Is Vino Rosso Poised for Success at Stud?

By J. Keeler Johnson ("Keelerman") Twitter: @J_Keelerman

Over the last decade, few stallions have enjoyed as much success as Curlin. It's safe to say the Hall of Fame inductee is every bit as good a sire as he was a racehorse, and now his sons are emerging as influential stallions as well.

Curlin was an elite racehorse who won back-to-back Horse of the Year titles and $10,501,800 across two seasons of racing. His 11-for-16 lifetime tally included victories in the Preakness S. (G1), Breeders' Cup Classic (G1), Dubai World Cup (G1), Stephen Foster H. (G1), Woodward (G1), and two editions of the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1), as well as a runner-up finish in the Belmont S. (G1) and a third in the Kentucky Derby (G1).

Curlin showed classic prowess by winning or placing in all three legs of the Triple Crown, and his progeny have followed suit as formidable players in the spring classics. Over the past 10 years, sons and daughters of Curlin have included:

  • Palace Malice, winner of the 2013 Belmont.
  • Ride On Curlin, runner-up in the 2014 Preakness.
  • Keen Ice, third in the 2015 Belmont.
  • Exaggerator, winner of the 2016 Preakness and second in the 2016 Kentucky Derby.
  • Irish War Cry, runner-up in the 2017 Belmont.
  • Good Magic, runner-up in the 2018 Kentucky Derby.
  • Tenfold, third in the 2018 Preakness.
  • Nest, runner-up in the 2022 Belmont.

In addition, Curlin is the sire of Kentucky Oaks (G1) winner and two-time champion Malathaat, Breeders' Cup Classic (G1) winner and champion Vino Rosso, and the multiple Grade 1-winning champion Stellar Wind. All three of those standout competitors did their best work running long on dirt.

Curlin has yet to sire a Kentucky Derby winner, but in the meantime his sons are dominating the race. Keen Ice is the sire of 2022 Kentucky Derby winner Rich Strike, while Good Magic is responsible for 2023 Kentucky Derby winner Mage, as well as 2023 Preakness runner-up Blazing Sevens.

With Curlin emerging as a "sire of sires," I'm excited about the first crop of foals sired by the above-mentioned Vino Rosso. The accomplished chestnut retired to stud for 2020, which means his first starters are already hitting the track and he'll have three-year-olds on the 2024 Kentucky Derby trail.

Although Vino Rosso won both his starts at age two, the Todd Pletcher trainee really wasn't an early-maturing type and looked like a work in progress as a three-year-old in 2018. A stretch-running triumph in the Wood Memorial (G2) ranked as his only victory from seven starts that season, and his Triple Crown exploits fizzled with a ninth-place finish in the Kentucky Derby and a fourth in the Belmont.

But Vino Rosso came to hand impressively as a four-year-old. In his final season of racing, Vino Rosso won the Gold Cup at Santa Anita (G1) and Stymie S., placed in the Whitney (G1) and Jockey Club Gold Cup, and ended the season with a decisive 4 1/4-length score in the Breeders' Cup Classic. It's no wonder why he was voted champion older dirt male at the Eclipse Awards.

Vino Rosso was at his best racing 1 1/4 miles, the distance over which he secured both his Grade 1 wins. He also crossed the wire first in the 1 1/4-mile Jockey Club Gold Cup, only to be disqualified for bumping with a rival.

Considering how Vino Rosso matured late and thrived over classic distances, I don't expect his two-year-olds to light up the track this year. I'll be pleasantly surprised if Vino Rosso ends the year near the top of the first-crop sire rankings compiled by; speedier and more precocious runners like champion male sprinter Mitole and multiple Grade 1 winner Omaha Beach seem more likely to enjoy early success as stallions.

Nevertheless, Vino Rosso is off to a promising start at stud. His son Laugh Now wired a 4 1/2-furlong maiden special weight at Horseshoe Indianapolis by two lengths, while another son—Zaino—rallied nicely to finish third in the $100,000 Royal Palm Juvenile S. sprinting five furlongs over the Gulfstream Park turf course.

Those are encouraging developments, and I expect the progeny of Vino Rosso to improve significantly with distance and maturity. By late fall, races like the 1 1/8-mile Remsen S. (G2) and 1/16-mile Kentucky Jockey Club S. (G2) could be ripe for conquest by sons of Vino Rosso. And next spring, I believe we'll see at least one son of Vino Rosso make some noise in the spring classics. Could a son of Curlin sire the Kentucky Derby winner for a third consecutive year?

Here are a few sons of Vino Rosso I'm excited to see in action down the road:

  • Sold for $180,000 as a yearling to Shortleaf Stable, Yell County was produced by Matron S. (G1) runner-up Featherbed, a daughter of Curlin's sire, Smart Strike. This means Yell County is inbred 3x2 to Smart Strike, a strategy that previously reaped dividends with Rich Strike, who was produced by the Smart Strike mare Gold Strike. Featherbed has already foaled Illinois Derby (G3) winner Dynamic Impact and Sanford S. (G3) winner Mo Strike, so there's a lot of potential in Yell County's pedigree. He recently entered serious training by breezing three furlongs in :40 at The Thoroughbred Center.
  • Repole Stable and St. Elias Stables purchased an unnamed son of Vino Rosso out of Fair Huntress for $400,000 as a yearling. Fair Huntress never raced, but she's a daughter of two-time Breeders' Cup Classic winner Tiznow, recreating the Vino Rosso/Tiznow cross that produced Laugh Now.
  • Crafted sold for $375,000 as a yearling to Winchell Thoroughbreds. The bay colt was produced by the maiden claiming winner Storm Raven, a daughter of Kentucky Derby and Preakness runner-up Bodemeister, who is best known as the sire of 2017 Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming. Crafted has been posting workouts at Lone Star Park, most recently clocking a bullet half-mile from the starting gate in :47.20.
  • Repole Stable and St. Elias Stables spent $300,000 to acquire an unnamed son of Vino Rosso out of Bible Belt, a daughter of Blue Grass (G2) winner and successful sire Pulpit. Bible Belt's previous foals include Bashford Manor S. (G3) third-place finisher Hardworkcleanlivin, Oaklawn S. third-place finisher Happy Boy Rocket, and Display S. runner-up Gospel Way.
  • An unnamed son of Vino Rosso out of Azalea Belle sold for $300,000 to Albaugh Family Stables. Azalea Belle is a daughter of Haskell Invitational H. (G1) winner Dixie Union, best known as the sire of 2012 Belmont winner Union Rags. As a result, this Vino Rosso colt is a half-brother to Iowa Oaks (G3) runner-up Aurelia Garland.
  • Summer Diet was purchased as a yearling by Kenny McPeek (acting as an agent) for $250,000. Summer Diet was produced by Melody Girl, a daughter of Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) winner and acclaimed sire Unbridled's Song, whose daughters have foaled Japanese Triple Crown winner Contrail, Breeders' Cup Mile (G1) winner Tourist, and two-time Eclipse Award winner Unique Bella, to name just a few. Summer Diet twice breezed a bullet two furlongs in :24.20 at the Silverleaf Hills Training Center last month.

Do you think Vino Rosso will rise to prominence at stud?


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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.

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