02/17/2011 5:32PM

Trio led by Blame tops impressive list of new stallions

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Barbara D. Livingston
A son of Arch, Blame is one of three new sires in Kentucky with a leading stud fee of $35,000, along with Lookin At Lucky and Quality Road.

The 2011 breeding season is going to be a challenge for everyone, and stallion managers are aware they might be in for rougher seas than usual. Last year established a new low for new horses entering the stallion ranks in Kentucky, with only 16 advertised, and the highest entering stud fee was the lowest in years, just $25,000 for Zensational.

This year, 23 new stallions are entering stud in Kentucky, and there is a three-way tie for the highest fee ($35,000) among Blame, Lookin At Lucky, and Quality Road. Those figures are more a tribute to the quality of horses going to stud this year than they are an indication of the health of the system. It has been suggested that these first-year stallions are going to have a harder time getting mares, but history also tells us the best new horses still have their fans and will still attract mares. It’s the lower-end models who will have the uphill climb.

The top three young horses entering stud in 2011 are an extremely talented group. Throw in a fourth horse, Eskendereya at $30,000, and you have as qualified a bunch of stud prospects as we have seen in years. Before the market crash, these prospects would have been standing for probably 50 percent more than they are now. While they will be competing against each other for mares, each one is unique, and they are far from being interchangeable at the price.

Blame, runner-up in last year’s Horse of the Year voting, was a homebred racing for Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider. A winner at 2, he graduated from being a good late-season 3-year-old to last year’s champion older male. His career highlights included wins in the nine-furlong Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill, where he powered past a good field in the stretch; the nine-furlong Whitney, in which he ran down Quality Road; and the 1 1/4-mile Breeders’ Cup Classic, in which he held off an even more formidable closer in Zenyatta.

Blame was a very good middle-distance horse who got better with age and distance. He is a big, attractive horse, getting strength and robustness from his sire, Arch, and showing some of the elegant quality of his dam’s sire, Seeking the Gold. Through his stakes-placed dam, Liable, Blame goes back five generations in female line to one of Claiborne’s most significant purchases, the broodmare Rough Shod II. This is significant because it makes him from the same great sire family as Sadler’s Wells, Fairy King, and Nureyev. He’s got a shot, especially if he gets quicker, more precocious mares.

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Lookin At Lucky, also at $35,000, is based at Ashford Stud. He is a rare item: a champion at 2 who came back to not only win a classic race but repeat as a champion at 3. Lookin At Lucky took his California juvenile form back east on traditional dirt tracks and still excelled, scoring convincing wins in the Preakness and the Haskell.

His sire, Smart Strike, is already established as a sire of top-class runners such as Curlin and English Channel. Lookin At Lucky is also a half-brother to the multiple Grade 2 winner Kensei, out of a Belong to Me mare, from the same family as champion Wait a While. He is a big colt and built like a gladiator. If he can get precocious runners like himself, he has an added edge commercially.

Quality Road retired to Lane’s End Farm at $35,000. He was a winner at 2 and one of the best 3-year-olds of 2009, when he won the Fountain of Youth and set a track record in the Florida Derby. The early leader of the older division in 2010, his wins included the Donn, Metropolitan Handicap, and Woodward, but Blame caught him in the year-end Eclipse Awards voting.

A brilliant racehorse, Quality Road set three track records from 6 1/2 to nine furlongs. He is by Elusive Quality, who is one of the most underrated leading sires in the world, and is out of a sister to the 1997 champion 3-year-old filly Ajina, by Strawberry Road. He goes back in female line to Myrtlewood and hails from the same family as Mr. Prospector and Seattle Slew. Quality Road is a tall, lengthy horse with loads of class and power. With his innate speed and because he comes from the Gone West sire line, he could sire runners more precocious than himself.

Eskendereya, who stands for $30,000 at Taylor Made, won his maiden in the Pilgrim Stakes at 2 and became the Kentucky Derby favorite after his wins in the Fountain of Youth and Wood Memorial at 3. An injury suffered a week before the Derby ended his career, and fans never got to see if he could handle Lookin At Lucky.

