Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Taking a Look at Top General Sire Giant's Causeway

Four years after his sire Storm Cat was pensioned, Giant's Causeway is keeping his legacy alive by once again leading the Thoroughbred Times General Sires List in the middle of the racing season.

The 1997 son of Storm Cat out of the Rahy daughter Mariah's Storm was the Champion Sire in the United States in 2010 and 2011. In addition, the stallion earned the Champion Freshman Sire title in Europe in 2004 and Champion 2yo Sire in the U.S. title in 2005. 

While his success is no mystery, his ability to stay at the top of the list over sires such as Street Cry (IRE), Distorted Humor and others is impressive.

Giant's Causeway's career was mostly spent in Europe, as the horse only ran on this side of the pond once. In his final start before retirement, Giant's Causeway came to Kentucky to race in the 2000 edition of the G1 Breeders' Cup Classic. 

The stallion's only start on dirt would prove to be successful as he would finish second by only a neck to Tiznow (who would go on to once again win the Classic the next year) and beating the Kentucky Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus. 

While Giant's Causeway wouldn't go undefeated in his career, he would win nine of his 13 starts for earnings of over $3 million. 

In Europe, the stallion would win multiple top races during his two year career. Giant's Causeway would be victorious in six Grade One races in his career including the G1 St Jame's Palace Stakes and G1 Irish Champion Stakes. He would also finish second in three European G1 races.

His success on the track wasn't a complete fluke as the horse is by the 1999 and 2000 North American General Sire List leader in Storm Cat. 

Storm Cat ran in eight races, with six of those being in his two year-old year. The horse only had one graded stakes victory to his name but won four of his eight starts, also placing second in three other races. Even with his short career, Storm Cat turned into one of the leading sires in two different decades, leading the juvenile sire list a record seven times in addition to his Leading General Sire accomplishment. 

Giant's Causeway's female family has proven to be successful on the track as well, with four names in black type under his second dam Immense. 

Immense herself was a graded stakes winner on the track, winning the G3 Little Silver Handicap in addition to the ungraded Kiss Me Kate Stakes.

As a broodmare, Immense threw Panoramic, a Grade Two winner who also placed in the G1 Prix du Conseil de Paris. Immense's other foals also had success on the track, winning ungraded stakes races in their careers. One daughter, Tinaca, proved to be a force in the shed, throwing five winners including the stakes winning colt Quest Star.

Giant's Causeway's dam, Mariah's Storm, was no slouch on the track either, winning 10 of her sixteen starts for earnings of $724,895.  The mare won eight stakes races in her career in addition to placing third in the 1995 G1 Spinster Stakes. 

In retirement, Mariah's Storm had six full siblings to Giant's Causeway, however none of them lived up to their brother's success and only a few won or placed in stakes races. Mariah's Storm's two foals by other stallions never had any starts according to Equibase.

Even with his breeding and racing record, Giant's Causeway's success in the shed has proven to outlast any expectations set when he retired. 

Out of 1,711 foals in 9 crops, the stallion has had an outstanding 1,137 starters (66.4%) and 704 winners lifetime (62%). His numbers of 120 stakes winners and 63 graded stakes winners bring his lifetime earnings to an outstanding $90,361,420, almost $60 million more than the number two stallion on the list, Tapit.

Giant's Causeway doesn't seem to be slowing down this year with his percentages either. Out of his 258 starters, 89 of those horses have been winners (34.5%) with 125 wins overall on the year. In addition, Giant's Causeway currently leads the number of stakes winners and graded stakes winners with 14 and seven, respectively. 

Giant's Causeway is also the sire of one of the leading Triple Crown contenders this year in Creative Cause. While Creative Cause didn't perform as expected during the series, the colt did finish fifth in the Kentucky Derby and third in the Preakness. Overall, the colt's stakes record stands at 9-3-2-3 during his career.

At 15-years-old, it doesn't look like Giant's Causeway will be disappearing from the breeding scene any time soon. Between his percentages and his ability to sire versatile foals, he proves in more than one way that he deserves to be at the top of the Sire List year in and year out.

Giant's Causeway currently stands for $85,000 at Ashford Stud and unlike other Coolmore stallions is exclusively standing in Kentucky. 

Monday, July 16, 2012

Combating the Sport's Growing Black Eye

In a sport that should be known for the majestic animals that step onto the track every day, it's better known for the small group of people that bring more attention to the track due to drugs and other newsworthy infractions.

From the last two almost- Triple Crown winning trainers shady pasts to a prominent racing family in Texas recently sending a group of broodmares to an auction known for its attraction to kill buyers, it's little surprise that the general public does not have a good image of the sport.

However, unlike previous attacks on the sport that went pretty much ignored, the sport is finally starting to realize that action is needed to combat the growing black eye.

Last week, the New York Times posted yet another article attacking racing. Earlier this year, the newspaper had a series based around breakdowns of racehorses and they were again on the attack with an article questioning I'll Have Another's soundness between the Preakness and Belmont.

The article by Joe Drape was another in the main stream media's apparent war on the sport but it attracted more attention from the racing industry when the vet reports of the horse were misconstrued as more than routine care for a racehorse. Not only was Drape having to defend himself on Twitter against those questioning his motive, industry publications also took a stance against his article. 

