-year-old. Sire of classic winners like himself in Point Given and Spain, Thunder Gulch has been successful as a broodmare sire, yielding the dams of the likes of the graded stakes winners Daddy Nose Best, Get Square, and Star Billing.

K. O.’s Touch’s fourth dam is 1996 Maryland Broodmare of the Year, the black-type-placed Turn Capp, who produced several black-type horses: Capp Ice, Capp it Off, Capp the Power, Say Capp, and Twilight Prince. This filly is thus a direct descendant of the Reine de Course mare, Chelandry, who is the foundation mare of family 1-n. Other direct descendants of this outstanding racemare and broodmare include
Americain, Bodemeister, and Swale.

Offered as hip 125 at the 2012
Keeneland April Two-Year-Olds in Training Sale, K. O.’s Touch was one on my selections at that auction and has since become the eleventh winner of my juvenile sales picks from 2012. What K. O.’s Touch will accomplish in the future is unknown, but whether she finds more success or not, she will remain on my radar.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Sophomore Spotlight 2/11/13

In a spinoff of Juvenile Spotlights, new-on-the-scene three-year-olds will be featured in a new blog series called “Sophomore Spotlights.” These will only continue through the end of February and will follow the format of Juvenile Spotlights. This series was created to spotlight the up-and-coming sophomores that either did not race as a juvenile or did not perform as well as a two-year-old.

Tiz the Truth (2/2):
A disappointing eighth in his debut, Tiz the Truth was a game second in his initial dirt try. The colt broke his maiden in his subsequent start, leading from start to finish to score by 7 ¾ lengths, completing the final furlong of the one-mile race in 11.87 seconds. A colt that has seemed to flourish on the dirt, Tiz the Truth is a son of the outstanding sire Tiznow. Being out of the French Deputy mare Truly Blessed, Tiz the Truth is a half-brother to the multiple graded stakes-winning Notional. The colt is therefore a direct descendant of the great Reine de Course mare Myrtlewood, the fifth dam of Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew.

Salutos Amigos (2/9): Second in his debut at Hollywood on the turf and fourth next out on dirt, Salutos Amigos broke his maiden over Santa Anita’s dirt oval, settling a handful of lengths off the pacesetter before striking to the lead and drawing off to a near-4-length victory. A son of young sire Salute the Sarge, Salutos Amigos is out of the multiple group stakes-winning Argentinian mare Sarasota, who has also produced the graded stakes-winning Sarah’s Secret.

Flashy Gray (2/10):
After playing the role of runner-up in her debut at Keeneland, Flashy Gray dominated a maiden special weight at Churchill Downs by 10 ¼ lengths. Making her sophomore debut in an allowance optional claiming at Gulfstream, Flashy Gray easily defeated her rivals by 4 ¾ lengths. Sired by young sire Flashy Bull, Flashy Gray was a $775,000 purchase at the 2012 Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale as part of Dolphus Morrison’s dispersal. Morrison, breeder and former owner of Rachel Alexandra, as well as former owner of my Miss Fifty, declared Flashy Gray to be “the best racehorse I’ve owned.” Read more about his thoughts on this filly here.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Derby Hopeful: Flashback

Derby Hopefuls feature the horses I view as the best contenders leading up to the Kentucky Derby. Each horse spotlighted in a Derby Hopeful will join the 2013 PTG Derby Hopeful roster, found on the right side of the blog. Horses will be listed in an order that corresponds to how highly I think of them, with the horse I think most highly of ranking at the top. A horse featured in a Derby Hopeful may be taken off the roster if its performances after its article are published are not up to par or if that horse is taken off the Triple Crown trail, though those articles will remain on my blog.

Photo by Casey Phillips
Siblings of famous racehorses often have high hopes pinned upon them and oftentimes, they do not live up to those standards. However, so far is not the case for Flashback, a full brother to the grade one-winning filly, Zazu. Though Flashback is campaigned by different connections than Zazu was, he shares the same gray coloring and class.

Catching my eye with an easy win in his debut at Hollywood Park, Flashback has been among my favorites for the Derby trail since December. In his sophomore debut, Flashback proved himself to be a top contender for the Kentucky Derby (GI) with a dominant victory in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes (GII) at Santa Anita, a race eventual Kentucky Derby champion I’ll Have Another won in 2012.

Though facing just three rivals in the Lewis, Flashback’s adversaries included the graded stakes-winning Den’s Legacy and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (GI) runner-up He’s Had Enough. Breaking cleanly from the second gate in the mile and one-sixteenth event over Santa Anita’s dirt oval, Flashback immediately went to the lead beneath Julien Leparoux. Though pressured by his opponents, the gray colt appeared very comfortable down the backstretch, his ears moving back and forth contentedly.

Flashback posted steady fractions as He’s Had Enough continued to press the pace, but the full brother to Zazu remained relaxed as he led the small field into the final curve. Around the bend, Flashback began to prove that he was head and shoulders above the rest, effortlessly easing away from his rivals before even reaching the quarter pole. Once into the homestretch, Flashback continued to kick clear, drawing off to win by an impressive 6 ¼ lengths in an easy manner.

Being inexperienced and having not yet faced the stiffest competition, the extent of Flashback’s talent remains uncertain. However, Flashback possesses undeniable potential and is clearly among the top contenders along the road to Louisville. Please read about this colt in greater detail in my Horse Racing Nation article about him, dated 12/18/12, “Flashback: A Star on the Rise.”

