12/21/2016 9:50AM

High hopes for 2017 freshman sire class

Barbara D. Livingston
Multiple Grade 1 winner Smiling Tiger's first crop will run in 2017.

California’s freshman sire class of 2017 sits poised to be one of the most competitive groups in recent memory, not only among its own ranks, but for the state’s overall leading juvenile sire title.

Eight stallions have 10 or more foals in their debut crop. Four of the stallions are Grade 1 winners.

The most prolific of the newcomers, and the one whose yearlings were best received at auction, is Smiling Tiger. The 9-year-old son of Hold That Tiger stands the 2017 breeding season at Harris Farms in Coalinga, Calif., for an advertised fee of $4,000.

Smiling Tiger’s 71 registered foals of 2015 lead his Golden State freshman contemporaries by a healthy margin, and it also is California’s second-largest overall crop behind veteran Lucky Pulpit at 105.

“We had to find mares that I thought would complement him and his style,” said bloodstock agent Mersad Metanovic, who buys mares for the stallion’s co-owner Philip Lebherz. “He won from 4 1/2 furlongs to seven furlongs, and we thought we’d have to find good, athletic body types.

“The Smiling Tiger bloodline over the Indian Charlie bloodline I feel is really strong, and what I did was breed more Indian Charlie mares to Smiling Tiger, trying to get something precocious, quick, fast. In California, if you don’t come out running, you might just be in a forgotten spot the following year in the breeding shed.”

While the coming year will be the true test for every freshman sire, when their first runners go through under-tack shows and eventually to the racetrack, early returns at auction for Smiling Tiger’s yearlings have been exceedingly positive.

Tigre Di Slugo, a colt by Smiling Tiger, became the most expensive horse to sell at a Barretts yearling sale since 2006. Out of the Grade 1-placed stakes-winning Williamstown mare Erica’s Smile, the colt went through the Barretts fall yearling and all ages sale in October to Steve Gasparelli’s Slugo Racing for $190,000.

“He had a presence about him,” Metanovic said about Tigre Di Slugo. “He did everything right. Physically, he was the best horse in the sale. You’ll hear about him later in the year next year. I think he’s more of a later individual, but he looks the part.”

Smiling Tiger also had the top offering at the Barretts August select yearling sale, with a filly out of the Pentelicus mare Chanceofalifetime going to Jeff Bonde for $130,000.

Smiling Tiger won three Grade 1 sprints, taking the Bing Crosby Stakes, Triple Bend Handicap, and Ancient Title Stakes, with additional victories in the Grade 2 San Carlos Handicap and a trio of Grade 3 races. He ran third in two editions of the Breeders’ Cup Sprint.

Bred in Kentucky by Rodney Orr, Smiling Tiger is out of the stakes-winning Cahill Road mare Shandra Smiles and is a half-brother to champion She’s a Tiger.

Champ Pegasus will have the second-biggest crop of California’s freshman class, and the state’s third-highest overall, with 59 foals. The 10-year-old Fusaichi Pegasus horse stands at Legacy Ranch in Clements, Calif. for $5,000.

“You always hope to win a stakes race or two as 2-year-olds,” ranch manager Shaun Hadley said. “The test isn’t really until the first crop turns 3, but they look like they might run early. I think they’ll show up as 2-year-olds.”

The South American influence on Champ Pegasus’s pedigree page starts with his dam, the Salt Lake mare Salt Champ, who was a champion 3-year-old in Argentina. Uruguayan Group 1 winner Robinson Crusoe and Argentine Group 3 winners Google Earth and Nordstern highlight the extended family.

Champ Pegasus earned his biggest win in the Grade 1 Clement L. Hirsch Turf, and he also won the Grade 2 Del Mar Handicap and San Luis Obispo Stakes. He finished second in the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Turf.

“They mainly ran him on the grass most of his career, two-turn races, but he had speed, too, so I’m hoping some of these babies show speed,” Hadley said.

Ultimate Eagle, an 8-year-old son of Mizzen Mast, stands at Special T Thoroughbreds in Temecula, Calif., for $3,500. He has 32 foals in his first crop.

A standout on the turf and synthetic surfaces, Ultimate Eagle won the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby and Grade 2 Oak Tree Derby as a sophomore. He followed up at age 4 with a win in the Grade 2 Strub Stakes.

Rounding out the Grade 1-winning freshman sires in California is Richard’s Kid, who stands at Magali Farms in Santa Ynez for $2,500. An 11-year-old son of Lemon Drop Kid, his first crop has 20 registered foals.

Richard’s Kid was the highest earner on the racetrack among this year’s California freshmen, making $2,482,259 over seven seasons in the United States and United Arab Emirates. He won the Pacific Classic in 2009 and 2010 and the Grade 3 Cougar II Handicap in 2012 and 2013. He also won the Grade 1 Goodwood Stakes and Grade 2 San Antonio Handicap and placed in five Grade 1 races.

Grade 2-placed stakes winner Indian Evening, by Indian Charlie, stands at Victory Rose Thoroughbreds in Vacaville, Calif., for $3,000. He has 19 foals in his first crop.

A pair of freshman sires reside at Brazeau Thoroughbred Farms in Hemet, Calif. World Renowned, an 8-year-old son of A.P. Indy, stands for $1,000 and has 14 foals in his debut crop. Grade 1-placed stakes winner Make Music For Me, a 9-year-old Bernstein horse, is advertised for $1,500 and puts forth 12 juveniles in 2017.

Hoorayforhollywood, a stakes-placed son of Storm Cat, stands at Milky Way Farm in Temecula for $2,000. He has a debut crop of 10 foals.