Freshman Match Race - By Eric Mitchell

 (Originally published in the January 7, 2012 issue of The Blood-Horse magazine. Feel free to share your own thoughts and opinions at the bottom of the column.

By Eric Mitchell - @EJMitchellKy on Twitter

By Eric Mitchell The pursuit of the 2011 leading freshman sire title turned out to be a match race between Ashford Stud’s Scat Daddy and Darley’s Hard Spun. The contest was tight, with the top spot still up for grabs on the final day of the year.

Scat Daddy had three juveniles who started in U.S. races Dec. 31. His biggest guns were Daddy Nose Best, the favorite in the $81,700 Eddie Logan Stakes at Santa Anita Park, and Swag Daddy, who was the morning line favorite in the $75,000 Restrainor Stakes across the country at Aqueduct. Undrgroundregulatr also had been entered in a $17,000 maiden claiming race at Hawthorne.

Hard Spun had only two progeny entered on New Year’s Eve. His best shot was a 9-2 filly named Flame Run entered in a $49,000 allowance/optional claiming race at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots. He also had Spun Clear in a $22,000 maiden special weight at Turfway Park. These runners weren’t running for as much money as Daddy Nose Best or Swag Daddy, but it could have been enough.

Daddy Nose Best finished fifth, but Swag Daddy and Undrgroundregulatr both won, adding $45,000 and $10,200, respectively, to their sire’s total progeny earnings. Spun Clear finished second through a disqualification, picking up $4,400 for the effort, and Flame Run was scratched by a veterinarian.

By the end of the day, Scat Daddy held the top spot by a slim $11,175, a margin closer than the similarly tight contest between Offlee Wild and Roman Ruler in 2009. The 2009 freshman sire challengers were separated by $11,332 in earnings. This year’s pursuit of the freshman sire title was close enough that had Swag Daddy finished third, Undrgroundregulatr been second, and Daddy Nose Best improved to third, and had Hard Spun’s runners both won, then Hard Spun would have taken the title.

Now, you’ll read that Hard Spun is the leading freshman sire in the Thoroughbred Times. The other industry weekly includes worldwide results in its progeny earnings. The Blood-Horse includes only Northern Hemisphere earnings and excludes the earnings from Japan and Hong Kong because the higher purses in these jurisdictions for relatively minor races skew the rankings. For example, one of Hard Spun’s leading earners is a filly named Frisco Bay who earned $71,461 for finishing second in a minor listed weight-for-sex stakes named the Hyogo Junior Grand Prix. This seven-furlong race was run at Sonoda, a 5¼-furlong dirt racetrack and southern Japan’s only publicly owned racecourse. Admission here is the equivalent of $1.30. The purse for this race is ¥33 million, or nearly $430,000 in U.S. dollars.

Typically this would be the point where we’d debate the wisdom of eliminating Japanese and Hong Kong earnings, which we evaluate every year. More and more we are hearing from people in the industry that racing is becoming increasingly international and earnings don’t matter as much on sire lists. The main obstacle to making the change is that the ranking on sire lists (particularly the general leading sire list) is still determined by earnings, the rankings are still important to people in the industry, and the rankings need to be reliable indicators of both market value and earning potential. We may not be ready to make the change yet, but it’s coming.

Interestingly, though, Japanese earnings have nothing to do with why Scat Daddy is the leading freshman sire. Scat Daddy’s total progeny earnings with all Northern Hemisphere data available through Jan. 1 (foreign results for 2011 trickle into The Jockey Club database for days after the year has turned) is $1,698,560 and Hard Spun’s total is $1,686,084. As mentioned previously, the Times’ list is worldwide, so it also includes Southern Hemisphere races through Dec. 31. Hard Spun had six Southern Hemisphere 2-year-old starters before the end of the year that earned the equivalent of $14,262 in U.S. dollars. This is a latitude we are not going to cross, blending the Southern Hemisphere with the Northern Hemisphere. Even from farms that do business in both hemispheres, we have been told they are completely different markets and should be treated separately.

And so here we are. With statistics as relevant as we can make them, Scat Daddy is the leading freshman sire of 2011, and Hard Spun is a hard-fought second. Complete sire lists and analysis will be included in our “Leading Sires” issue next week, dated Jan. 14 .

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