Sunday, November 6, 2016

Digging Into the Data: Observations from the Breeders' Cup

Drefong's half-sister
In a Breeders’ Cup for the ages, owners, horses and trainers went down in the history books at Santa Anita. From championship caliber wins to new sires hitting it big, the 13 races of the Breeders’ Cup saw horses bred in three countries and two states in the winner’s circle. From Juddmonte’s big weekend to a top stallion making it big in another way, read on to find out some of the interesting things that happened at the Breeders’ Cup this year.

Juddmonte Farms – Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Arrogate wasn’t the only one making this year’s Breeders’ Cup a good one for Juddmonte. While that was the only win for the stable as an owner, they also had a second place finish with Flintshire in the Turf, his final start before retiring to Hill ‘n’ Dale for 2017. Flintshire was one of the top performers of the weekend for Juddmonte’s stallion Dansili, who also sired Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf winner Queen’s Trust for Cheveley Park Stud. In an interesting turn of events, Juddmonte bred and raced the damsire of Highland Reel, Danehill, who beat Flintshire in the Turf. Finally, Juddmonte’s $400,000 purchase of an Animal Kingdom filly out of Eltimaas also looks like one of the best buys of this Keeneland September sale so far on page updates alone. The filly’s half-brother Drefong won the TwinSpires Breeders’ Cup Sprint by 1 ¼ lengths on Saturday.

Gio Ponti – Proving that breeding racehorses isn’t as straightforward as breeding two top horses together, Gio Ponti’s best horse is a dirt sprinter. Gio Ponti himself was second in both the Breeders’ Cup Classic and the Breeders’ Cup Mile but his son Drefong won the Ketel One King’s Bishop in late August before taking home the TwinSpires Breeders’ Cup Sprint and putting himself in the running for the male sprint championship. It took Gio Ponti a bit to get going but he put himself on the mount during the summer with Drefong’s win in addition to Sir Dudley Digges winning the Queen’s Plate.
Gio Ponti
Kentucky Sales Season – Multiple horses entered in both the Keeneland and Fasig-Tipton November sales this coming week earned big updates thanks to the Breeders’ Cup winners. Here are the horses going through the ring in the next two weeks with the major updates thanks to siblings (and in one case a son):  
Classic Empire winning the Grade 1 Breeders' Futurity
Keeneland November’s Hip 1912 – Understudy – is a half-sister to Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf winner Oscar Performance. The mare is a half-sister to Oscar Performance and Grade 3 winner Oscar Nominated and will be consigned by Shawhan Place.

Hip 754 at Keeneland November, consigned by Three Chimneys Farm, is a 6-year-old half-sister to Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf New Money Honey. The mare is in foal to Palace Malice off an April 23 cover.

Classic Empire’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile win was big for Lane’s End’s Hip 2305 at Keeneland September. The 3-year-old Twirling Candy filly is a multiple stakes winner and sells as a racing or broodmare prospect.

Arrogate’s win in the Breeders’ Cup Classic was a big one for Fasig-Tipton’s November sale, who has Bubbler going through the ring as Hip 110 for Clearsky Farms. Arrogate is the first foal for the mare, who also has a yearling filly by Medaglia d’Oro and a weanling filly by Giant’s Causeway. She is in foal to Into Mischief off an April 14 cover.

Distorted Humor
Distorted Humor – A 23-year-old stallion, Distorted Humor has sired 136 stakes winners and 55 graded stakes winners as a sire but this year’s Breeders’ Cup showed off his damsire talents. Currently ranked fourth on Blood-Horse Stallion Register’s Broodmare Sire rankings, Distorted Humor has $15,549,597 in broodmare sire earnings led by this year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Arrogate. Distorted Humor is also the damsire of Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf winner New Money Honey. There are 28 fillies and mares by the stallion cataloged in the Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale and three in the Fasig-Tipton November sale, including Arrogate’s dam.

Older Sires – While the American classic season was dominated by a younger group of stallions, that wasn’t the case at the Breeders’ Cup. Thirteen stallions averaging 18 1/2 years old sired the winners of the Breeders’ Cup races with no stallion having more than one winner. Pioneerof the Nile is the youngest sire in the bunch at 10 while the late Unbridled’s Song is the oldest at 23.  

Breeders’ Cup Winners – Eleven Breeders’ Cup winners had runners at the Breeders’ Cup with three (Speightstown, Tiznow and Unbridled’s Song) siring winners at this year’s races. Three Breeders’ Cup winners (Curlin, Ghostzapper and Unbridled’s Song) sired horses who finished second or third in the races with Curlin having two horses hit the board and Unbridled’s Song having a winner and a third place finisher this year.

City Zip - The reign of City Zip continues at the Breeders' Cup. In the past three years, City Zip's runners have won four Breeders' Cup races. In addition to Finest City's Filly and Mare Sprint win this year,  his runners have won the Breeders' Cup Sprint (Work All Week in 2014), the Breeders' Cup Filly and Mare Turf (Dayatthespa - 2014) and Juvenile Fillies Turf (Catch a Glimpse - 2015). City Zip stood for $40,000 in 2016 and bred 129 mares according to The Jockey Club's Report of Mares Bred.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Digging into the Data: Chasing History at the Breeders’ Cup

The entries are drawn and all the Breeders’ Cup horses are on the grounds for the 2016 Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita, taking place on Nov. 4 and 5. But there’s more to the racing than just the racehorses and owners trying to add a prestigious Breeders’ Cup title to their resumes. Keep reading to find out nine facts, including a few about those chasing history, about the sires and dams represented at this year’s event

By the Numbers – Ninty-eight stallions sired the 167 main body entrants in the 13 races with 112 broodmare sires also represented. Of the 98 sires at the races, there are 13 father/son pairs with Distorted Humor, Tiznow and Pulpit all having multiple sons with entries while also having their own runners. Stallions from six U.S. states and 11 countries have runners in the Breeders’ Cup races from Japan to France.

