12/17/2012 1:41PM

Pure Prize back in headlines with strong fall at sales, track

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Pure Prize began his stud career at Vinery in 2003 with a superlative pedigree as his primary asset in the highly competitive central Kentucky bloodstock market. In subsequent years, despite never receiving consistent support from commercial breeders and shuttling to the Southern Hemisphere on an annual basis, this son of Storm Cat established a reputation as a reliable sire capable of producing sound and versatile runners with the occasional home run mixed in.

This autumn brought renewed attention to Pure Prize's accomplishments, as his best-ever racehorse, dual Grade 1 winner Pure Clan, brought the highest price at the Keeneland November breeding stock sale, $4.5 million, being purchased by the new partnership of Three Chimneys Farm and Goncalo Torrealba while in foal to Bernardini. Three weeks later, Pure Prize's juvenile filly Pure Fun completed a sudden ascension into the Grade 1 ranks by sweeping past seven foes in the stretch to win the Hollywood Starlet going away.

Out of champion Heavenly Prize, by Seeking the Gold, Pure Prize is a full brother to Grade 1 winner and sire Good Reward and comes from a female family populated by Grade 1 winners. As a racehorse, Pure Prize accumulated a respectable record -compiling 5 wins, 5 seconds, and 2 thirds in 17 starts, with all wins coming at a mile or longer  - while earning $475,459. He never competed in a Grade 1 race and closed out his career with his only stakes win, in the Grade 2 Kentucky Cup Classic at Turfway Park in 2002.

"We bought him off of pedigree - we felt like there was a huge opportunity there," Vinery's president, Tom Lust said, reflecting on the bloodstock team's decision a decade ago. Pure Prize was one of the first stallions added to Vinery's roster after Tom Simon purchased the farm, and from the outset his syndicate arrangement required the stallion to shuttle to Haras La Providencia in Argentina. His best progeny there include dual champion Olagua and dual Group 1 winners Jumbalaya and Fuego e Hierro.

"Nowadays, it's just so hard to get commercial books for three or four years to give a horse a chance, and we were fortunate enough with him," Ludt said. "A Grade 2 winner coming to central Kentucky, it might be a little bit of a challenge to get a decent amount of [mares]. . .  that's the game we live in."

Despite establishing only a modest presence in the demanding commercial market, Pure Prize - appreciatively termed a "hard-knocker" by Ludt - produced more than his share of quality racehorses (6 percent stakes winners from 441 foals age 3 and up). His fee has remained fairly consistent through the industry's shifting fortunes over the past decade, rising slightly as Pure Clan captured six graded stakes, but settling back to the initial $7,500 heading into 2013.

"You know, we're going through some interesting changes right now, when you look at the breeding business over the last four or five years," Ludt said. "People who've bred to sell, and strictly to sell, and have no interest in racing, [Pure Prize] is a horse you overlook, because he doesn't have the yearling average that is off the charts. Now [in 2012], you look at our business, more and more people are thinking to breed to race - and some they sell, for the safer bet - and Pure Prize is a great value."

Pure Fun is evidence of that value. Out of the winning Key to the Mint mare Chelsea Green, the chestnut filly was purchased by trainer Ken McPeek at the 2011 Keeneland September sale for $22,000. Pure Fun won only one of her first six starts over the summer but came alive when switched back to dirt by McPeek in a one-mile allowance race at Churchill Downs on Nov. 24, romping by 9 1/4 lengths.

McPeek then paid $20,000 to supplement Pure Fun to the Hollywood Starlet on Dec. 8, shipped her to the West Coast, and was rewarded with a Grade 1 victory. Tentative plans are to stable to Pure Fun at Oaklawn Park over the winter and to target her toward the Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs in May.

"We should have paid attention a little bit more to how much they loved [Pure Fun]," Ludt joked. "Back to back, we went from Keeneland November to [winning] a huge race - that's just wonderful."