The industry took an even bigger stance when Dr. Bramlage's interview with NBC Nightly News about the piece was edited to what the veterinarian called "misleading". The Daily Racing Form joined the war at this point, bringing Bramlage's side of the story into a clearer light than the television show.

While the current issue has died down in the past few days with both sides moving on to other stories, it brings up a good question. Where was this sort of explanation over the years every time racing was questioned?

Sure, there are horrible stories out there that can't be hidden from view to keep racing in a better light. But with advances in public relations and marketing strategies, the damage that comes from the bad publicity can be taken down a few notches. 

In an industry that is known as the "Sport of Kings", many of those providing the money do know how important good publicity is. Many owners, executives, and even trainers have backgrounds or some sort of familiarity with not only combating bad press but getting good stories out there as well.

So why can't they translate that knowledge over to racing?

Whether people want to acknowledge it or not, the sport needs more fans. Unfortunately, that is not going to be an easy task when Americans have many other sports to watch higher on their list that are more accessible and even relatable. Talking about all the things that could be changed to make racing more fan-friendly would take more than just one blog post but talking about a better public relations standpoint is a start.

Battling the New York Times and other mainstream media and trying to educate the public about why their information is not correct is a small step in the right direction (even though it may not be the easiest way to win the war). But their stories should also be countered by good news as well.

For example, every year during the Kentucky Derby, we have a feel good story. This year it was Union Rags and his owner, a lady that sold the horse just to buy him back a year later because she loved him so much. However, the real feel good story went throughout the Triple Crown and was barely talked about.

At the Kentucky Derby, a Make-A-Wish girl got to not only go to the race, she was also allowed to ride the great California stakes-winner-turned-pony-horse Lava Man. But the story didn’t end there. The girl was then sent to both the Preakness and the Belmont due to the generosity of multiple people in the industry. However, this was barely talked about outside of a few racing media stories.

It is stories like this that need to be told all year and in the mainstream media. Yes, racing gets a lot of mainstream press during the Triple Crown season and taking advantage of that doesn't hurt at all.

But the sport needs to find a way to keep that momentum up through the rest of the year. There are many ways this can be accomplished (once again another blog post) but one way is to get stories out there that people want to hear.

Many different angles can be taken to keep stories fresh and fans engaged while also catching the attention of the mainstream media. For example, this year there were many thoroughbreds working towards an Olympic spot. While this was talked about a little bit by the disciplines mainly affected, it also needed to be pushed by racing.

One such Olympic hopeful was an Australian Thoroughbred gelding ridden by Boyd Martin. He has a big story behind him, including an unsuccessful track career and almost dying in a fire last year before making a miracle recovery and being named to the U.S. Olympic Team’s Eventing Short List.

Sure, he was an Australian race horse but the key words here are that he was a race horse at one point.

Feel good stories such as the Make-A-Wish Triple Crown story, ex racehorses trying to make it on the world's biggest stages, and even building a fan base behind horses (Gio Ponti, Get Stormy, and Zenyatta are only a few that would have been great for this over the past few years) can make this sport grow again. Another plus to this is that it helps to counter the idea that racing is a corrupt sport.

Taking one step towards helping the sport grow is only a matter of stepping up to the plate and taking an offensive stance instead of always playing defense. But it is something the entire sport needs to do if they want to survive.
If there was ever a situation where the sport needed to come together for the good of the sport, this would be it. Now it's time to see who takes the lead in this new venture.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Taking a Look at Top Second Crop Sire Scat Daddy

In a 2011 freshman crop that included many of the superstars of 2007, multiple names were put in the hat for top freshman sire. From Street Sense to Any Given Saturday, all the horses came with dreams of monumental success in the shed.

However, in the discussions, few people remembered one of the original superstars of that year, G1 Florida Derby winner Scat Daddy. The son of Johannesburg never returned to the track after his disappointing 18th place finish in the G1 Kentucky Derby and was overshadowed by thoughts of other horses in that crop. 

Scat Daddy retired with a record of 9-5-1-1 and earnings of $1,334,300, but in a year that included Curlin, Rags to Riches and others, he was shoved to the back of many minds.

But last year, Scat Daddy returned to the forefront when his foals burst onto the scene and earned him the Leading Freshman Sire title. The stallion ended the year with 29 winners from 63 starters, five stakes wins and three graded stakes wins for a win percentage of 46 percent. Out of the 101 foals he had in his first crop, 63 hit the track, not only giving him a 62 percent starter percentage but earnings of $1,698,560 in his freshman year. 

Scat Daddy's first crop of two-year-olds gave him three more winners and $1,058 more in progeny earnings than second place Hard Spun. It should also be noted that this was done with ten less foals hitting the track and 79 less foals in his first crop. Both sires beat out third place Corinthian by over $680,000.

Over half way into 2012, Scat Daddy once has his name on top, this time on the Second Crop Sires list. He has had 78 starters so far this year with 38 winners, four stakes wins, and three graded stakes wins, including Daddy Long Legs victory in the U.A.E. Derby on Dubai World Cup day. Scat Daddy's earnings have also gone up from $1.6 million to $3,419,183 in only a little over six months. 

