04/01/2016 10:20AM

Simon: Dubai World Cup winners a mixed bag at stud

Mathea Kelley/Dubai Racing Club
California Chrome further solidified his stud credentials by winning the Dubai World Cup last Saturday.

“No one knows where a good stud comes from.”
– Leslie Combs II

California Chrome won the Dubai World Cup to prove he’s one of the best racehorses in the world. His North American record for earnings also attests to his class and place in history. Plus, he’s a Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner to boot, and he’s competed at the top of the racing world for the past three years. As a racehorse, he has it all. But what about his prospects as a stallion once he heads off to stud?

As definitive as his racing qualities are, his chances at stud can’t be so clearly predicted. First, breeding is a genetic crapshoot if ever there was one and a scientific problem that few have mastered. While all good racehorses in essence make their own pedigree, not all great racehorses make great sires. Racing ability does not neatly translate to the breeding shed.

California Chrome’s pedigree is unexceptional, he being a son of a little-known A.P. Indy grandson named Lucky Pulpit, out of an $8,000 claimer by Not for Love, and from a female family thin on black type. So, his success as a sire will depend on getting good mares and hoping that the dynamic A.P. Indy line emerges as dominant.

When it comes to racetrack performance, California Chrome ranks near the top historically, and since the Dubai World Cup is the world’s richest race, attracting many of the best in training, it might be informative to see how past winners have done at stud – to assess whether it can, perhaps, “make” a stallion. To that end, we’ll look at how North American-based Word Cup winners have done at stud to see if the past is prologue to the future.

As shown in the accompanying table, there have been 11 North American-based winners of the Dubai World Cup in 21 runnings. Of those 11, seven have sired foals of racing age, with mixed results to say the least.

Dubai World Cup winners in the breeding shed got off to an inauspicious start when inaugural victor Cigar proved infertile, triggering one of the largest equine insurance payoffs in history.

The next seven North American-based World Cup winners began their stud careers in the U.S., and only two can be considered truly successful.

Silver Charm, like California Chrome a dual classic winner and a very popular racehorse, became a moderate stallion. By Silver Buck, he started out at Three Chimneys in Midway, Ky., for a fee of $25,000 and stood there through 2004 before being sold and exported, standing thereafter at the Japan Bloodhorse Breeders’ Association Shizunai Stallion Station. In North America, his best runner was Grade 2 winner Preachinatthebar, but he got little of consequence in Japan. In 2014, Silver Charm was returned to America, where he is today a beloved tourist attraction at the Old Friends retirement facility in Georgetown, Ky.

Captain Steve, by Fly So Free, was shrewdly sold off immediately to Japanese interests when his racing career was over and became an utter flop, getting only two stakes winners from 279 foals while standing at JBBA.

Street Cry, raced by Sheikh Mohammed, became a top stallion, siring six champions and 107 stakes winners, including the great Zenyatta and Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense. He launched his breeding career at Darley in 2003 for a $30,000 fee and stood for $100,000 in his final year. The son of Machiavellian died too soon at age 16 in 2014.

Pleasantly Perfect, by Pleasant Colony, was hit and miss at stud, though mostly miss. He got the good racemare Shared Account, but after standing his first year for $40,000 at Lane’s End, he was down to $5,000 before being sold to stand in Turkey for the 2015 breeding season.

Roses in May, by Devil His Due, was also smartly sold off to Japan, and he, too, has proven a bust. Standing at Big Red Farm, he has sired just six stakes winners, with only one winning a group race.

The mystery is why Japanese interests, with their emphasis on turf racing, would think that sons of Devil His Due, Fly So Free, and Silver Buck could be successful there.

Invasor, by Candy Stripes, started out at his owner’s Shadwell Farm in 2008 for a fee of $35,000 and now stands for $4,000, the result of getting only five stakes winners, one graded stakes winner, and nothing even close to his own ability on the track.

Curlin, a son of Smart Strike, has emerged as a very good sire after a bit of a slow start. He began his stud career in 2009 at Lane’s End for $75,000, his fee falling to $25,000 by 2014 before his progeny got some traction on the track, and has quickly rebounded. Last year was his best, as he got his first champion, Stellar Wind, along with six other graded stakes winners. He now stands for $100,000 at Hill ‘n’ Dale near Lexington, Ky., and is a popular commercial sire.

Curlin could be a “role model” for California Chrome. He, too, had been North America’s earnings leader when retired from racing in 2009, and he rose from a humble background (his bottom line had little to suggest success at stud) to make his own pedigree in the breeding shed.

Winning the Dubai World Cup does not guarantee breeding success; no single race does. But having it on an otherwise-solid résumé opens doors of opportunity, allowing the winner a shot at reproducing himself in the breeding shed … or not.