Thursday, June 8, 2017

Keeping It In the Family: Belmont Festival Full of Family Ties

On Saturday, the racing world turns its eyes to Belmont Park for the final leg of the Triple Crown. The Belmont Stakes has a 12 horse field though it is missing the winners of the first two legs of the Crown and Lookin At Lee (Lookin at Lucky) will be the only horse to compete in all three legs of the series this year.

But while the Belmont Stakes may not be all that people hoped for after the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes the New York Racing Association has put together an interesting 13 race card that includes 10 stakes, with all but one being graded. Ninety-four horses will enter the gate in those 10 races in a sort of mid-year Breeders’ Cup preview.

So instead of focusing on just the Belmont Stakes, we did a little bit of digging into the pedigrees on display during a top notch card of racing.

Stallion Numbers – Sixty-eight stallions have runners in Saturday’s stakes at Belmont Park. Of those, all but six are still active sires with two from that group pensioned and four dead. Those still alive currently live in 10 countries and those currently in the U.S. stand in five different states. Seventy-five different stallions have daughters with runners in the races on Saturday and 27 of those damsires are still (presumed if no news said differently) to be alive.

Fusaichi Pegasus is a broodmare sire who is still active at stud.
Stud Fees – The average advertised stud fee of sires with runners is $51,332 (current advertised stud fees were not found for eight of the active stallions with two others, Awesome Again and Bodemeister, both advertised as private.) The lowest advertised priced stallion is Florida’s High Cotton (Dixie Union) while the most expensive is Dubawi (Dubai Millennium), whose 2017 stud fee converted to $324,025 when using today’s exchange rate. Nine stallions with runners in the stakes stand for $100,000 or more, eight stand for $50,000 to $99,999, 25 stand for between $10,000 to $49,000 and 10 stand for under $10,000.

Active Broodmare Sires – Breeders can still send mares to 22 (29 percent) of the broodmare sires whose daughters have runners this weekend. Sixteen have advertised stud fees for 2017 while six others were either listed as private or standing with no advertised stud fee on their farms’ pages. The most expensive of the active stallions is Dansili (Danehill) at $84,238 while the cheapest is Strong Hope (Grand Slam) at $2,000. The average stud fee for the still-active sires is $18,335 with two standing above $50,000, three standing for between $10,000 and $49,000 and 11 standing for under $10,000. The oldest damsire with an advertised stud fee is the 25-year-old French Deputy (Deputy Minister), who stands in Japan and has a fee of $7,308 according to JBIS.

Runner Numbers – Of the 68 sires with at least one runner in the stakes race on Saturday, 17 have two or more and nine of those have three runners in the stakes. Of those horses with three runners, Quality Road (Elusive Quality) and Union Rags (Dixie Union) both double up in the Grade 1 Acorn with two runners apiece while Scat Daddy (Johannesburg) has two in the Grade 1 Just a Game and Medaglia d’Oro (El Prado) has two in the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps. Lookin at Lucky (Smart Strike) may get the award for most versatile sire this week as he has a runner in the shortest race of the day on dirt (the G2 Woody Stephens) and one in the longest race of the day with Lookin At Lee in the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes. Just to add a little more variety to his resume, he also has an entry in a race between those two in distance with Lookin at Blessing in the Easy Goer Stakes.

Lookin at Lucky
Northern Dancer Returns – Northern Dancer is a frequently talked about subject on this blog but we’re looking at him a little differently today. Yes, the stallion’s sire line is responsible for 26 (38 percent) of the stallions with runners in these races but the more interesting part is it’s through six different sons. Storm Bird leads everyone in that category with 11 sires from his branch having 14 runners. He can thank Storm Cat for that with all 11 sires by Storm Cat sons or grandsons (or sired by Storm Cat himself). Sadler’s Wells and Danzig are tied behind Storm Bird with four each, Danzig’s line running through four different stallions and Sadler’s Wells running through two (El Prado with three and Galileo with one). So while Northern Dancer does again have a lot of representation, his sons and grandsons are carving out their own place in history – and the breeding industry.

