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Turning to Turf

It might be a bit too early to say that "The Winds of Change are Blowing Through the Nation," but with frequently expressed concerns about the durability and stamina of the U.S. Thoroughbred, there appears to be a move that indicates stallion masters and breeders are willing to at least consider standing or breeding to something other than stretching-out sprinter/miler dirt horses. Given the demographics of the U.S. population, this has meant embracing imports or domestic horses whose form is primarily on turf.

Last year saw two of the world's great stallion operations add such horses. Coolmore/Ashford introduced Cape Blanco (IRE) (TrueNicks,SRO)—the 2011 Eclipse champion turf horse, but bred and trained in Ireland—to their U.S. roster, and Darley boldly offered the Australian star Lonhro (AUS) (TrueNicks,SRO). If this pair are taken as a litmus test, then U.S. breeders may be more open-minded than many would have suspected. Cape Blanco, who won a pair of group races over seven furlongs at 2, took the 12-furlong Irish Derby (Ire-I) and 10-furlong Irish Champion Stakes (Ire-I) at 3, and scored grade I wins at 10, 11, and 12 furlongs in the U.S. at 4. The proven stamina of the son of Galileo—a horse who by common consent would be considered the world's leading sire—did not deter breeders in the slightest, and he covered no less than 220 mares.

Lonhro, who was a multiple group I winner at 10 furlongs but was better as a miler, also had his challenges to overcome in terms of breeder perception, primarily unfamiliarity with a male line that features Sir Gaylord as its most recent U.S. runner (Sir Gaylord is back in the fifth generation of the pedigree, as Lonhro descends from that half brother to Secretariat through Epsom Derby winner Sir Ivor; the great New Zealand sire Sir Tristram; that horse's excellent son Zabeel; and Australian Horse of the Year Octagonal, but is out of a mare by a son of Mr. Prospector). The leading sire in Australia in 2010-2011 and sire of Australia's most recent juvenile champion, the brilliant Pierro, Lonhro attracted 102 mares at $30,000 in 2012.

Cape Blanco's sire, Galileo, will have another son at stud in the U.S. this year in Midas Touch (GB) (TrueNicks,SRO), who will stand at War Horse Place for $10,000. A winner over a mile at 2, he won the Derrinstown Stud Derby Trial (Ire-II) and was second in the Irish Derby (Ire-I, to Cape Blanco), the St. Leger (Eng-I), and Great Voltigeur Stakes (Eng-II) at 3. His dam is a stakes-winning and multiple group-placed daughter of another standout European classic sire, Darshaan. The second dam was also a multiple group winner, and is a half sister to French 2,000 Guineas (gr. I) winner and useful sire Aussie Rules.

Midas Touch's grandsire, Sadler's Wells, also has a first year representative in Bullet Train (GB) (TrueNicks,SRO), who goes to Wintergreen Stallion Station for $7,500. He's out of Kind, a stakes-winning daughter of Danehill who is best-known as the dam of Frankel, the horse who might just be what bloggers in some circles are inclined to call the GOAT (Greatest Of All Time), making Bullet Train a three-quarter relative to Juddmonte's phenomenon. Bullet Train was a winner over a mile on his only start at 2, and took the Totesport.com Derby Trial (Eng-III) at 3. Subsequently he spent his 4- and 5-year-old seasons in the service of his superstar sibling, and his sterling pacemaking efforts played a major part in the Frankel success story.

Of course we should note that the Sadler's Wells line has already developed a branch all of its own through El Prado, who, if not a stayer, was a turf runner, and who is already represented by Medaglia d'Oro (TrueNicks,SRO), Kitten's Joy (TrueNicks,SRO), and Artie Schiller (TrueNicks,SRO) as sires of grade I winners. El Prado's son Paddy O'Prado (TrueNicks,SRO), a grade I winner over 10 furlongs on the turf and also second in the Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) on all-weather and third in the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) on dirt, kicked off his stud career at Spendthrift last year with a book of 142 mares.

The other stamina sire line that seems to be making inroads is that of Roberto, particularly through Dynaformer (who became one of the world's leading sires, despite winning over 12 furlongs on turf and starting his stud career in the bargain basement). Darby Dan—where Roberto was bred and raised, and where he stood his stud career—were actually the pioneers regarding re-importing the line, reverse shuttling the group I-winning miler All American (AUS) (TrueNicks,SRO), a son of Red Ransom. In an earlier piece on this blog we've covered Dynaformer's sons Americain and Lentenor, who are both retiring to Calumet for 2013 (Americain reverse shuttling from Australia).

