01/16/2016 6:58PM

Indiana: Strong Contender a boon for R Star Stallions

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Leigh Ann and Kerry Hopper’s R Star Stallions at Richwine, located in Anderson, Ind., stood its first stallion in 2010. Only a few years later, the operation has become a prominent player in the regional stallion market, and is poised for continued success in 2016 with some of the top stallions in the state.

Strong Contender, who relocated to R Star from Florida for the 2015 breeding season, reigned as Indiana’s top active or incoming sire by 2015 progeny earnings. He had 15 winners from 42 starters for earnings of $649,527. Former Indiana resident Chief Seattle, who died in 2011, was represented by 23 winners from 33 starters and earnings of $591,384.

Strong Contender, a 13-year-old son of Maria’s Mon, had a brief but successful career in which he won half of his eight starts and competed consistently in graded stakes. After winning his first two outings, he finished third in the Grade 1 Blue Grass Stakes in just his third career start. He went on to take the Grade 2 Dwyer Stakes by 7 3/4 lengths, and the Grade 2 Super Derby by a length over eventual older male champion Lawyer Ron. He also finished third in the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational and the Grade 2 Peter Pan Stakes.

As a stallion, Strong Contender is represented by seven career stakes winners to date, led by Grand Contender, who won the Grade 3 Texas Mile and Grade 3 Lone Star Park Handicap in 2014 and won or placed in seven other stakes in 2013 and 2014. His daughter Awesome Fire won the 2012 Wonder Where Stakes, third leg of the Canadian Triple Tiara.

Strong Contender added to his tally in 2015 with Days Ride, who took the Stud Muffin Stakes at Aqueduct, and Lady Contender, who won a trio of stakes in Nebraska and Colorado. Multiple stakes winner Miss Da Point finished third in the Dancin Renee Stakes at Belmont Park – a race won by Eclipse Award finalist La Verdad – and also third in the Union Avenue Stakes at Saratoga to rank as her sire’s chief earner in 2015.

R Star Stallions has a roster of five stallions for the 2016 season, including Deputy Storm, another top-10 sire in Indiana.

Also holding a strong hand in the Hoosier State for 2016 is Swifty Farms in Seymour, which has a six-stallion roster, headed by Unbridled Express and Pass Rush, respectively third and fourth on the leading sire list behind Strong Contender and Chief Seattle. Unbridled Express, by the late Unbridled’s Song, also finished as the state’s leading juvenile sire for 2015.

Skylord, standing at Breakway Farm in Dillsboro, was the only one of Indiana’s trio of freshman sires to have multiple winners. That was enough for the son of Sky Mesa to finish fifth on the juvenile sire list.