By J. Keeler Johnson ("Keelerman") Twitter: @J_Keelerman
If you want to breed a
superstar U.S. turf horse, where would you begin? Perhaps by crossing the
genetics of Kitten's Joy and English Channel, two of the top U.S. turf
stallions of the last decade.
Breeders' Cup winners
Stephanie's Kitten, Oscar Performance, Bobby's Kitten. International stars
Hawkbill, Roaring Lion, Kameko, and Gendarme. Champion Big Blue Kitten. Grade 1
winners Sadler's Joy, Divisidero, Real Solution, and more. The list of
top-notch grass runners sired by Kitten's Joy goes on and on.
Champion Channel Maker. The
acclaimed long-distance grass mare War Like Goddess. Multiple Grade 1 winner
Heart to Heart. Fan favorite Arlington Million (G1) winner The Pizza Man. All
these turf standouts and others are sons and daughters of English Channel.
Between them, Kitten's Joy
and English Channel have ranked as North America's leading sire by progeny
earnings on turf in nine of the last ten years. Kitten's Joy led the list every
year from 2013 through 2018, then finished second in 2019, second in 2020,
third in 2021, and second in 2022. Leadership has more recently been assumed by
English Channel, who led the list in 2020, 2021, and 2022 after finishing third
You might be wondering why I'm
extolling the virtues of Kitten's Joy and English Channel. There are two
reasons. One, it's a quiet week on the Road to the Kentucky Derby. Two, the
bloodlines of Kitten's Joy and English Channel have combined to produce Far Bridge, a three-year-old grass
runner so exciting I have to dedicate a blog post to his talent and potential.
Far Bridge is a son of
English Channel out of the Kitten's Joy mare Fitpitcher. The English
Channel/Kitten's Joy cross has already produced Man o' War S. (G1) winner
Channel Cat, who earned $1,481,022 over the course of 32 starts. But to be
honest, I expect Far Bridge to achieve even more.
Trained by Christophe
Clement, Far Bridge caught my eye when he debuted in a 1 1/16-mile maiden
special weight over the Gulfstream Park turf course on Jan. 21. The Calumet
Farm homebred started at 7-1 odds and wasn't in any hurry to get going,
settling in seventh place as 2-1 favorite Fort Wilderness carved out splits of
:23.00, :46.99, and 1:10.60 while pressed by 9-2 third choice Carl Spackler.
At the top of the stretch,
Carl Spackler took over the lead and appeared well-positioned for victory. But on
the outside, Far Bridge was only just kicking into gear. By running his final five-sixteenths
of a mile in about :28.64 (a terrific fraction), Far Bridge ran down Carl
Spackler to win by a head in the excellent time of 1:39.57.
This effort has only grown
more impressive with the passing of time. Carl Spackler pulled six lengths
clear of third-place finisher Fort Wilderness and came back one month later to obliterate
a one-mile maiden special weight over the Gulfstream lawn by 8 3/4 lengths.
Carl Spackler looks like a budding stakes star in his own right, so the fact
Far Bridge ran him down is impressive.
Having defeated a promising
horse on debut, Far Bridge was favored at 1-2 in his second start, a $75,000
allowance optional claimer racing 1 1/16 miles at Gulfstream on March 11. And
once again, Far Bridge performed like a Grade 1 turf horse in the making.
Just like in his debut, Far
Bridge was content to settle off the early pace through solid early splits of
:22.99, :46.45, and 1:10.32. Choosing to save ground along the inside looked
like a risky strategy around the far turn, when Far Bridge was buried in
traffic and had to wait for racing room. With five-sixteenths of a mile
remaining, Far Bridge was in tenth place, 6 3/4 lengths behind the leader.
But when the field turned
for home, Far Bridge found racing room between rivals and responded with an
explosive burst of acceleration. Surging through the pack at a completely
different speed than his rivals, Far Bridge closed the deficit in the blink of
an eye and drew off under light urging to score by 3 1/2 lengths. He ran the
final sixteenth of a mile in a blazing :05.67 to complete the race in 1:41.14.
At this point, there's no
telling how good Far Bridge might be. He's clearly a capable performance over 1
1/16 miles, so races like the April 7 Transylvania S. (G3) at Keeneland and May
6 American Turf S. (G2) at Churchill Downs have to be viewed as viable
But Far Bridge has the
pedigree to stretch out in distance—even over 1 1/2 miles—so the summer and
fall may hold greater glory. The July 8 Belmont Derby (G1) over 1 1/4 miles?
The Aug. 5 Saratoga Derby (G1) racing 1 3/16 miles? The Joe Hirsch Turf Classic
(G1) racing 1 1/2 miles against older horses?
I believe Far Bridge is one
of the most talented three-year-olds in training. I believe he's a Grade 1 turf
star in the making. And I'm excited to see what his career has in store.
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J. Keeler Johnson (also known as "Keelerman") is a writer, videographer, voice actor, handicapper, and all-around horse racing enthusiast. A great fan of racing history, he considers Dr. Fager to be the greatest racehorse ever produced in America, but counts Zenyatta as his all-time favorite.