01/27/2016 1:16PM

Lucky Pulpit, with reduced fee and star son on track, poised for big year

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Ron Mesaros
Lucky Pulpit will stand for $7,500 this year at Harris Farms in Coalinga, Calif.

When California Chrome won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes in 2014, the success propelled his sire, Lucky Pulpit, to the top of California’s stallion ranks.

That season, Lucky Pulpit’s progeny earned $5,149,180. California Chrome accounted for $4,007,800. Lucky Pulpit and California Chrome each might go way beyond those figures this year.

California Chrome is an intended starter in the $10 million Dubai World Cup at Meydan Racecourse in the United Arab Emirates on March 26, a race that pays $6 million to the winner. Last week, California Chrome was sent to Dubai to begin preparation for the Dubai World Cup. Back in California, Lucky Pulpit, 15, is weeks away from the start of the 2016 breeding season at Harris Farms in Coalinga, his 10th year at stud.

For the third consecutive year, Lucky Pulpit will stand for a different advertised fee. He stood for $2,500 in 2014, a fee that soared to $10,000 last year after California Chrome was honored as the 2014 Horse of the Year. The cost will be $7,500 for 2016.

The lower fee this year might lead to a larger book of mares than the 63 he covered in 2015, according to Jockey Club statistics. Dan Kiser, the racing manager for Larry and Marianne Williams, who bred and raced Lucky Pulpit during a four-year career from 2003-06, is optimistic that the number of mares could reach 80.

“Hopefully, it will pick up,” Kiser said. “I think $7,500 is a good price. His yearlings sell well in California. People can make money whether they sell them or run them.”

Kiser said the Williamses will send 10 mares to Lucky Pulpit this year while also supporting Rousing Sermon, a young stallion by Lucky Pulpit who enters stud at Rancho San Miguel in San Miguel, Calif. Rousing Sermon was eighth behind I’ll Have Another in the 2012 Kentucky Derby.

A successful spring by California Chrome could boost Lucky Pulpit’s book of mares. California Chrome won his 2016 debut in the Grade 2 San Pasqual Stakes at Santa Anita on Jan. 9. He is tentatively scheduled to start in a $150,000 handicap at Meydan on Feb. 25.

By then, bookings should be in full swing for the breeding season. California mare owners often wait until early in the breeding season before finalizing breeding plans. February or March success by California Chrome might sway a few opinions.

“California Chrome is running again,” Kiser said. “He looked so good in his last out. It’s all pretty good.”

From a regional standpoint, Lucky Pulpit (Pulpit–Lucky Soph, by Cozzene) has been a success throughout his stallion career. He was the leading freshman stallion in California in 2010, when he had eight winners from 10 starters, and he surpassed $1 million in progeny earnings in a season for the first time in 2012.

Last year, he finished third among stallions in California with progeny earnings of $4,014,048. He had three runners earn more than $100,000 each – California Chrome; Bully Pulpit, who was third in the Zuma Beach Stakes on turf at Santa Anita last October; and Lucky Views, who had two wins in a 13-race campaign. California Chrome earned $2 million for finishing second to Prince Bishop in the Dubai World Cup in his final start of the year last March.

Aside from California Chrome, Kiser said he is looking forward to seeing how Lucky Pulpit’s 3-year-old fillies Faith Pacer and Later My Love perform in the coming months.

Faith Pacer, a half-sister to two-time stakes winner Swiss Lake Yodeler, who earned $278,608, won her debut last spring and most recently was fourth in the Landaluce Stakes at Santa Anita last June. She has had three timed workouts this month.

Later My Love was second in the CTBA Stakes and third in the Generous Portion Stakes at Del Mar last summer and has worked quickly in recent weeks at Santa Anita for her comeback.

They, too, could persuade mare owners to consider Lucky Pulpit, especially with a four-figure stallion fee.

“We would like to get more mares,” Kiser said. “It’s what the California market will dictate. He’s a stallion that has produced two Kentucky Derby runners out of California.”