01/23/2015 1:13PM

Leading California sires: Lucky Pulpit

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Ron Mesaros
Harris Farms' Lucky Pulpit, sire of Horse of the Year California Chrome, finished as California's leading sire for 2014.

California’s top 10 general sires of 2014 averaged 124 starters each last season. Lucky Pulpit checked in significantly below that, with just 73 representatives on the track in 2014. But when one of those runners is California Chrome, numbers don’t matter.

Fueled by the exploits of his dual classic-winning Horse of the Year, who bankrolled just over $4 million, Lucky Pulpit finished 2014 with $5,149,180 in progeny earnings. That was enough for the 14-year-old Pulpit horse, who stands at Harris Farms in Coalinga, Calif., to edge out the late Tribal Rule, with $5,047,047 in progeny earnings, to top the charts.

Lucky Pulpit had 32 winners in 2014, led by multiple stakes winners California Chrome and Floating Feather. California Chrome ripped off six stakes victories, including Grade 1 triumphs in the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, Santa Anita Derby, and Hollywood Derby. The California-bred colt, who also finished third in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, has a career bankroll of $4,222,650.

Running at a considerably lower level, Floating Feather was also consistent, winning 5 of 7 starts while not missing the board during his 6-year-old campaign. The gelding captured four stakes at Les Bois Park in Boise, Idaho, taking the Ron Yanke Memorial Stakes, Les Bois Park Stakes, Idaho Cup Classic Stakes, and I.T.A. Willy Fiddle Stakes.

Another of Lucky Pulpit’s standouts is Rousing Sermon, a stakes winner and Grade 1-placed as a juvenile in 2011. The horse went winless in 2014 but did finish second in a pair of stakes in California, pushing his career earnings to $756,342. Lucky Pulpit also was represented last season by stakes-placed winners Lucky Cotton, Lawly’s Goal, Hey Lucky, and Pulmarack.

Overall, from his first five crops of racing age – excluding newly turned juveniles – Lucky Pulpit is represented by 67 winners from 100 starters for earnings of $8,739,748 through Jan. 18. His progeny average earnings are a healthy $87,397.

Lucky Pulpit raced as a homebred for Idaho-based owners Larry and Marianne Williams, who purchased his dam, the winning Cozzene mare Lucky Soph, for $200,000 carrying the colt at the 2000 Keeneland November breeding stock sale. Grade 3-placed on turf as a juvenile, Lucky Pulpit was briefly on the classics trail the following spring, finishing second in the Grade 2 Santa Catalina at 1 1/16 miles before running unplaced in the San Rafael and the Santa Anita Derby. He returned to turf that summer and spent the majority of his remaining racing career on it, including a victory in the 2005 Smile Stakes going five furlongs at Arlington Park. In all, he won or placed in seven stakes, bankrolling $209,928.

Lucky Pulpit entered stud at John Harris’s Harris Farms for the 2007 season, and his pedigree lent itself well to his second career. His dam, Lucky Soph, is out of the multiple Grade 3-winning Lucky Mel mare Lucky Spell, and Lucky Soph is a half-sister to Trolley Song, dam of the late Unbridled’s Song, a multiple Grade 1 winner and very successful sire. Lucky Soph is also the dam of another useful regional sire, Drewman, who stands at Breakway Farm in Dillsboro, Ind., and is represented by runners such as Grade 3 winner Cigar Man.

Lucky Pulpit got off to a fast start at stud, being California’s leading freshman sire of 2010. Following his breakout season in 2014, the stallion’s stud fee for this year is quadrupling, to $10,000. The horse began last season at an advertised fee of $2,500, and was later listed as private as California Chrome’s star began to rise.

Lucky Pulpit is one of two stallions among California’s top 10 leading general sires for Harris Farms, which also stands stalwart Unusual Heat, fourth on the list after reigning as the state’s leading sire from 2008 to 2013. Unusual Heat, who owns California’s single-season progeny earnings record, did finish as the year’s leading turf sire.

Sires standing at Ballena Vista Farm of Ramona, Calif., dominated the top 10, with the late Tribal Rule finishing second by earnings; newcomer Bluegrass Cat, the state’s leading returning juvenile sire, third; Eddington fifth; pensioned Benchmark eighth; and the late Bertrando ninth.

Red Outlaw, who won five straight races, including four stakes, to begin his season, was the top earner in 2014 for Tribal Rule, who died in May. Tribal Rule was also the state’s leading synthetic surface sire of the year.