As we move past the mid-point of February, mares are dropping foals in Central Kentucky—and elsewhere—and the 2018 breeding season is off and running.
In addition to Lenny Shulman’s panoramic look at the life and times of the late Warner Jones Jr., this week’s issue of BloodHorse features the opener in a series on top stallions, starting with a look at the up-and-down-and-back-up breeding career of Ghostzapper.
While the season might prove to be routine for seasoned veterans such as Ghostzapper, a couple of rising stars are worth checking in with as they get into full swing.
In a new era the last two breeding seasons have had newcomers who came to the breeding shed off starts in late January. Of course, we’re talking about California Chrome and Gun Runner, who both exited Gulfstream Park’s Pegasus World Cup Invitational Stakes (G1).
Two-time Horse of the Year California Chrome, ninth in the 2017 Pegasus, covered some 145 mares last year at the Taylor family’s Taylor Made Stallions near Nicholasville, Ky. Gun Runner, winner of the Pegasus Jan. 27 and 2017 Horse of the Year, has already started his new career, having bred a handful of mares prior to the President’s Day weekend at his new digs at Three Chimneys Farm near Midway, Ky.
For both horses the process from racehorse to stallion was turnkey.
“He is phenomenal,” said Three Chimneys COO Chris Baker of Gun Runner. “He ran on a Saturday, and got on a plane and was here Sunday. Monday and Tuesday we were kind enough to give him the days off and let him mosey around the paddock. On Wednesday, we started test breeding.
“And like everything else, we just pointed him in the right direction and he did exactly what he was supposed to do. To go from a top racing performance like that to turn around in a few days and start breeding, and start doing it like you’ve been doing it your whole life, says even more about what a great horse he is.”
Baker and the Three Chimneys team did get some helpful advice from the Taylor Made Stallion crew. They were grateful for the tips.
“The thing that was tricky was in vaccinating for EVA (equine viral arteritis), which you have to do before you breed,” Baker said. “I talked to Taylor Made about how they managed that. We were fortunate to get that done while he was in training. There is a three-week window where you can’t breed after being vaccinated for fear of shedding the virus.”
Over at Taylor Made, California Chrome has started on his second Northern Hemisphere book after shuttling to Chile late last year. Meanwhile, foals from his first crop are hitting the ground.
“So far everything is going as we’d hoped,” said stallion nominations manager Travis White.
For the quick turnaround last February, White said the main thing was “making sure you had everything set with your veterinarian. There are certain things, and a certain time frame, where things have to be done. We have a really good vet, Dr. Charlie Scoggin of Rood & Riddle, who really spearheaded that with our stallion manager. It’s worked out very similarly with Gun Runner as far as I can tell.”
It helps that both California Chrome and Gun Runner were more mature. California Chrome was 6 and Gun Runner 5 when they made the career switch.
“It’s not like having a 3-year-old coming off the track,” White said. “Maybe some guys will keep some of these horses in training longer; hold on and keep them in training at least for a few extra months for the Pegasus. It’s been done twice now.”
It might have also helped that both horses had spent some down time at their respective farms while taking a break from training. Familiar surroundings make for easier transitions.
“Any time you can do that it leads to better things,” White said.
Both are exceptional animals, which should lead to better things as well.