02/05/2018 9:48AM

Sparkman: The power of Speightstown

Barbara D. Livingston
Strike Power, by Speightstown, wins the Grade 3 Swale at Gulfstream Park.

It is vanishingly rare for a horse who does not win his first stakes race until he is 6 years old to become a successful sire. The case of Speightstown, who fits that description, is a little different than most late developers, however.

As evidenced by his $2 million price tag as a yearling, Speightstown was viewed as a potential stallion almost from birth, and though he did not win his first stakes race until capturing the listed Artax Handicap at 6, he had come close to hitting the mark as a 3-year-old before a string of injuries almost derailed his career.

Speightstown won 4 of his 5 subsequent starts, culminating with a victory in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, earning him champion sprinter honors, and he has validated breeders’ faith at stud. The promising Strike Power, winner of the Grade 3 Swale Stakes at Gulfstream Park last Saturday is the 92nd stakes winner in an outstanding stud career for the now 20-year-old son of Gone West.

Bred in Kentucky by Aaron and Marie Jones, Speightstown was the joint fourth-highest-priced yearling at the 2000 Keeneland July sale of selected yearlings, where Canadian pharmaceutical entrepreneur Eugene Melnyk signed the $2 million ticket. Trained by Todd Pletcher, he made only one start at 2, finishing last as favorite in a Saratoga maiden, but won his first start at 3 at Gulfstream Park with Phillip England as trainer. Speightstown was a bit up and down the rest of that season, winning a trio of allowances at Woodbine before finishing second to the brilliant City Zip in the Grade 2 Amsterdam Stakes.

Speightstown chipped a knee in the Amsterdam and did not race again for almost two years. He managed two starts for Pletcher at 5, before being injured again when second in the Jaipur Handicap. Luckily, Melnyk persevered, and Speightstown won 5 of 6 starts at 6, including the Grade 2 Churchill Downs, True North, and Alfred G. Vanderbilt, before his victory in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint.

As indicated by his yearling price, Speightstown had always had plenty of pedigree and the outstanding conformation to attract breeders as a stallion prospect, though he is slightly on the small side. His sire, Gone West, was well established as one of Mr. Prospector’s best sire sons and was emerging as a sire of sires. His dam, Silken Cat, by Storm Cat, was a champion 2-year-old filly in Canada and half-sister to two stakes winners from the prolific family founded by Meadow Stable’s great broodmare Hildene, dam of Hill Prince and First Landing. Silken Cat has since produced 2017 Grade 2 Blue Grass Stakes winner Irap, by Tiznow.

Speightstown was an immediate success at WinStar Farm, siring Grade 1 winners Haynesfield (out of Nothing Special, by Tejabo), Lord Shanakill (Green Room by Theatrical), Mona de Momma (Society Gal, by Linkage), Jersey Town (Jersey Girl, by Belong to Me), and Reynaldohewizard (Holiday Runner, by Meadowlake), and nine other stakes winners in his first crop. He has not let up since, his 14 Grade 1 winners highlighted by 2016 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner Tamarkuz (Without You Babe, by Lemon Drop Kid), Travers winner Golden Ticket (Business Plan, by Deputy Minister), and Hollywood Derby winner Seek Again (Light Jig, by Danehill).

Strike Power, who appears to have the potential to add to Speightstown’s list of Grade 1 winners, was bred in Kentucky and races for Don Adam’s Courtlandt Farm. He is the third foal out of Gold d’Oro, a talented Medaglia d’Oro filly bred by Courtlandt, who is a daughter of one of the farm’s foundation mares Gold Canyon, by Mr. Prospector. Courtlandt purchased Gold Canyon for $400,000 at the 1997 Keeneland July sale, and she produced the good A.P. Indy colt Adriano, winner of the Grade 2 Lane’s End and Grade 3 Kent Stakes.

A half-sister to stakes winner Double Scoop, by Seeking the Gold, Gold Canyon’s dam Golden Treat, by Theatrical, was a Grade 1-winning half-sister to the top-class Bet Twice, who famously ended Alysheba’s Triple Crown bid with a 14-length victory in the 1987 Belmont Stakes after finishing second in both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness.

Trained by Bill Mott, Gold d’Oro won 5 of 21 races from ages 2 to 6, earning $232,989, while running second in the listed Scoot Stakes and third in the Grade 3 Suwanee River Handicap. Gold d’Oro has since produced an unnamed 2-year-old colt by Lemon Drop Kid that sold for only $15,000 to Cool Hill Farm at the 2017 Keeneland September sale and a yearling colt by Bodemeister. Gold d’Oro was listed as sold in foal to Distorted Humor to agent Gayle Van Leer for $60,000 at the 2017 Keeneland November sale.