05/23/2013 12:46PM

Hot Sire: Awesome Again


Louise Reinagel/courtesy Adena SpringsAwesome Again

Preakness Stakes winner Oxbow returned Racing Hall of Famers D. Wayne Lukas and Gary Stevens and historic Calumet Farm to the national stage with his 1 3/4-length score May 18.

With the victory, the hard-trying colt became the first classic winner for his sire, Adena Springs stallion Awesome Again, which may come as somewhat of a surprise to racing and breeding aficionados, considering the number of top-class runners who have represented the sire on North American racetracks during the past decade.

Oxbow also is the product of one of the better female family crosses in recent years, and that cross has produced horses of classic-distance ability.

Awesome Again’s productivity as a sire is a reflection of Adena founder Frank Stronach’s emphasis on strengthening his own breeding program and on developing horses who thrive on the track, with performance in the sales ring a secondary consideration. After winning the 1998 Breeders’ Cup Classic – his fourth win at 1 1/4 miles and his third in a row – the Ontario-bred Deputy Minister horse returned to Kentucky to join Stronach’s stallion roster.

Standing at Adena Springs’s division in Paris, Awesome Again has become one of the most sought-after sires in North America. He offers particular appeal to breeders wishing to emulate the success Stronach has had with several of Awesome Again’s offspring, including homebreds Ghostzapper, the 2004 Horse of the Year, and Ginger Punch, the 2007 champion older female. Both of those horses, as well as several other of Awesome Again’s top performers, came into their own late in their 3-year-old campaigns or afterward.

“You know, Ghostzapper wasn’t even involved in the Triple Crown because the Stronachs wanted to give him time, and because [trainer] Bobby [Frankel] knew that longer distances were what he was made for,” Adena Springs Kentucky general manager Eric Hamelback said. “Ginger Punch was the same, a later-developing horse. And then you look at horses like [Grade 1 winners] Game On Dude and Awesome Gem, from an age standpoint; Awesome Gem was still competing at a top level up until his retirement [last year at age 9].”

Through last Monday, Awesome Again had sired 432 winners from 12 crops ages 3 or older, and his progeny had earned almost $65.7 million. He has sired 52 stakes winners (6.2 percent from foals ages 3 and older), with 29 graded stakes winners and 13 Grade 1 winners.

Four of those top-level winners won Breeders’ Cup races – Ginger Punch (2007 Distaff), Round Pond (2006 Distaff), Ghostzapper (2004 Classic), and Wilko (2004 Juvenile). Ghostzapper, Awesome Gem, and Game On Dude each captured Grade 1 races at the classic distance of 1 1/4 miles, with Ghostzapper setting the Breeders’ Cup Classic stakes record of 1:59.02 at Lone Star Park in a performance that still serves as a measuring post for speed-figure analysts.

Nineteen-year-old Awesome Again stands for a fee of $75,000 in 2013, anchoring a six-stallion roster at Adena Springs Kentucky that includes Ghostzapper. His book has held steady over the past couple of years at 80 to 90 mares a year, and although he has had appreciable success as a commercial stallion, breeders seek out Awesome Again for his ability to sire the sort of racehorse who can win a classic or a Breeders’ Cup race, according to Hamelback.

“We don’t cater to any certain breeder, [but] most of the people who have come to Awesome Again have tended to be from breed-to-race organizations,” Hamelback said. “Even those who do buy his horses as yearlings, you don’t see a lot of pinhooking opportunities with [his progeny]. You see what we call ‘end-user’ buyers at the sales, such as with Round Pond, who was purchased by Mr. [Rick] Porter, who won the Breeders’ Cup Distaff with her. Basically, we promote the fact that Awesome Again’s horses do run – that’s what we’re all in this game for, not necessarily just to go to the sale.”

Zayat Stables’s Paynter almost became the first classic winner for Awesome Again in last year’s Belmont Stakes before grudgingly giving way to Union Rags in the final yards of the 1 1/2-mile test. That colt, who would go on to win the Haskell before enduring a life-threatening series of illnesses that delayed his return to racing, is out of the Cee’s Tizzy mare Tizso, a daughter of the elite producer Cee’s Song, by Seattle Song.

The Cee’s Tizzy–Cee’s Song cross has been responsible for multiple Grade 2 winner and Breeders’ Cup Classic runner-up Budroyale, Grade 2 winner Tizdubai, stakes winner Tizbud, and, most importantly, two-time Breeders’ Cup Classic winner and 2000 Horse of the Year Tiznow, now a prominent sire at WinStar Farm. Another product of this coupling, the unraced mare Tizamazing, is the dam of Oxbow.

Needless to say, Oxbow’s and Paynter’s achievements have boosted the statistical allure of breeding Awesome Again to Cee’s Tizzy mares. That nicking pattern results in an average earnings index of 5.19 (with 1.00 average), deriving from a sample of nine starters from 12 foals of racing age. Oxbow and Paynter comprise two of three stakes winners from this pattern, with the other being Oxbow’s full brother, the Grade 3-placed stakes winner Awesome Patriot. Oxbow contains very little inbreeding through his first five generations, sporting only a 4x5x5 cross of the great Northern Dancer.

Purchased for $250,000 at the 2011 Keeneland September sale by Brad Kelley’s Bluegrass Hall, Oxbow, along with Game On Dude’s continued dominance of the West Coast handicap division, has helped elevate Awesome Again to third on the 2013 North American general sire list, with more than $4.1 million in progeny earnings. Awesome Again trails only Malibu Moon, the sire of Kentucky Derby winner Orb, and leader Leroidesanimaux (whose earnings are largely comprised of Animal Kingdom’s $6 million payday for winning the Group 1 Dubai World Cup).

After fulfilling the promise of his pedigree in the Preakness, the future prospects for Oxbow look exciting. If he stays sound, he surely will be competing in other Grade 1 races and will be given every opportunity as a stallion when his racing career is over and goes to Kelley’s revitalized Calumet Farm breeding operation in Lexington, Ky.