What's the best source of stakes-winning broodmare prospects for the low-budget breeder? Without question, it is at the racetrack.
I like to study the fillies entered in claiming contests on upcoming race cards, hoping to find one that has potential as a producer. With a bit of research and a lot of patience, it is possible to locate fillies and mares with royal pedigrees and strong race records running in a claiming race. Often, the tag (the price at which she can be claimed) is a fraction of her value if she were to walk through the sales ring at a breeding stock sale.
While I was perusing the entries for the coming weekend, the filly Stroll By (pedigree) caught my eye. Actually, it was her dam's name that jumped out at me initially: Territory is from my favorite Claiborne family, and is a full or half-sister to four graded winners (plus an additional stakes winner and another stakes placer). Stroll By's granddam, State, is half-sister to the graded winner and useful sire Fabled Monarch and to two other black type horses. And State's dam was Monarchy, a stakes-winning full sister to Horse of the Year and great stallion Round Table. One step further back in the dam line was family 2-f matriarch Knight's Daughter. (This is also the immediate family of Tale of the Cat (SRO) and Johannesburg (SRO) and Tueflesberg (SRO) and Minardi.)
So the Thoroughbred female family -- the most important part of the pedigree, to my thinking -- was a winner. I wasn't disappointed when I then saw Stroll as the filly's sire. A few months back, Stroll earned special mention in a MarketWatch Blog post ("A Stroll to the Top") because he had one of the highest MarketWatch Index scores ever recorded. (The MWI is a calculation that improves on Average Earnings Index, or AEI, by evaluating the quality of a sire's runners with their earning power rather than looking at earnings alone.) Stroll is currently standing in Italy after failing to attract large enough books while standing at Claiborne. His small opportunity while here did not keep him from realizing a significant amount of success, however: his first crop (3-year-olds of 2009) numbered 37 named foals, of which 24 (65%) have started and 14 (58% of starters) have won. More impressive, though, are the four stakes winners and three additional stakes-placed progeny, making 11% stakes winners from foals and 29.2% stakes horses from runners. And these aren't low-level runners, either. With an AEI-to-CI ratio 1.96 to 1.13, Stroll is improving his mares by a 73% clip -- and having two first-crop graded winners doesn't hurt his case. Stroll will either become the pride of Italy or he'll be returned with glory to Kentucky.
Stroll By sold as a weanling for $10,000 at the 2006 Keeneland November sale and has run nine times for Gotschall Racing and trainer Larry Donlin. Twice placed from two juvenile starts, Stroll By hit her stride at the beginning of 2009 and rolled off wins in a four-furlong maiden special, a six-furlong allowance, and finally in a restricted stakes, again at three-quarters of a mile. Since then, she has placed in the Goldfinch Stakes at Prairie Meadows and another restricted contest, both at the sprint standard of six furlongs. Her last two outs have been a place effort in a six-furlong allowance race and off the board in a stakes over a mile.
At Canterbury Park this Sunday, Stroll By will run in the seventh race on the card, a five-furlong turf contest for fillies and mares 3 years old and up. One of only two sophomores in the eight-horse field, Stroll By gets a bit of a weight break but still is fifth in the morning-line odds. But the part that interests me is that she's available for a $15,000 tag -- almost certainly less than her value as a broodmare prospect.
Stroll By's dam is bred on the same cross of "sire line of Mr. Prospector over the dam line of State" as was Pulpit (sire of Stroll). The filly has strong line-breeding to Princequillo and has a third cross of Knight's Daughter: in addition to the great mare being her own fourth dam and her grandsire's fifth dam, Knight's Daughter is represented as the dam of Seattle Slew's maternal grandsire Round Table.
Stroll By has just begun her racing career -- let's hope that it is a long and successful one -- but her eight wins and places from nine starts and her intriguing bloodlines make her a good bet for a forward-looking breeder. What do you think: worthy of claiming, or keep searching the entries charts?