01/06/2012 4:04PM

Unusual Heat again tops California stallions in progeny earnings

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ARCADIA, Calif. – Unusual Heat defended his title as California’s leading stallion by progeny earnings in 2011 with earnings of $4,495,713, slightly edging his 2010 total. The 2011 season was the fourth consecutive year in which Unusual Heat has led the state’s stallions.

In 2011, Unusual Heat’s progeny was led by a nationally prominent horse in Acclamation, who earned $1,126,000 and is a finalist for the Eclipse Award as the nation’s outstanding older male and outstanding turf male. Acclamation, who won three Grade 1 races in California in 2011, was one of three stakes winners by Unusual Heat, who combined to win eight stakes last year.

In overall 2011 earnings, Unusual Heat finished well clear of runner-up Tribal Rule ($3,488,563), who was followed in the top five by Benchmark ($2,921,641), Kafwain ($2,847,642), and Southern Image ($2,351,448).

Unusual Heat’s 2011 total surpassed his 2010 year-end total of $4,342,128, but well shy of his 2008 mark of $5,827,513, an all-time record for a California-based stallion. Unusual Heat, 22, stands for $20,000 at Harris Farms in Coalinga, Calif. He is expected to be bred to approximately 60 mares in 2012, or about the same number as in 2011.

The price is the highest in the state for a stallion, but could be more of a value if Acclamation wins an Eclipse Award or two when presentations are made on Jan. 16.

“Let’s see what happens at the Eclipse Award,” said breeder Madeline Auerbach, part of the group that owns Unusual Heat. “At least, he is getting some recognition.”

Awesome Gambler leads freshmen

Awesome Gambler was the leading freshman stallion in California in 2011, and the only one of the first-year group to surpass six figures in progeny earnings.

The bulk of his earnings – $287,692 – was generated by the filly Willa B Awesome, who won 2 of 9 starts and $173,896 in a season highlighted by a win in the Barretts Debutante Stakes at Fairplex Park. Owned by a partnership and trained by Walther Solis, Willa B Awesome was second or third in five stakes from June to September.

Awesome Gambler had 15 runners in 2011, and five winners. Willa B Awesome was his lone stakes winner. Awesome Gambler stands for $5,000 at Terry Lovingier’s Lovacres Ranch near Warner Springs, Calif., and will have a much bigger crop of runners in 2012.

“He’s loaded with horses for next year,” Lovingier said.

Lovingier said that Awesome Gambler was bred to 40 mares in 2011, a number that could increase by more than 50 percent this year. “They want to see how that first crop runs,” he said of breeders. “We’ll get 60 or 70 mares to him this year.”

As for Willa B Awesome, she is a 3-year-old in an ideal year this season. The 2012 calendar features the start of the Golden State Series for California-breds, with higher prize money for many divisions. The first major race in the series for 3-year-old fillies is the $200,000 Evening Jewel Stakes over 6 1/2 furlongs at Santa Anita on March 31.

Willa B Awesome earned a break at Lov Acres Ranch after her second-place finish in the filly division of the California Breeders’ Champion Stakes at Santa Anita on Dec. 26. “We give her long enough between races and given her time at the ranch,” Lovingier said.

◗ The California Thoroughbred Breeders Association is holding a stallion season auction on Tuesday from 6 to 8 p.m. The auction will be conducted via telephone at (626) 445-7800, with proceeds going toward the organization’s political action committee.

Awesome Gambler and Southern Image are among the stallions in the auction.