05/02/2016 3:46PM

Sires of the 2016 Kentucky Derby: Eskendereya

Lee Thomas

On an anecdotal basis, few things seem to get a stallion’s foals hot like sending him overseas.

Such is the case with Eskendereya, who will be represented by his first Kentucky Derby starter in Mor Spirit about eight months after being sold to the Japan Bloodhorse Breeders’ Association and exported to that country to continue his stud career.

:: Sires of the 2016 Kentucky Derby | Download the Derby Sire Guide

The 9-year-old son of Giant’s Causeway previously stood at Taylor Made Stallions in Nicholasville, Ky., where he debuted in the breeding shed in 2011. He was advertised in 2015 for $17,500.

Eskendereya now resides at the JBBA’s Shizunai Stallion Station on Hokkaido Island in Japan, where he stands beside fellow U.S. expats Aldebaran, Boston Harbor, Came Home, Cape Blanco, Charismatic, and Johannesburg.

If Mor Spirit is successful in his Kentucky Derby bid, he would put Eskendereya ahead of the curve in a recent run of Kentucky Derby stallions being sent overseas, or otherwise unable to capitalize on their résumé-defining achievement domestically.

Two of the last 10 sires of Kentucky Derby winners have been relocated internationally in the wake of sons winning the classic race: Leroidesanimaux, the sire of 2011 Derby winner Animal Kingdom, and Flower Alley, sire of 2012 winner I’ll Have Another. Boundary, sire of 2008 winner Big Brown, had already been pensioned and later died in 2012, while Maria’s Mon was dead for nearly three years when his son Super Saver crossed the wire first in the 2010 Derby.

Of the surviving members from that group, Leroidesanimaux last stood domestically at HallMarc Stallions in Florida in 2013, where he commanded a fee of $25,000, before being relocated to Lanwades Stud in Newmarket, England. His first British-bred foals are yearlings of 2016, and he stands for about $19,974 (14,000 British pounds).

Flower Alley stood his last season at Three Chimneys Farm in 2014 for $7,500, then moved to Wilgerbosdrift Stud in Piketberg, South Africa, where he is advertised at about $5,515 (80,000 South African Rand).

Eskendereya stood four seasons in the United States and has 259 foals of racing age over three crops. He was previously owned by Stonestreet Stables, which purchased a majority interest in the horse from Zayat Stables in the midst of that stable’s bankruptcy reorganization.

Mor Spirit, out of the Dixie Union mare Im a Dixie Girl, is near the head of the class, having won the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Futurity last year and following up with a win in the Grade 3 Robert B. Lewis Stakes. He also was runner-up in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby and Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes in 2016.

Other notable runners by Eskendereya include Grade 2/Group 2 winners Isabella Sings and Pure Lemon, Grade 1-/Group 1-placed stakes winners Right There and Impetuosa, and stakes winner Sombree. His first crop featured a Kentucky Oaks starter in Eskenformoney, a multiple Grade 2-placed runner.

On the track, Eskendereya’s story was one of brilliance cut frustratingly short.

He was the probable favorite heading into the 2010 Kentucky Derby following a 9 3/4-length thumping of the Grade 1 Wood Memorial field, which was preceded an 8 1/2-length win in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth. However, a left front leg injury took him out of classic contention in late April of that year and ultimately led to his retirement.

Owned during his racing career by Zayat Stables and trained by Todd Pletcher, Eskendereya retired with four wins in six starts for earnings of $725,700. One of those wins came in the listed Pilgrim Stakes over the turf at Belmont Park, giving him a multi-faceted résumé at stud.

Bred in Kentucky by Sanford Robertson, Eskendereya was a $250,000 purchase by Zayat Stables out of the 2008 Keeneland September yearling sale. He is out of the winning Seattle Slew mare Aldebaran Light and is a half-brother to English Group 1 winner Balmont. His extended family is highlighted by Grade 2 winner Blazonry.

The best-case scenario for fans of Eskendereya who wish to see the stallion return Stateside is for him to emulate the career of Empire Maker, himself a former resident of Shizunai Stallion Station whose runners caught fire after Juddmonte Farms sold the horse prior to the 2011 breeding season.

In the five years that Empire Maker stood in Japan, his runners earned a combined 13 North American Grade 1 wins, with runner-up finishes in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness by Bodemeister. He was purchased by Gainesway and Don Alberto Corp. in late 2015 and made his return to the domestic breeding shed this year at Gainesway in Lexington, Ky.

Eskendereya has a long way to go to match that résumé, but a strong performance by Mor Spirit during the Triple Crown season would further his case for anyone looking to book a return trip.