04/25/2014 4:36PM

Kafwain at home in the Golden State

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Kafwain is beginning to blossom as a California sire.

Kafwain made his name as a racehorse in some of California’s most prestigious races for 2-year-olds and 3-year-olds a little more than a decade ago. Now settled in at Tom and Debi Stull’s Tommy Town Thoroughbreds in Santa Ynez for his fifth year of stud duty since returning to the Golden State, the 14-year-old Kafwain is beginning to have an impact on the state’s breeding sector as well.

The stakes-placed Pray Hard is slated to bear Tommy Town’s black and white silks on Saturday’s California Gold Rush card at Santa Anita, entered against seven opponents in the $250,000 Snow Chief Stakes. The 3-year-old gelding was part of Kafwain’s first foal crop conceived in California after the stallion shipped in from Kentucky’s Hurstland Farm during the summer of 2009. Kafwain has been ensconced in the state’s top 10 general sire rankings ever since the move, and now his Cal-bred progeny are starting to populate the region’s racetracks.

It is a Kentucky-bred 2010 foal, though, that has garnered the most headlines this year for both Tommy Town and its sire. Let Faith Arise was bred by the Stulls, who bought Kafwain in 2008 while he still resided in the Bluegrass State. The filly won first out as a 3-year-old at Golden Gate Fields last February and tallied her first stakes win in June, but made only one more start the rest of 2013.

This year, Let Faith Arise has competed exclusively against stakes company, posting very good second-place finishes in the La Canada and Santa Maria, both Grade 2 races, before breaking through with a 1 3/4-length win in the Grade 1 Santa Margarita on March 15. After shipping to Oaklawn Park, where she ran a competitive fourth to Close Hatches in the Grade 1 Apple Blossom, Let Faith Arise is back in training for Tommy Town and Jerry Hollendorfer and could resurface in a graded event during Santa Anita’s new summer meet.

Let Faith Arise is the second Grade 1 winner for Kafwain, joining millionaire distaff turfer Daisy Devine. Overall, Kafwain had sired 21 stakes winners and six graded stakes winners through Wednesday from eight crops of racing age. One of those graded winners, The Pamplemousse, also is standing in California, with foals from the young stallion’s first crop set to race this year.

Kafwain was bred to 52 mares last year, and Mike Allen, manager at Tommy Town, estimates a similar number for 2014.

“I think he’ll end up breeding about 60 total, so we’re pretty happy about that,” Allen said. “We’re hoping that will improve a little bit next year if Let Faith Arise, Pray Hard, and some of these 2-year-olds that are getting ready [to race do well], I think we’ll get some more mares next year.”

The homebred Pray Hard had a solid juvenile season under Hollendorfer’s guidance in 2013, winning once from six starts, with three seconds and a third. That third-place effort came in his stakes debut and final start of the year, the seven-furlong King Glorious on Dec. 22 at Hollywood. Pray Hard set swift fractions on the lead through four furlongs and battled gamely in the stretch after being passed by eventual race winner – and now likely Kentucky Derby favorite – California Chrome.

The gelding regrouped to win a six-furlong sprint Feb. 27 and finished fourth in the Echo Eddie Stakes this month, both at Santa Anita. He will get a distance test again on turf in the 1 1/8-mile Snow Chief.

The Stulls have obviously benefited from their support of Kafwain over the years, and according to Allen, the stallion’s first crops of California-bred foals display good conformation and overall athleticism.

“His foals have got a lot of speed, and he throws a lot of size and bone,” Allen said. “I’ve noticed, especially on our mares, he’s really the kind of stallion that can put that size on those babies where they’ve got a big shoulder, big hip – he does put the bone on them – so with a lighter-made mare, we’ve got some better babies out of mares that need some more size and bone.”

Kafwain was a standout member of Bob Baffert’s endless string of West Coast stakes winners during his time on the racetrack. The son of champion Cherokee Run won the Grade 2 Norfolk and the Grade 3 Best Pal as a juvenile before finishing second to Vindication in the 2002 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Arlington.

Racing for The Thoroughbred Corp., Kafwain entered 2003 as a Kentucky Derby candidate and earned triple-digit Beyer Speed Figures in each of his three sophomore starts, topped by a 115 in the Grade 2 San Vicente. Kafwain was retired shortly before the Kentucky Derby due to a tendon injury, finishing with more than $715,000 in earnings.

Kafwain began his career at Darley in Lexington, Ky., before the Stulls purchased him and transferred him to nearby Hurstland Farm, where he briefly resided before making the move out west. He stands for a $5,000 fee in 2014.