Awesome Again
Breeders’ Cup Winners – Eleven Breeders’ Cup winners are among the sires with runners this year. Of those 11, Ghostzapper, Unbridled’s Song and English Channel have multiple runners. The father and son duo of Awesome Again and Ghostzapper are trying to make history in the Breeders’ Cup Classic by adding a third generation to their Classic win streak with Shaman Ghost. Awesome Again and Ghostzapper are also two of 12 Breeders’ Cup winners whose daughters have produced runners this year, Unbridled’s Song leads the charge in that category with four runners as a broodmare sire.

Siblings as Sires– There are multiple pairs of siblings and half-siblings taking part this year in the Breeders’ Cup as sires, runners and jockeys/trainers. Full brothers Congrats and Flatter both have two runners each in the Breeders’ Cup and interestingly their runners are all in the same races (J.S. Choice [Congrats] and Favorable Outcome [Flatter] in the Juvenile Turf and Haveyougoneaway [Congrats] and Paola Queen [Flatter] in the Filly and Mare Sprint). As is normal for Breeders’ Cups, Baby Zip is represented by her half-brother sons City Zip and Ghostzapper with three runners each. City Zip is looking to keep his Breeders’ Cup streak alive with the stallion having winners in at least one Breeders’ Cup the last two years while Ghostzapper is looking for his second Breeders’ Cup win as a sire after Judy the Beauty’s 2014 Filly and Mare Sprint win at this same track.

Siblings as Runners – The most famous equine pair of siblings running in Breeders’ Cup races this year are Tepin and Vyjack, who are making their dam Life Happened the 18th mare to have two Breeders’ Cup runners in the same year. Tepin looks to defend last year’s victory in the Mile while Vyjack hopes to win on his first appearance at the Breeders’ Cup. If both horses win, Life Happened will be the only mare ever to have two Breeders’ Cup winners in the same year while she’ll join three others who have produced multiple Breeders’ Cup winners in their careers. Life Happened is joined by Miss Hot Salsa and Belle Watling in the quest to end the drought of a mare not producing two winners in the same year. Miss Hot Salsa's 6-year-old son Mongolian Saturday is returning to the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint after his victory in the race at Keeneland last year while his 2-year-old Scat Daddy half-sister is entered in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies. Belle Watling's daughter Land Over Sea is running in the Breeders' Cup Distaff after finishing seventh in the Juvenile Fillies last year while her son War Story is running in the Classic after finishing eighth in the Dirt Mile last year. Both Life Happened and Miss Hot Salsa have a 100 percent strike rate at the Breeders’ Cup so far with their only runner to-date also winning the race.

Family Affair – Friday’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf is truly a family affair for the O’Brien family. While Aidan O’Brien, as usual, holds a top hand in the race with two runners his son Joseph is making his Breeders’ Cup debut as a trainer with Intricately with brother Donnacha aboard. Adding even more family connections to the mix, Intricately was bred by Joseph and Donnacha’s parents. The O’Briens will go into the history books for a few different things in Intricately wins on Friday: Joseph will join Freddy Head as the only two jockeys to also train a Breeders’ Cup winner, Joseph and Aidan will become only the second father/son trainer duo to train a Breeders’ Cup winner along with Wally and Craig Dollase, Joseph and Donnacha will become only the second brother trainer/jockey team along with the Desormeauxs and Texas Red in 2014 to win a Breeders’ Cup race together, and Joseph will become the youngest trainer to win a Breeders' Cup race, taking the title from Craig Dollase. Joseph already holds the record for youngest jockey to win a Breeders’ Cup race, that coming when he won the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Turf on St. Nicholas Abbey but that record will be broken as well if the filly wins with Donnacha younger than his brother was during the 2011 race.

Tapit’s Record – As per usual over the last few years, Tapit is chasing a North America earnings record going in to the last few months of the year. As of the Wednesday morning before Breeders’ Cup, Tapit was $749,465 behind his 2015 record. While not only Breeders’ Cup races count toward the record, they provide the biggest purses at this point in the year and the stallion has five entries in five different Breeders’ Cup races. The combined total amount of those races is $12-million with the winner of each race getting 55 percent of the purse.

Galileo – After conquering Europe’s top races this year, Galileo is looking to take over the Breeders’ Cup this week. Galileo is easily breaking the record of the number of starters for one sire in a single Breeders’ Cup with nine horses running this year, two more than Mr. Prospector had in 1988 to lead the list. Of those runners, he has four of the 12 runners in the Breeders’ Cup Turf for 33.3 percent of the race’s entries with two sharing the second choice odds on the morning line. According to Thoroughbred Daily News sire list, Galileo already has worldwide earnings of $26,507,980 this year.

Sires as Damsires – Fourteen stallions can be seen in the entries as both the sire and damsire of (different) Breeders’ Cup entries. Lemon Drop Kid leads all the stallions with the number of runners out of his daughters with five while Galileo leads all stallions with the number of runners he’s sired with nine.

Looking for a Record – Sadler’s Wells alone holds the record for the most wins for a sire with six but he has a chance of being joined or passed in that position at this Breeders’ Cup. Of those stallions with four or more winners in previous Breeders’ Cups, Unbridled’s Song (4 winners) has three runners and Tapit (5 winners) has five entries this weekend.