04/24/2017 8:03AM

Sparkman: Itsinthepost brightens waning days of Sea-Bird line

Coady Photography
Itsinthepost, a son of American Post and descendant of the great Sea-Bird, wins the Grade 2 Elkhorn at Keeneland.

While Frankel has been universally acclaimed as the European Horse of the 21st Century, the identity of the 20th century holder of that title remains a subject for debate. Loyalists remain for the undefeated Italian heroes Ribot and Nearco, but most voters would probably opt for 1965 Epsom Derby and Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe winner Sea-Bird, Timeform’s highest-rated horse at 145 until surpassed by Frankel’s 147 in 2012.

Sea-Bird, who was imported to stand alongside Ribot at Darby Dan Farm, was also an outstanding sire, though he died after only five crops. His 175 foals, barely one full crop for some stallions today, included 33 stakes winners (18.9%), led by champion 3-year-old and dual classic winner Little Current and European Horse of the Year Allez France, but his best sire son was the temperamental Group 1 Prix Ganay winner Arctic Tern (out of a half-sister to the dams of Northern Dancer and Halo), who led the French sire list in 1986, when his best son Bering won the French Derby.

A stayer in an era obsessed with speed, Bering still sired 77 stakes winners, but only one of his sons has made the slightest impression at stud. American Post (out of Wells Fargo, by Sadler’s Wells), was an atypical son of Bering, winning both the Group 1 Racing Post Trophy and Prix Jean-Luc Lagerdere at 2 and adding the Group 1 French 2000 Guineas equivalent at 3. American Post has been rather erratic as a sire, and Itsinthepost, who last Saturday added a victory in the Grade 2 Elkhorn Stakes at Keeneland to his win in the Grade 2 San Luis Rey last month, is the first of his offspring to advertise his abilities in the U.S.

Bred and raced by Khalid Abdullah’s Juddmonte Farms, American Post possessed a very stout pedigree - his second dam was by stamina influence Shirley Heights and his female line was chock full of top stayers - but his exuberant temperament countermanded whatever his genes might portend. Second with a furlong remaining in the 2004 Epsom Derby, he faded rapidly to finish sixth and was injured in his only subsequent start.

American Post has sired 27 stakes winners from 371 foals age 3 and up, a respectable 7.3% strike rate, but his only Group 1 winner is 2015 Group 1 Criterium de Saint-Cloud winner Robin of Navan (out of Cloghran, by Muthathir), who has not won since his 2-year-old days. With three other Group 3 winners on American Post’s record, Itsinthepost ranks as his second-best offspring.

Bred in France by Julien Leaunes, Itsinthepost is the fifth foal out of Sakkara Star, a winning daughter of the short-lived champion sprinter Mozart (by Danehill). Sakkara Star’s dam, the unplaced Gone West mare Sun Silk, produced nothing of note, but her dam, Silk Slippers, by Nureyev, won the Group 2 Hoover Fillies Mile. Silk Slippers is the granddam of two listed stakes winners in the U.S., and stems from an illustrious family. Her dam, Grade 2-placed Nalee’s Fantasy, by Graustark, was a half-sister to Group 1 Irish St. Leger winner Meneval, by Le Fabuleux, and stakes winners Nalees Folly, by Tom Fool, and Nalees Man, by Gallant Man. Their dam, Nalee, by Nashua, was a stakes-winning full sister to Racing Hall of Fame champion Shuvee, from the great family founded by Bourtai.

Itsinthepost won the last of his five starts in France as a 2-year-old in 2014 before being imported to the U.S. He failed to win in seven starts at 3, but improved radically last year at 4, and has thrived over longer distances this year at 5, finishing second in the off-the-turf Grade 3 San Gabriel at 1 1/8 miles and Grade 2 San Marcos Stakes at 1 ¼ miles before his wins in the 1 ½-mile San Luis Rey and Elkhorn.

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While Itsinthepost has exhibited the stamina inherent in American Post’s pedigree, he will not have the chance to extend the male line of Sea-Bird since he was gelded as a 2-year-old in France. That makes it all but certain that Sea-Bird’s male line will die with American Post. Bering’s son Beau Sultan was a good sire of jumpers in France, but that is a genetic dead end. Neither Little Current nor Sea-Bird’s other top-class son Gyr produced a son to carry on the line, and Mr. Long’s five sire championships in Chile were too far out of the international bloodstock mainstream to have a chance.

The genetic winds are fickle, and greatness wanders in and out of pedigrees regardless of male line. Sea-Bird’s male line may disappear, but his memory will never die.