02/14/2014 1:45PM

Roman Ruler: Leading juvenile sire by winners

Barbara D. Livingston
Roman Ruler stands at Hill 'n' Dale Farm near Lexington, Ky.

Leading Kentucky juvenile sire by winners

Hill ‘n’ Dale Farms stallion Roman Ruler enjoyed his best year at stud since 2011 last season, when he led all Kentucky sires of juveniles with 29 winners, highlighted by a Grade 1-winning filly. The 12-year-old Fusaichi Pegasus ridgling got off to an auspicious start in the breeding shed five years ago, when he finished second on the freshman sire list in 2009. Two years after that, he became a classic sire when his son Ruler On Ice upset the 2011 Belmont Stakes. After a couple of quiet years, he was back in the headlines in fall 2013.

Roman Ruler’s 29 winners edged Harlan’s Holiday, who died last year while standing in Argentina during the Southern Hemisphere breeding season, on the Kentucky juvenile winners list. The juvenile group for Roman Ruler spanned the North American continent, featuring stakes performers from Delaware Park to Assiniboia Downs. His best runner by far was Grade 1 Frizette Stakes winner Artemis Agrotera, a homebred Chester and Mary Broman filly trained by Mike Hushion who is out of Grade 2-placed Indy Glory, an A.P. Indy mare who is a full sister to Grade 1 winner and sire Stephen Got Even. Artemis Agrotera won two of three starts in 2013, stepping up to take the one-mile Frizette over Sweet Reason by 1 1/4 lengths at Belmont after winning her maiden by 11 3/4 lengths at Saratoga. 

Three other winning Roman Ruler juveniles from 2013 have already earned black type in the first six weeks of the new year. General a Rod, a J. Armando Rodriguez-owned colt who won his maiden at Keeneland last fall and then finished second to highly regarded Conquest Titan, returned to take the one-mile Gulfstream Park Derby on New Year’s Day. Roman Unbridled, a maiden winner at Delta Downs in October, annexed the seven-furlong Big Drama Stakes at the Vinton, La., track on Jan. 4 before finishing fourth in the Grade 3 Lecomte Stakes at Fair Grounds on Jan. 18. Nesso, stakes-placed twice as a juvenile, won the seven-furlong Gasparilla Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs on Jan. 4 and then finished second there in the Suncoast Stakes at one mile and 40 yards.

Roman Ruler, who stands for $8,500 in 2014 at John G. Sikura’s Hill ‘n’ Dale, has become a solid option as a value sire, albeit one that does not draw the same amount of interest from breeders as he did during his first seasons – a typical occurrence in the modern commercial stallion market. He retired to Hill ‘n’ Dale in fall 2005 after concluding a racing career that alternated moments of brilliance with several nagging injuries. Bred in Kentucky by Needham-Betz Thoroughbreds, Liberation Farm, and Ashford Stud, Roman Ruler sold for $500,000 as a Keeneland September yearling to David Shimmon’s and William Bianco’s Fog City Stable. He won his maiden first out in June 2004 at Hollywood Park for trainer Bob Baffert, and then graduated with aplomb to stakes company, taking the Grade 2 Best Pal at Del Mar. Roman Ruler finished a close second to eventual champion juvenile male Declan’s Moon in the Grade 2 Del Mar Futurity, before winning the Grade 2 Norfolk Stakes by 4 1/2 lengths at Santa Anita.

Roman Ruler missed the Triple Crown series in 2005 due to a quarter crack problem, making only one start that spring, but returned at his very best over the summer to win the Grade 2 Dwyer Stakes and the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational. He made two more starts after the Haskell, finishing third in the Travers Stakes and retiring after falling a length short to Rock Hard Ten in the Grade 2 Goodwood Breeders’ Cup Handicap in his first start against older horses.

Roman Ruler proved to be one of the most versatile racehorses of his generation, winning at distances ranging from five furlongs to 1 1/8 miles, and his progeny have displayed some of that aptitude, although arguably he has had more success with route horses. Millionaire Rule, who along with Grade 1 Champagne Stakes winner Homeboykris helped to vault Roman Ruler to second on the freshman sire list in 2009, maxed out at 1 1/8 miles, while Ruler On Ice, apart from his Belmont win in 2011, also ran creditably when placing in that year’s Pennsylvania Derby and Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Roman Ruler’s North American book has declined since the 2010 breeding season, but the stallion continues to be in demand as a shuttle sire to Haras Vacacion in Argentina.