05/23/2016 9:48AM

Sparkman: Vindication for Exaggerator and Curlin

John Bambury
Exaggerator gives sire Curlin his second classic winner in the Preakness Stakes.

The 3-year-old colt crop of 2007 was widely regarded at the time as one of the best and most competitive in decades, and the three top colts – Curlin, Hard Spun, and Street Sense – all went to stud in 2008 or 2009 with considerable fanfare. Curlin proved himself the best of the three on the racetrack, and after a comparatively slow start, is now proving himself the best sire of the three.

Both Street Sense (47) and Hard Spun (55) have about twice as many stakes winners as Curlin does to date, but 2016 Preakness winner Exaggerator is Curlin’s second classic winner, following 2010 Belmont winner Palace Malice, and neither Street Sense nor Hard Spun have sired even one. That difference in number of stakes winners ultimately comes down to opportunity. Curlin, who has never shuttled to the Southern Hemisphere, has sired 411 foals age 3 and older for a 6.1 percent stakes winners to foals strike rate, while Street Sense (770 foals) and Hard Spun (897) have shuttled, both compiling almost identical 6.1 percent strike rates.

Both Curlin (Stellar Wind) and Hard Spun (Questing) have sired American champion 3-year-old fillies, and the Grade 1 winner counts stand at five for Curlin, nine for Hard Spun (including two from Southern Hemisphere crops), and seven for Street Sense (again including two from Southern Hemisphere crops). Exaggerator’s Preakness win trumps those statistics. Palace Malice was a talented but inconsistent runner, but Exaggerator has been the soul of consistency and honesty in his pursuit and, finally, conquest of Nyquist on his fifth try.

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Although Curlin won 11 of 16 starts, earning a then North-American record $10,501,800 and two Horse of the Year trophies, both Street Sense and Hard Spun were more highly regarded when they went to stud, on race record, pedigree, and conformation grounds.

Street Sense, who was champion 2-year-old male of 2006, and Hard Spun were juvenile stakes winners, a credential highly prized by breeders wanting to breed potentially precocious yearlings for a judgmental market, while Curlin did not even race at 2. The female families of Street Sense and Hard Spun were regarded as better than Curlin’s, and Hard Spun’s sire, Danzig, was a great sire of sires, making him the highest-rated prospect of the three for the majority of Kentucky breeders at the time. And although Street Sense and Hard Spun are very big horses, both are more refined, more elegantly made than the workmanlike, raw-boned Curlin.

Palace Music came along in Curlin’s first crop, but it was not until last year that his second Grade 1 winner appeared when Stellar Wind (out of Evening Star, by Malibu Moon) won the Santa Anita Oaks. Curalina (Whatdreamsrmadeof, by Graeme Hall) and Keen Ice (Medomak, by Awesome Again) quickly followed, and Curlin’s stud career was off to the races.

Exaggerator’s dam, Dawn Raid, by Vindication, descends from a line of mares that has excelled mostly in Canada since Canada’s greatest breeder E.P. Taylor imported her sixth and seventh dams Orchestra, by Menetrier, and Abondance, by Maurepas, in the 1950s. They established a thriving family that includes Canadian champions Dance in Time, Eternal Search, Giboulee, and Embur’s Song, who is Dawn Raid’s half-sister by Unbridled’s Song.

Dawn Raid was stakes-placed and her sire, Vindication, was the unbeaten champion 2-year-old male of 2002. The last top-class son of Seattle Slew, Vindication (out of Strawberry Reason, by Strawberry Road), broke down without racing again after his triumph in the 2002 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. A handsome but rather light-boned horse who did not have the best of hocks, Vindication sired only 22 stakes winners from 487 foals, none of whom managed to win a Grade 1 race.

He has not done much better as a sire of broodmares, but Saturday was a very good day for him at Pimlico, since Justin Squared, by Zensational out of the Vindication mare Graciously Soft won the Chick Lang Stakes on the Preakness undercard.

Exaggerator is the third foal, third winner, and first stakes winner out of Dawn Raid, who has since produced a 2-year-old filly named Rose Garden, by Pioneerof the Nile, and a 2016 full sister to the Preakness winner.

Exaggerator’s pedigree is basically an outcross, with a 4x5 duplication of Raise a Native and a 5x5 double of Northern Dancer his closest inbreedings. Dawn Raid, however, is more closely inbred 4x3 to Boldnesian, and her second dam, Vevila, by The Minstrel, is inbred 3x3 to the Windfields Farm stalwart Victoria Park.