Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Handicapping Freshman Sires

This article by Melissa Nolan appeared in the April edition of Horseplayer Monthly. To read the remainder of that issue with more Keeneland previews, HANA's sixth annual track ratings, interviews and insight for free, please click here. 
Every year one unknown all horseplayers have to work around is the crop of new sires who have their first crop of foals now of racing age.  It takes time for patterns to emerge but hints from a sire's pedigree, race record, and temperament can yield value for players who catch on early to the next Tapit or More Than Ready.
Here are a few Freshman Sires and pedigree patterns that I'll be keeping an eye on throughout this year.  I'm also including insight from pedigree consultant and bloodstock analyst Pete Denk, who along with Kerry Thomas, will once again be publishing the "Patterns of Motion Kentucky Derby Report" available on for $20.
Early stallions: The sires listed below are ones that I think will have precocious and early two-year-olds who should be winning early and often at sprint distances.
MAJESTICPERFECTION: One of the reasons the owners gave for retiring this crack sprinter to Airdrie Stud is that farm's reputation for developing stallions, including this colt's own sire Harlan's Holiday.  I worked for Padua Stables when the Sanans purchased Majesticperfection at the two-year-old sale and I know how much the team thought of this colt and his conformation and raw brilliance.  
These beliefs were validated when the colt was finally healthy and made a splash at Prairie Meadows in winning the Iowa Sprint in a stellar 1:07.24 for 6 furlongs.  Shipped to Saratoga, Majesticperfection won the G1 Vanderbilt on the lead the entire way in 1:08.63 defeating G1 winners Bribon and Big Drama.
In addition to being top notch a physical specimen and sprinter, Majesticperfection also boasts a perennial leading two-year-old sire as his own.  The recently deceased Harlan's Holiday is the sire if recent Champion Two-Year-Old Shanghai Bobby and the hot third crop sire Into Mischief, who himself had sired stakes winners Vyjack and Vicar's in Trouble.  Everything seems set for Majesticperfection to enjoy a fast start at stud.
Pete's Notes: "They look very strongly built and fairly athletic. I expect them to be hard-trying and fairly early developing, speed types. Sprint to middle distance. They warrant some attention out of the box."
MUNNINGS: Late-running sprinter by Speightstown won on debut at Saratoga with an appreciably impressive performance that was a glimpse into his vast talent.  After a third in the Hopeful and a second in the Champagne, both to Vineyard Haven, Munnings would return at three to win the G2 Woody Stephens and defeat older horses in the G2 Tom Fool before finishing his career as a four-year-old with a win the G2 Gulfstream Sprint Championship.
Munnings is out of a classy dam by Holy Bull, La Comete, who herself is a half-sister to G1 winner Icon Project and multiple graded stakes winner on turf, Lasting Approval.  His interesting speed over stamina pedigree with some turf inclinations through his sires and female family leads me to believe he will have early runners successful at sprint and middle distances and especially on grass.
Pete's Notes: "The Munnings yearlings and two-year-olds I have seen look like little Speightstowns. They are balanced and they consistently have nice strong hips. They should have speed, and although the sire was a sprinter, I could see them getting a mile. He is one of the new sires that I predict could produce winners early and often."
MIDSHIPMAN: Champion two-year-old colt of 2008 who defeated both Munnings and Pioneerof the Nile in that year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita over the synthetic surface.  Unable to overcome training interruptions, the colt missed much of his three-year-old season and didn't make it back to the races in 2009 until September where he won an allowance on dirt at Belmont and then shipped back to Santa Anita and ran third in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile once again over the synthetic track.  Midshipman retired at four after winning one of two races in Dubai (once again over the synthetic surface) for Godolphin.
I think his oft-interrupted schedule combined with dubiousness surrounding his synthetic track wins made Midshipman relatively hard to market as a stallion even with his esteem as a Champion two-year-old.  His first crop of only 71 foals makes him a less potent in terms of raw quantity of potential runners but I think he's worth watching based on the recent success of another son of Unbridled's Song, Old Fashioned, who finished 2013 as amongst the leading Freshman Sires.
