08/01/2013 3:28PM

DRF Breeding Hot Sire: Benchmark

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Benoit & Associates
Points Offthebench is the latest Grade 1 winner for California standout Benchmark.

Points Offthebench’s game score in last Sunday’s Grade 1 Bing Crosby at Del Mar gave trainer Tim Yakteen his first top-level stakes win and heralded the emergence of another high-caliber runner for California stallion Benchmark.

Points Offthebench, a 4-year-old gelding, made only three starts in 2011 and 2012 with two wins to his credit, but came into his own earlier this year with a pair of nice wins from three starts in allowance races at Santa Anita and Hollywood Park. He picked up his first stakes win in his first try in the six-furlong Bing Crosby, outdueling Santa Anita Derby winner Goldencents in the final strides to win by a head and stopping the clock in 1:09.04, good for a 98 Beyer Speed Figure.

Benchmark, a 22-year-old son of the great Alydar, ranks fourth on the 2013 California sire list with 48 winners for earnings of $1,668,624 through July 31. He has been a productive sire in the Golden State since retiring to Pam and Marty Wygod’s River Edge Farm in Buellton, Calif., for the 1999 breeding season. Benchmark, along with the other River Edge stallions, relocated to Ballena Vista Farms in Ramona during summer 2010 when the Wygods closed down their California breeding operations.
 
Overall, Benchmark has sired 383 winners from 12 crops of racing age for earnings of over $28.8 million through Wednesday. Points Offthebench is his ninth graded stakes winner, and fourth Grade 1 winner.

The Wygods purchased Benchmark as a weanling at the 1991 Keeneland November mixed sale for $475,000 from breeder North Central Bloodstock. His dam, the Danzig mare Winter’s Love, was multiple stakes-placed and was a half-sister to Belmont winner Caveat. Benchmark was Winter’s Love’s fourth foal; the mare would later produce multiple Grade 1 winner and millionaire Tranquility Lake, by Rahy. Tranquility Lake would herself become a multiple graded stakes producer as the dam of Grade 1 winners Courageous Cat and After Market – both young Lane’s End sires, the former in partnership with Questroyal North, which now stands him in New York – and Group 2 winner Jalil.

Campaigned by the Wygods and trained by Ron Ellis, Benchmark won six of 17 starts in six seasons of racing during the mid- to late 1990s, with his best season by far coming in 1997. That year, he took three Grade 2 races in California: the Goodwood Breeders’ Cup, San Bernardino and the Del Mar Breeders’ Cup. Benchmark retired the following year with over $630,000 in earnings and proven ability at distances up to 1 1/8 miles.

As a sire, Benchmark got off to a solid start with his first crop, but as with most of Benchmark’s progeny his best runners did not develop until their 3- and 4-year old seasons or later. Two graded stakes winners came out of his 2000 foal crop: A to the Z, a three-time stakes winner who took the 2005 Grade 2 Mervin Muniz at Fair Grounds on turf, and Standard Setter, winner of the 2003 Grade 3 Golden Gate Derby.

Through the rest of the decade, Benchmark continued to sire standout runners, primarily on the West Coast, and he gained national recognition when his best racehorse to date, Brother Derek, took the Santa Anita Derby in spring 2006. That popular colt entered the Kentucky Derby as the third betting choice, and finished in a dead heat for fourth on Barbaro’s spectacular day. He is now a second-crop stallion at Brereton Jones’ Airdrie Stud in Midway, Ky.

Benchmark’s second-best runner, 2004 foal Idiot Proof, set two track records in 2007 for six furlongs – 1:07.47 in winning the Grade 3 Jersey Shore Breeders’ Cup at Monmouth Park and 1:07.57 when he won the Grade 1 Ancient Title at Santa Anita’s Oak Tree meeting that fall. He would return to Monmouth and finish second behind Midnight Lute in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint that year and then put together another runner-up effort, this time behind Benny the Bull, when shipped to Dubai the following spring in the Group 1 Golden Shaheen. Benchmark’s third Grade 1 winner is 2004 Santa Anita Oaks victress Silent Sighs, who also won two other stakes races in an abbreviated career.  As a broodmare, she has produced 2012 Grade 3 Poker winner Clear Attempt, by A.P. Indy.

Based on his 2013 form to date, Points Offthebench has the potential to be Benchmark’s best runner since the Brother Derek-Idiot Proof mid-2000s. The gelding is out of the unraced Free House mare Mo Chuisle, who has also produced Points Offthebench’s Grade 3-winning full brother Bench Points.