12/04/2014 4:23PM

Sparkman: Flatter vindicates Claiborne's faith

Chelsea Durand/New York Racing Association
Classic Point won the Grade 3 Go for Wand Stakes last weekend.

Like everything else in the world of Thoroughbred breeding, the records of full brothers as stallions are extremely variable. For every highly successful pair like Graustark and His Majesty, there are multiple sets of highly contrasting results like Mr. Prospector and Red Ryder or Northern Dancer and Transalantic. As a general rule, though, if two full brothers were high-class racehorses and one is a good sire, it is much more likely that the other also will be than if one brother failed as a racehorse as Red Ryder and Transalantic.

In cases in which one brother is lightly raced because of injury, however, it can be more difficult to predict whether the less-accomplished brother also might succeed as a stallion. Sadler’s Wells’s full brother, Fairy King, raced only once, but while he was no Sadler’s Wells, he sired 75 stakes winners, including three champions, and led the French sire list in 1996.

Claiborne Farm faced a slightly different dilemma in 2003, when Claiborne and Adele Dilschneider’s 4-year-old colt, Flatter, was retired several months after finishing third in the Grade 2 Washington Park Handicap. Flatter had won four of his five previous starts – and his 3-year-old full brother, Congrats, also had shown promise, placing in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy – but a single graded stakes placing is not a sufficient credential to attract many high-quality mares in Kentucky in the 21st century.

Claiborne believed in Flatter’s ability as a racehorse, though, and that faith has paid off at stud. Last weekend’s Grade 3 Go for Wand Stakes winner, Classic Point, is Flatter’s 33rd stakes winner and ninth graded winner from 460 foals age 3 and up, giving him somewhat better percentages than his more celebrated full brother, Congrats.

As it usually does, Claiborne had an exceptional pedigree to sell to breeders, in addition to Flatter’s good looks and iffy race record. By Horse of the Year and great sire A.P. Indy, he was the first foal out of Praise, a winning half-sister to the Grade 1 winner and decent sire Eastern Echo, by Damascus, the Grade 2 winner and moderate sire Roar, by Forty Niner, the Grade 2 winner Yell, by A.P. Indy, and the Grade 3 winner Blare of Trumpets, by Fit to Fight.
Claiborne Farm President Seth Hancock had signed the ticket for Flatter’s second dam, the Grade 2 Diana Handicap winner Wild Applause, by Northern Dancer, for $1,025,000 as part of the dispersal of Paul Mellon’s Rokeby Stables at the 1992 Keeneland November breeding stock sale, carrying Roar. Wild Applause’s seven-figure price in a depressed bloodstock market was a reflection of both her race record and the fact that she was a member of what was at the time the hottest branch of the best family in the American Stud Book.

Wild Applause’s dam, the multiple Grade 2 winner Glowing Tribute, by Graustark, already had produced five stakes winners. Her 1992 2-year-old, Sea Hero, by Polish Navy, had won the Grade 1 Champagne Stakes prior to the Keeneland sale; he would go on the following year to capture the Kentucky Derby and make Glowing Tribute Broodmare of the Year. Glowing Tribute’s stakes-winning dam, Admiring, by Hail to Reason, was a full sister to Futurity Stakes winner Priceless Gem, dam of the great Allez France, by Sea-Bird; and a half-sister to the champion Affectionately, by Swaps, dam of the champion Personality, out of La Troienne’s foundation mare granddaughter Searching, by War Admiral.

Flatter did not make his debut for trainer Steve Penrod until June of his 3-year-old season, when he ran very greenly early but rallied late to finish fourth in a 6 1/2-furlong maiden race at Churchill Downs. Flatter showed the benefit of that experience three weeks later in a mile maiden race at the same track, breaking much more alertly and leading throughout to win by 2 3/4 lengths in 1:36.43.

He ran even more impressively a month later at Arlington Park, setting a moderate pace before drawing away in the stretch to win a 1 1/8-mile allowance by 11 1/2 lengths, though the time of 1:50.04 was slow. Flatter seemed ready for a stakes attempt but instead ran next in a mile allowance at Turfway Park in September, winning by only a length over moderate opposition.

