05/26/2005 11:00PM

Northern Afleet moves on up to the big time

Benoit & Associates
After beginning his career at stud in Florida, Northern Afleet moved to Kentuckyfor this year's breeding season and was booked to 150 mares.

LEXINGTON, Ky. - If there is anything better than a classic winner for a stallion's reputation, don't tell Northern Afleet. The dramatic Preakness victory of his son Afleet Alex was the crowning moment in an outstanding year for the stallion, who has nearly completed his first season at stud in Kentucky at Taylor Made Farm.

And although siring a winner of the Preakness is a grand accomplishment, Kentucky breeders were high on the potential of the young stallion before the Maryland classic.

Ben Taylor, vice president of Taylor Made Farm and Taylor Made Stallions LLC, said that Northern Afleet has "150 mares booked to him right now, and since the Preakness, people have been calling hard.

"We took some mares early in the year that are better than he had seen in Florida, but as things have developed, we made the decision to expand the book past 120 to allow some really high-quality mares into the book."

This burst of popularity and entry into the national spotlight have occurred since the muscular bay stallion moved from Double Diamond Farm in Florida, where he stood for $5,000, to Taylor Made last year.

Taylor said: "Northern Afleet's original owners - Ron Waranch and Greg Anderson - were hoping all along that he would get to Kentucky, but we didn't want to make a premature move if Afleet Alex had not panned out or something had happened."

Taylor's caution was understandable, since the Kentucky stallion market is intensely competitive and can be very unforgiving.

Events on the racetrack, however, have proven the decision to move the stallion to be sound. And Taylor Made's previous involvement in the stallion made the practical decisions behind the move easier.

Taylor said: "When Ron Waranch retired Northern Afleet, we helped to arrange the syndication that sent him to Double Diamond, and it was written into the contract at that time that if he ever went to Kentucky, we had first shot at him."

Those close ties with the principals in the Northern Afleet syndicate and awareness of how the stallion's racing stock was progressing allowed Taylor Made to move promptly and secure the stallion before a bidding war broke out for him and escalated the price dramatically.

When the bidding becomes intense for a stallion, the price can rise to extraordinary heights, as seen with the syndication of classic winner Smarty Jones last year. Realizing this could have been the case, Taylor candidly admitted, "If we were trying to get Northern Afleet now, he would be enormous money."

Instead, Taylor Made was able to acquire equity in the stallion for reasonable sums that allowed the horse to stand for a stud fee of $12,500 this year.

Taylor said, "When he left Double Diamond, we bought out everyone" in the syndicate. WinStar, Taylor Made, Ron Waranch, and Greg Anderson are the remaining shareholders.

In the late summer of 2004, Northern Afleet took the van ride up to the big show in Lexington.

Taylor said: "When we moved him, we were confident we would be able to get a big book to him. We had confidence, but we've also been lucky. The results substantiated what we thought about the stallion. He's got enough horses that all look like they can race."

Byron Rogers, director of the Taylor Made stallion division, said: "Although some commentators say that one big horse is all that's necessary to make a stallion, we take the view that quality and quantity count. Not only does Northern Afleet need the Grade 1 winner like Afleet Alex, but he also needs the Grade 2 and Grade 3 horses behind them to allow breeders to see consistency."

Rogers noted that Northern Afleet had six stakes winners from his first crop, now age 5, "which gives him 16 percent stakes winners from foals. He getting these results from modest mares whose yearlings have gone to solid trainers who think they are competitive horses and easy to train."

In addition, the Northern Afleets are showing soundness and tractability on the track. From his first crop, the stallion has more than 80 percent starters from foals, which puts him in a league with some of the sturdiest sires in the breed, such as Crafty Prospector.

In addition to his classic winner and other good stakes winners, Northern Afleet has several promising young racers, such as Kelsey's Treasure, who earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 106 winning her debut at Delaware on May 22. The filly is owned by Cash Is King Stable and trained by Tim Ritchey, just like Afleet Alex.