Thursday, January 14, 2016

New Stallion Series: Karakontie

The first of two straight Bernstein horses to win the Breeders’ Cup Mile, Karakontie retires to Gainesway in Lexington, Ky. for 2016.

A horse with truly international ties, Karakonite is a Japanese-bred stallion out of a Japanese-bred mare and by a U.S.-bred stallion who was based in Kentucky until his death. To make his resume even more international, Karakonite primarily raced in France but also shipped to the United States for the Breeders’ Cup on two occasions.

Karakontie started his career in July of his 2-year-old season, winning a seven furlong race over very soft turf against a field that included future Group 1 winner Ectot (Hurricane Run). After a close second in his next start, Karakontie ended his season with two group stakes victories including a Group 1 in the Qatar Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere over a field that included multiple Grade 1 winner Charm Spirit (Invincible Spirit).

Coming back in April of the following season, Karakontie was bested by Ectot in their second career meeting by a neck in the Group 3 Prix de Fontainbleau. But that race just knocked the rust off Karakontie for his next start, the Group 1 Poule d’Essai des Poulains.

Racing in midpack until the stretch, Karakontie and Prestige Vendome (Orpen) split the leader as the field straightened up. Karakontie held the advantage after that move but wasn’t able to pull away from Prestige Vendome, winning by only a neck with Pornichet (Vespone) 1 ¼ lengths back in third. The victory gave Karakontie a classic win and encouraged his connections to try and stretch him out.

That move didn’t work for Karakontie, who finished midpack in the 10.5 furlong Group 1 Prix du Jockey Club behind The Grey Gatsby (Mastercraftsman). Given the summer off, Karakontie returned in the seven furlong Grade 1 Qatar Prix de la Foret on Oct. 5 but put in his first bad performance at a mile or less when he finished fourth from last.

However, that set his backers up well for the Breeders’ Cup Mile.

Going off at odds of 30-to-1, Karakontie raced between seven and a half and five lengths off the pacesetter Obviously (Choisir) during the first four calls. But as Obviously tired on the front end coming into the stretch, Karakontie flew past the few horses between him and the leader and pulled away from him by a few lengths as they neared the wire. Anodin (Anabaa), the full brother to three-time Breeders’ Cup Mile winner Goldikova, closed late to finish a length behind Karakontie for a French exacta.

In 2015, Karakontie returned for three more starts but two of those starts were off-the-board finishes. Sandwiched between those two performances was a glimpse of the old Karakontie when he finished third in the Group 1 Qatar Prix du Moulin de Longchamp two lengths behind the winning Ervedya (Siyouni).

After an unsuccessful bid to repeat his victory in the Breeders’ Cup Mile, Karakontie retired to Gainesway where he’ll stand for a fee of $15,000 (approx. €12,789/£10,409) in 2016.

Karakontie is by the Storm Cat stallion Bernstein, who won four races including two Irish Group 3 events. Bernstein retired to Buck Pond Farm in Lexington, Ky. before moving to Castleton-Lyons where he was euthanized in 2011 at 14 years old due to complications from colic.

From 11 crops, Bernstein had 817 foals of which 649 made it to the track with 517 of those winning at least one race. That group includes five percent stakes winners (44) and 40 horses who have hit the board in stakes races for over $49-million in progeny earnings as of Jan. 13.

Other than Karakontie, Bernstein has sired 18 Grade or Group 1 winners including last year’s Breeders’ Cup Mile winner and probable champion Tepin, Argentina Group 1 winners Savoir Bien and Storm Mayor, and Grade 1 winner and Breeder’s Cup Juvenile Fillies’ placed Dream Empress.

While there are five stallions by Bernstein standing in North America, Karakontie is the only Bernstein son standing for more than $2,500 in 2016. However, it is very unlikely that any other son of Bernstein has a female family as strong as Karakontie.

Karakontie was bred and owned by Flaxman Holdings, promising that he’d have a strong family behind him from the start. His dam Sun Is Up was bred in Japan and by the country’s breed shaping stallion, 1989 U.S. Horse of the Year Sunday Silence.

Karakontie in 2015
She raced in France at 2- and 3 years old before going to the United States where she spent seven seasons being bred to U.S.-based sires. Of the foals born from those matings, she produced the Mineshaft colt Bottega in 2007, who won 13 races including a listed stakes and placed 28 times. She also produced the Lemon Drop Kid colt Sunday Sunrise, who won the Veteran Stakes at Zia Park.

After being bred to Bernstein, she returned to Japan in late 2010. Sun Is Up had an unraced colt by Bago named Altitudes in 2012 and was bred to King Kamehameha in 2013 and 2015 but didn’t have a foal in either year.

Sun Is Up’s dam Moon Is Up is a daughter of the bluehen and great racemare Miesque.

By Woodman, Moon Is Up won a stakes race and placed third in a Group 3 before joining the broodmare band. She produced seven winners from nine named foals according to JBIS. Her best was the Pivotal mare Amanee, who won the Group 1 Thekwini Stakes and Group 2 Korea Racing Authority Fillies Guineas, both in South Africa. Another Sunday Silence daughter of Moon Is Up to produce a stakes horse was Seven Moons, who is the dam of Group 3 runner Dona Niarchos. Moon Is Up’s final foal listed on JBIS is the Fastnet Rock horse Jadeer, who was born in 2012.

Going on to Karakontie’s third dam, breeders see one of the best mares in the stud book in Miesque (Nureyev).

Miseque was a multiple Group 1 winner who was named champion in Europe twice and won two Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Miles during her career. It would be hard to imagine a mare with Miesque’s resume becoming a better producer than racehorse but that’s exactly what she did.

The mare is the dam of influential sire and classic winner Kingmambo (Mr. Prospector), who won three Group 1 races in his career. His half-sister East of the Moon (Private Account) was also a French classic winner, winning two of the filly classics in the country before producing winners as a broodmare including the Group 3 winner Moon Driver (Mr. Prospector). Miseque had two other group stakes winners but other than Kingmambo, the best producer out of the mare may be Monevassia (Mr. Prospector). 

Monevassia’s 2003 filly Rumplestiltskin (Danehill) was named Europe’s champion 2-year-old filly in 2005 and was a Group 1 winner in two countries. Rumplestiltskin’s daughter Tapestry (Galileo) kept the championships coming when she was named Ireland’s 2014 champion 3-year-old filly after winning the Group 1 Yorkshire Oaks and finishing second in the Group 1 Darley Irish Oaks that year. Tapestry was also a Group 2 winner as two and second in a Group 2 in 2015 at 4. Another notable filly from Monevassia’s line is her daughter I Am Beautiful (Rip Van Winkle), who won the Group 3 Balanchine Stakes in Ireland in 2014.

Other notable names from the other lines of Miesque’s daughters are listed stakes winner and classic placed Wild Wind (Danehill Dancer) and Group 3 winner and classic placed Real Steel (Deep Impact).

Karakontie is the latest in a large group of European-based racehorses who have come to Kentucky for stud in recent years. He is also continuing the tradition of Gainesway importing stallions from Europe. In past decades, Gainesway stood influential sires Blushing Groom (Red God), Vaguely Noble (Vienna) and Riverman (Never Bend) among others who were imported from Europe and helped change the American Thoroughbred.

One of two new stallions in Kentucky standing for $15,000 in addition to outside breeders, Karakontie will be supported by both Gainesway and the Niarchos family in 2016, an opportunity that will help him get a strong crop of first foals for both the sales ring and the racetrack in coming years.

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