01/14/2008 1:00AM

Smart Strike starts '08 in championship form


Fair Grounds

Led by Curlin and English Channel (who will undoubtedly be named champions at the upcoming Eclipse Awards), Smart Strike was last year's leading sire and he is off to a good start in 2008. On Jan. 4, Bluehard, a 3-year-old colt by Smart Strike out of the Maria's Mon mare Kenzie Girl, won a six-furlong maiden race by 11 1/2 lengths after running second in his previous race on Dec. 13. Kenzie Girl is a half-sister to multiple stakes winner Nat's Big Party, and is from the Black Helen branch of the influential La Troienne female family. On Jan. 6, Smart Strike had another winner when Peteadoris, a 3-year-old colt out of the Saratoga Six mare Marie's Pride, won an allowance at about 1 1/16 miles. Peteadoris's third dam, Amalesian (Ambiorix), was a good producer and was a half-sister to Hollywood Gold Cup winner Princessnesian and Santa Anita Derby winner Boldnesian (Seattle Slew's paternal grandsire).

* Vindication was one of last year's top freshman sires, with runners such as Adirondack Stakes winner More Happy and stakes-placed runners Maimonides, Dawn Raid, and Galiano. On Jan. 1, Stungbythestorm, a 3-year-old by Vindication out of the Thunder Gulch mare Instinct, won a 1 1/16-mile maiden race showing the customary speed that Vindication's offspring have been blessed with.


Flashy Bull (by Holy Bull) was second in the Remsen Stakes at 2, second in the Fountain of Youth Stakes at 3, and won the Stephen Foster Handicap at age 4. On Jan. 3, Flashy Bull's 4-year-old half-brother Pink Viper won the Brushing Up Stakes, an overnight stakes for 4-year-olds, at 10-1. By Smoke Glacken, Pink Viper is out of the Mt. Livermore mare Iridescence, and this female family produced stakes winners A Status Symbol, Queen Louie, Brilliant Sandy, Gentleman Conn, and Herecomesthebride.

* Pure Prize is among some very underrated young stallions who have shown high promise with their first few crops. A son of Storm Cat, Pure Prize is out of champion Heavenly Prize, and is a full brother to Good Reward, a versatile stakes winner who won the Hollywood Derby on turf and who finished second in the Pacific Classic on dirt. Pure Prize won the Kentucky Cup Classic Handicap, and despite his imposing pedigree, he was not bred to the highest quality of mares. But that hasn't stopped Pure Prize from siring stakes winners such as undefeated Pure Clan, Birdbirdistheword, Western Prize, and Nice Inheritance. On Jan. 6, Karakorum Katie, a 3-year-old filly by Pure Prize out of the In Reality mare La Finale, won a 5 1/2-furlong maiden race. Karakorum Katie is a half-sister to stakes winner Ninth Inning, and this King Ranch female family produced 1946 Triple Crown winner Assault.

Golden Gate

Ron Crockett, president of Emerald Downs, has another nice colt. On Jan. 6, Davos, a 3-year-old half-brother to Crockett's multiple stakes winner Harvard Avenue, won his career debut at 17-1. By Langfuhr, an exceptional stallion whose offspring continually get overlooked, he is out of the Saratoga Six mare Carrie Can, and his second dam is a half-sister to Big Dreams, the dam of champion sprinter Housebuster.


On Calder's final day, Song Shan, a 4-year-old half-brother to Breeders' Cup Classic winner and top stallion Awesome Again as well as 2-year-old champion Macho Uno, scored an easy 5 1/2-length victory as the 6-5 favorite in a seven-furlong maiden race. Song Shan is by speed influence Golden Missile and is out of 2000 Broodmare of the Year Primal Force (Blushing Groom).

* Last year, I made the case that Proud Citizen was going to be among the year's best first-crop sires, and he finished third on that list by progeny earnings. His juveniles showed the requisite speed needed to be good 2-year-olds, led by Matron Stakes winner Proud Spell. On Jan. 4 at Gulfstream Park, Close to the Vest, a 3-year-old colt from Proud Citizen's first crop, drew off to a 5 3/4-length victory. Close to the Vest, at 39-1, returned $80.20. He had finished eighth in an Aqueduct maiden race on Nov. 22.

* Over a sealed, sloppy surface on Jan. 5, Legacy Thief sped to a 4 1/4-length victory over six other 3-year-olds to win a six-furlong maiden race as the 5-2 favorite. By Cat Thief (Storm Cat), Legacy Thief is out of the Broad Brush mare Broad Legacy, a half-sister to multiple stakes winner Catinca (Storm Cat). Legacy Thief's fourth dam is Silver Spoon, who defeated males winning the 1959 Santa Anita Derby.

Santa Anita

Repent, the best runner by Preakness Stakes winner Louis Quatorze, may turn out to be a better stallion than his sire. His first crop last year included stakes winners Check It Twice and Atoned, and on Jan. 1, Crown of Thorns, a 3-year-old colt from his first crop, scored an impressive seven-length victory in a seven-furlong maiden race for Richard Mandella at 8-1. Crown of Thorns is out of the Thunder Gulch mare Crowning Touch, a half-sister to champion sprinter Smoke Glacken (Two Punch) and stakes-winning sprinter Smokey Glacken (Forestry).