08/01/2015 1:33PM

Testing ground for first-year sires

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Union Rags is among the first-crop yearling sires likely to be commercially popular this season.

Young stallions Bodemeister and Union Rags have sailed through each milestone of their nascent stud careers, proving popular as covering sires and weanling sires. They now approach another major test as the curtain rises on the selected yearling sale season with the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga select yearling sale, the first boutique sale in the category this year.

Waiting in the wings to contend as prominent yearling sires this commercial season are a number of others who emerged with solid results at last month’s Fasig-Tipton Kentucky July yearling sale, the first barometer of the market. But it is Bodemeister and Union Rags, among the standouts of the 3-year-old class of 2012, who appear to hold the strongest hands. Bodemeister, who stands at WinStar Farm in Versailles, Ky., is represented by nine yearlings cataloged, including a colt out of Grade 1 winner Awesome Humor. Union Rags, standing at Lane’s End in Versailles, has eight yearlings in the catalog, including half-siblings to champion She Be Wild and to Grade 1 winner Wickedly Perfect.

Bodemeister, a son of Empire Maker campaigned by Zayat Stables, burst into the national spotlight three years ago when he romped by 9 1/2 lengths in the Arkansas Derby in just his fourth start. He went on to finish a strong second to I’ll Have Another in both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes.

Union Rags, a son of Dixie Union, was a Grade 1 winner as a juvenile for owner Phyllis Wyeth. Following a frustrating early-spring campaign, he rebounded to win the Belmont Stakes in what would be his final start.

The two entered stud the following year and have shone in each touch-point of their second careers. In the fall of 2013, Bodemeister was the leading first-year covering sire by average from the combined results of the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky fall mixed and Keeneland November breeding stock sales. Union Rags finished second among domestic sires in that category. A year later, Bodemeister was the November mixed sale season’s leading first-crop weanling sire by gross. Union Rags, second in gross receipts, was the category’s leading sire by average.

At this year’s first yearling sale, the Fasig-Tipton July auction, Bodemeister was represented by five yearlings who sold for an average of $150,000. They included a $250,000 colt who tied for the second-highest price for an offering from a first-year sire. Union Rags was represented by four yearlings who sold for an average of $111,250, led by a filly who went for $160,000.

Also emerging that day, however, were several other young sires poised to make an impact as the season moves into boutique sales and the larger multi-session sales across regional markets. The top price by a first-year sire at the Fasig-Tipton July sale belonged to Dialed In, a son of Mineshaft standing at Darby Dan Farm in Lexington, Ky. The young stallion was represented by a colt who attracted the attention of Zayat Stables, selling for $270,000.

In addition to Bodemeister, three other stallions were represented by a $250,000 yearling: Dominus (by Smart Strike) of Spendthrift Farm in Lexington; Tapizar (Tapit) of Gainesway in Lexington; and The Factor (War Front), who gives Lane’s End a powerful one-two punch alongside Union Rags.

Dialed In, whose biggest victory came in the Grade 1 Florida Derby, is part of a strong group of first-year sires for Darby Dan. Also represented by his first yearlings this year is Shackleford (Forestry), a popular runner who captured the 2011 Preakness Stakes and the Grade 1 Clark Handicap the next year yet was brilliant enough to go one turn, winning the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap as well as the Grade 2 Churchill Downs Stakes over sprint champion Amazombie. He is represented by four yearlings cataloged in the Saratoga select sale. 

Another Grade 1-winning Darby Dan stallion, Jersey Town (Speightstown), was campaigned by Charles Fipke and could receive a commercial boost with the support of that owner’s broodmare band. Among his yearlings cataloged at Saratoga is a half-sister to Belmont Stakes winner Tonalist from the family of Horse of the Year Havre de Grace. Fipke purchased the filly’s dam, Settling Mist, privately in 2012.

Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner Tapizar stands at Gainesway alongside his sire, leading stallion and commercial juggernaut Tapit. Among the young stallions trying to capitalize on that sire’s popularity are Tapizar and juvenile champion Hansen, who stood his only U.S. season at Coolmore’s Ashford Stud in Versailles before being exported to Korea.

The only commercial stallion who has come close to rivaling Tapit’s commercial success in recent years is War Front, whose first-crop sons at stud include multiple Grade 1 winner The Factor.

The most highly anticipated first crop worldwide this year belongs to Europe’s unbeaten two-time Horse of the Year Frankel, who launched his career at Juddmonte’s Banstead Manor Stud in Newmarket, England, with a star-studded first book. No foals from his first crop were cataloged in the major U.S. sales for August. However, there are several by his Group 3-winning three-quarter-brother Bullet Train (Sadler’s Wells), who is standing at Crestwood Farm in Lexington.

Historic Calumet Farm in Lexington stood a full roster of stallions in 2013 after Brad Kelley assumed leadership of the property in 2012. Although Kelley breeds to race, that roster will get a chance to test its commercial appeal with first yearlings this year. The stallions on that initial roster included Melbourne Cup winner Americain (Dynaformer).

Three Chimneys Farm of Midway, Ky., introduces a pair of Grade 1 winners to the commercial market in Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner Caleb’s Posse (Posse) and the versatile Brilliant Speed (Dynaformer). Other notable first-crop stallions in Kentucky include Grade 1 winners Stay Thirsty (Bernardini) at Ashford, To Honor and Serve (Bernardini) at Gainesway, Get Stormy (Stormy Atlantic) at Crestwood, and Gemologist (Tiznow) at WinStar.

California stallions will have additional opportunities for commercial success this season, with Barretts adding a summer yearling sale in its new venue at Del Mar in addition to its fall sale of yearlings and horses of racing age. The state’s first-crop sires are led by champion Acclamation, standing at Old English Rancho in Sanger, and Grade 1 winner Coil (Point Given), standing at Magali Farms in Santa Ynez. Acclamation, a son of California stalwart Unusual Heat, was the Eclipse Award champion older male of 2011, winning Grade 1 events on both turf and synthetic.

Group 1 winner Biondetti (Bernardini), standing at Woodford Thoroughbreds in Reddick, Fla., is represented by 21 yearlings from his first crop at the Ocala Breeders Sales Co.’s August sale – three in the select session – and figures to make an impact.

With the popularity of statebred runners on the rise, New York’s new stallion class of 2013 was led by Grade 1 winner Boys At Tosconova (Officer) at Questroyal North in Stillwater. These young stallions will be showcased at open sales as well as the Fasig-Tipton New York-bred yearling sale in August.

Louisiana-bred Star Guitar (Quiet American) was among his state’s most successful runners, bankrolling more than $1.7 million while winning 22 stakes, including 10 straight to conclude his career. He entered stud in his home state at Clear Creek Stud in Folsom and will have many opportunities to be showcased on Louisiana’s robust fall sales calendar.