04/25/2016 10:31AM

Sparkman: Stanford pushes Malibu Moon closer to milestone

Coady Photography
Stanford, with Javier Castellano up, wins Saturday's Grade 2 Charles Town Classic.

Arthur B. “Bull” Hancock was justly famous for importing leading sires Nasrullah and Ambiorix as well as outstanding stallions Herbager, Le Fabuleux, and Forli to stand at Claiborne Farm. In retrospect, however, a series of mares Hancock selected and imported in the 10 years following World War II proved almost – if not equally – as important to the development of the international Thoroughbred in the last half of the 20th century.

Most influential of those mares in the long term has been Rough Shod II, by Gold Bridge, dam of champions Moccasin and Ridan and tail female ancestress of such important sires as Sadler’s Wells, Nureyev, Thatch, and Apalachee. At the same 1951 Tattersalls December sale where Hancock paid about $10,000 for Rough Shod on behalf of Thomas Girdler, however, he spent only about $3,500 for the regally bred Knight’s Daughter, by Sir Cosmo, for his own account.

Knight’s Daughter produced only two American-conceived foals for Hancock, but the first of them was Round Table, whose Horse of the Year season in 1958 and then world-record earnings of $1,749,869 made his sire Princequillo another Claiborne-based leading sire. The second, Round Table’s full sister Monarchy, a talented stakes winner, was not a great broodmare herself, but her tail-female descendants include important sires Pulpit, Tale of the Cat, and Johannesburg, as well as Saturday’s Grade 2 Charles Town Classic winner Stanford.

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Monarchy’s winning daughter State, by Nijinsky II, was a much better broodmare than her dam, producing five stakes winners, including Grade 3 winner Narrate, by Honest Pleasure. Narrate’s daughter Preach, by Mr. Prospector, won the Grade 1 Frizette and produced the brilliant but unsound Grade 2 winner Pulpit, by A.P. Indy, sire of 2014 and 2015 leading sire Tapit. Preach’s winning full sister Yarn also was an outstanding broodmare, with three stakes winners, led by English and Irish highweighted 2-year-old Minardi, by Boundary, but her son Tale of the Cat, by Storm Cat, became a far more influential sire.

Tale of the Cat’s half-sister Myth, by Ogygian, produced another champion in Johannesburg, by Hennessy, whose unbeaten juvenile season in 2001 culminated with a stirring victory in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. That made Johannesburg only the second horse in history (following Arazi) to be officially crowned champion juvenile in both Europe and the United States.

Johannesburg’s half-sister Show Me the Roses, by Hennessy’s sire Storm Cat, produced nothing of note, and her daughter Rosy Humor, by Distorted Humor, failed to place in three starts. Stanford, who was bred in Kentucky by WinStar Farm, is Rosy Humor’s third foal, so his catalog page showed two blank dams when he appeared at the 2013 Keeneland September yearling sale, where Dona Licha Stable was listed as the purchaser for $120,000.

After he breezed an eighth-mile in a co-fastest 9.80 seconds at the 2014 Barretts March sale of selected 2-year-olds in training, that light catalog page mattered far less, and trainer Todd Pletcher signed the ticket for Stanford at $550,000 on behalf of the Coolmore triumvirate and Barbara Banke’s Stonestreet Stables.

Inbred 3x4x5 to Mr. Prospector, Stanford proved that fast work was no illusion by winning his first start at 2 and has since consistently proven he is a good horse without quite making the top of the tree. He won the Long Branch Stakes last year and had run second in the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby and Gulfstream Park Handicap before his victory in the Charles Town Classic.

As a son of Malibu Moon, Stanford could earn a spot at stud for himself if he can capture that elusive Grade 1 victory this season. Malibu Moon has ranked among the leading American sires consistently over the last five years, and he is rapidly approaching the 100 stakes winner milestone, with 97 to his credit from 1,332 foals age 3 and up, a 7.2 percent strike rate.

Though he raced only twice and was not a stakes winner, Malibu Moon earned his transfer from Maryland to Kentucky by siring champion 2-year-old male Declan’s Moon in his second crop, and his better pedigreed sons are just now ready to make their mark at stud. The first 2-year-olds by Malibu Moon’s Kentucky Derby-winning son Orb will reach the races this year, and if he is successful, that will pave the way for more sons of Malibu Moon to have a chance at stud.