An Eye for Quality - by Eric Mitchell

Breeder Eamon Cleary took a gamble when planning the mating that resulted in Mohaymen, dominating winner of the Jan. 30 Lambholm South Holy Bull Stakes (gr. II).

Using pedigree consultant Alan Porter as a sounding board, Cleary was mulling breeding his multiple grade II winner Justwhistledixie to a rising son of Pulpit named Tapit. Cleary had acquired the mare privately in 2010 from the racing partnership of West Point Thoroughbreds, Lakland Farm, and R.D. Hubbard.

The mating was no slam dunk because the A.P. Indy sire line with the Dixieland Band broodmare sire line had not been an outstanding cross. Thoroughbred racing is a game of percentages, and breeders prefer the numbers skew—however slightly—in their favor. At the time Cleary’s daughter of Dixie Union had a Street Cry colt on the ground and had been bred to Distorted Humor in 2011.

Besides Tapit’s obvious rise on the general leading sire list (he jumped from 12th-leading sire in 2010 to the third-leading sire in 2011), he intrigued Cleary because Tapit’s sire had a pedigree similar to that of Dixie Union’s dam, She’s Tops. Pulpit was a son of A.P. Indy (by Seattle Slew) and out of the Mr. Prospector daughter Preach. She’s Tops was a daughter of Capote (by Seattle Slew) and out of She’s a Talent, by Mr. P.

An intriguing connection also existed in the third generation of both Tapit and Justwhistledixie. Tapit’s third dam is the stakes winner Moon Glitter, who produced grade III winner and respectable sire Glitterman. Justwhistledixie’s broodmare sire is Honour and Glory, whose sire Relaunch is a full brother to Moon Glitter.

“There had already been a couple of Tapit stakes winners with Relaunch and the sister,” Porter recalled. “It was intriguing inbreeding, so we thought Tapit would be an interesting option.”

Porter gives credit for the success of Clearsky Farms’ breeding program to Cleary, who was a true student of pedigrees. The farm was well-represented in the classics last year when Firing Line (Line of David—Sister Girl Blues, by Hold for Gold) won the Sunland Derby (gr. III) and finished second to American Pharoah in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).

“He was extremely knowledgeable in his own right and really just needed someone to bounce ideas back and forth,” Porter said. “He was also a very shrewd buyer of mares.”

Unfortunately, Cleary never got to see the result of his gamble on Tapit, having died from cancer Sept. 21, 2012. Mohaymen was born May 2 the following year and immediately stamped himself as a foal to watch.
“Mohaymen looks more like the mare, more refined,” said Barry Robinette, farm manager for Clearsky. “He was just a real pretty yearling; yet, he has the Tapit shoulder. He has a great mind and was always a mature horse.”
Justwhistledixie’s first foal also radiated quality. Porter said cardio evaluation and other metrics indicated he was the pick of the farm’s 2011 yearlings. That colt was New Year’s Day, who broke his maiden in late August 2013 and won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I) in his next start for Gary and Mary West.

In 2014 Shadwell Estate Co. bought Mohaymen for $2.2 million out of the Keeneland September yearling sale. The striking gray colt is now undefeated in four starts with three of those races being grade II stakes. Mohaymen’s 31⁄2-length, geared-down romp in the Holy Bull brought his total qualifying points on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard to 20. He ranks second to last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Nyquist, who is also undefeated.

With the phenomenal success both Tapit and Justwhistledixie have shown since Cleary weighed his decision to mate them, Porter jokes now the decision doesn’t seem so clever.
“Obviously, she’s a terrific mare, and Tapit is a great sire, so I’m not sure how smart one needed to be,” he said.

Undeniably, Cleary had an eye for quality as the broodmare career of Justwhistledixie is proving. From three foals of racing age, she has three winners that include two graded stakes winners. The mare is expecting a foal by Tapit this year and will be bred back to Tapit.

“He had such a sharp mind; he analyzed everything. Pedigrees or life on the farm, really everything,” said Robinette about Cleary. “And, he never minded trying something different.”
Robinette said it’s rewarding that Cleary’s gamble has paid off so handsomely, with the potential for even bigger dividends this spring. Then he paused. “I don’t let it carry too far,” he said. “We’ve been down this road before, and it is a long way to May.”

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