Leading Commercial Sires: Who Will Carry On the Lines?

With the first two major summer yearling sales in the books, we'll take a quick look at the top 10 commercial sires of 2013 by yearling average and ponder on the potential for them to extend their lines.

The millennial stallion crop, whose first foals were born in 2000, included Awesome Again (TrueNicks,SRO), Indian Charlie, Elusive Quality (TrueNicks,SRO), Tale of the Cat (TrueNicks,SRO), Arch (TrueNicks,SRO), Northern Afleet (TrueNicks,SRO), and Stormy Atlantic (TrueNicks,SRO) (as well as the talented but less-impactful Skip Away, Coronado's Quest, Formal Gold (TrueNicks), and Touch Gold (TrueNicks,SRO)). However, the one that has emerged on top of that formidable heap is Distorted Humor (TrueNicks,SRO) (five sold for an average of $567,000), who not only has a leading sire title to his credit, but also is the early leader by 2013 yearling average. In terms of a successor, unfortunately two of his best—Funny Cide and Commentator—are geldings, and two early shots, Sharp Humor and Any Given Saturday (TrueNicks,SRO), don't appear to be the heir apparent, Sharp Humor having already been exported. On the upside, another son, Flower Alley (TrueNicks,SRO), has already sired the dual classic-winning champion I'll Have Another in his second crop, while Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) winner Drosselmeyer (TrueNicks,SRO); UAE Derby (gr. II) scorer Regal Ransom (TrueNicks,SRO); and the 114 Beyer-earner on his only start Maclean's Music (TrueNicks,SRO) are in the early stages of their careers. Due to retire for 2014 is the grade I-winning sprinter Jimmy Creed, who is out of the speedy Hookedonthefeelin, and probably the Man o' War Stakes (gr. IT) winner Boisterous, who is now a 6-year-old.

Second on the list is Medaglia d'Oro (TrueNicks,SRO) (four sold at an average of $531,250), who has been a star ever since a first crop that produced 16 stakes winners, including Rachel Alexandra and three other grade I winners. At one stage he was looking marked like a filly sire, although he did have grade I-winning sprinter Warrior's Reward (TrueNicks,SRO) (who has first yearlings in 2013) in his first crop. It looks, however, as if an adjustment in the type of mares he has been sent has brought a sea-change and there are several male stakes winners in his 2010 foal crop, including grade I-winning 2-year-old Violence (TrueNicks), who will be commencing his stud career in 2014.

The much-missed Indian Charlie checks in third, with four sold for an average of $488,750. Like Distorted Humor from the same stallion crop year, he began at a relatively modest fee, and if his rise through the ranks wasn't as meteoric, it was certainly relentless. At the time of his death he was due to stand the 2012 season at $75,000. Initially, his best were fillies, like champions Indian Blessing and Fleet Indian, and grade I scorer Pampered Princess. Happily, though, he's left a worthy potential successor in champion 2-year-old Uncle Mo (TrueNicks,SRO), who is particularly promising from the standpoint of being free of the strain that formed the most prolific nick for his sire, that of Mr. Prospector. Another son, Liaison, a grade I-winning juvenile going back to Alydar's family, is also slated to be at stud in the coming year.

It was very late in the day for his sire when War Front (TrueNicks,SRO) emerged as the horse who is almost certainly going to go down as Danzig's most important U.S. sire son. His commercial standing is emphasized by the fact that he currently sits fourth on the list of yearling sires by average (four sold for $488,750) with a crop sired at $10,000, and his prepotency is underlined by the flow of good winners still emerging from what should be his weakest crops (third and fourth crops are 3-year-olds and 2-year-olds this year). His meteoric sprinting son The Factor (TrueNicks,SRO) has just completed his first year at stud, and others that we'll doubtless soon be seeing on rosters include grade I winners Declaration of War and Data Link, and grade II scorers Soldat and Lines of Battle.

