12/06/2013 2:19PM

Hot Sire: Speightstown

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Courtesy WinStar FarmSpeightstown

One month after European turf horses excelled over Santa Anita’s firm ground at the Breeders’ Cup, another trans-Atlantic invader arrived at Betfair Hollywood Park to take down the Grade 1 Hollywood Derby on Dec. 1 during the final meet of the historic Inglewood, Calif., track. Unlike the Breeders’ Cup quartet of Outstrip, Chriselliam, Dank, and Magician, however, Seek Again was foaled in Kentucky and hails from a homegrown sire who, despite being a champion sprinter on the racetrack, has steadily ascended to elite status as a sire in North America that can get runners on all surfaces and at route distances.

Seek Again won the 33rd stakes this year for WinStar resident sire Speightstown, adding to what has been a superb year for the 15-year-old stallion. Those 33 stakes wins through Dec. 3 are the most for any sire in North America this year, and Seek Again’s $150,000 winner’s share from the Hollywood Derby helped solidify Speightstown’s second-place ranking on the general sire list as the calendar days count down on 2013.

Speightstown has dueled with Ramsey Farm’s stallion Kitten’s Joy at the top of the earnings list throughout the year. It is only fitting, then, that Seek Again would turn back a couple of Ramsey Farm homebreds by Kitten’s Joy – Grade 1 winner Admiral Kitten and stakes winner Amen Kitten – to capture his first stakes and narrow the earnings gap between the two stallions to just over $90,000. The colt’s swift upper-stretch move along the Hollywood Park rail under Corey Nakatani had all the visual markings of a European-style turn of foot, and Seek Again galloped out very strongly after finishing 1 1/4 miles in 2:00.60 on firm turf, good for a Beyer Speed Figure of 93.

Homebred by Khalid Abdullah’s Juddmonte Farms, Seek Again made his first seven starts in England for trainer John Gosden, winning first out at Newmarket in September 2012 and taking two handicaps earlier this year on turf. He had never raced farther than 1 1/8 miles before the Hollywood Derby. Now, according to Gosden assistant Les Reynolds, the colt will remain in the U.S. and join Racing Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott’s barn in Florida.

Seek Again’s pedigree is evident of a heretofore untested and thus very intriguing breeding pattern for progeny of Speightstown as he is the first foal of racing age to carry a cross between Speightstown and a Danehill mare. The colt is out of Light Jig, a stakes-placed racehorse in Europe who like her son shipped to the U.S. and became a turf Grade 1 winner, taking the Yellow Ribbon Stakes at Santa Anita and also annexing the Grade 2 Beverly Hills Handicap at Hollywood, both at 1 1/4 miles. Light Jig also has produced Seek Again’s three-quarter-brother, Group 3 winner Treble Jig, by Speightstown’s sire, Gone West. That horse won at distances up to 1 1/4 miles but did his best running over Jebel Ali Racecourse’s dirt strip in Dubai.

Seek Again’s second dam, Nashmeel, also found success on both continents as a racehorse on turf. By European champion and elite sire Blushing Groom, Nashmeel won the Group 2 Prix d’Astarte at Deauville and was runner-up in both the Grade 1 Yellow Ribbon and Matriarch in the U.S. Both Seek Again’s first and second dams were Juddmonte homebreds and participants in Abdullah’s incredibly successful international racing program from the 1980s onward.

Speightstown raced beyond seven furlongs only once and never on any surface other than dirt, and the $2 million Keeneland yearling purchase did not develop into a stakes-winning racehorse for Eugene and Laura Melnyk until his 6-year-old season, when he fashioned a championship campaign. During 2004, Speightstown won five of six starts – all in stakes – and closed out his career with a 1 1/4-length score in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Lone Star Park. Speightstown retired to WinStar Farm in Versailles, Ky., with 10 wins from 16 starts, more than $1.2 million in earnings, and having amassed seven 100-plus Beyer Speed Figures. Speightstown’s racing career predicted success as a sire of sprinters, and he has delivered on that front, but he has also proven to be far more versatile as his stud career has developed.

Speightstown’s pedigree supports this versatility. His sire, Gone West, was one of legendary Mr. Prospector’s best sons at stud who sired such accomplished racehorses and sires as Elusive Quality, Mr. Greeley, and Zafonic, among many others. Speightstown’s dam, Silken Cat, by Storm Cat, was Canada’s champion 2-year-old filly of 1995 and is a half-sister to both Juyfish, a Group 1-placed turf performer in England who also won stakes over hurdles, and to stakes winner Meadow Silk, the dam of Grade 2 winner and sire Star Dabbler. Speightstown’s female family branches out to include a diverse array of stakes winners ranging from 1990s turf Grade 1 winner Turk Passer to last spring’s Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes winner, Hear the Ghost.

Speightstown first broke into the upper echelon of the North American general sire list in 2010, ranking 10th, and then moved up to seventh in 2011 before finishing third last year. Through Dec. 3, he has sired 55 stakes winners from 549 foals of racing age, a very impressive 10 percent clip. Many of his most accomplished runners have been sprinters, including Group 1 Dubai Golden Shaheen winner Reynaldothewizard; Grade 1 winners Dance to Bristol, Lighthouse Bay, Poseidon’s Warrior, and Mona de Momma; and Essence Hit Man, Canada’s champion sprinter in 2011 and 2012 who has captured two more stakes in 2013.

However, Speightstown also has shown the ability to sire top-notch classic-distance horses, and that more than anything explains his rise to prominence. Speightstown’s son Golden Ticket, second in this year’s Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, scored a dead-heat victory in the 2012 Grade 1 Travers, and in 2010 his son Haynesfield won the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup. Earlier this year, Delegation set a track record of 2:01.51 for 1 1/4 miles on Woodbine’s Polytrack when annexing the Grade 3 Dominion Day Stakes. Haynesfield, along with Speightstown’s 2010 Cigar Mile winner, Jersey Town, and 2009 Woody Stephens winner, Munnings, have all recently started their own stud careers in Kentucky. Munnings’s first foals will hit the racetrack in 2014, and Haynesfield’s first foals were offered at the breeding stock sales earlier this fall.

WinStar raised Speightstown’s stud fee from $60,000 to $80,000 for 2014, placing him behind the farm’s bulwark Distorted Humor (who will stand for $100,000) on its 23-stallion roster. Speightstown was bred to 120 mares in 2013 according to statistics from The Jockey Club, and the sire is now firmly within his peak years as both a breed-to-race and commercial stallion.

Based on his debut performance stateside, Seek Again could help forge a new path of success for Speightstown in 2014 as a potentially elite turf distance horse. He has sired several good turf sprinters in the U.S., led by Grade 3 winner and 2011 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf runner-up Bridgetown, but his best turf runner to date is arguably French Group 1 winner Lord Shanakill, who captured the Prix Jean Prat in 2009 at about one mile.