11/21/2016 10:53AM

Marks: Rare combination of super racehorse and super sire

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Muscle Hill (above) & Somebeachsomewhere both won 20 of 21 career races.

There is hardly a doubt that the two top horses of the millennium are pacer Somebeachsomewhere and trotter Muscle Hill. Conveniently, both are by far the leading sires of their respective gaits, though a question could be: Have the best on-track performers typically dominated in the breeding shed?

The answer to that is a resounding negative!

In the recently completed Breeders Crown, Somebeachsomewhere achieved a level of dominance unseen since Adios was ruling the pacing roost in the early 1960’s. Of the forty 2- and 3-year-old finalists, 19 or almost half were by the Mach Three son, while in the 2-year-old pacing colt division seven of the 10 starters were his sons.

Muscle Hill, considered by some as perhaps the greatest trotter of any age, dominated the trotting Crowns and the recently concluded Lexington and Harrisburg yearling sales. His colts and fillies brought almost unprecedented prices, including the $800,000 for Tactical Landing in Lexington plus the $410,000 for Story Time Hanover and $400,000 for Hey Jock at Harrisburg.  

Somebeachsomewhere was by far the leading pacing sire in terms of yearling price and average, as his son Pro Beach (Darlin’s Delight) topped all pacers at $450,000.

Having observed some six decades of horses dating back to the 60s, I’ve created a list of trotting and pacing superstars for comparison purposes to our current breeding shed dominators.

The Pacers: Adios Butler, Bret Hanover, Albatross, Niatross, Nihilator.

The Trotters: Speedy Scot, Nevele Pride, Mack Lobell, and maybe Self Possessed.

Let’s examine them.

Adios Butler may have been ahead of his time as a racehorse but he was emphatically not that way in the stud barn. Other than Honest Story and maybe Lord Butler, it’s hard to actually remember any of his better ones.

Bret Hanover started out like a house on fire with brilliant early crops featuring the likes of Strike Out, Melvins Woe, Hilarious Way, etc., but soon petered out and by the time Storm Damage came along he was very much an also-ran sire.

Albatross was the leading sire of his day, getting Niatross, Sonsam, Three Diamonds, Fan Hanover and so many others, but he was not an enduring sire as none of his sons were able to carry on.

Niatross had a brilliant first crop, a solid second crop and that was it thereafter as none of his sons could carry on.

Nihilator was not a successful sire.

Of the trotters, Speedy Scot sired Speedy Crown and Arnie Almahurst and not much else, although Speedy Crown was far and away a better sire than he was a racehorse.

Nevele Pride had Bonefish, Nevele Thunder and Zoot Suit, though he played a distinct second fiddle to Super Bowl in terms of Star’s Pride’s siring sons.      

Mack Lobell was infertile as was Self Possessed, although the latter held up long enough to produce Cantab Hall from his second crop.

Switching over to the thoroughbreds, I can recall a quartet of superstars from the 70’s in Secretariat, Seattle Slew, Affirmed and Spectacular Bid.

Of those, Secretariat was not great in the breeding shed, although a couple of his fillies became good producers. Seattle Slew was a leading sire and an excellent sire of sires. Affirmed took a distinct backseat to rival Alydar in the stud barn while Spectacular Bid was unsuccessful.      

How this fares for American Pharoah and California Chrome is anybody’s guess, though it could be noted that Man o’ War and Citation were better on the racetrack than in the stud barn.

Getting back to Harness Racing, the following could be considered super-sires in pacers: Adios, Meadow Skipper, Most Happy Fella, Cam Fella, Artsplace, Western Hanover, Western Ideal and trotters Star’s Pride, Speedy Crown and Valley Victory.

Adios was far from a “superstar” on the racetrack, though he had his moments. Meadow Skipper did some “super” things, especially in the Cane and Poplar Hill at Lexington, though generally he ranked beneath crop-mate Overtrick.  Most Happy Fella may have been the best of his age group, but perhaps not as gifted as fellow Meadow Skipper son Albatross. Cam Fella was a great horse, though not as dominant a sire as say an Adios or Somebeachsomewhere. Artsplace was a bit behind Precious Bunny on the track but far superior in the breeding shed. Western Hanover was a very good horse and perhaps a better sire, as is still going through Western Ideal. Star’s Pride was a better sire than he was a racehorse and ditto for Speedy Crown. The jury is somewhat out on Valley Victory, as it’s hard to say what he would have been had he completed his 3-year-old season. He was however unquestionably a milestone sire until succumbing to infertility in his later years.

The bottom line is that domination on the track as a racehorse followed by similar supremacy in the breeding shed is rare to say the least. Somebeachsomewhere and Muscle Hill have certainly bucked the trend.  

As for what the future holds for “Beach” and Muscle Hill is anybody’s guess, but a likely scenario is that both will continue to excel in the immediate future. Beach recovered brilliantly from his down 3rd crop season, which saw him breed less than 100 mares while Muscle Hill, a grandson of Valley Victory, has apparently inherited his sire Muscles Yankee’s strong fertility.

Both too have sons with crops poised to hit the sales rings next year. For Beach, it’s Captaintreacherous and for Muscle Hill, it’s his Hambletonian winning son Trixton. Both were well received.

Stay tuned.