06/19/2008 11:00PM

Impeccably bred First Defence's value assured


LEXINGTON, Ky. - Thoroughbreds are amazingly adaptable although some commentators talk about their ability to run on turf and dirt as though the difference between the two surfaces were the same as the diffence between six furlongs and 1 1/2 miles.

But whereas some horses cannot get 12 furlongs at racing speed without a van to carry them, all horses can run on turf. They grow up doing it. They mostly like it, and heck, some of them even eat the stuff.

So First Defence's victory in the June 15 Jaipur Stakes at three-quarters of a mile wasn't that great a leap of faith. But in winning this Grade 3 race, First Defence has accomplished some important goals.

By exhibiting speed, racing character, and some class, he already had proven himself a legitimate stallion prospect, and by winning the Jaipur, First Defence will have a place at stud somewhere, even if he never wins another race. If he wins some grander events, he may end up standing at his birthplace, Juddmonte Farms in Kentucky.

First Defence has shown a world of speed and natural ability, and the colt also has shown versatility by winning on different surfaces and at different tracks. Then, as a son of Unbridled's Song, First Defence is by one of the most popular sires of stallion prospects in Kentucky.

And finally, as the third foal and second stakes winner out of the major stakes winner Honest Lady (by Seattle Slew), First Defence comes from one of the most successful contemporary families in the breed through his illustrious granddam, Toussaud.

Toussaud's most famous offspring include Belmont Stakes winner Empire Maker, Arlington Million winner Chester House, Santa Monica winner Honest Lady, Secretariat Stakes winner Chiselling, and Kilroe Mile winner Decarchy.

In all, Toussaud produced four Grade 1 winners and a Grade 2 stakes winner from her first six foals.

Of those, only Honest Lady was a filly, and despite being a medium-sized horse, she was a very game and talented competitor who won at the Grade 1 level over fillies and ran second in the Metropolitan Handicap and Breeders' Cup Sprint against colts.

Now, Honest Lady has begun her own producing career well, with two stakes winners from her first three foals. Both showed speed and versatility while proving their class on the racetrack.

Garrett O'Rourke, farm manager for Juddmonte, said that "even aside from her illustrious race record and pedigree, Honest Lady is a great favorite on the farm. She is such a kind and sweet-tempered mare I would not hesitate to put an infant in her stall."

In addition to her great attitude and intelligence, Honest Lady is making an outstanding broodmare, and O'Rourke noted that she "is very strong and definitely has her mother's broad hips. Although she is not very tall, you can see the Seattle Slew in her, as well."

Her son First Defence has some of his dam's excellent qualities. O'Rourke noted that "I wouldn't call First Defence a typical Unbridled's Song. He is very strong, lengthy, and muscular, typical of a sprinter, and the foals out of Honest Lady can be different types, but they all have the speed."

First Defence has shown great speed on the track, and in the Metropolitan Handicap on Memorial Day, he rubberized mighty Commentator with early fractions of 22.48 seconds, 44.52, and 1:09.61. First Defence paid the price for those exertions, however, and finished fifth after looking like a winner at the top of the stretch.

Although speed is not a handicap to any top racehorse, First Defence's inclination to spend it so fervently in the early portion of races has played a role in limiting him to shorter distances than might be expected for a grandson of Kentucky Derby winner Unbridled and Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew.

O'Rourke said that if First Defence "relaxes a bit more, he might well stay better. He can run fast without burning a lot of energy; it just comes naturally."

That is the prescription for an efficient racer, and that kind of speed is inherent from his parents' racing ability.

Unbridled's Song won the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, then parlayed his natural talent into victory in the Florida Derby and Wood Memorial.

Since his retirement to stud, Unbridled's Song has sired 67 stakes winners, including the additional graded stakes winners Eight Belles and Noonmark this year. Unbridled's Song stands at Taylor Made Farm in Kentucky for a stud fee of $150,000 live foal, and he has 42 sons at stud already, with at least 10 sons standing in Kentucky, including Songandaprayer, Rockport Harbor, Political Force, Unbridled Energy, Half Ours, Value Plus, Eurosilver, and Even the Score.

Both on top and bottom, First Defence has the best working for him.