08/08/2013 4:58PM

DRF Breeding Hot Sire: Run Away and Hide

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courtesy Darby Dan FarmRun Away and Hide

Grade 2 winner Run Away and Hide entered stud at Darby Dan Farm in 2009 as a young horse with an abbreviated racing career who showed talent but would face long odds in the competitive Kentucky bloodstock market. The son of City Zip retired after only three starts – all wins – during his 2-year-old season in 2008, but his prospects as a stallion were iffy at best. Still, he had demonstrated enough ability on the racetrack to project potential for his offspring.

With his first crop now in its 3-year-old season, Run Away and Hide has emerged as one of the best value sires among his contemporaries. Flying somewhat under the radar in comparison with fellow second-crop sires such as Midnight Lute, Majestic Warrior, Into Mischief, and Curlin, Run Away and Hide nevertheless has sired foals whose accomplishments on the track and in the sales ring belie his $5,000 stud fee.

Alberts Hope, the winner of the Grade 2 Best Pal for juveniles on Aug. 4 at Del Mar, is the fourth stakes winner and second graded stakes winner for Run Away and Hide.

Alberts Hope, campaigned in California by the Jaam Racing partnership and trained by Mike Puype, won a five-furlong maiden special weight race at Betfair Hollywood Park in July and backed that up with a game half-length win in the 6 1/2-furlong Best Pal, coming from off the pace and outdueling runner-up Celtic Moon in the late stages. Puype said following the Best Pal that the Sept. 4 Del Mar Futurity, a Grade 1 race at seven furlongs, is the next logical step for the bay gelding.

Run Away and Hide was bred by Ronald Kirk, Joint Ventures, and Michael Riordan and campaigned by Kirk, Riordan, and John Bates. The horse made his first start in a 4 1/2-furlong juvenile maiden race at Keeneland during its spring 2008 meeting – races that traditionally are highly anticipated among breeders and handicappers alike looking for emerging talent – and won by 3 1/4 lengths.

Wheeled right back against stakes company in the five-furlong, Grade 3 Kentucky Stakes at Churchill Downs in early May, Run Away and Hide scored by 2 1/2 lengths. At that point, the partners began to elevate their ambitions and shipped the horse to New York. In the Grade 2 Saratoga Special that August, Run Away and Hide stalked the early pace and drew clear to take the 6 1/2-furlong event by 1 1/4 lengths.

In each of his races, he had shown remarkable professionalism for a juvenile, with the ability to rate and then accelerate with push-button precision. He also had handled each increase in distance with aplomb.

Unfortunately, while training for a fall campaign that likely would have included the Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland and then the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, Run Away and Hide suffered a career-ending injury and was retired to John Phillips’s Darby Dan in Lexington, Ky., with his owners keeping an interest in the horse.

The timing of this transition could not have been less fortuitous, as the global economic markets were in turmoil following the financial-sector implosion of September 2008, with the residual effects reverberating into the bloodstock market.

“When he was forced to retire, it was at the worst possible time,” said Kirk, president of Lexington-based Kirk Horse Insurance. “We were faced with a situation where, in many people’s opinions, [Run Away and Hide] hadn’t done enough ... but when he got hurt, he was a favorite for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. He’d shown us a versatility that we were impressed by, and when you looked at his pedigree, even though there wasn’t anything on the sire side or the dam side that was totally obvious, I’d always thought that City Zip was an underrated sire.

“But what really intrigued us was the [4x3] inbreeding to Blushing Groom, who I always thought was a monster racehorse who did his running in Europe, comes over to America, and becomes a quite impressive sire at Gainesway. There’s not much Blushing Groom blood around, and we thought, ‘This is unique, and this may account for why he is so good.’ ”

Run Away and Hide’s dam, Jilted, was by European champion Blushing Groom’s Canadian champion son Runaway Groom; she had won one of four career starts, and Run Away and Hide was her second foal. Armed with a cross-mating hypothesis and the impressions of a short but accomplished racing career, Kirk and Run Away and Hide’s fellow owners supported their new stallion by buying about 30 mares over the first two years of his stud career and sending them to breed to Run Away and Hide.

“We knew that a $7,500 stallion, which is what he stood for his first year, in that [post-recession] market, would have tough going, and we were proved 100 percent right by the fact that many people withdrew from production ... I’ve been in the horse business for over 40 years, and I knew that I could not justify going out and buying $100,000 or $200,000 mares to breed to a $7,500 stallion.

“We were constrained in the mare quality that we could go for, and I think the mare of Alberts Hope is an excellent case in point as to why we’re getting a little excited about [the early results]. She’s had some chances with other sires, hasn’t done much, and Alberts Hope is clearly the best thing she’s ever thrown.”

Alberts Hope’s dam, Accepting Fate, by Saint Ballado, was unraced and has one other winning foal, by Silver Train. She is related to stakes winners and regional sires Valid Expectations and Littleexpectations through her second dam and was purchased by Kirk and partners for $25,000 at the 2010 Keeneland January mixed sale as one of what he termed Run Away and Hide’s “rent-a-mares,” to be bred and then resold after foaling.

Another from this group, the unraced Mineshaft mare Wide Range, is the dam of Run Away and Hide’s other graded stakes winner, the 3-year-old Mico Margarita. That colt, the first foal out of his dam, took the Grade 3 Carry Back Stakes at Calder by 4 1/2 lengths on the July 6 Summit of Speed card and finished second, beaten three-quarters of a length, to Forty Tales in the Grade 2 Amsterdam at Saratoga on July 28.

From 95 foals of racing age and 43 starters through Aug. 6, Run Away and Hide had sired 27 winners. Among the stallion’s other runners, Kirk has high hopes for the 3-year-old Are You Kidding Me, who ran second in last year’s Grade 2 Summer Stakes and the Toronto Cup in his most recent start, both on Woodbine’s turf.

Run Away and Hide was bred to 50 mares in 2012 and, according to Darby Dan stallion director Ryan Norton, that number climbed to 74 this recently completed season. Out of seven foals from his 2011 crop of 38 who have started this year, four have won, and two have won stakes (Alberts Hope and listed winner Look Quickly).

Run Away and Hide’s average earnings index for 2-year-olds, albeit from a small sample, is 2.42, more than double his comparative index of 0.97. His swiftly rising reputation as a stallion who improves his mares was evident in this year’s juvenile auctions, where two of his progeny sold for six figures, led by a $220,000 colt at the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Co. April sale who posted a 9.60-second one-furlong workout during the presale under-tack show. Named Zip N Run, the colt has yet to start.

Overall, Run Away and Hide’s six 2-year-olds to sell at public auction this year averaged $73,500. While it is early in the stallion’s career, Run Away and Hide’s success from limited opportunities bodes well for those like Kirk, his fellow partners, and Darby Dan, who backed the horse from the beginning.

“For a horse to get that number of good performers out of so few foals and out of not top mares is pretty encouraging,” Kirk said. “Given what is already on the record and what is percolating, Run Away and Hide could be a sort of breakout horse. But even with what he’s done so far, I think he’s clearly a bread-and-butter, useful kind of sire that can get racehorses for people.

“If there’s one aspect of the marketplace that is proven at this moment, it’s that people really want horses that cost from $30,000 to $60,000 that they can have some fun with, that are early maturing, and that have a chance to be classy. He’s already proven that to me.”