For one final touch, Scat Daddy also had two Kentucky Derby runners in Daddy Long Legs and Daddy Nose Best, finishing 20th and 10th respectively. Daddy Nose Best also made an appearance in the Preakness Stakes, finishing ninth.

Scat Daddy's record of siring successful racehorses isn't the only the only thing the young stallion has going for him. He is by the Hennessy stallion Johannesburg, who was the Leading North American General Sire and 2-Year-Olds in 2010 by number of winners and like his son, the Leading Freshman Sire of his year.

According to the Blood Horse, when Johannesburg was sold to Japan interests in 2009, he had 26 Stakes winners and progeny earnings of over $19 million with stakes winners all over the world.

If that's not enough, Johannesburg's dam is half sister to Tale of the Cat and Spunoutacontrol (dam of Spun Silk). In addition, they are from the female family of Preach, dam of Pulpit.

Scat Daddy's dam, the unraced Love Style, has had three foals to race with her 2010 filly by A.P. Indy currently working towards a debut. The A.P. Indy filly, named Antipathy, last put in a bullet over three furlongs at Saratoga on July 4th.

While Love Style's first foal, a 2003 filly by Hennessy, didn't land in the money in her two starts, Scat Daddy's full brother earned over $150,000. Grand Daddy was stakes placed as a three-year-old, placing second in the 2010 Forego Stakes but finally broke the stakes winning barrier in January of this year when winning the same stakes in his third try (he also finished 4th in the 2011 edition of the race).

The farther one goes into Scat Daddy's female family, the more recognizable his page becomes. His granddam, Likeable Style, was a multiple graded stakes winner including a win in the the G1 Las Virgenes Stakes. She is also the dam of Grats (A.P. Indy), winner of the 2007 Glendale Handicap and Special Times, a stakes placed son of Seeking the Gold.

And finally, Scat Daddy's third dam is the multiple stakes winner, and earner of $227,971, Personable Lady. Her son West Coast Warrior never won a stakes race during his career but was seen on the board in multiple stakes attempts for earnings of over $336,000 in 44 starts.

If someone would have said Scat Daddy would be the best sire of the 2007 retirees, it's highly unlikely more than a few would have agreed with them. But a year and a half into his career, it looks like Scat Daddy will make an impact on the sport for years to come.

Scat Daddy stands at Coolmore's Ashford Stud in Kentucky for a fee of $17,500 in 2012, up from $10,000 last year, his first increase since he initially stood for $30,000 in 2008.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Toning Down the Skepticism over Greatness

After two eye-opening performances at Royal Ascot a few weeks ago, the word "Great" was thrown around more than ever when it came to Frankel and Black Caviar, but for two very different reasons.

Frankel's performance in the first race of the Royal Ascot meet caught everyone's attention when he romped home 11 lengths in front to keep his unbeaten streak alive. The race once again started up the "greatest horse in the world" chant that accompanies almost all of his victories.

Black Caviar's performance on the last day of the meet also caught the attention of the world but in a very different way. Unlike Frankel, who had it his own way the entire race, Australia's Superwoman not only had to overcome a ship from Australia and a total change in seasons, she also had to overcome her jockey's bad ride.

After this, both horses were called "great", which in my estimation is a good title for them. But in this age of calling everything "great", what is the true meaning of the word?

The three definitions that fit racehorses on are as follows:
1. unusual or considerable in degree, power, intensity, etc.
2. wonderful; first-rate; very good
3. being such in an extreme or notable degree
Both of which the examples above (and other recent "greats") follow. I do understand the outcry of skepticism that comes every time a horse is considered "great", especially if they are currently racing, but there comes a point where the skepticism has to be brought down a notch.
It is true that we are in a different era and horses race a lot differently. No longer are you going to see horses racing 60 times at the top levels or racing two times in four days (although, you may see this in some countries). But considering if a horse is great shouldn't be based on how many starts they make in their career or what surface they race on (a knock that I have seen made against Frankel). 
Instead, the impressiveness of their feats should be considered.
Many of the "greats" that stick out in the minds of people years after they retire are the ones that we also considered great while racing. Horses such as Spectacular Bid aren't remembered for winning the Triple Crown (something he missed) or making a ton of starts (however, the horse did make 30 starts in his career), they are remembered because of all the feats they pulled off, even over 30 years after they retired.
Going for more recent examples, nearly everyone still remembers Curlin and Cigar, even though they haven't been seen on a track in years. These horses also aren't remembered because they ran and won over multiple distances but just because they were great at what they did, something that was pointed out when they were still racing.
While the overall body of work is important in determining if most horses really are great, and taking time away from the animals after they retire is almost mandatory to truly rank them, skepticism over greatness when a horse is racing isn't always needed. 

Because whether it be dominating a field of tough horses by 11 lengths or having to rebreak because they were miscued by their jockey, the truly great ones earn their title while still on the track.

And for those that prove in the end that they may be a little overrated in the end... just sit back and enjoy the racing show. You never know when a freak performance will show up again.