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Harlan’s Holiday joins select company as juvenile sire
By Mark Simon
Harlan's Holiday is a record-setting juvenile sire. That is likely something few would have anticipated when the horse retired from racing in 2004, but he now stands tall in the company of such greats as Bull Lea, Roman, Nasrullah, Bold Ruler, Alydar, Danzig, Capote, and Tapit - all former holders of the juvenile earnings record.
Harlan's Holiday joined that distinguished company in 2012 when his progeny banked a record $2,954,556, eclipsing the previous mark of $2,811,337 established by Tapit in 2008. But unlike most of the aforementioned stallions, he did not enter stud with sky-high expectations - he has had to build his success from the ground up.
That is not to say Harlan's Holiday lacked credentials. The prime indicator of potential sire success is race record, and by that measure Harlan's Holiday had the goods -- he was one of the best of his generation at 2, 3, and 4. His development into a star, however, came only as distances increased, which seemed to forecast that his offspring might be late bloomers.
"When you look at [the] physical type [of his progeny], they're strong-bodied and early developing," said Gerry Duffy, the stallion seasons director for WinStar Farm, where Harlan's Holiday now stands. "That would indicate they would be early [maturing]. He was a pretty accomplished juvenile himself. He was a good miler, a horse with a lot of speed. Those types of horses certainly can get 2-year-olds."
What Harlan's Holiday also had going for him was his sire line, even though he was by the underrated Harlan, who himself entered stud in 1995 at Stone Farm near Paris, Kentucky, for a modest $5,000 fee. A son of perennial leading juvenile sire Storm Cat, Harlan seemed to go against the genetic grain, not earning uppercase black type until age 5 when he won the Vosburgh Stakes. He died at age 10 from a ruptured aorta, leaving behind just 99 foals . . . among them Grade 1 winners Harlan's Holiday and Menifee.
Menifee would later be exported to the Republic of Korea, while Harlan's Holiday followed a different path altogether. His first foals raced in 2007 and propelled him to second on the freshman list, behind Posse. In subsequent years, Harlan's Holiday has finished 63rd, 21st, 18th, and 32nd in the juvenile sire standings of 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011, respectively, but experienced nothing like the success he enjoyed with his first and sixth crops.
The difference was that he generated a top runner in each of those years. His debut foal crop of 2005 included standout Into Mischief, winner of the rich Grade 1 CashCall Futurity, while his 2010 crop produced expected champion Shanghai Bobby, undefeated winner of $1,687,000 (57 percent of his sire's 2012 total). Into Mischief is now making a name for himself as a sire in his own right, with three stakes winners (two graded) thus far from his first crop, and ranking third among 2012 freshman sires.
Harlan's Holiday began his breeding career in 2004 at Brereton and Libby Jones's Airdrie Stud in Midway, Ky., for a fee of $17,500, but relocated for 2011 to Kenny Troutt's WinStar Farm down the road in Versailles.
WinStar's timing was perfect in acquiring the syndicated stallion. His 2013 fee of $35,000 is up from $25,000 last year, and he is expected to cover about 150 mares -- comparable to his 2012 book. Duffy said the farm has the luxury of hand-picking mares for Harlan's Holiday since interest in him is so high these days.
"We tend to focus on young mares," Duffy said. "There have been numerous studies showing that typically mares' first two or three foals will be their best. So we try to focus on young mares, graded stakes winners, graded stakes producers.
"From a commercial standpoint, he's a real strong-bodied horse, so physically we tell people to go with a leggier, scopier mare, because he'll give you the body. . . . Really, he tends to throw horses much like himself, and it certainly doesn't seem to stop them from running."
Harlan's Holiday has been increasingly appreciated at sales by buyers. His 70 yearlings that sold at auction in 2012 averaged $87,745, up 56 percent from the $56,319 average in 2011 when 73 sold, and his 2-year-old average was $88,761 for 26 sold in 2012.
"A lot of your breed-to-race people have used him in the past, but probably for the commercial guy he's very attractive because there's not too many stallions who stand in that 30 [thousand dollar] bracket who can get you foals and yearlings that bring you $400,000 at the sales. He's almost as good as your most expensive stallions, but he's standing for a fraction of the price."
As for pedigree crosses, Duffy said that Harlan's Holiday has worked with a number of different lines, and that he has not seen any one nick that has worked the best.
"Pedigree-wise, Shanghai Bobby is out of an Orientate mare, which is the Blushing Groom line." said Duffy. "Another Grade 1 winner, Majesticperfection, is from Raise a Native. And Into Mischief is [out of a mare whose grandsire is] Clever Trick, so he seems able to do it with pretty much anything."
Harlan's Holiday's 2012 juvenile stakes winners
SHANGHAI BOBBY, 2010 c., out of Steelin', by Orientate. 5 wins in 5 starts, $1,687,000, Grey Goose Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1), Champagne S. (G1), Three Chimneys Hopeful S. (G1), Track Barron S.
NOTACATBUTALLAMA, 2010 c., out of Self Rising, by Hansel. 3 wins in 7 starts, $207,000, Incurable Optimist S., Super Mario S., 2nd Pilgrim S. (G3), Damon Runyon S.
ZEEWAT, 2010 c., out of Delizia, by Distant View. 3 wins in 5 starts, $117,700, Cavonnier Juvenile S., Gold Rush S., 3rd Golden Nugget S.
AMERICAN SUGAR, 2010 f., out of I Love America, by Quiet American. 3 wins in 7 starts, $102,866, Prairie Gold Lassie S., E. L. Gaylord Memorial S., 3rd Prairie Meadows Juvenile Mile S.
MY SPECIAL J'S, 2010 f., out of Shadow On the Moon, by Deputy Minister. 1 win in 5 starts, $89,963, Keeneland Debutante S. (Ire-G2), 2nd Silver Flash S. (Ire-G3).