02/14/2013 4:51PM

Henny Hughes: Leading sire by juvenile stakes winners


A young stallion with a modest $7,500 fee stands tall as the most prolific North American-based sire of 2012 juvenile stakes winners. In heading that statistical category, Henny Hughes, who stands at Walmac Farm in Lexington, Ky., finished the year ahead of sires commanding $60,000, $70,000, even $100,000 fees, and his six stakes-winning 2-year-olds represent the most in a single season since Posse sired seven in 2007.

Most high-profile of the group was Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies heroine Beholder, who subsequently took home an Eclipse Award and ranked atop all others of her sex on the Experimental Free Handicap. A winner of three of five starts and $1,215,000 in 2012, she was unplaced to Executiveprivilege in her debut and was later nosed out by that filly in the Grade 1 Del Mar Debutante, but a game wire-to-wire victory over her nemesis in the Juvenile Fillies established her as the queen of her division.

Henny Hughes also was well represented in Canada by Star Contender, who took the $252,028 Cup and Saucer Stakes on grass and held on for second in the Coronation Futurity on Polytrack, both at Woodbine.

Other nascent runners for the 10-year-old sire included Southern California stakes winner Butterfly Soul; stakes-winning sprinter King Henny; Mexican stakes winner Badajoz; Japanese stakes winner Keiai Leone; and Carried Interest, runner-up in the Grade 2 Futurity Stakes.

Six of Henny Hughes’ eight 2012 stakes winners were juveniles, as were his four top earners on the season, and eight of his 14 career stakes winners to date earned at least some of their stakes at 2.

That he is proving to be an exceptional progenitor of precocious runners should come as no surprise. He defined those terms. At 2 in 2005, Henny Hughes finished no worse than second in six starts, including a monster 15-length showstopper in the Tremont Stakes and a breezing score in the Grade 2 Saratoga Special. The following year, he established himself as a top-flight, Grade 1-winning sprinter. Although not multidimensional — he never won beyond seven furlongs — in his own sphere he was a bona fide star.

Henny Hughes entered stud in 2007 at Darley with sky-high expectations and a hefty $40,000 fee. And why not? He possessed just about every credential beloved by American breeders for the past quarter-century: a handsomely marketable physique, a high turn of speed, fierce precocity, and a power-packed, dominant male line — in this case, that of Northern Dancer. If it all came together, Henny Hughes’ youngsters could feasibly provide their lucky owners with quick returns on investments made.

Ah, the best-laid plans. . . . In his second career, Henny Hughes did not exactly blast off the block. Despite getting large books of good mares, his first two crops proved something of a letdown — plenty of runners, to be sure, but only eight stakes winners so far from 203 starters, with just one, 2011 Sapling Stakes victor She Digs Me, scoring in North American graded company. And fate certainly did not smile kindly on the son of Hennessy when New York stakes winner Fort Hughes — possibly his best prior to 2012 – died at 3 after fracturing a cannon bone. Over time, Henny Hughes’ stud fee drifted downward to the $7,500 he commands today.

It could be, however, that Henny Hughes was just getting warmed up for his outstanding 2010 crop. How good has it been? The Jockey Club database credits Henny Hughes with 22 winning juveniles from 161 foals of 2010, but as a dual hemisphere stallion it should be noted that only 98 of those were Kentucky-conceived. Because the Australian foaling season runs from September to January, just three of his 60-plus Down Under offspring competed (very late) in 2012 and none won. Approximately half were not even named as of this writing.

So his stellar record as a sire of 2-year-olds was entirely dependent upon those 98 Kentucky-sired foals — of which 89 have been named and 52 started. In addition to the his 22 winners and category-leading six stakes winners, four others placed in stakes, and together they banked nearly $2.4-million — placing their sire second by overall 2012 juvenile earnings.

Henny Hughes’ impressive platoon of 2-year-olds also did much to propel him to a top-three ranking nationally among third-crop sires by all-age progeny earnings, behind Bernardini and Flower Alley, who stand for $150,000 and $20,000, respectively. And with 10 juvenile stakes performers, he co-ranked second nationally to City Zip (11). Not too shabby for a rising star, who is giving far more bang for the buck than many pricier stallions.

Leading Kentucky juvenile sires by 2012 number of stakes winners

1 Henny Hughes (2003, Hennessy) Walmac Farm $7,500 52 22 6
2 Any Given Saturday (2004, Distorted Humor) Darley $7,500 52 18 5
2 Broken Vow (1997, Unbridled) Pin Oak Stud $25,000 37 11 5
2 Harlan's Holiday (1999, Harlan) WinStar Farm $35,000 63 26 5
5 Kitten's Joy (2001, El Prado IRE) Ramsey Farm $50,000 46 22 4
5 More Than Ready (1997, Southern Halo) WinStar Farm $60,000 49 20 4
5 Spring At Last (2003, Silver Deputy) WinStar Farm $15,000 32 13 4
5 Tale of the Cat (1994, Storm Cat) Ashford Stud $25,000 55 18 4
9 Corinthian (2003, Pulpit) Gainesway $10,000 48 15 3
9 Dixie Union (1997, Dixieland Band) Died 2010 40 17 3
9 Elusive Quality (1993, Gone West) Darley $50,000 53 20 3
9 Even the Score (1998, Unbridled's Song) Millennium Farms $12,500 21 11 3
9 Exchange Rate (1997, Danzig) Three Chimneys Farm $30,000 40 17 3
9 Flatter (1999, A.P. Indy) Claiborne Farm $20,000 30 12 3
9 Fusaichi Pegasus (1997, Mr. Prospector) Ashford Stud $7,500 37 15 3
9 Into Mischief (2005, Harlan's Holiday) Spendthrift Farm $10,000 21 8 3
9 Malibu Moon (1997, A.P. Indy) Spendthrift Farm $70,000 39 16 3
9 Medaglia d'Oro (1999, El Prado IRE) Darley $100,000 53 24 3
9 Speightstown (1998, Gone West) WinStar Farm $60,000 48 19 3