The precocity of Old Fashioned and another perennial leading two-year-old sire by Unbridled's Song, Songandaprayer, leads me to believe Midshipman has sneaky potential to be an important two-year-old sire going forward, and especially on synthetic tracks due to the fact his own sire has many progeny who are proficient over the synthetic tracks as well as his own proclivities towards that third surface.
Pete's Notes: "They get over the ground ok and look like sprinter-milers. Not too big, and they have some athleticism. Optimistically you could view them as Unbridled's Song light, but they'll need to prove they have some class on the track."
Additional freshman sire considerations:  The stallions may yield hidden value as they were known for success on one surface or as an older/younger horses and may pass along more recessive inclinations that create value in the odds.
DISCREETLY MINE: I'll admit I wasn't much of a fan of his while he was racing but I changed my tune when I saw him at a Lanes' End Farm Stallion Open House.  He's a very "handy" horse of good medium size and well-balanced.  Though he probably is best known for winning the 2010 G1 King's Bishop and G2 Amsterdam Stakes at one-turn at Saratoga, Discreetly Mine  was also a Kentucky Derby contender who stretched his talent out to 8.5 furlongs to annex the 2010 G2 Risen Star.  
Discreetly Mine - Melissa Nolan photo
Given that he's by Mineshaft and out of a Private Account mare, sprinting proclivities probably weren't at the top of his connections’ expectations but perhaps it shouldn't have come as a surprise seeing that Discreetly Mine's dam Pretty Discreet also produced cracking miler Discreet Cat as well as the dam of nice middle distance racemare Awesome Maria.
I wanted to include Discreetly Mine because I'm interested to see how his progeny develop and if they are as versatile as their sire.  In terms of betting his first crop this year, my approach will be to eschew his early starters in favor of those who get going as the distances increase.  The tendency might be for people to see "sire was G1winning sprinter" in pedigree write-ups and think his babies will be early and sprinty but the Mineshaft influence means the value comes by waiting until late summer when his two-year-olds begin to stretch out.
Pete's Notes:  "Handy, speed-minded types that seem just ok to me. I'll make them prove their ability/class before I am betting on them consistently."
SUPER SAVER: This 2010 Kentucky Derby winner wasn't initially amongst the stallions I wanted to include but based on Pete's bullish impressions and recent two-year-olds in training results, I knew he'd be important to include.  The biggest attribute Super Saver may have going for him is his female family, and especially his second dam Get Lucky, which has been nothing short of prolific in the commercial sales arena and this active pedigree has another nice representative in current Kentucky Oaks hopeful Got Lucky.  Furthermore, Super Saver has had 19 two-year-olds in training go through the ring this year and they must be nice looking because their average sale price has been a robust $226,997.
As a two-year-old, Super Saver broke his maiden in his second start going one mile at Belmont Park and then promptly wheeled back to run fourth next out in the G1 Champagne S. while rank and on the pace.  He finished his two-year-old season by winning (and setting a stakes record) in the G2 Kentucky Jockey Club at 8.5 furlongs at Churchill Downs in his first two turn attempt.  After a slow start to his three-year-old campaign, Super Saver won the Kentucky Derby over a sloppy track to give his deceased sire Maria's Mon his second winner in that American classic.  Super Saver retired later that season after never regaining his early season and two-year-old form.  
As a runner, Super Saver had classy speed and it will be interesting to see if that trait is passed along to his runners.  Additionally, since he stands at the grand stallion station WinStar Farm, you know Super Saver received excellent support and a book of classy mares.  I'll be bullish on his runners out of the 2yo sales and if the results mirror what we saw in the auction ring, I won't hesitate to bet his babies throughout the year.
Pete's Notes: "Consistent two-turn bodies and distance minds. The sire won the Derby, and I'd say the Derby dream is still alive for his progeny. I'd be looking to bet them as the distances increase in August and beyond. I would also give them a chance to run well in two-turn turf races."
