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DRF Breeding Hot Sire of the Week: Into Mischief
Joy Gilbert/Courtesy Spendthrift Farms
Spendthrift Farms stallion Into Mischief became a late-arriving standout among first-crop sires last fall when a trio of juvenile performers won stakes within a span of 22 days.
Wins by Goldencents, Vyjack, and Sittin At the Bar rapidly elevated Into Mischief on the first-crop earnings list, and after Sittin At the Bar notched another stakes win at the end of December, the son of Harlan’s Holiday finished the year ranked third on the freshman sire list with $1,171,578 in progeny earnings, about $50,000 behind leader Henrythenavigator and less than $10,000 behind second-place Spring At Last.
The first four months of 2013 have seen Into Mischief continue his ascendancy as a rising star. All three of his stakes winners at 2 have trained on to capture stakes at 3, and on April 6, Goldencents flashed the kind of talent in the Santa Anita Derby that will convince many handicappers to give the colt a long look in the May 4 Kentucky Derby.
Owned by a partnership that includes University of Louisville men’s basketball coach Rick Pitino and conditioned by 2012 Derby-winning trainer Doug O’Neill, Goldencents entered the Santa Anita Derby having lost a bit of his early luster. The colt won the $1 million Delta Downs Jackpot, a 1 1/16-mile, Grade 3 stakes, on Nov. 17 and then took the Grade 3 Sham Stakes at Santa Anita on Jan. 5 at a mile to solidify his position as one of the points leaders in Churchill Downs’s Road to the Kentucky Derby qualifying series.
In his next start, however, he got into a speed duel with Flashback in the Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes on March 9 at 1 1/16 miles and faded to finish fourth, leading some to question whether the colt had reached his distance limit.
In the Santa Anita Derby, Goldencents stalked the pace in second through the backstretch, surged to the lead leaving the far turn, and turned back Flashback with surprising ease in the final furlong to score by 1 1/4 lengths. His final time of 1:48.76 for 1 1/8 miles was good for a career-best 105 Beyer Speed Figure, the third-best mark for a 3-year-old this year through April 9.
The colt has three graded stakes wins to his credit and has bankrolled $1,250,000 after selling as a yearling for a scant $5,500 and for $62,000 as a juvenile, purchased by O’Neill’s brother, bloodstock adviser Dennis, on behalf of his ownership group.
Vyjack spent the winter building a strong résumé that put him among the leaders of his division. Bred in Kentucky by Machmer Hall, the gelding was a $45,000 purchase at the 2011 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky July selected yearling sale by Pike Racing, agent, which sold him for $100,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic sale of 2-year-olds in training to entrepreneur and professional horseplayer David Wilkenfeld’s Pick Six Racing.
Vyjack reeled off four consecutive wins to start his career, the last three in stakes, culminating with his best performance to date, a win in the Grade 3 Gotham at 1 1/16 miles March 2. In the 1 1/8-mile Wood Memorial on April 6, he battled gamely but tired late to finish third behind Verrazano and Normandy Invasion. Trainer Rudy Rodriguez said after the Wood that he was happy with Vyjack’s effort and confirmed that his gelding was headed to the Derby.
Goldencents and Vyjack sport pedigrees that are solid but far from spectacular and are indicative of the quality of mares an unproven stallion with some racetrack success but a modest lineage can expect to receive when initially going to stud in the competitive central Kentucky market.
Goldencents, out of the winning Banker’s Gold mare Golden Works, has only one instance of graded-stakes black type in the first three generations of his female family, although his second dam, Body Works, by Bold Ruckus, did win 13 stakes, primarily at Assiniboia Downs in Manitoba.
Vyjack is out of the unraced Stravinsky mare Life Happened and has a more accomplished family, as his dam is a half-sister to multiple Grade 3 winner, $500,000 earner, and solid New York-based sire Disco Rico. Multiple graded stakes winner Miss Slewpy is another notable female family member.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Into Mischief’s rise over the past six months is that he has made such an impact with a relatively small number of foals to race. Through April 9, he had only 27 starters racing in the Northern Hemisphere. The stallion covered 50 mares in 2012 at a fee of $7,500 and initially was set to stand the 2013 season at the same fee. In mid-December, after Vyjack and Sittin At the Bar won stakes, Spendthrift raised the stallion’s fee to $10,000.
“The response has really been huge from breeders,” Spendthrift General Manager Ned Toffey said in December. “I think that Into Mischief is a horse that to some degree was maybe overlooked. I think when breeders see these results and go back and look closer at this horse, they’re realizing how good of a horse he really was. He was very talented and very precocious.”
On Jan. 5, Goldencents and Vyjack won Grade 3 stakes within an hour’s time, and Spendthrift boosted Into Mischief’s 2013 fee to $20,000. The stallion was booked full by February. In 2009, his first season at stud, Into Mischief participated in the farm’s popular “Share the Upside” program, in which breeders who show an early commitment to a young stallion receive a lifetime breeding right.
Purchased for $180,000 by B. Wayne Hughes at the 2007 Ocala Breeders’ Sales Co. March selected sale of 2-year-olds in training and conditioned by Richard Mandella, Into Mischief won his career debut at 6 1/2 furlongs on Santa Anita’s synthetic surface that October. After a runner-up finish in the Grade 3 Hollywood Prevue Stakes, he captured the Grade 1 CashCall Futurity at 1 1/16 miles over eventual Travers Stakes winner and current WinStar Farm first-crop sire Colonel John.
Into Mischief subsequently finished second in the Grade 2 San Vicente in early 2008 but was sidelined due to minor foot injuries and did not return until the fall. He won the seven-furlong Damascus Stakes and finished second in the Grade 1 Malibu before retiring to Spendthrift. In six starts, Into Mischief won three times and was second three times while earning $597,080.
As the third foal out of the stakes-winning Tricky Creek mare Leslie’s Lady, Into Mischief possessed a female family that offered modest appeal tracing back to his third dam, the One for All mare One Last Bird, who was a stakes-placed winner and a half-sister to both Grade 1 winner Roanoke and Grade 3-placed Last Cause, the third dam of O’Neill’s 2012 Derby winner, I’ll Have Another.
Recent events, however, have cast Into Mischief’s pedigree in an entirely new and more flattering light. His half-sister Beholder, by Henny Hughes, romped in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies last fall to secure champion-filly honors in her division. Beholder returned at 3 to pick up where she left off, winning the Grade 1 Las Virgenes and Santa Anita Oaks in advance of a planned start in the Kentucky Oaks on May 3.
Into Mischief’s other stakes winner, the Louisiana-bred filly Sittin At the Bar, is out of the stakes-winning Mutakddim mare Fast Laner. Three of her four career wins have been in stakes, including her most recent start in the Crescent City Oaks at Fair Grounds on March 30, a race that covers about a mile and 70 yards. Two of his other first-crop foals, Holiday Mischief and Mischievous Mama, placed in stakes earlier this year.