Variety – Outside of Northern Dancer, 10 other sire lines have runners on Saturday. Mr. Prospector leads them all with 17 sires from his line (through Afleet, Fappiano, Forty Niner, Gone West, Kingmambo, Seeking the Gold and Smart Strike). The Bold Reasoning line is right behind him with 13 stallions, thanks to A.P. Indy (Seattle Slew) and eight others have a few each. Hail to Reason has the most of those eight with four (two from Halo’s line) and Rough’n Tumble also has two from his line thanks to the late Holy Bull.

On the damsire side, Mr. Prospector beats out Northern Dancer by having 26 different stallions (33 percent) from his line with daughters producing runners on Saturday compared to Northern Dancer’s 22.  Eight of those stallions with daughters represented here are Mr. Prospector’s sons (Gone West leads this group with his daughters having two runners). Of those sired by Mr. Prospector sons, Fappiano wins out with six stallions from his line having seven runners. Gone West follows with four with five other sons having one damsire each coming from their branches. Bold Reasoning and Hail to Reason both have more than five stallions each from their sire lines, with six of Bold Reasoning’s eight thanks to A.P. Indy’s prominence as a stallion (Indy’s sire Seattle Slew has one other runner coming from a Vindication daughter) and all but one of Hail to Reason’s come thanks to Halo.

Darley – While they have a bit of an advantage with stallions around the world having runners here, Darley has the most sires represented of any farm with seven. Four of those stand in the United States with Dubawi, New Approach and Lonhro all standing outside of the country (Lonhro did stand in the U.S. for a few seasons, which is when his runner here was conceived). Darley is followed closely by Lane’s End’s six stallions with runners in Saturday’s Belmont Park stakes, with three stallions 11 years of age or younger, and WinStar Farm who also has six stallions with runners including young stallions Bodemeister (Empire Maker) and Super Saver (Maria’s Mon).

Darley's Medaglia d'Oro has three runners.
Average Ages – There is only an 11 year gap between the average ages of the sires and damsires with runners in the Super Saturday races.

The average age of the sires sits at 14.76 years old with the youngest being four 8-year-olds and the oldest being Birdonthewire (Proud Birdie), who was born 28 years ago. Eleven of the stallions are 20 or older, 45 are between 10 and 19 and 11 are under 10 years of age. Those in the 10 through 19 age range average the highest stud fees at $58,723 (led by Dubawi and Tapit) with the older guys averaging about $15,000 less with a $43,786 average, led by Distorted Humor (Forty Niner) at $80,000, and the youngest group averaging $31,100 led by Uncle Mo at $150,000.

The damsires average 25 ½ years of age with the oldest being Kris (Sharpen Up), who was born 41 years ago and the youngest being Bluegrass Cat (Storm Cat) at 14 years of age. Nine of the broodmare sires are under 20 years of age (five still stand at stud), 44 are between the ages of 20 and 29, 19 between 30 and 39 and only Kris is over 40. Lycius (Mr. Prospector) seems to be the oldest damsire still alive at 29 years of age with no news of his death announced that I could find. A.P. Indy (Seattle Slew), whose sire line is responsible for 27 runners (29 percent of the entries) between the sires and damsires categories, is the second oldest at 28 years of age.

Bluegrass Cat's daughter Ithinkisawapudycat (pictured) is the dam of Acorn Stakes contender Sweet Loretta.
Double Dipping – Six stallions are both the sire of at least one runner in the stakes on Super Saturday and the broodmare sire of at least one other runner. Between the two categories, Awesome Again (Deputy Minister) has six runners, including two he sired, for the most of any stallion in this group. Disco Rico (Citidancer) has a unique distinction of being the sire of one runner and damsire of another in one race with Disco Partner and Pure Sensation (Zensational) breaking next to each other from the gate in the Grade 3 Jaipur on Saturday.

Commercial Talk – While buying a classic horse is what everyone hopes for, the only classic on the card doesn’t have the highest average sales price of Saturday’s races.

