Second Half Set-Up - By Evan Hammonds

A little more than a month ago we watched the replay of the Pennine Ridge Stakes (G3T) from Belmont Park over and over, trying to figure out how Catholic Boy re-rallied to snatch the victory from Analyze It in the final strides to win by a neck. Fast forward to July 7 where Analyze It once again seemed to have the measure of Catholic Boy, this time with a whole lot more on the line—$1.2 million as opposed to $200,000—in the Belmont Derby Invitational Stakes (G1T). However, he fell short by a head. The replay button on was hit several times the following day to watch the stretch run again and again.

While the list of races strictly for 3-year-olds draws shorter as the summer grows longer, these two have the right stuff to conjure up racing’s next big rivalry. The 3-year-old crop looked strong early in the season, then ordinary as Justify had his way with the division to win the Triple Crown.

As we head into the second half of the year, it will be interesting to see whether Catholic Boy and Analyze It can hold their own against the more seasoned, older runners.

And while the first half of the year was all about the Triple Crown series, so, too, might be the second half, just not based on the results on the track.

The foals from 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah will share center stage now that the racing calendar melds with the yearling sale selling season. Two fillies from the first crop of American Pharoah were cataloged to the July 10 July Sale at Fasig-Tipton Kentucky (one was scratched from the Bluewater Sales consignment), and 15 are cataloged to Fasig-Tipton Saratoga’s select sale (eight colts and seven fillies) in August, with a spate of offerings to come at Keeneland September.

The “American Pharoah effect” that aided the sale season of 2015 remains alive and well and the industry has before it a new wave of opportunity as Justify will surely begin his stud career when the breeding season begins in February 2019.

“We’ve had fans of American Pharoah that have come and just wanted to see her and pet her,” said Carrie Brogden of Select Sales, who consigned the American Pharoah filly at Fasig-Tipton.

As for having the only one in the sale, Brogden said: “I learned from my mentor, Meg Levy, ‘When people zig, you zag.’ We figured we’d be the only American Pharoah in the sale…and when I got the catalog I saw she had one in…but she told me she was probably going to scratch her.

“We’re hoping to get him started off running. This sale is a great place to show off something that can be a super mover.

“I’ll tell you one thing—all of the American Pharoahs do the one thing that the Pioneerof the Niles (the sire of American Pharoah) do…they can walk. Pioneerof the Nile puts a walk on his foals. Rarely do I see a yearling of his that doesn’t have a super sexy walk…and the American Pharoahs do, too.”

As for this year’s Triple Crown winner, there appears to be no “Triple Crown fatigue” with two winners in the last four years.

“Justify is exciting to breeders,” Brogden said. “The big question will be what his stud fee is.

“With proven sires such as Curlin, Into Mischief, and Quality Road all likely to be in the $125,000 range, can I ‘justify’ a big price?  Am I better off breeding to a proven sire to help my mare as opposed to the first-year phenomenon? That is the quandary…but I want to breed to him, for sure.”

That’s a question to think about throughout the second half of 2018.

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