01/23/2015 12:08PM

Leading California sires: Unusual Heat

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Barbara D. Livingston
Unusual Heat, standing ar Harris Farms, finished as California's leading turf sire of 2014.

Through all the changes in California racing over the past 17 years – shuttering tracks, shuffling of racing dates, new surfaces, and new leadership – one of the state’s pillars of consistency has been Unusual Heat.

The 25-year-old son of Nureyev has been a fixture in the Golden State since entering stud in 1998, and that enduring success has helped him become the all-time leading sire by California-bred earnings.

Unusual Heat reigned as California’s leading sire by turf earnings for an 11th straight year in 2014, with 34 winners from 84 starters on grass and earnings of $2,864,232. His turf earnings doubled that of the second-leading sire, the late Tribal Rule, who finished with $1,416,001 in progeny earnings.

The only drawback of the stallion’s 2014 record, it seems, is that he did not finish the year as the state’s leading general sire, ending a run that began in 2008. In his defense, most years don’t produce a California-sired dual classic winner.

“It was a productive year, definitely not his best year,” said Harris Auerbach, managing partner of the stallion’s ownership, M. Auerbach LLC and The Unusual Heat Syndicate. “Our expectations are really high, and sometimes you can get jaded by the success, but he had a real solid year, especially on the turf.”

Unusual Heat will stand the 2015 breeding season at Harris Farms in Coalinga, Calif., for a fee of $20,000.

Unusual Heat was represented by 128 Northern Hemisphere runners in 2014, with 59 horses winning 106 races for a combined $4,164,699. All five of his stakes winners came on turf, led by Bettys Bambino, winner of the Grade 3 Daytona Stakes at Santa Anita. He also sired Grade 3-placed stakes winner Lakerville, stakes winners Boozer, Heat Du Jour, and Unusual Heatwave, and Grade 2-placed Starspangled Heat.

Unusual Heat’s ability to sire grass runners should have been apparent based on his pedigree and race record. He is by noted turf sire Nureyev and out of the Danish-bred Rossard, who was a champion in Scandinavia before becoming a Grade 1 winner on turf in the United States.

On the track, Unusual Heat was a three-time stakes winner in Ireland on turf before finishing his career in North America.

Unusual Heat’s leading runners have included Acclamation, the champion older male of 2011 and a five-time Grade 1 winner on turf, as well as Grade 1 turf winners The Usual Q. T. and Unusual Suspect and main-track Grade 1 winner Golden Doc A.

As Unusual Heat got into his 20s, Auerbach said that careful management of the stallion has paid dividends, and the plan will stay in place going forward, with an expected book of 35 to 40 mares.

“The first thing is, and credit to [co-owners] Madeline Auerbach and Barry Abrams, none of us over-bred him,” Auerbach said. “We just gave him whatever work he had, and we never tried to shuttle him or book over 100 mares, but once he got popular, we just tried to get quality mares and do what was right by him. Also, a big credit to his longevity now goes to the people at Harris Farms, who have really in the last four or five years done a yeoman’s job with him.

“He’s 25 years old, so we are being very cautious,” he continued. “We made an initial limit of 35 [mares], and we’ll see how he does. If we can add a few more later in the year, great, and if we can’t, he doesn’t owe us anything at this point.”

While Unusual Heat’s position among California’s top sires doesn’t appear to changing anytime soon, he will soon face competition from a platoon of his own sons.

Four of Unusual Heat’s sons will enter stud in California during the 2015 breeding season. Lakerville will stand beside his sire at Harris Farms, while Gervinho and Unusual Heatwave will stand at Tommy Town Thoroughbreds and He Be Fire N Ice will debut at Rancho San Miguel. That quartet will join Acclamation, who began stud duty at Old English Rancho in 2013.

“It’s sort of been the last piece of the puzzle with him,” Auerbach said. “In terms of being a sire of sires, he’s gotten a late start. There’s now five of them standing in California and one in Australia. Unusual Suspect just got started this last season down there. We already know he’s a pretty good broodmare sire from the limited sample, and we think he has a chance to be a really good sire of sires.”