07/31/2008 11:00PM

Right genes no guarantee of success

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The jury is still out, and probably will always remain so. The debate is whether half-brothers and full brothers to successful sires are themselves more likely to be successful in the stud than stallions who are unrelated to successful sires. Bold Ruler had two full brothers that failed. Mr. Prospector had two siblings who, when given the opportunities, were not successful sires.

Selene, Lord Derby’s brilliant producer, gave the breed Sickle, the male line ancestor of Mr. Prospector. She also gave the breed such successful sires as Hyperion and Pharamond II. In these times the full brothers Giant’s Causeway (who stands in Kentucky), Freud (New York), and Roar of the Tiger (Florida) have or are in the process of making their marks.

Ed Martin of Ocala’s Martin Stables South made a significant investment in the stallion prospect Spanish Steps. He gambled on the full brother to the champion and successful sire Unbridled’s Song having the same innate sire power as his older sibling. Spanish Steps, however, came with different credentials than his brother. He is unraced, and the roster of unraced stallions who became successful sires is short. For what it’s worth, Spanish Steps is a dark bay, whereas as his brother Unbridled’s Song is a gray or roan horse.

Martin has his roots in Indiana. He first visited Florida almost two decades ago, did some business, and returned to Indiana. He subsequently relocated to Florida several years ago, buying Buzz Burke’s Valley View Farm; later he bought Marablue Farm from Doug Henderson, renaming it Martin Stables South.

Martin had served with Tim Sams on the Indiana Racing Commission. Sams is the former owner of Ocala’s Waldemar Farm, where the former leading state sire What a Pleasure stood.

“[Sams] told me that a successful stallion is the key to a commercial farm making money,” Martin said.

Spanish Steps, by virtue of his looks and his genes, was well supported the first three years in stud, having been bred to 258 mares. Martin ensured his stallion would get quality and quantity in his initial books by going to the sales and buying a herd of mares to breed to him.

Charisma is a trait that can come from myriad sources. In the case of Spanish Steps it was the impression he made on breeders. This charisma soon developed a strong market for him and his get. Spanish Steps’s initial $5,000 fee doubled before any of his get were old enough to race.

In 2007, yearlings by Spanish Steps represented that early $5,000 fee. Twenty-nine of them sold for an average of $44,197. This year his first crop of 2-year-olds, 10 in all, averaged $89,000.

The wait for a stallion to have a winner – and thus become classified as a sire – can be a frustrating one. The task is made even more difficult if that stallion is passing on stamina rather than precocity to his get. Unbridled’s Song’s ability to pass on both speed and stamina to his get marks him as a top-class sire. Spanish Steps has the same genes but just might not have the same genetic pattern. And so it was that Spanish Steps had to wait while seven from his first crop went to the races. But none won.

“I thought and hoped Spanish Steps would become a solid two-turn sire, and from what I have seen and heard, it looks like this is going to be the case,” said Martin.

Spanish Ice, a 2-year-old filly half-sister to the stakes winner Dakota Diamond, went postward last week at Del Mar. The filly trailed early in the 5 1/2-furlong maiden race, closing from seventh to get the win. Spanish Ice thus became Spanish Steps’s first winner, and with it his bona fides went from stallion to sire.

Florida connections at Saratoga sale

The annual Saratoga yearling sales get under way Monday. There are 21 registered Florida-breds cataloged for the two-session sale, but none of these are by sires who currently stand in Florida. As a matter of fact only Macho Uno, who moved from Adena Spring South to the main Adena establishment in Kentucky for the ’08 breeding season, has any Florida stallion credentials.

There are three yearlings, however, whose generational roots go deep in the Sunshine State. Hip No. 24, a bay colt by A. P. Indy, is from the family of champion Desert Vixen and her son Valid Appeal. It is a family that was developed by Harry T. Mangurian Jr. at his Mockingbird Farm.

Hip No. 51, a colt by El Corredor, traces to breeding developed by the late Fred W. Hooper; it is the family of champion Susan’s Girl and her son Copelan. Hip No. 152, a filly by Macho Uno, also has roots to Hooper bloodstock. She traces to the stakes-winning fillies Roman Goddess, the family of Goddess Special, and to the former Hooper sire If This Be So.