If you are going to go for a stamina source, Americain is about as good as it gets: rated No. 1 on the World Thoroughbred Rankings in 2011, although he also won first time out as a 2-year-old, and had top-class form at 10 and 12 furlongs. Lentenor, a brother to Barbaro, was also a turf horse, but more a miler than a stayer, winning the Kitten's Joy Stakes at 8 1/2 furlongs, and setting a course record for the same distance. His dam, La Ville Rouge, was a rare item: a Carson City that liked to go long on the lawn. We should note that Calumet is now guided by Brad Kelley, who purchased the majority of another staying horse, champion turf male English Channel (TrueNicks,SRO). Kelley supported English Channel strongly in his early years at stud, and was rewarded when the son of Smart Strike (TrueNicks,SRO) took high-rank among the 2012 second season sires, represented by nine stakes winners from his first crop of 3-year-olds. There is no doubt that Kelley will ensure that Americain and Lentenor get similar opportunities.

A third Dynaformer retiring for 2013 is Brilliant Speed (TrueNicks,SRO), who goes to Three Chimneys for $10,000. A winner on the turf at 2, he took the Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) on the all-weather, and the Saranac Stakes (gr. IIIT) on the turf at 3, when he was also placed in five other stakes races, including a close second in the Jamaica Handicap (gr. IT), and thirds in the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) and Breeders' Cup Turf (gr. IT). He added thirds in two more grade I events in 2012. There is a lot more speed on the distaff side of the pedigree, as the dam, a Gone West half sister to Canadian champion and multiple stakes winner Handpainted, is out of the speedy Deputy Minister mare Daijin, a sister to Touch Gold (TrueNicks,SRO), who despite winning the Belmont Stakes has sired some good sprinter/milers.

Still on the Dynaformer front, we shouldn't overlook Temple City (TrueNicks,SRO), who is by Dynaformer out of a Danzig half sister to Malibu Moon (TrueNicks,SRO), and broke a course record when winning the 12-furlong Cougar II Handicap (gr. III). He retired to Spendthrift in 2011 and has covered over 100 mares in each of his first two seasons.

There is another Dynaformer among the ranks of the U.S. turf horses in three-time grade I winner Point of Entry. Adena Springs principal Frank Stronach purchased a majority interest in the horse last month, so it seems likely that he will retire to Kentucky at the conclusion of his racing career.

Of course we also anticipate 2014 seeing the retirement of the 2011 Kentucky Derby (gr. I) victor, Animal Kingdom (TrueNicks), by the Brazilian-bred Blushing Groom line horse Leroidesanimaux (BRZ) (TrueNicks), out of a German-bred staying mare. He's going to stand his Southern Hemisphere seasons at Arrowfield, but is undeclared as far as the Northern Hemisphere is concerned.

Other new stallions who excelled on the turf include multiple grade I winner Get Stormy (TrueNicks,SRO), who retires to Crestwood Farm; Canadian champion turf horse Musketier (GER) (TrueNicks,SRO), who begins his stud career at Adena Springs Canada; and multiple graded stakes-placed Baryshnikov (TrueNicks,SRO), who will stand at Oak Lodge USA.

We're not quite at the stage of the cycle of European invasions that saw Bull Dog, Sir Gallahad III, Blenheim II, Mahmoud, Nasrullah, Royal Charger, and Khaled, or later, repatriated European-raced U.S. breds, such as Sir Ivor, Nijinsky II, The Minstrel, Lyphard, Green Dancer, Riverman, and Nureyev (as well as European-bred Caro), to name a few that come to mind, but we do think the chances of a foreign import or U.S. raced turf horse becoming a significant sire are much higher than they were a few years ago.

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13 Comments:

Yet another interesting, well thought out piece.

