02/16/2012 4:33PM

2011 stallion honors: Distorted Humor, leading sire


When Ken Troutt and then-partner Bill Casner signed the deal for Prestonwood Farm, now WinStar, the stallion Distorted Humor was simply a small part of a large-package deal involving land and horses. At the time, the Forty Niner horse didn’t look terribly valuable. He’d started his stud career in 2000 with a $12,500 fee, and with his first foals just hitting the ground, there was no reason to think Distorted Humor someday would become North America’s leading sire.

“Kenny loves to tell the story that when he was negotiating for the farm, Distorted Humor was an afterthought,” said Elliott Walden, who trained Distorted Humor and now is president of WinStar. “He said he was thrown in with the kitchen sink. His share price was appraised at the time for $25,000. To think he just came with the furniture, then to have such an impact on the farm, it’s incredible. I don’t know what WinStar would do without him.”

Distorted Humor has had a brilliant rise in the stallion ranks, culminating in his position as North America’s leading general sire in 2011. With such runners as Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Drosselmeyer flying his flag, Distorted Humor had progeny earnings of more than $10.3 million last year. His other stakes winners in 2011 included Peter Pan winner Alternation, dual graded winner and Grade 1-placed Boisterous, Monmouth Oaks winner Savvy Supreme, and Grade 1-placed Distorted Legacy, among a total of 19 stakes winners and nine graded winners.

When Walden was training Distorted Humor, the two words that sprang to mind fastest to describe the colt were “sprinter” and “rank.” In his stud career, Walden said, Distorted Humor’s progeny have leavened those terms with regard to their sire. Distorted Humor set a Churchill track record over seven furlongs, and his runners excel at that distance. But Drosselmeyer, a Belmont Stakes winner before the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Classic, provides evidence that Distorted Humor can get a distance horse, and Walden sees versatility as the stallion’s key asset.

“He was an extremely fast horse, yet his progeny run all distances,” Walden said. “Not a lot of them need a certain style. They’re multi-dimensional in their running styles. They handle any surface, any distance. That’s what’s amazing to me. They’re not all front-runners where certain pace scenarios work against them, and they’re not all plodders that come from behind. They’re adaptable.

“We’re hoping the same thing works out for Drosselmeyer, in reverse,” Walden added. “He’s a classic-distance horse, but because he’s by Distorted Humor and out of a Grade  1 miler, we’re hoping his progeny will do like Distorted Humor’s and run anywhere from seven-eighths to classic distances.”

Walden acknowledges that Distorted Humor was tough to train, something he hasn’t yet seen in the horse’s progeny.
“He was very rank,” he said. “Didn’t matter what rider was on him.”

Back in the day, Walden tried racetrack officials’ patience by waiting until the last possible moment to send Distorted Humor out for his morning gallop, because other horses on the track made the colt harder to handle. Today, Walden wonders whether that hardheadedness has mellowed into an asset in Distorted Humor’s sons and daughters.

“The main thing he gives them is determination,” Walden said of Distorted Humor’s foals. “Obviously, they’re blessed with ability, but they also have a will to win.”

Distorted Humor’s breeding career got an important early calling card when his first crop produced 12 stakes winners, led by 2003’s champion 3-year-old, Kentucky Derby winner Funny Cide. Since then, a couple of successful breeding patterns have emerged.

“From a mating standpoint, all of his graded stakes winners have mares that bring back La Troienne in at least one strain,” Walden said. “He’s a medium-sized horse that is very well balanced and has a lot of depth to him, and that plays in his favor, because he can complement a lot of mares. Another mating that has gone very well with him is the Seattle Slew line, through A.P. Indy. A.P.  Indy brings to the table a long shoulder and a long back, and Distorted Humor helps complement that, physically.”

In 2012, Walden said, WinStar plans to breed 100 mares to the 19-year-old stallion, whose fee this year is $100,000.

“It’s easy to look at these stallions with hindsight and say, ‘It’s obvious,’ ” Walden said. “But I think great stallions come from anywhere. They’re going to overcome their mares and they’re going to overcome their circumstances, if they’re truly good stallions.”Distorted Humor pedigree