Stars In Our Eyes - By Dan Liebman

(Originally published in the October 17, 2009 issue of The Blood-Horse magazine. Feel free to share your own thoughts and opinions at the bottom of the column.)   

Writing in The Daily Telegraph following Sea The Stars victory in the Oct. 4 Qatar Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (Fr-I), Marcus Armytage noted: “With a fair wind behind him, it would be fantastic to see him cross the pond and annihilate the Americans in the Breeders’ Cup.”

While racing fans everywhere would like to see Sea The Stars run next month in the Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita, there is a much more significant reason for the winner of six consecutive group I races to come to the Americas: to stand at stud.

The conventional wisdom in today’s economy is that only one man can afford to purchase and stand Sea The Stars: Sheikh Mohammed. However, there might be another to stand him: the 3-year-old colt’s owner, Hong Kong businessman Christopher Tsui.

There is a strong attachment to the colt’s family for Tsui and his parents, David and Ling Tsui, who won the Arc in 1993 with Sea The Stars’ dam, the Miswaki mare Urban Sea. That sentimental tie is even stronger considering Urban Sea, who went on to produce seven stakes winners, three of them group I winners, died earlier this year.

Christopher Tsui would not have to keep 100% ownership of the son of Cape Cross. In this time of economic crisis within the Thoroughbred industry, Sea The Stars presents an opportunity for stallion farms to work together more closely. Imagine if Tsui kept an interest in the horse while four or five major stallion operations collectively syndicated the remainder.

At which of the farms would the horse stand? Let Tsui decide. And let the other farm owners agree to check their egos at the door in support of his decision. Or, better yet, perhaps they should establish a farm similar to the Irish National Stud. What a great horse to start with.

Bringing Sea The Stars to Kentucky could be the beginning of a trend to return U.S. stallion farms to the days of standing such horses as Nijinsky II, Riverman, Nureyev, Alleged, Sharpen Up, Blushing Groom, Lyphard, Roberto, The Minstrel...and don’t forget Miswaki, the broodmare sire of Sea The Stars.

These are the kinds of horses that made their mark on the racecourses of Europe, had good pedigrees, and were supported by leading breeders through the purchase of breeding rights, shares, or seasons; horses that attracted buyers from around the world to yearling sales at Keeneland and Fasig-Tipton; horses that improved the stud book.

As the breeding of Thoroughbreds became more commercial, and with an increased emphasis on speed, fewer and fewer horses that raced in Europe have occupied stalls in stallion barns here following their racing careers. In essence, U.S. breeders began shying away from turf sires.

Though the installation of synthetic surfaces at a few tracks in North America has given some new life to “turf sires,” it has not been a strong enough push in that direction...yet.

For years the number of European group I winners bred in North America has been declining. There are numerous reasons for this, but among them is the fact fewer pedigrees in North American sale catalogs are attractive to European buyers.

This could explain why one of the leading purchasers of yearlings, Coolmore, was absent from the Keeneland September sale in Kentucky but purchased four of the top six lots—colts by Oasis Dream, Galileo (two), and Montjeu—out of the recent Tattersalls October yearling sale in England.

There is a need for horses that are attractive to all owners and buyers, whether speedy-looking types coveted by pinhookers, or two-turn oriented youngsters sought by end-users. Sales need to offer horses that would like dirt, turf, synthetic or all of the above; some horses that might work in the U.S., others that appeal to buyers from various parts of the world. We currently have some of that, but not enough.

Sea The Stars, and if not him then others with similarly attractive qualities, could help add some much-needed balance to American pedigrees. 

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