There seems, today, a bit more opportunity in the U.S. for turf runners-more turf races, and the synthetics. I'm concerned, though, that these turf raced sires, particularly those who were bred abroad, may tend to sire offspring less sound (than those sired by confirmed dirt horses) for U.S. dirt racing. Many see this influx of european sire prospects as potential sources of soundness, when it may prove quite the opposite. All else equal, the turf tends to be somewhat "forgiving", allowing some to hold up whereas otherwise might not have been the case. Type, conformation-and conformational issues may very well differ between the turf and dirt runner-the "mechanics" of propulsion, etc. are not the same, dirt vs turf. Despite Racing's long history, I'm not sure there's still much consensus re-the physical attributes of a turf vs dirt runner. But, as Alan noted, there have been numerous notable european-bred stallions that excelled in siring U.S. dirt performers. The historical timing of their importation should, however, be taken into account. Many were imported at a time when the quality of european racing was far superior to our own; i.e. the "good" characteristics may have far outweighed the "bad". Also, as we can see in retrospect, some of those imports possessed dirt-siring abilities far greater than others. Such history is worthy of careful study-pedigree, conformation, soundess stats, etc. (albeit rather difficult now). We should be mindful of the aforesaid potential issues as they relate to breeding horses at greater risk for soundness misadventures.      

sceptre 05 Feb 2013 3:09 PM

In 1964 trainer Etinne Pollet thought he had the best 2 year old in Europe with a horse called Grey Dawn and it certainly looked that way when he beat Sea Bird in his final

race as a 2 year old.But lucky for Pollet he was also the

trainer of Sea Bird and that horse went on to be a great champion in 1965.Grey Dawn was by the 1959 French Derby winner Herbager out of a Mahmoud mare,Polamia and he went on

to sire some decent fillies in North Amercia on dirt.Both

Ring,O Bells and Shy Dawn come to mind who won stakes races

on the New York circuit and a very hard knocking filly up here in Canada called Bye Bye Paris.His sire Herbager sired

Our Mims who won the important Coaching Club Of American Oaks when it was run at 12 furlongs and the 10 furlong Alabama Stakes both on dirt.So although the sires talked about should indeed sire some good turf runners just like other great European sires mentioned in this story it would

be no surprise at all to see some top class dirt runners.

John T 05 Feb 2013 9:12 PM

Every Thoroughbred stallion imported to the US for the first 200 years raced on turf. *Diomed, the foundation of 19th Century racing, won the first Derby at Epsom. *Australian, *Glencoe, *Leamington, *Bonnie Scotland, etc. all raced on turf. *Meddler, *Rock Sand, and *Star Shoot raced on turf, as did *Sir Gallahad III, *Bull Dog, *St. Germans, *Blenheim II, *Mahmoud, etc. Not to mention *Nasrullah, *Royal Charger, *Ribot, *Ambiorix, *Caro, and so on. The only area in the world from which we import stallions that does NOT race exclusively on turf is South America.

Sure, there have been grass-raced imports who failed at stud here, just like there have been dirt-raced racers who failed. And, after all, many of the new imports are descendents of North American/dirt-raced horses.

Pedigree Ann 06 Feb 2013 11:00 AM

Sceptre, John T,

Thanks for the comments. My perception would be of a cycle or cycles from, say around the 1930's. In, say an era, roughly from the 30's to the 50's, the European horse in general was superior to the U.S. horse. With U.S. racing conducted over a wide-range of distances, it's likely that U.S. runner was a less physiologically specialized horse that the current dirt stretched out sprinter/miler type (think human 800m/half mile runners). So we see a European horse like Noor handling Citation (not the force he was a three, but still pretty formidable).

Then we come to stallions that were top-class U.S. horses by the imports, so Northern Dancer (by Nearctic, a son of Nearco conceived in Europe and imported to the U.S. in utero), Never Bend (by Nasrullah), Sir Gaylord and Hail to Reason (by Turn-to). In the late 60's and through the 70's their offspring, and the offspring of their sons tended to have too much speed for the typical European classic horse, examples being Sir Ivor, Nijinsky II, Mill Reef, Riverman, Lyphard, The Minstrel, Nureyev and so on (as a footnote, it also led to a fad for U.S. bloodlines and the importation of proven failures and worse, with names such as Kauai King, Umbrella Fella, Veiled Wonder and Jolly Jet).

A lot of the U.S. sired horses that had performed particularly well in Europe, or started well there, were returned to North America (along with prominent Europeans like Blushing Groom and Caro), and if not dominant over the locals, their international impact did make Kentucky the center of the thoroughbred universe as far as stallion power was concerned.

