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Sparkman: Bernardini living up to the hype
No horse has been more heavily promoted after first-crop success in recent years than Bernardini. And if reality has not yet quite lived up to the hype, Bernardini repeatedly has proven that he is capable of siring high-class runners and producing exceptionally handsome sales horses who bring very good prices.
Recent Grade 1 Chandelier Stakes winner Angela Renee and her closest relations brilliantly illustrate both qualities. The 2-year-old filly is a full sister to one of Bernardini’s very best runners, To Honor and Serve, who sold for $575,000 as a yearling. She also is a full sister to a current yearling who sold for $750,000 at the Keeneland September yearling sale.
All three of those horses are sired by Bernardini out of Pilfer, by Deputy Minister, a mare purchased by Angela Renee’s owners and breeders – Anthony Manganaro, Ignacio Patino, and David Pope’s Siena Farm – for $650,000, in foal to Hard Spun, through agent Mike Ryan at the 2008 Keeneland November breeding stock sale. Siena Farm sold Pilfer for $1,950,000, in foal to Bernardini, at the 2012 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky November sale to Borges Torrealba Holdings, the breeder of her current yearling.
Bernardini has been exceptionally good to Kentucky commercial breeders right from the beginning of his stud career. Worldwide, his 400 yearlings sold through last Tuesday have brought a total of more than $82 million, with an average of $206,053, and there have been seven-figure yearlings and good runners in every crop.
Bred in Kentucky by Sheikh Mohammed al-Maktoum’s Darley, Bernardini, by the great racehorse and sire A.P. Indy, was the fifth foal out of Cara Rafaela, by Quiet American, a Grade 1-winning mare whom Darley acquired privately after her stellar racing career. A $70,000 Keeneland September purchase in 1994 by Albatroz Bloodstock on behalf of Goncalo Borges Torrealba who subsequently was trained by D. Wayne Lukas, Cara Rafaela was one of the best juvenile fillies of 1995, winning the Grade 1 Hollywood Starlet and Grade 2 Alcibiades and finishing second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies to My Flag, with eventual juvenile fillies champion Golden Attraction third.
Bernardini, trained by Tom Albertrani, did not race at 2 but made his debut Jan. 7, 2006, in a six-furlong maiden race at Gulfstream Park, finishing fourth to Exclusive Quality. Bernardini did not lose again until his final start 10 months later and looked like a superstar for most of that period. He won his second start at a mile at Gulfstream by 7 3/4 lengths, then shipped to New York for the Grade 3 Withers Stakes and again won easily by 3 3/4 lengths.
Bernardini really had not been tested in those two easy wins, but that seemed certain to change when he was entered for the Preakness Stakes. The undefeated Barbaro had won the Kentucky Derby in dominating fashion and, favored at 1-2, seemed certain to extend his winning streak at Pimlico. That dream ended a few strides out of the gate, of course, when Barbaro broke down, and there was nothing else in the field that had the slightest chance against Bernardini, who won by
5 1/4 lengths.
Bernardini quickly had come a long way in terms of class, and Albertrani and Darley wisely decided to pass on the Belmont Stakes and allow the handsome colt to recover. He resurfaced more than two months later in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy at Saratoga and romped to victory by nine lengths over a sloppy track. The Travers Stakes a month later was no more difficult, as Bernardini led almost all the way to win by 7 1/2 lengths over Bluegrass Cat. Victory over a substandard field in the Jockey Club Gold Cup was a foregone conclusion after that, and Bernardini romped again, beating Wanderin Boy by 6 3/4 lengths.
That series of victories made Bernardini an 11-10 favorite for the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs, but in retrospect, the only certifiably high-class horse he had beaten was Bluegrass Cat. Perhaps jockey Javier Castellano had bought into the hype because he appeared to ride an overconfident race, pushing Bernardini to the lead too soon on the final turn. Bernardini had nothing left in the final furlong to resist Invasor’s closing thrust, and he finished second, beaten a length.
Bernardini was perfectly sound, but with Sheikh Mohammed trying to build a top-class stallion roster for Darley at Jonabell Farm in Kentucky, the A.P. Indy colt was retired to stud in 2007 at an initial fee of $100,000 instead of racing as a 4-year-old. He sired the Grade 1 winner A Z Warrior (out of Carson Jen, by Carson City), the Italian Group 1 winner Biondetti (Lyphard’s Delta, by Lyphard), the dual Grade 2 winner To Honor and Serve, and the English Group 3 winner Theyskens’ Theory (Heat Lightning, by Summer Squall) when his first crop began racing as 2-year-olds in 2010.
The simple fact that Bernardini had sired top-level winners on both dirt and turf and on both sides of the Atlantic was seen by the breeding industry as particularly significant. His sire, A.P. Indy, was perceived, rightly or wrongly, as strictly a dirt sire, and both American and European buyers and breeders had been looking for a more versatile sire capable of siring top-level winners on all surfaces. Bernardini seemed to fit the bill, and his stud fee soared to $150,000 in 2012 and 2013.
Angela Renee’s full brother, To Honor and Serve, duly progressed to become a Grade 1 winner, capturing the 2011 Cigar Mile and the 2012 Woodward Stakes, and retired to Gainesway for the 2013 breeding season. In addition, Stay Thirsty (Marozia, by Storm Bird), who had run second in the Grade 1 Hopeful at 2, emerged as one of the best 3-year-olds of 2011, winning the Grade 1 Travers and running second in the Belmont. Stay Thirsty added his own edition of the Cigar Mile in 2012 and now is standing at Ashford Stud.
