10/16/2017 7:32PM

Sparkman: Gulch enjoys revival with Woodbine stakes wins

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Michael Burns
Blond Me, by Tamayuz, wins the Grade 1 E.P. Taylor Stakes at Woodbine.

The Fappiano, Smart Strike, Gone West, Forty Niner, Seeking the Gold, and Machiavellian branches of the Mr. Prospector male line are all recognized as major players on the international stage, but male-line descendants of Mr. Prospector’s 1988 champion sprinter Gulch have not earned the same panache. Thus, it was interesting to see granddaughters and great-granddaughters of Gulch win two of the biggest races in Canada over the weekend.

Gulch’s great-granddaughter Blond Me, by Tamayuz, by Nayef, by Gulch, won the Grade 1 E.P. Taylor Stakes just a day after Line of Vision, by Court Vision, by Gulch, scored in the Victorian Queen Stakes for Canadian-bred 2-year-old fillies.

Bred in Kentucky by Peter Brant, who recently re-entered the Thoroughbred industry after a lengthy hiatus, Gulch embodied both the speed of his sire and the toughness of his dam, Jameela, by Rambunctious, who won 27 of 58 starts in a remarkable career that included Grade 1 wins in the Ladies and Delaware Handicaps and the Maskette Stakes.

Trained by Leroy Jolley at 2 and 3 and by D. Wayne Lukas at 4, Gulch won the Grade 1 Hopeful and Futurity at 2, the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap and Wood Memorial Stakes at 3, and the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Sprint, Metropolitan, and Carter handicaps at 4 when he was voted champion sprinter. As those other Grade 1 victories indicate, however, Gulch was not just a sprinter, and even finished third in the 1 1/2-mile Belmont Stakes, albeit 14 lengths behind the winner, Bet Twice.

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Retired to Lane’s End, he compiled a good but not great record at stud, finishing second on the general sire list in 1995, when his best son Thunder Gulch was champion 3-year-old male after winning the Kentucky Derby and Belmont. For his career, he sired 76 stakes winners from 1,103 foals, a respectable 6.9 percent strike rate in a stud career that straddled the small book and big book eras.

Nayef (out of Height of Fashion, by Bustino) was probably his second-best son, earning English highweight honors with victories in the 2001 Group 1 Champion Stakes and the 2002 Group 1 Juddmonte International and Prince of Wales’s Stakes. Tamayuz (Al Ishq, by Nureyev), sire of Blond Me, was, in turn, the best son of Nayef, who has sired 31 stakes winners in a respectable but unspectacular career.

Winner of five of his six starts, including the Group 1 Prix Jacques le Marois and Prix Jean Prat, Tamayuz is a better stallion than his Nayef, though he has not received a comparable opportunity. Blond Me (Holda, by Docksider) is the third Group 1 winner among his 20 stakes winners from only 254 foals age 3 and up. She descends from the outstanding English staying family descending from the Persian Gulf mare Sunny Gulf that includes Group/Grade 1 winners Glass Harmonium (a half-brother to Blond Me’s dam), Great Neck,  Sun Prince, Millenary, Spectrum, Sun Princess, and Conduit.

Court Vision (Weekend Storm, by Storm Bird) was probably Gulch’s third best son, crowning a 31-race career with his upset victory in the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Mile. That career also included Grade 1 victories in the Woodbine Mile, Shadwell Turf Mile, and Hollywood Derby, all on turf. Court Vision began his stud career at Park Stud in Ontario, but transferred to Acadiana Equine in Opelousas, Louisiana, in 2016.

Canadian breeders may regret his departure, since he sired 2016 champion Canadian 2-year-old colt King and His Court (Pennywhistle, by Grand Reward) in his second crop. Line of Vision, though, is only his sixth stakes winner overall, a strike rate that indicates he is not the most consistent sire.

Line of Vision is the third stakes winner out of her dam, Gold Lined, by Numerous (another son of Mr. Prospector). Pyrite Mountain, Gold Lined’s son by Silent Name, won the Kingarvie and Wando Stakes and placed in four Grade 3 races. Wisdomisgold, by Whiskey Wisdom out of Gold Lined, won the Juvenile Stakes and placed in her edition of the Victorian Queen.

This spate of stakes winners, of course, does not imply that the male line of Gulch is likely to become a major player on the international stage. Court Vision’s departure to Louisiana means he is out of the mainstream of North American breeding, and Tamayuz, despite his obvious merits, has never been popular at Derrinstown Stud in Ireland.

None of that detracts from the obvious merits of their tough, genuine, and high-class ancestor Gulch. In many ways, the survival of a given sire line is as much a matter of chance and fashion as of merit. Gulch was good enough for his male line to survive, but not lucky enough.