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A Cluster of Stallion Talent for Saratoga

Distribution of talent, by its very nature, tends not to be egalitarian.

Competitive sport is an arena where that fact is particularly revealed, and students of the history of any such activity will be well aware of "Golden Years" or "Golden Eras" when several stars simultaneously made their presence known. A look at stallion crops over the last 15 years or so demonstrates that they are no exception to the principle. Where, in most years, we are fortunate if one or two stallions rise above their contemporaries to establish themselves as mainstream commercial sires, there are occasional times that we come across a stallion intake that far surpasses expectations.

For example, if we the group of horses that retired to stud in 2005, we find Tapit (TrueNicks), Candy Ride (TrueNicks), Medaglia d'Oro (TrueNicks), Speightstown (TrueNicks) and Birdstone (TrueNicks) (who now tends to be overlooked, but did sire two classic winning champions, Mind That Bird and Summer Bird, in his first crop). Prior to that the stallion crop of 2002 yielded Tiznow (TrueNicks), Broken Vow (TrueNicks), and two that made it from the regions to the big leagues in City Zip (TrueNicks) and Exchange Rate (TrueNicks). The previous year had been even more productive with Giant's Causeway (TrueNicks) (who stood his first year in Europe), More Than Ready (TrueNicks), Dixie Union and Lemon Drop Kid (TrueNicks) as well as Successful Appeal (TrueNicks) (who headed the freshman list, earning a move from Florida to Kentucky, a trip also made the freshman runner-up Yes It's True (TrueNicks)).

The group, however, by which all others will be judged for some time to come, is the class of '99. Among those last pre-millennials we find Distorted Humor (TrueNicks), Awesome Again (TrueNicks), Indian Charlie, Elusive Quality (TrueNicks), Tale of the Cat (TrueNicks), Grand Slam and Stormy Atlantic (TrueNicks). Incidentally, this was also a "Golden Era" at the track as that class had to prove themselves at the track against such as Skip Away, Formal Gold, Touch Gold (TrueNicks) and Coronado's Quest, who all retired in that same year, but without making the same impact in the breeding shed. We reminded ourselves of these groups by a glance at the respective freshman sire tables, and that exercise also served as a reminder that a rush to judgment at the freshman stage of a horse's career isn't prudent. In addition to several that failed to build on bright starts, there are a number that didn't make a huge impact on the table with their first runners, but were later to take far higher order, among them Pulpit and Empire Maker who were both seventh on their freshman list; Indian Charlie, who was tenth among his first crop with runners; and Lemon Drop Kid, who is currently on the top five on the U.S. sires table with nine 2014 stakes winners, six graded, but who finished his freshman year ranked 22nd among his contemporaries.

Our feeling is that you probably need to get a line on three crops of 3-year-olds (or when the oldest crop are five) to get a really strong conviction as to where a sire stands but that is a hypothesis that we are currently testing. This stage is often one that also holds a lot of potential for the buyer, as it's not usual for some of these stallions that started well to be in something of a lull - they are working off what are historically likely to be their weakest crops, their third and fourth - but have their first crop conceived after their initial success at the yearling sales. Happily for buyers, it appears that the stallion group currently represented by fifth crop yearlings is a well above average one. In terms of racecourse achievement the probably best remembered for a trio - Any Given Saturday, Hard Spun (TrueNicks) and Street Sense (TrueNicks) - who swapped decisions among themselves (and with Curlin (TrueNicks), who remained in training) before retiring to Darley. The group also, however, included several others who have made good starts at stud, including its Leading Freshman Sire, Scat Daddy (TrueNicks), who took the title in an epic battle with Hard Spun; the freakishly talented Discreet Cat (TrueNicks), and English Channel (TrueNicks). A number of these horses have yearlings among the 165 cataloged at the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga selected yearling sale.

Taking them alphabetically, we start with English Channel, the champion turf horse son of Smart Strike, who has been one of the surprise packages of this intake with 14 stakes winners, and seven graded winners to date. He has just one here, but it is a colt out of an A.P. Indy mare, and so bred on the same cross as English Channel's near $1 million earner Optimizer. Hard Spun, one of the last good sons of Danzig, has six cataloged at Saratoga. He made a flying start with 16 first crop stakes winners, including champion Questing, and grade I winners Hard Not to Like and Zo Impressive, and he's back in the headlines this year with Wicked Strong.

One from this intake we haven't mentioned and who has a single yearling in the sales is Sunday Silence's champion Japanese miler Hat Trick (TrueNicks), who has three grade I winners to his name, including European champion 2-year-old Dabirsim. The auction features a trio by Scat Daddy, who's extending a branch of the Storm Cat line via Hennessy and Johannesburg, and who has 15 Northern Hemisphere stakes winners, including grade I winners Lady of Shamrock and No Nay Never.

Champion 2-year-old and Kentucky Derby (gr. I) victor Street Sense (Street Cry), who returned to Darley for 2014 after a season in Japan, has five in the sale. He already has nine Northern Hemisphere graded stakes winners to his name, including grade I winners Aubby K, and Sweet Reason, who was successful in both last year's Spinaway Stakes (gr. I) and the 2014 renewal of the Acorn Stakes (gr. I). We should also note that all of the previously mentioned fifth-season sires are represented in the Saratoga New York Bred Preferred section of the sale, and are joined by two more successful "crop contemporaries" in the over-achieving Floridian High Cotton (TrueNicks) (Dixie Union), and Discreet Cat (Forestry), who continues to gain momentum and now has 16 Northern Hemisphere stakes winners to his name, including grade I winners Discreet Marq, Dads Caps, and Secret Compass.

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