03/13/2013 2:23PM

New Mexico: Desert God, leading general sire

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Over the past decade, Desert God has been linked in one way or another to the best New Mexico’s breeding program has to offer.

In the mid-2000s, his greatest daughter, Peppers Pride, grabbed national headlines for her record-setting undefeated streak that reached a dizzying 19 races before retiring with a perfect record and earnings of more than $1 million. Through the first half of the current decade, Desert God has reached the top of the mountain on his own, finishing atop New Mexico’s general sire list by earnings for the third straight year.

[MORE: See a list of New Mexico’s leading sires from 2012]

Desert God, a 22-year-old son of Fappiano, wrapped up his third title with 29 winners from 58 starters for progeny earnings of $2,055,901. He had six stakes winners in 2012, with a combined 12 stakes wins.

Standing for a private fee in 2013, Desert God has been the cornerstone sire for Fred and Linda Alexander’s A&A Horse Ranch since moving to the Anthony, N.M., farm in 2001.

“He’s definitely one of the foundations of our farm,” Fred Alexander said. “We started 11 years ago and he was the first guy we had, and we didn’t know what we had. It’s been fantastic.”

Desert God’s progeny was led in 2012 by Our Choice, who won seven of 12 starts for earnings of $284,411, highlighted by victories in four stakes races on the state-bred circuit. The veteran campaigner has continued to improve over his seven seasons of racing, and has become his sire’s second-highest career earner, with 15 wins in 55 starts, including six stakes wins, for $641,778.

Desert God took the long way to the top of the sire list in New Mexico. Bred in Virginia by Morven Stud, Desert God is out of 1982 Kentucky Oaks winner Blush With Pride, whose produce features nine winners, including 2007 Broodmare of the Year Better Than Honour, French Group 2 winner Smolensk, and Irish Group 3 winner Turnberry Isle.

Desert God, who was unraced, ended up at the University of Arizona’s breeding program, where he spent his first eight years at stud. He was purchased by owner and breeder Joseph Allen and sent to A&A Horse Ranch in 2001. A year later, Allen sent broodmare Lady Pepper to his new sire for the mating that produced Peppers Pride.

“Fappiano’s probably the best sire by Mr. Prospector, and his mother comes from a fantastic family,” Alexander said. “We’re very fortunate to have a guy bred like him in this part of the country. He easily could have been standing in Kentucky just by his bloodlines.”

It would still be a few years before Peppers Pride started winning races, and until then, Desert God was left with his work cut out for him to establish himself in a new market. Even during the glory days of his star offspring, Desert God never cracked the top five on New Mexico’s general sire list, but in time, the light bulb came on for breeders.

“It took a while for everyone to catch on around here,” Alexander said. “He didn’t have a race record, and he started his breeding career at the University of Arizona. Being at the university, the quality of the mares wasn’t very good, pretty much donation mares, so he got off to a tough start.
“He’s not an attractive horse to look at,” Alexander continued. “He just looks like a big, old plow horse. So, his offspring had to prove it on the racetrack before anybody caught on. Nobody paid attention to his bloodlines around here. That’s just the way people are around here—they like to breed to something with a race record.”

Desert God finally broke through in 2010, finishing atop New Mexico’s leaderboard by earnings, and he has yet to give up his spot.

Paradoxically, Desert God’s success has come at the twilight of his stallion career. Alexander said that he planned to send only 12 to 15 mares to him in 2013, following a year where illness hindered the number of mares he could cover.

“He’s getting some age on him now,” Alexander said. “Last year was a tough breeding season for him. He got two mares in foal. He came down with pigeon fever before the breeding season, so that definitely didn’t help. ... Everybody’s kicking themselves that they didn’t get to him earlier.”