DESERT PARTY: Similar to Discreetly Mine, Desert Party did his best work sprinting at Saratoga, though he's by a distance-inclined sire who won at 9+ furlongs on dirt in the United States.  Winner of the G2 Sanford Stakes at two for Darley Stables, Desert Party was shipped to Dubai to prepare for the Triple Crown and after two wins at Nad al Sheba his form began to tail off as evidenced by a second in the UAE Derby and and 14th place finish in the Kentucky Derby.  Off for the remainder of his three-year-old season, Desert Party was shipped back to Dubai and reappeared at age four to take another stakes at six furlongs.  Shipped back to the United States in summer 2010, the son of Street Cry took the Donald LeVine Memorial H. at Philadelphia Park in his final start. 
Desert Party - Melissa Nolan photo

Out of the Tabasco Cat mare Sage Cat, Desert Party entered stud in 2011 at Darley at Jonabell for a $10,000 fee.  Interest with the KY breeders must've waned because the horse was shipped to New York in recent seasons and will stand at Sequel Stallions in 2014 for $7,500.  His yearling average price is $64,367 and his two-year-old average price is $55,437.  Of note is that the auction sale price for his colts is significantly higher for his colts than his fillies: $51,006 versus $40,494 overall.  Perhaps he's a being perceived as a "colt" sire and those horses might be nicer at this point in time than his fillies.
Once again the value with this stallion's progeny will be in not betting them early in their two-year-old year but rather as they begin to stretch out.  Likewise, Street Sense, another son of Street Cry, has sired numerous runners on turf and it will be prudent to see if Desert Party follows a similar pattern.  Expect success in the NY-bred ranks with Desert Party sons and daughters as they go two turns for the first time.
Pete's Notes: "He bloomed out early on the track. Expectations weren't too high, but his first-crop yearlings pulled good prices in relation to his stud fee. I have seen a number of strongly made horses by Desert Party. He will be on my radar as I'm handicapping the 2yo races."
QUALITY ROAD: This brilliant runner is an interesting proposition because he had world-class talent but by a stallion, Elusive Quality, not necessarily known as a sire of sires.  The best sons of Elusive Quality at stud thus far are Smarty Jones and Raven's Pass, so prospects are far from certain that Quality Road will be successful as a sire, but the type of brilliance he possessed is hard to ignore.
This colt was brilliant from six to nine furlongs and set three track records (two at Gulfstream and one at Saratoga) during his racing career.  Not only did he win a sire-making race in the Metropolitan Handicap, he won a variety of graded stakes ranging from the Amsterdam to the Woodward to the Florida Derby.  Never tried on grass, Quality Road's female family is full of classy grass winners so the potential is there for turf proclivity.
Additional considerations with this sire are the foot issues that plagued him throughout his career as well as mental idiosyncrasies such as the fit he threw before the 2009 Breeders' Cup, leading to a gate scratch, and his well-known aversion running on the rail and inside other horses.
Expect Quality Road progeny to be speedy, solid up to middle distances, and grass-inclined.  With his two-year-old in training average price currently at $197,225, expect his runners to be relatively early and precocious.
Pete's Notes: "They seem to have big, long two-turn bodies, and they share a lot of mental characteristics of Quality Road. I think they will be speed-oriented, forward types, but will they have the sire's running ability?"
LOOKIN AT LUCKY: Son of Smart Strike, Lookin at Lucky was a dual Champion Male at ages two and three and the winner of five G1 races with three of those (Norfolk, Cash Call Futurity, and Del Mar Futurity) coming as a two-year-old.  Also of note is that Lookin at Lucky was not only a G1 winner in two different seasons, but help also won at the top level on both dirt and synthetic surfaces.
Things were beginning to look a little dire in terms of Smart Strike being known as a sire of sires but another son of his, Curlin, has really come on strong in 2014 with winners like Palace Malice over a panoply of surfaces.
Given these facts, I'm waiting to bet Lookin at Lucky's progeny at longer than sprint distances and especially on turf.  I would not expect his horses to be early developers.  
Pete's Notes: "I liked him as a racehorse, and I was very excited to see his progeny, but honestly I have been a little underwhelmed. There was one good looking one at the Barretts two-year-old sale, but I felt like I should have seen more quality in his yearling crop. Maybe all the good ones are home-breds...or maybe they won't look pretty but will prove to be runners, like his sire Smart Strike."
Best of luck with your wagers and I hope these stallion points coming in handy with the fast approaching two-year-old racing season.  Happy 'Capping!

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