Upward mobility seems to be a persistent theme here, and just behind War Front is Tapit (TrueNicks,SRO) (six sold at an average of $362,500). The son of Pulpit (and out of a three-quarter sister to War Front's broodmare sire, Rubiano) has yet to have his best-bred crops to the races, but has emerged as probably the hottest sire in the country. He already has several sons at stud, including champion 2-year-old Hansen (TrueNicks,SRO)—who defeated what, on reflection, was one of the strongest ever fields in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I)—Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile (gr. I) victor Tapizar (TrueNicks,SRO), Trappe Shot (TrueNicks,SRO), and Concord Point (TrueNicks,SRO). Still at the track are prospects like Flashback, Honorable Dillon, and Rattlesnake Bridge.

Arch (TrueNicks,SRO) (two sold for $317,500) was very popular when he retired to stud, hung in through a quiet spell, and rebounded to become a significant sire who's respected on both sides of the Atlantic. He has a potentially worth successor in champion older horse Blame (TrueNicks,SRO) (first crop now yearlings), and another good son at stud in Arkansas Derby (gr. I) winner Archarcharch (TrueNicks,SRO).

One horse who doesn't lack for representation at stud is the late Pulpit (three sold for an average of $308,333). His graded stakes-siring sons include Tapit, Sky Mesa (TrueNicks,SRO), and Stroll (TrueNicks,SRO), and we can also mention California's over-achieving Lucky Pulpit (TrueNicks,SRO), Parading (TrueNicks,SRO) (first crop now 2-year-olds), Kentucky Derby (gr. I) runner-up Ice Box (TrueNicks,SRO) (first crop now foals), and Verrazano's grade II-winning half brother El Padrino (TrueNicks) (retires to Pennsylvania this year) with those still at the track including grade I winner Power Broker and graded scorers Guilt Trip and Super Ninety Nine.

On the basis of four yearlings averaging $300,000 (with a $320,000 median), Lemon Drop Kid (TrueNicks,SRO) appears to be getting recognition for many years of consistent, solid achievement. While he's been a prolific source of stakes winners, he's just lacked the defining runner or two to go to the next level, and unless the admirable Richard's Kid (who will be 9 next year) finds a committed sponsor, the now 17-year-old son of Kingmambo needs a really good son to appear in his next few crops if he's to extend his branch of Mr. Prospector in the U.S.

One who for whom the U.S. heir apparent has just arrived is More Than Ready (TrueNicks,SRO) (three averaging $283,333), whose current 3-year-olds include Verrazano, spectacular winner of the Haskell Invitational Stakes (gr. I). His champion Australian 2-year-old Sebring (AUS) (TrueNicks) was among the leading freshmen during the recently concluded season in that country. In the U.S. he also has Ready's Image (TrueNicks,SRO), who started quietly in 2012 but does have the current top Beyer-rated 2-year-old of 2013, Big Sugar Soda, in his second crop, and the rapid Custom For Carlos (TrueNicks,SRO), who has a good chance of making at least a regional impact in Louisiana.

It's not news that several of the most accomplished racing sons of the late Unbridled's Song (seven sold for an average of $267,143, with a median of $300,000) have fired their best shot at stud and missed the mark. As mentioned above, however, War Front came along as what looks to be Danzig's best U.S. son really late in that sire's career, and in Europe, Montjeu and Galileo were sired far nearer the end of Sadler's Wells' career than the beginning. To underline that all is far from lost, we can note First Defence (TrueNicks,SRO) is a grade I sire with his first crop 3-year-olds this year; Zensational (TrueNicks,SRO), Dunkirk (TrueNicks,SRO), Old Fashioned (TrueNicks,SRO), and New York's Noonmark (TrueNicks,SRO) all have first 2-year-olds; and champion 2-year-old Midshipman (TrueNicks,SRO) has first yearlings (First Defence, Dunkirk, and Midshipman all rather intrigue as all are out of accomplished runners from the Seattle Slew line, a cross that was generally not spectacular for Unbridled's Song, and we wonder if that means that they might represent something phenotypically or genotypically different from their predecessors). There are also a number of other talented sons Unbridled's Song sons that are likely to be retiring for 2014 or 2015, including Cross Traffic, Graydar, Emcee, Will Take Charge, Winslow Homer, and Noble Tune.

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