Bernardini sired a second Travers winner in his second crop, when Darley’s Alpha (Munnaya, by Nijinsky II) finished in a dead heat with Golden Ticket in 2012; he would win the 2013 Woodward.
Perhaps it is mostly a function of the slump that many young stallions go through when breeders move on to the next big thing that Angela Renee, from Bernardini’s fifth Northern Hemisphere crop, is his first American Grade 1 winner since Alpha in his second crop. Bernardini also has shuttled to Australia each year since his retirement, and he has sired the New Zealand champion 2-year-old Ruud Awakening (Dawn Almighty, by Danehill) and the Group 1 winners Boban (Kenbelle, by Kenmare) and Go Indy Go (Elegant Eagle, by Zabeel) in the Antipodes.
Bernardini’s nine Group 1/Grade 1 winners follow no obvious pattern in terms of pedigree, and none of them is particularly inbred. Deputy Minister, the sire of Angela Renee’s and To Honor and Serve’s dam, Pilfer, is the only repeated broodmare sire, and it is to be expected, given the genetic composition of the international Thoroughbred, that six of the nine broodmare sires are tail-male descendants of Northern Dancer.
Pilfer was bred in Kentucky by Jane and Frank Lyon’s Summer Wind Farm and sold for $220,000 to Rick Porter’s Fox Hill Farm at the 2002 Keeneland September yearling sale. Summer Wind acquired Pilfer’s dam, Misty Hour, privately after her 2-year-old season, when she won the Glorious Song Stakes for Sam-Son Farm, which had purchased Misty Hour for $150,000 at the 1996 Keeneland September sale.
By Miswaki out of Our Tina Marie, by Nijinsky II, Misty Hour was a great-granddaughter of Darby Dan Farm’s great foundation mare Golden Trail, ancestress of the champions Sunshine Forever and Ryafan, the Kentucky Derby winner Monarchos, the reigning Travers winner V. E. Day, and the top sires Dynaformer and Brian’s Time, among many others. A half-sister to the stakes winners Too Cool to Fool, by Foolish Pleasure, and Merit Wings, by Silver Hawk, Misty Hour subsequently has produced the very fast multiple graded stakes winner India, by Hennessy, and her stakes-winning full sister, Sing Softly. Misty Hour’s graded stakes-placed half-sister, Roberto’s Hope, by Roberto, is the granddam of the Canadian champion Rahy’s Attorney, by Crown Attorney.
Pilfer won the first of her two starts at 2 for Fox Hill, then captured a mile allowance at Oaklawn in her second start at 3 before running second in an overnight stakes at Oaklawn. Shipped to Delaware Park, she won the Go for Wand as a prep for the Grade 2 Delaware Oaks but made no impact in the big event, finishing fifth behind Yearly Report. Pilfer ran four more times at 3 and 4 but never got closer than sixth, to champion Ashado in the Grade 2 Cotillion.
Twin Creeks Farm, Larry Byer, and Rancho San Miguel acquired Pilfer privately after her racing career and bred her first two foals. Dream Steeler, a gelding by Unbridled’s Song, was unplaced in his only two starts at 4. To Honor and Serve, her second foal, was listed as sold to agent Sommer Smith for $250,000 as a weanling at the 2008 Keeneland November sale and again at the 2009 Keeneland September sale for $575,000 to Charlotte Weber’s Live Oak Plantation, in whose colors he won 8 of 17 starts and earned $1,798,840.
Siena Farm bought Pilfer for $650,000 at Keeneland November in 2008, but the Hard Spun colt she was carrying at purchase, Common Bond, went unsold at a hammer price of $200,000 at Keeneland September in 2010. He failed to win in six starts. Pilfer’s fourth foal, Elnaawi, by Street Sense, sold for $500,000 as a yearling to Shadwell Estate Co. and placed in the Grade 3 Gotham Stakes last year.
Angela Renee is Pilfer’s fifth foal. In addition to the $750,000 Bernardini yearling, she has a 2014 filly by Bernardini. She was bred to Tapit for 2015 but was barren.
Angela Renee and To Honor and Serve are inbred 5x4x5 to Northern Dancer, 5x4 to Mr. Prospector, and 5x5 to Buckpasser, all very common inbreeding targets in the contemporary Thoroughbred.
Whether Angela Renee’s Grade 1 victory signals a resurgence in Bernardini’s fortunes, only time will tell. Another member of his current 2-year-old crop, Stonestreet Stables’ Cavorting, handily won her first two starts in New York over the summer, including the Grade 2 Adirondack, and was entered in Saturday’s Grade 1 Frizette at Belmont. Barbara Banke’s Stonestreet purchased Cavorting for $360,000 as a weanling at the 2012 Keeneland November sale. The bay filly has flashed auspicious talent in her early races, befitting her pedigree as a daughter of the Grade 2 winner and $675,000 earner Promenade Girl, by Carson City, from a family that includes Grade 1 winners Another Review and No Review.
To date, Bernardini has sired 35 stakes winners from 726 foals ages 3 and up – 4.8 percent – which is not as high a percentage as one would like to see in a stallion who has received such an outstanding opportunity. Still, it is clear that Bernardini is quite capable of siring high-class racehorses, as indeed he should be. And whatever his limitations, he has been a tremendous moneymaker for the commercial breeding industry.
Bernardini has most certainly not lived up to the hype. I can't believe I came across this article when I was doing some research. His progeny are overbet and most of them are not turf runners. There will always be exceptions, but in Bernardini's case, he is a monumental disappoint.
I think that he should have had more success considering the mares he has been bred to. I would imagine his stud fee should be lower next year.