(By Avalyn Hunter)
Anyone who has studied pedigrees for any length of time knows that most successful sires share certain characteristics. Aside from being above-average performers on the track, they are usually sired by stallions substantially above the average both as racers and as sires. If their dams were not top race mares, they nonetheless typically have close female-line connections to good runners, good sires, or both. But then a stallion like In Excess comes along by an indifferent sire out of an unaccomplished mare with a modest family tree, and the pundits are left scratching their heads.
Granted, Siberian Express, the sire of In Excess, was a good race horse, winning the Prix Morny (Fr-I) at 2 and the classic Poule d'Essai des Poulains (Fr-I) at 3. But as a stallion he proved unable to emulate his sire, the very good stallion Caro, and his only other notable runner was 1991 Charles H. Strub Stakes (gr. I) winner Siberian Summer. In Excess' broodmare sire, the speedster Saulingo, was a poor stallion, and the sire of his second dam, Vilmorin, was a crack sprinter but not a particularly good sire either. Yet somehow In Excess transcended a pedigree that seemed likeliest to produce a modest sprinter to become one of the top older males of 1991, scorching four grade I fields into defeat at distances ranging from eight to 10 furlongs.
Despite In Excess' obvious talent, Kentucky wasn't particularly interested in the Irish-bred horse when he retired to stud, so he ended up in California. Once again, In Excess transcended his pedigree. Twice the state's leading sire and four times its leading sire of juveniles, In Excess consistently passed on a measure of his own speed. His progeny were not always the most durable runners out there, but run they could. And to put icing on the cake, In Excess got a worthy successor in his Santa Anita Derby (gr. I)-winning son Indian Charlie. Sadly, Indian Charlie died of cancer only a few months after his sire was pensioned from stud duty in 2011, but he has a viable chance to continue this branch of the Nasrullah-Grey Sovereign male line through his son Uncle Mo, the U.S. champion juvenile male of 2010. Indian Charlie's final foals will come to the races in 2014.
The harsh facts of life are that most good racehorses fail at stud, even with the best of connections; few enjoy consistent success. Thus, it is natural that in the competitive world of placing stud prospects, Kentucky stallion managers will continue to apply those criteria that have proven to have some value in sorting out those colts likeliest to succeed as sires from the others. Nonetheless, the vagaries of chance will always ensure that a few good ones like In Excess get away to benefit the breeding programs of regional markets, and that is something that keeps hopes alive wherever Thoroughbreds are raised.