03/13/2017 5:13PM

Sparkman: Mastery has future at stud, if not on racetrack

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Barbara D. Livingston
Mastery suffered a fractured leg winning the San Felipe Stakes on Saturday at Santa Anita.

Sadly, Mastery’s reign as the probable favorite for the 2017 Kentucky Derby favorite did not last as long as it took him to earn that position. His 6 3/4-length victory in the Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes was easily the most impressive performance of any 3-year-old colt this year, but less than 30 seconds later, Mike Smith pulled him up and jumped off when he felt the muscular Candy Ride colt take a bad step about 10 strides past the wire.

Mastery had suffered a fracture to a front leg and underwent surgery on Monday, with an uncertain prognosis.

A Kentucky Derby winner is about the only thing missing from the increasingly impressive resume of his sire, Candy Ride. His second-crop son Sidney’s Candy (out of Fair Exchange, by Storm Cat) started third favorite for the 2010 Derby but faded to 17th after forcing the early pace. Candy Ride’s Grade 1-winning son Gun Runner (Quiet Giant, by Giant’s Causeway) fared much better as third choice last year, taking the lead at the top of the lane before being outfinished only by Nyquist and Exaggerator. Candy Ride’s sons Candy’s Boy (She’s an Eleven, by In Excess), and Chocolate Candy (Crownette, by Seattle Slew) have also made it to the Derby without hitting the board.

Candy Ride has also ranked no lower than sixth on the North American general sire list each of the last three years, a significant achievement for a horse who began his stud career with some significant disadvantages despite an unbeaten race record. Candy Ride’s sire, Ride the Rails, by Cryptoclearance, won stakes and finished second to Holy Bull in the 1994 Florida Derby, but had no credibility as a sire of sires in Kentucky, or for that matter anywhere else. Candy Ride was bred in Argentina by Haras Abolengo, and his female line is Argentinean, which is anathema to most Kentucky breeders - but then there was Candy Ride’s race record.

He won all three of his starts in Argentina at 3 by wide margins, including two Group 1’s, and was rated champion miler of 2003. His American record was equally brief and even more impressive, culminating in a 3 1/4-length domination of Medaglia d’Oro in the 2004 Grade 1 Pacific Classic. Troubled by a balky ankle, Candy Ride was kept in training for another year but never ran again, making him old news when he retired to stud at Hill ‘n’ Dale Farm in 2005.

Slightly on the small side but perfectly balanced, he sired four Grade 1 winners in his first crop. He sired Sidney’s Candy and promising young Grade 1-winning sire Twirling Candy (House of Danzing, by Chester House) in his second, before moving to Lane’s End for the 2010 breeding season. He sired champion 2-year-old male Shared Belief (Common Hope, by Storm Cat) in his first Lane’s End crop and his record has continued to improve with the better mares earned by his early success.

Mastery’s dam, Steady Course, by Old Trieste, fits that description. Bred and raced by Overbrook Farm, she won two of her seven starts and finished fourth behind champion Ashado and Grade 1 winners Victory U. S. A. and Shadow Cast in her final start, the Grade 2 Fair Grounds Oaks. Arthur Hancock purchased Steady Course for only $20,000 at the 2009 Keeneland November sale, but her value increased significantly the following year when her first foal, Clear Sailing, by Empire Maker, won the Pelleteri Handicap at Fair Grounds.

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Steady Course has endured a rather checkered career since that good first effort, however, producing only three more foals before Mastery arrived in 2014, and she has produced only one more since Mastery, a yearling colt by First Samurai. Mastery, though, was one of the stars of Day 5 of the 2015 Keeneland September yearling sale, fetching a $425,000 bid from Cromwell Bloodstock Agency on behalf of Everett Dobson’s Cheyenne Stable. Incidentally, the top-priced colt of that session at $485,000 was J Boys Echo, winner of the Grade 3 Gotham last week.

Mastery’s superb catalog page certainly supported that kind of outlay. Steady Course is half-sister to Grade 2 winner and good sire Jump Start, by A.P. Indy, and her stakes-placed dam, Steady Cat, by Storm Cat, is a full sister to stakes winner Apollo Cat. The next dam, Hopespringsforever, by Mr. Prospector, was a full sister to Group 1 winner and top sire Miswaki from the great family of Lea Lark.

With that kind of pedigree, outstanding conformation, and a Grade 1 win in the Los Alamitos Futurity already in hand, Mastery has already done enough to earn a place at stud in Kentucky, even if he fails to recover from his unfortunate injury in the San Felipe. With Twirling Candy in the process of proving Candy Ride is a sire of sires, Mastery’s future looks bright even if he cannot race again.