The next shift was via the U.S. horses that proved themselves in Europe and remained there, such as Sadler's Wells, Green Desert and Danehill. As the prototypical top-class U.S. horse became our "stretched out dirt sprinter-miler" European descendants of U.S. stallions became the best source of European classic runners. Much the same happened in Australia, where the top stallions are now frequently tending to be Australia-raced sons of shuttle sires.

Combine specialization and a divergence of bloodlines (not to mention concerns over medication, valid or not), and we see why a lot fewer European agents and trainers are making the trip to the U.S. sales.

Alan Porter 06 Feb 2013 1:52 PM

Am excited about these new stallions and looking forward to see them mix their genes with our American bloodlines. Outcrossing may be very successful especially since we've seen several generations of inbreeding especially to Mr. Prospector, Raise a Native etc. Could be beneficial to infuse more stamina and soundness into the breed.

kenek 06 Feb 2013 6:10 PM

And the U.S. may be a valuable outlet for the Europeans who are in danger of limiting the mares their stallions can breed to due to the concentration of Sadler's Wells bloodline at stud. There was an article not too long ago about the difficulties Frankel may face finding mares not too closely related. An influx of the stamina and brilliance shown by that family should be welcome here. Japan seems to be doing a pretty good job of importing mares to prevent that happening with the Sunday Silence bloodlines.

Karen in Indiana 06 Feb 2013 10:51 PM

Pedigree Buffs: should never forget the massive contribution

to the PEDIGREE OF THE THOROUGHBRED HORSE, made by the tiny studs in the 19th century, of that far-off land NEW ZEALAND.

Trenton (1881) Cheviot (1879) Darebin (1878) Carbine (1885)

Hal Dane. 07 Feb 2013 6:31 AM

"Trenton (1881) Cheviot (1879) Darebin (1878) Carbine (1885)"

Indeed. *Darebin sired Emma C., the dam of Domino's son Commando, who is ubiquitous in North-American bloodlines. The important US broodmare, and second dam of the great sire Bull Lea, was Trenton's daughter *Colonial. Carbine sire "chef-de-race" Spearmint, who is in the background of Nearco, Discovery (also a descendent of *Darebin), etc. I am less familiar with Cheviot - I know he stood in California and sired 'Lucky' Baldwin's American Derby winner Rey el Santa Anita (who defeated Domino in that top race) but don't know where else he had an influence.

Pedigree Ann 07 Feb 2013 11:18 AM

In his excellent historical recap, Alan touched upon some of what I was attempting to communicate.

Aside from the EIPH/furosemide issue, I tend not to be too dogmatic in my opinions. I'm fairly certain, however, that breeders would do well to heed my warnings about use of these "second stringer" turf import stallions for use in producing US dirt runners. They are genetically unproven for that purpose so, all else equal, should have a greater liklihood to sire unsound dirt performers.  

sceptre 07 Feb 2013 2:38 PM

Pedigree Ann: Both Northern Dancer and Mr Prospector have three of the above New Zealand sires in their pedigree make-up.

Trenton sired TORPOINT a top broodmare stallion, viz:- Torpinhow, Pinprick, Hamoaze, etc.. he also sired the grandam of GAINSBOROUGH.

The male line of the imported Cheviot leads down to the extra-ordinary successful Quarter Horse stallion HOLLYWOOD GOLD (1940) who also passed on his golden color (Palominos) there are a dozen male line branches of this horse scattered through-out America, with quite expensive stallions.

Hal Dane. 08 Feb 2013 7:25 AM

Now we find out the truth why Sceptre did not win all five

of the English Classics.She thought she was running against

''Second Stringer'' 3 year old European colts in the 1902

Epsom Derby and lost all chance at the start.

John T 08 Feb 2013 8:25 PM

No, I had a bruised foot, and financially strapped connections who overraced me.

sceptre 10 Feb 2013 8:38 PM

Sceptre

It,s so true your financially strapped owner Mr.Robert Sievier did indeed overrace you.One can only think what a great filly you could have been if it were not so.

Nevertheless you will always have pride of place in British

racing as I doubt any other filly will ever win four of the

five classics never mind all five.

John T 10 Feb 2013 10:21 PM

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