04/06/2014 2:11PM

Sparkman: Into Mischief rejuvenating Harlan's line

Lynn Roberts/Hodges Photography
Louisiana Derby winner Vicar's in Trouble will give sire Into Mischief another Kentucky Derby represenative in his young stud career.

Great sire lines do not always follow only the obvious routes. No one is surprised that three-time leading sire Giant’s Causeway, the best son of dual leading sire Storm Cat, is well on his way to establishing a thriving branch of his sire’s male line. When Harlan retired to Stone Farm in 1995, however, it is doubtful if even his co-owner and co-breeder, Arthur B. Hancock III, envisioned Storm Cat’s oldest Grade 1-winning colt at the head of a branch of the Storm Cat male line.

Harlan’s female family was good but not great, being out of a multiple stakes-winning mare by dual leading sire Halo from a family with South American origins, and he was a Grade 1 winner, which was why he got an opportunity at stud in the first place. That victory in the Grade 1 Vosburgh Stakes, however, did not come until Harlan was 5 years old, and he had not even raced at 2, which is historically a major factor in determining which sires succeed.

Harlan was also unlucky in that he died after only five seasons at stud, leaving behind only 102 foals, but that number included two high-class sons, 1999 Grade 1 Haskell Invitational winner Menifee, who failed in his attempt to emulate Harlan’s success at Stone Farm, and 2002 Grade 1 Florida Derby and 2003 Grade 1 Donn Handicap winner Harlan’s Holiday.

A much more correct horse than Menifee, Harlan’s Holiday (out of Christmas in Aiken, by Affirmed) had better racing and female family credentials than his sire as a stallion prospect, but Harlan could hardly be regarded as a sire of sires when Harlan’s Holiday went to stud in 2004. A very handsome horse who sired handsome, well-made stock, Harlan’s Holiday worked his way up the class ladder to such effect that he is currently the sire of 52 stakes winners from 686 foals age 3 and up (7.6 percent), including 2012 champion 2-year-old male Shanghai Bobby (Steelin’, by Orientate), and 20 other group or graded stakes winners.

If the performance at stud of Harlan’s Holiday’s first Grade 1 winner, Into Mischief, is any indication, Harlan’s branch of the Storm Cat male line is in safe hands. Grade 2 Louisiana Derby winner Vicar’s in Trouble is one of nine stakes winners from 73 foals – a stunning 12.3 percent stakes winners to foals strike rate – in the first two crops of Into Mischief, a number that includes 2013 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile and Santa Anita Derby winner Goldencents.

Bred in Kentucky by James T. Hines, Into Mischief was the third foal out of Leslie’s Lady, by Tricky Creek, a minor stakes winner from the family of Buckland Farm foundation mare Patelin, by Cornish Prince. Leslie’s Lady has since re-emphasized her worth by producing champion 2- and 3-year-old filly Beholder, by Henny Hughes, who capped her 2013 campaign with a brilliant win in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff.

Hines sold Into Mischief for $80,000 to Gage Hill Stable at the 2006 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky fall yearling sale, and he was pinhooked to the 2007 OBS March sale of selected 2-year-olds in training, where B. Wayne Hughes purchased the colt for $180,000. Into Mischief developed into one of the best juveniles in the country late in the year for trainer Richard Mandella, winning his maiden debut at the Oak Tree meeting in October before finishing second to Massive Drama in the Grade 3 Hollywood Prevue Stakes. He proved that form wrong a month later, though, leaving Massive Drama almost two lengths behind in third place when Into Mischief won the Grade 1 CashCall Futurity over Colonel John.

Into Mischief had Massive Drama behind him again in his 3-year-old debut, the Grade 2 San Vicente Stakes, but could not hold off the late charge of Georgie Boy. An injury to Into Mischief’s left hind foot forced him off the Triple Crown trail, however, and he did not return to the races until the Oak Tree meeting the following autumn, where he won the seven-furlong Damascus Stakes. Favored for the Grade 1 Malibu Stakes at Santa Anita a month later, he could not catch front-running Bob Black Jack and finished 2 1/4 lengths behind in second.

Although Into Mischief reportedly came out of the Malibu sound, Hughes decided to retire him to his Spendthrift Farm for the 2009 breeding season at a fee of $12,500. Although clearly a high-class racehorse, Into Mischief had not done enough or done it long enough to attract a voluminous or particularly high-quality book. He is, however, quite a handsome horse – lengthy, powerful, beautifully balanced, and a lovely mover, though he turns his right fore out slightly.

Good sires who do not get the best opportunities initially, however, tend to hit it off with mares with perhaps not the best immediate credentials but who are from very good families, as, indeed, Harlan’s Holiday did with Into Mischief’s dam.

Vicar’s in Trouble’s dam, Vibrant, by the stud failure Vicar, was a useful racemare, winning 5 of 27 starts and earning $149,903, winning allowance races at Delaware Park, but she was claimed for $30,000 late in her career. She was, however, a half-sister to Grade 3 Fall Highweight Handicap winner True Direction, by French Deputy, and Grade 3-placed Williamthenchanted, by Williamstown.

Vibrant’s dam, Ms Paragon, by another disappointing stallion, Tank’s Prospect, was a winning half-sister to Encolure, one of the best sons of yet another stud disappointment, Riva Ridge. Though his best win was in the listed Lecomte Handicap, Encolure ran second in both the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby and Super Derby, as well as three other graded races.

Ms Paragon’s dam, Grade 3 winner Jabot, however, was as well bred as just about any mare in the stud book when retired to the breeding shed in 1978. By the great Bold Ruler, she was a half-sister to two top-class runners in dual Grade 1 winner Big Spruce, by Herbager, and 1971 Santa Margarita Handicap winner Manta, by Ben Lomond. Their dam, Silver Sari, by Prince John, was a great-granddaughter of foundation mare Bourtai. The branch of Bourtai’s family descending from Vicar’s in Trouble’s sixth dam, Banta, also includes champions Talking Picture and her daughter Easy to Copy and highweights Trusted Partner and Lisieux Rose, among many other high-class runners.

Vicar’s in Trouble is the fourth foal and third winner out of Vibrant, who has a 2-year-old filly by My Pal Charlie and was covered in 2013 by both Wilburn and Malibu Moon. Bred in Louisiana by Spendthrift Farm, Vicar’s in Trouble was sold for $8,000 to Clyde Taylor at the 2012 Equine Sales of Louisiana yearling sale. Pinhooked to the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic May sale of 2-year-olds in training, he was purchased for $80,000 by Ken and Sarah Ramsey.

The prolific male line of Storm Cat may have arrived at Into Mischief by an adventurous route, but his first two crops have given every indication that he is the real deal. In addition to Goldencents and Vicar’s in Trouble, Into Mischief’s honor role includes the high-class miler Vyjack (Life Happened, by Stravinsky), who won the Grade 2 Jerome and the Grade 3 Gotham Stakes last year.

Goldencents started as the third favorite in the Kentucky Derby last year, but failed to handle the sloppy track. There is a good chance that Vicar’s in Trouble, who shares Goldencents’s penchant for wanting to run in front, may start at similar odds this year. That is quite an accomplishment for their young sire who has had to make his own mischief at stud.