Flatter did not race again until the following June, when he resurfaced in a 7 1/2-furlong optional claiming race at Churchill, winning easily by 5 1/4 lengths. Flatter then faced a small but salty field in the Grade 2 Washington Park Handicap at Arlington. The race included the 4-year-old gelding Perfect Drift, a multiple graded stakes winner who had finished third in the Kentucky Derby; graded stakes winners Iron Deputy and Phantom Light; and Grade 2-placed Aeneas.

In that context, Flatter ran well enough. He stumbled out of the gate but pressed the pace of Iron Deputy. He held on well when Perfect Drift inevitably surged to the front to win, and Flatter finished third behind the late-rallying Aeneas.

That was it, however, for Flatter as a racehorse. What Claiborne had to sell when breeders came to inspect the son of A.P. Indy was his wonderful pedigree, a brief but promising race record, and a very well-made, handsome individual, perhaps a shade flat through his knees like many A.P. Indys and displaying the slightly boxy front foot that great sire frequently passed on.

Even Claiborne’s considerable prestige and almost century-long record as the home of great stallions, however, could not attract a book filled with stakes-winning or stakes-producing mares. Dams of the 81 foals in Flatter’s first crop (foals of 2005) had a comparable earnings index (the earnings index of their foals by other sires) of only 1.18, but Flatter improved that record. That first crop’s average earnings index was 1.31, headed by seven stakes winners, including the multiple Grade 2 winner Tar Heel Mom (out of Perpetual Light, by Sunny’s Halo).

Flatter’s best performer to date, the multiple Grade 1 winner Flat Out (Cresta Lil, by Cresta Rider) came from his second crop. Similar to his sire, Flat Out made only a limited number of starts early in his career, winning 3 of 6 starts from 2 through 4, including the Smarty Jones Stakes, but really blossomed as an older horse, capturing consecutive editions of the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup at 5 and 6 and the Grade 1 Cigar mile at 7. After earning more than $3.6 million, Flat Out retired to stand at Spendthrift Farm in 2014.

Flatter sired the Grade 2 Super Derby winner Apart (Detach, by Unbridled) in his third crop, and he has continued to produce stakes winners at a higher rate than his full brother, Congrats, who won the Grade 2 San Pasqual Handicap in 2005 and began his stud career in Florida before transferring to Kentucky when his first crop included two Grade 1 winners. Flatter’s 7.2 percent stakes winners-to-foals ratio (age 3 and up) compares favorably with Congrats’s 5.4 percent ratio, but Congrats has three Grade 1 winners to Flatter’s one.

Good as she is, Classic Point is an unlikely candidate to become Flatter’s second top-level winner. The Go for Wand was the 5-year-old’s seventh victory and second stakes win in 30 starts, pushing her earnings to $548,034. Classic Point is the first foal out of Discerning, by Langfuhr, who failed to place in seven starts and since has been exported to Uruguay.

By the Canadian champion sprinter and successful sire Langfuhr, by Danzig, Discerning is a half-sister to the multiple graded stakes winner Any Limit, by Limit Out, out of a winning half-sister by Forty Niner to the Grade 3 winner In Conference, by Dayjur, and the stakes winner Expect, by Storm Cat. Classic Point’s third dam, Personal Business, by Private Account, won the Grade 1 John A. Morris Handicap, and her dam, the stakes winner Heavenly Match, by Gallant Romeo, was a half-sister to the Group 2 winner At Ease, by Hoist the Flag, out of Secretariat’s slow full sister, The Bride, by Bold Ruler.

Given those illustrious antecedents top and bottom, Classic Point’s tabulated pedigree is necessarily stuffed with all the best elements in the contemporary stud book. She is inbred 3x4 to Mr. Prospector, 4x4 to Northern Dancer, and carries duplications of Bold Ruler, Somethingroyal, Buckpasser, Ribot, Hail to Reason, Round Table, and others in the further reaches of her pedigree for an inbreeding coefficient of 3.47 percent through the first six generations.

That concentration of class in her pedigree is likely to stand her in good stead when she retires to the breeding shed, which may not be too far in her future.

Whatever the future holds for Classic Point, Flatter has vindicated Claiborne’s faith in him as a stallion. While he is unlikely ever to reach the highest levels of fashionability, he has proven himself as a solid sire of graded stakes winners.