12/03/2015 11:02AM

Top Hit rises to top on Arizona sire list

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Shigeki Kikkawa
Graded stakes winner Uh Oh Bango is the leading runner for Top Hit.

It didn’t take long for Top Hit to become a major player among Arizona’s sire ranks.

When his first crop finished its 3-year-old campaign in 2009, the son of Twining was fourth on the state’s general sire list by earnings. Top Hit spent the next five years positioned no lower than third, and is set to add another year to that run in 2015.

Top Hit also is poised to start a pair of new streaks as Arizona’s leading sire by winners and progeny earnings, after holding both spots for the first time last year.

Through Dec. 2, the 17-year-old was represented by 21 winners and progeny earnings of $426,357, maintaining a sizable margin over Distorted Reality, who was second in both categories with 19 winners and $330,314 in earnings.

Top Hit stands at Triple AAA Ranch in Glendale, Ariz., for a private fee.

“He puts out sound horses, and most of them can run,” said Richard Owens, owner of Triple AAA Ranch. “He’s a real easy horse to be around, really intelligent, not aggressive. You can do anything you want to with him.”

Despite sitting atop Arizona’s sire list, it has been a comparatively quiet year for Top Hit, who in previous campaigns has been represented on the national stage by Grade 2 winner Uh Oh Bango and Grade 3 winner Top Fortitude, both bred and raced by Triple AAA Ranch.

This year’s class has been led by three Idaho stakes winners, Top Game, Mrshakey, and Haveuseenmydaddy, as well as stakes-placed runners Myrna Lou, G Faikir, and Freshside.

Those runners added to Top Hit’s lifetime totals of 14 stakes winners and 11 stakes-placed runners from his eight crops of racing age. His runners have won four editions of the Arizona Breeders’ Futurity at Turf Paradise: Myrna Lou (2014), Sallyana (2012), A Political Time (2011), and Clean Hit from his first crop in 2008.

Bred in Pennsylvania by Maple Leaf Farm, Top Hit was a $25,000 purchase by Triple AAA Ranch at the 1999 Keeneland September yearling sale. Owens’s son Kory signed the ticket on Top Hit and trained the horse throughout his career, as he does all Triple AAA horses.

“He was a nice-looking horse,” Richard Owens said, giving his first impressions of a yearling Top Hit. “He had a nice body on him.”

Top Hit won seven of 36 career starts over five seasons for the Owens family, earning $445,357. His marquee win came in the Grade 3 Oklahoma Derby in 2001, while also annexing the Christmas Futurity and Palo Verde Handicap at Turf Paradise. He was second in the Grade 3 Affirmed Handicap and third in the Grade 3 Lazaro Barrera Memorial Stakes at Hollywood Park, and entered stud in 2005.

While Top Hit quickly ascended the ranks in Arizona, Owens said the early portion of his stallion career was spent in the shadow of a fellow Triple AAA resident, Rocky Bar, a multiple Grade 3-placed homebred who topped the state’s sire list from 2009 to 2011 before relocating to E.A. Ranches in California for the 2012 season.

Owens speculated that Top Hit’s success around two turns might have initially worked against him in a market that favors early-maturing sprinters.

“Once they started hitting the track, [breeders] wanted to breed to him, but I had another horse here called Rocky Bar,” Owens said. “He was an In Excess horse, and the people in Arizona still wanted to breed to him for more speed.

“Top Hit has never really had a big book,” he continued. “He produces runners. They’ve got a lot of brains, very smart horses. His babies are easy to handle.”

Top Hit is out of the multiple stakes-winning Stop the Music mare Popular Tune, whose five winners from eight foals to race includes stakes winner Crafty Star. His extended family includes champions Temperence Hill and Vanlandingham, Grade 1 winner Funny Moon, and English Group 1 winners Distant Music and African Rose.

Owens saw it as a point of pride that most of the stallions that stand at Triple AAA Ranch were bred or raced by his operation. Rocky Bar was a homebred, as is Ez Dreamer, who currently ranks in the top 35 nationally among freshman sires by earnings.

The homebred causing the biggest stir at the moment, though, is Top Hit’s best son, Uh Oh Bango.

The now-8-year-old is a fourth-generation product of the Triple AAA breeding program, and earned $691,512 for the Owens family over his four seasons of racing, highlighted by wins in the Grade 2 San Pasqual Stakes at Santa Anita and the Grade 3 Berkeley Stakes at Golden Gate Fields. Uh Oh Bango retired to E.A. Ranches for the 2014 breeding season, and covered 22 mares in his first book, which would have made him the second-most active stallion in Arizona. After two seasons in California, Owens said Uh Oh Bango could be in for an extended homecoming next to his sire.

“They really like his foals,” Owens said. “I had him in California, and I’ve got a couple for myself, but they really liked him over there. I brought him home last year, and they want me to send him back. I don’t know if I will or not.”