Eskendereya is by Giant’s Causeway, who besides being the leading sire for the last two years is also becoming a sire of sires. Eskendereya is a half-brother to the top English 2-year-old Balmont and is out of a mare by Seattle Slew. He is from the same female line as sire greats Northern Dancer and Halo. A big, handsome horse, he is easy to like, but that early retirement suggests a sound mare is the best choice.

Everyone loves a Kentucky Derby winner, and WinStar Farm’s Super Saver is priced fairly at $20,000. He won 2 of 4 starts as a 2-year-old, including the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes. He placed in significant Derby preps such as the Tampa Bay Derby and Arkansas Derby, then won the Kentucky Derby. Super Saver didn’t regain his form in the summer, however, and was sent back to the farm after bruised cannon bones were diagnosed.

Super Saver is the second Kentucky Derby winner by the late Maria’s Mon, who also sired 2001 Derby hero Monarchos. He is out of a sister to A.P. Indy’s graded winners Girolamo, Daydreaming, and Accelerator as well as to the dam of Bluegrass Cat, a Grade 1 winner and now hot young sire. Super Saver goes back in female line to Numbered Account, meaning he is from the same family as sires Private Account, Mutakddim, and Polish Numbers, in addition to several other horses going back to La Troienne. He is a very sleek, handsome, medium-sized horse with a lot of class.

There are five horses entering stud at $15,000, including two champions from the 2006 foal crop. Midshipman was the champion 2-year-old of 2008, surprisingly just the first champion for his sire, Unbridled’s Song. At 3, he was third in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile but didn’t come back to the same level he exhibited as a juvenile.

Summer Bird, by Birdstone, was the champion 3-year-old male in 2009, when he dominated in the Belmont, Travers, and Jockey Club Gold Cup. Like his sire, he was a true classic distance performer, and he is from the female line of three very good sires: Rubiano, Glitterman, and Relaunch.

Discreetly Mine led the charge that helped mark 2010 as Mineshaft’s breakout year as a sire. After starting out on the Derby trail, Discreetly Mine was taken back to shorter distances and dominated the 3-year-old sprinters, ending the year with a win in the Grade 1 King’s Bishop Stakes. The quality of his pedigree is very high. He is a half-brother to the brilliant miler Discreet Cat out of Alabama Stakes winner Pretty Discreet by Private Account.

Tale of Ekati is one of those versatile Tale of the Cat runners who was good at 2 and better at 3, with scores in the Wood Memorial and Cigar Mile. His dam is by Sunday Silence and from the great Gold Beauty family, so the class is there.

Being such a big horse, Warrior’s Reward took a little while to find his best form. His victory in the Grade 1 Carter Handicap as a 4-year-old last year did wonders for his sire, Medaglia d’Oro, who had been labeled strictly a filly sire.

Entering stud at the $12,500 level is Munnings. Grade 1-placed at 2, he was a force as a sprinter the last two seasons. By the exciting young sire Speightstown, this speed demon ought to figure as a freshman leader for this sire crop.

In the more recent “olden days,” horses who entered stud at $10,000 or below weren’t given much thought by commercial breeders, but things have changed, and this price bracket has some things to offer. Majesticperfection is probably the standout here, and he replaces his sire, Harlan’s Holiday, at Airdrie. Although Big Drama won the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, Majesticperfection beat him in the Grade 1 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap.

Desert Party won the Grade 2 Sanford Stakes at 2 and made most of his remaining starts in Dubai. What will help him more is that he is a great-looking son of the Irish-bred Street Cry.

Darby Dan goes back to the well for a Roberto grandson named All American, a Grade 1 winner in his native Australia from the immediate family of Rock Hard Ten. Gainesway is banking on Afleet Alex’s best son, the Travers winner Afleet Express.

Although Congrats started out at Vinery in Florida, he is making his first Kentucky season in 2011, and he certainly has earned the trip. His fee at Vinery’s Kentucky division is $15,000. He is bred on the same A.P. Indy-Mr. Prospector cross as Pulpit, Mineshaft, and Malibu Moon. Helping him along to leading freshman sire status were his Grade 1-winning fillies Wickedly Perfect and Turbulent Descent. Congrats are definitely in order.