The sales average for the Grade 1 Belmont Stakes from seven to sell (10 went through the ring) is $324,762 while the Grade 1 Just a Game Stakes has an average of $697,975,  helped greatly by Celestine (Scat Daddy) selling for $2.55-million last November. However, if you take her price tag from that sale out and put in her yearling price of $100,000, the average for that race drops to $85,475. Taking out the big price-tags from Horse of Racing Age sales for all races and inserting the last price the horse sold for at public auction before making a start boosts the Metropolitan Handicap to the most expensive race on the card with an average of $386,800 for the 10 horses sold, helped in large part by Mohaymen’s (Tapit) $2.2-million price tag.  The Grade 1 Acorn follows that up with a $365,000 average for five sold at public auction, with three selling above that average (Sweet Loretta is the most expensive, being a $750,000 weanling.)

The most expensive of any horse of any age to sell publicly who is running in Saturday’s races is Celestine at that $2.55-million tag. She is also the most expensive RNA of the 67 horses racing Saturday who have been through the ring, RNAing at $975,000 as a 2-year-old. The most expensive horse running in the Belmont Stakes is the $1.2-million Tapwrit (Tapit), who sold in Saratoga as a yearling.

War Story (Northern Afleet) and Jamminwithbrandon (Stay Thirsty) get the award for going through the ring the most times at four each. Jamminwithbrandon sold three of the four times with his highest price tag being $100,000 (twice) while War Story sold twice, including as a $90,000 yearling. War Story also went through the ring as a racehorse, but RNAed for $545,000. Overall, eight horses running on Saturday have sold for $500,000 or more at least once in their careers.

War Story
The race with the most homebreds or horses sold privately is the Grade 1 Manhattan where
55 percent (five of nine) of the runners are homebreds. Meanwhile, all but one of the 10 horses entered in the Easy Goer have sold at least once. Only two of the 12 horses in the Belmont Stakes have never been through the ring with both Irish War Cry (Curlin) and Patch (Union Rags) being homebreds.

Belmont Winners – Four Belmont Stakes winners sired runners in Saturday’s stakes with 2012 Belmont Stakes winner Union Rags (Dixie Union) the only one of the four to have a runner in this year’s Belmont Stakes (Patch). Five Belmont winners sired daughters with runners on the day with both A.P. Indy and Thunder Gulch (Gulch) represented in the Belmont Stakes thanks to Patch (Union Rags) and Twisted Tom (Creative Cause). Stamina shouldn’t be any issue for the one-eyed Patch, who is by a Belmont Stakes winner and out of the daughter of another Belmont Stakes winner.
Creative Cause

Interesting Inbreeding – One runner on Saturday who really catches the eye is Macho Uno’s Tommy Macho in the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap. The 5-year-old horse is out of Starstream, who is a daughter of Macho Uno’s half-brother Awesome Again. That gives Tommy Macho a 2 x 3 cross to talented broodmare Primal Force (Blushing Groom). You sometimes see a horse inbred to a sire nearly that close but it isn’t often you run into that inbreeding going back to a mare. Primal Force and the family behind her is the only horse Tommy Macho is inbred to with the other branches of that pedigree free of any inbreeding in at least the first five generations.

Live Oak Stud – Eleven people/operations have bred at least two stakes entries on Saturday’s card but only Live Oak has three entries. They have a lot variety between those three horses with Holding Gold (Lonhro) running in the shortest turf race of the day and World Approval (Northern Afleet) running in the longest turf race of the day with Awesome Slew (Awesome of Course) cutting between the two distances in the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap on the dirt. All three horses are still owned by Live Oak.

Chester and Mary Broman will have a challenge in the Grade 1 Ogden Phipps if Highway Star (Girolamo) and Bar of Gold (Medaglia d’Oro) come down the stretch together. They bred and own both fillies so it could be a banner day for them if both girls run well. Overall, 21 of the breeders or co-breeders still own at least a part of the horses they bred.

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