02/13/2015 12:18PM

Looking for the next generation of flagship sires

Barbara D. Livingston
Two-time Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile winner Goldencents enters stud alongside his sire, Into Mischief, at Spendthrift Farm for 2015.

The performance of a stallion’s progeny on the racetrack is ultimately the biggest testament to that horse’s success or failure at stud. However, the truly transcendent stallions leave pieces of their legacy through the generations as sires of sires.

One only needs to look at the myriad sons of all-time greats Mr. Prospector, Northern Dancer, and Storm Cat that were successful at stud to verify the trio’s status that they helped shape the breed.

All three stallions were helped in that endeavor by their farms, which stood prominent sons of their flagship sires. Mr. Prospector was joined at Claiborne Farm by Conquistador Cielo, Forty Niner, Seeking the Gold, and later by several grandsons. Windfields Farm stood The Minstrel and Vice Regent alongside Northern Dancer, while Overbrook Farm stood Tabasco Cat and Cat Thief, both sons of Storm Cat.

Standing multiple generations of a sire line can go a long way in establishing the reputation of a stallion, his sons, and the farm at which they stand. Repeated achievement in that area creates the foundation for a successful stallion operation and a coveted brand name for the horses themselves.

Another stallion that can be mentioned in the same breath as the aforementioned trio is pensioner A.P. Indy, who has shared the stud barn at Lane’s End in Versailles, Ky., with sons including Mineshaft, Stephen Got Even, Mingun, Alumni Hall, and in all likelihood Honor Code, co-owned by Lane’s End, upon his retirement from the track.

“You always follow the offspring of your stallions closer than you follow other stallions,” said Bill Farish of Lane’s End. “You go out to the cemetery and you’ve got Dixieland Band and Dixie Union, and now we’ve got Union Rags here. It’s been an interesting history to the farm that we’ve been able to attract sons of the stallions that we’ve stood. We obviously have a lot of confidence in the sires that we stand, so we’re looking at their sons all the time.”

Lane’s End is among the most accomplished Kentucky farms at standing sons of its own stallions, made even more impressive by the diverse clientele of incoming owners, as opposed to farms with deep-rooted homebred programs or generational clients.

Seven members of the farm’s 15-horse stallion roster were sired by a Lane’s End resident – active, pensioned, or deceased. Two of them, Discreetly Mine and Union Rags, are third-generation Lane’s End sires. Discreetly Mine is also one of three Lane’s End stallions sired by another active member of the farm’s roster, Mineshaft, with the others being Curlin, by Smart Strike, and Twirling Candy, by Candy Ride.

Farish said the criteria that he and his father, William S. Farish, use in selecting stallions does not vary wildly between a son of a Lane’s End resident or an outsider, though familiarity with the bloodlines certainly helps. It isn’t so much about searching for an heir apparent, he said, as it is finding a good horse to stand.

“Like everyone, we look for horses that are Grade 1 performers, have particularly deep pedigrees, and are conformationally very strong,” Farish said. “Those are the criteria, and from there, it’s a feel thing as much as anything. Dad’s just been very good at picking out top stallions.”

Spendthrift Farm went to the first crop of its emerging sire Into Mischief to stand two-time Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner Goldencents for the 2015 season. Into Mischief, a 10-year-old son of Harlan’s Holiday, saw his first foals get off to a fast start on the track, highlighted by two sons – Vyjack and Goldencents – from his initial crop running in the 2013 Kentucky Derby.

“As Into Mischief’s offspring have hit the track, we obviously began to realize we had something special,” said Ned Toffey, general manager of the Lexington, Ky., farm. “We’re always looking for horses that would represent value, so I think on both fronts, this horse really fit the bill. In terms of seeing how good Into Mischief may become, certainly the idea of having a son was very appealing, and getting out in front of that was very appealing.”

Goldencents will be one of Into Mischief’s first sons at stud, joined at Spendthrift by the recently retired Grade 3 winner Can the Man. The pair figure to be key components in establishing Into Mischief’s reputation as a sire of sires. Cracking that code early in his career could reap long-term rewards for the connections of Into Mischief and his sons that later-blooming stallions may not see until they reach pensioner’s age.

“There is no question the value on a sire when he becomes a sire of sires is really what puts them on the elite level,” Toffey said. “Into Mischief has shown that he is getting very high-level runners, and I think he’s at the point where the market considers him a proven stallion, so the next step is if you can become a sire of sires. That’s what starts to put you up into that higher price range and make you more highly sought after. If you’re able to do that early on in a horse’s career, that’s so much the better.”

Standing a second-generation stallion at a farm can also afford a sense of familiarity with the bloodline’s pedigree and disposition that can make it easier to market to breeders and predict how the progeny may turn out.

That advantage will come in handy for breeders like Ken and Sarah Ramsey, who stand leading sire Kitten’s Joy at their Nicholasville, Ky., farm. The Ramseys did most of the work to help make their homebred sire, providing the majority of the mares and then campaigning the progeny.

With such an all-encompassing homebred program, Ramsey was in the unique position of choosing which son of Kitten’s Joy he wanted to start at stud in 2015, and he chose multiple Grade 1 winner Real Solution over fellow multiple Grade 1 winner Big Blue Kitten, who remains in training.

“He’s got the bloodlines,” Ken Ramsey said of Real Solution. “He’s 4x4 Northern Dancer and also 4x4 to Roberto, and that’s a very good cross. He’s got the genetics, and he’s out of a proven mare. I think he’ll be a success. I’m probably going to have to breed about 25 to 30 mares of my own to him to get him off to a good start.

“It would mean a whole lot to get [Kitten’s Joy] to be a sire of sires because we’ve got what we think is probably the best one yet to come in [Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint winner] Bobby’s Kitten.”
Housing two or more stallions with pedigrees as similar as a father and his sons may give some observers concerns about oversaturating the market of an individual stud barn with a certain bloodline.
However, Toffey noted that those concerns would vanish if the same sons were on a farm across the road, along with the potential income and success that might come with them.

“Our feeling on that is those horses are going to be somewhere – whether they’re going to be in the next stall, the next farm, or the next county, they’re going to be out there,” Toffey said. “I think we’re a long way from oversaturation with a horse like this. There’s so much excitement about what Into Mischief can go on and become that it’s tremendously appealing to breed to him or breed to his son.”