02/14/2014 12:30PM

Indiana: Three-peat for Strong Hope

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Strong Hope completed his third consecutive season atop Indiana’s general sire list in 2013 by amassing $1,166,832 in progeny earnings and edging runner-up Domestic Dispute by just less than $11,000.

The 14-year-old son of Grand Slam stands at Dr. Roger Beam’s Midwest Equine and Veterinary Hospital in Trafalgar, south of Indianapolis. He has maintained the top position in Indiana since relocating to the Hoosier State in late 2011, largely based on earnings from older horses sired during his stints in Kentucky and Florida.

Hattaash, a gelding out of stakes winner Lotta Rhythm and a close relation to Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra, was Strong Hope’s leading earner in 2013 as a 6-year-old, winning four times in nine starts and earning $103,088. The veteran runner, a mainstay at Midwestern tracks over the past several years, nearly broke through with his first stakes win in the Grade 3 Washington Park Handicap at Arlington Park in August, finishing third by a neck behind Willcox Inn and Gallant Eagle. Hattaash is Strong Hope’s third-highest career earner with $277,035, behind Grade 3 winner and Grade 1-placed Papaw Bodie ($442,826) and multiple stakes winner Clement Rock ($286,446).

[To view the complete list of leading sires in Indiana, click here]

Strong Hope’s fourth-highest earner, dual stakes winner Seal Cove, captured an optional-claiming turf race at Saratoga last year at age 5 (defeating the ill-fated Grade 1 winner Turallure by a head) and earned $70,650 during the year to boost his career total to $260,090. The hard-knocking gelding, homebred by Stuart Janney III and trained by Shug McGaughey, made his 2014 debut Feb. 2 at Gulfstream Park and finished eighth in a deep optional-claiming event.

Strong Hope raced exclusively on dirt for owners Eugene and Laura Melnyk and trainer Todd Pletcher, winning the Grade 2 Dwyer Stakes and Jim Dandy Stakes as a 3-year-old and placing in three Grade 1 events – the Travers, Carter Handicap, and Metropolitan – in 2003 and 2004.

Eugene Melnyk purchased Strong Hope for $1.7 million at the 2001 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga selected yearling sale from co-breeder Trackside Farm, and the horse’s pedigree was no doubt a major factor in his auction price.

Even though he made all of his starts on dirt, Strong Hope has a turf-oriented female family, as his dam, the unraced Deputy Minister mare Shining Through, also produced Group 1 Nunthorpe Stakes winner and $783,769-earner Bahamian Pirate. His second dam, Solar, by Halo, was an Irish Group 3 winner and a half-sister to English and Irish champion and classic winner and sire El Gran Senor.

It comes as no surprise, then, that Strong Hope’s best runners have come on turf and/or synthetic.

Conversely, earnings runner-up Domestic Dispute led all Hoosier sires with three stakes winners – Daydreamin Gracie, Fersmiley, and The Bien’s Gift – and all three won stakes on dirt, although Daydreamin Gracie also placed in the Maryland Million Ladies Stakes on turf at Laurel Park. Daydreamin Gracie and The Bien’s Gift are Maryland-breds, and Fersmiley is a Pennsylvania-bred. Domestic Dispute, a multiple Grade 2-winning 14-year-old son of Unbridled’s Song, relocated from Maryland to Indiana for the 2012 breeding season and this year stands at Indiana Stallion Station in Anderson.

Pass Rush, third on the 2013 earnings list, had two stakes winners last year – Facey’s Spirit and Short Round. They both won stakes at Indiana Downs, and another Pass Rush foal, Pass the Crown, was multiple stakes-placed at the Shelbyville racino. Pass Rush, a 15-year-old son of Crown Ambassador, won or placed in 15 stakes, led by a win in the Grade 2 San Fernando Breeders’ Cup. He has stood at Swifty Farms in Seymour since starting his stud career in 2007.