Flashback winning the Robert B. Lewis
Photo by Casey Phillips

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Derby Hopeful: Revolutionary

Derby Hopefuls feature the horses I view as the best contenders leading up to the Kentucky Derby. Each horse spotlighted in a Derby Hopeful will join the 2013 PTG Derby Hopeful roster, found on the right side of the blog. Horses will be listed in an order that corresponds to how highly I think of them, with the horse I think most highly of ranking at the top. A horse featured in a Derby Hopeful may be taken off the roster if its performances after its article are published are not up to par or if that horse is taken off the Triple Crown trail, though those articles will remain on my blog.

Saratoga in the summer is a land of promise for juvenile Thoroughbreds. Any impressive performance from a talented two-year-old often lands a horse on watch lists, with hopes focused upon the Kentucky Derby (GI), several months and more than 800 miles away. But it is typical for just the outstanding maiden winners to land themselves a position on watch lists, leaving the horses that ran well but did not find the winner’s circle to frequently be abandoned.

However, that is not the case for Revolutionary. Despite not winning his debut at Saratoga on closing day, Revolutionary earned himself a place on my list, being featured in a Juvenile Spotlight in September. Suffering a poor break from the gate, in which he was slammed into, Revolutionary was forced to check in the early stages of the five and one-half-furlong maiden special weight. The short distance of the race made it difficult for Revolutionary to regain his momentum, but despite also going wide prior to running greenly, the colt closed remarkably to finish a game third.

Following a runner-up finish at Belmont and a third-place result at Aqueduct, Revolutionary finally broke through with his first victory. Going to post in a one-mile maiden special weight over Aqueduct’s inner oval, Revolutionary settled just off the leaders and as the field neared the quarter pole, the colt surged to the lead and never looked back, coasting to a magnificent 8 ½-length victory that was just .73 seconds off the track record.

With his dominant triumph, Revolutionary turned heads as hopes for the Derby soared higher and higher. He made his graded stakes debut in his initial start as a three-year-old, the Withers Stakes (GIII) at Aqueduct. Breaking alongside Valid, who miraculously stayed up after a terrible stumble at the start, Revolutionary found a position along the rail near the rear of the field. The WinStar Farm-owned colt maintained a ground-saving trip down the backside, a handful of lengths separating him from the leader. The colt appeared full of run as the field approached the far turn, but he remained at the rear, a wall of horses in front of him. Revolutionary began to gain ground under minimal urging from Javier Castellano, departing his position on the rail to gallop around adversaries. But the Todd Pletcher trainee was force to weave his way through traffic and once he found room to run, the colt shot forward, accelerating in eye-catching fashion to find room between horses and win the race by a neck.

Revolutionary clearly has tremendous talent and ability to overcome trouble, but he also receives support from his pedigree. A son of the late 2007 Champion Two-Year-Old Male, War Pass, Revolutionary is a member of the first crop of his ill-fated sire, who died in 2010. War Pass was a result of the mating between Cherokee Run, a champion sprinter who produced nearly fifty black-type winners, and a black-type-placed Mr. Prospector mare, Vue. Though this side of Revolutionary’s pedigree suggests that he is limited to short distances, the colt receives assistance for stamina from his dam side.

The dam of Revolutionary is the grade one-winning Runup the Colors, an earner of $555,024. As a three-year-old, Runup the Colors won the ten-furlong Alabama Stakes (GI) at Saratoga. She is also the dam of Tafaseel, runner-up in the 2003 Jerome Handicap (GII), run at a mile, and Ice Road, who finished third in the nine-furlong Ohio Derby (GII). Revolutionary is sure to gain stamina from not only his classic-winning dam, but the ancestry from which his dam descends.

Revolutionary’s broodmare sire is A.P. Indy, a son of 1977 Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew that won the 1992 Belmont Stakes (GI) and Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI). As a sire, A.P. Indy has produced nearly thirty grade one winners, including the outstanding distance horses Bernardini, Mineshaft, Music Note, and Rags to Riches. He has also proven to be a top broodmare sire of routers, yielding the dams of the likes of Bluegrass Cat, Super Saver, and Wait a While.

Notably, Revolutionary descends from a dam line abounding with Reine de Course mare, as he is a direct descendant of the legendary broodmare La Troienne, who is also found in the tail female line of the Derby winners Go for Gin, Sea Hero, Smarty Jones, and Super Saver. The nearest Reine de Course mare in Revolutionary’s dam line is his granddam, Up the Flagpole, a daughter of another Reine de Course mare in The Garden Club. Up the Flagpole was a graded stakes-winning runner who produced three grade one winners: Flagbird – a European champion who won at ten furlongs on two occasions; 2003 Broodmare of the Year Prospector’s Delite – a two-time grade one winner at or beyond a mile who produced the grade one winners Mineshaft (a Horse of the Year that won at ten furlongs twice) and Tomisue’s Delight (who won a Saratoga grade one at ten furlongs); and the aforementioned Runup the Colors, Revolutionary’s dam.

The sire of Revolutionary’s third dam, The Garden Club, is Herbager, a French champion who was excellent at long distances, winning the Grand Prix de Saint Cloud (GI) – run at 2,400 meters – and the Prix du Jockey Club (GI) – run at 2,100 meters.

Despite his speedy top side, Revolutionary clearly has a pedigree for distance. An absolutely beautifully bred colt, Revolutionary may be the bravest horse on the Derby trail, as he has proven many times that he can run well despite suffering a troubled trip. Time will tell just how good this colt is, but the sky is the limit for this colt.