01/17/2013 4:01PM

Unusual Heat maintains stranglehold on California sire lists in 2012

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Benoit & Associates
Acclamation, Unusual Heat's best son, won two Grade 1 stakes last year, the Charles Whittingham Memorial Handicap at Hollywood Park and the Eddie Read Stakes at Del Mar (above).

Unusual Heat continued his reign as California’s leading sire for the fifth consecutive year in 2012. Judging from his attitude in recent weeks, there may be no change to the rankings in the near future.

On a recent visit to Harris Farms in central California, stallion owner Madeline Auerbach witnessed firsthand the vivacity of the 23-year-old son of Nureyev.

“We make a habit of coming once a month to see him,” Auerbach said. “They had been moving some mares. He was [upset]. He ran to the fence and started hollering. He was questioning where the mares were. When I saw that, I thought: He wants another breeding season.

“He’s 23. He’s not a spring chicken, but he’s quite engaged. He’s looking forward to the season.”

Unusual Heat, who stands for $20,000, led the California sires with progeny earnings of $4,610,915 in 2012. He has been the leading sire in the state annually since 2008, the year his progeny earned a career-high $5,827,513.

In 2009, Unusual Heat’s progeny earnings were $5,184,194, but dropped to $4,342,128 in 2010. The figure has climbed the last two years. In 2011, Unusual Heat’s runners had earnings of $4,495,713. But in 2012, for the first time since he reached the top position, Unusual Heat did not have an individual horse that earned $400,000 or more.

“If you look at last year’s horses, there were no big” earners, Auerbach said. “He got $4 million the hard way.”

In 2012, Unusual Heat had 118 starters and 56 winners. He had 10 stakes winners, and one graded stakes winner. His leading earner was Unusual Heatwave, who won stakes at Betfair Hollywood Park and Del Mar and finished the year with earnings of $337,374.

Acclamation, the champion older male of 2011, was Unusual Heat’s only graded stakes winner of 2012. He won two Grade 1 races on turf, the Charles Whittingham Memorial Handicap at Hollywood Park and the Eddie Read Stakes at Del Mar. Acclamation begins his stud career in 2013 and will stand at Old English Rancho for $20,000, which equals his sire’s fee as the highest in the state.

In 2012, Unusual Heat was the only California stallion with earnings of more than $4 million. Tribal Rule, who led the juvenile list, had overall earnings of $3,865,413. Kafwain was third with $3,160,191.

Unusual Heat, out of the Danish mare Rossard, by Glacial, was bred to 59 mares in 2012, and Auerbach envisions a similar number for this year. She and her partners will breed approximately 15 mares, many of which have been sent to Unusual Heat for several consecutive years. The book will be capped at 60, with a few spots left open “for the mares that are exceptional,” Auerbach said.

“We filled up real quickly,” Auerbach said. “We had to turn people down. We’re well supported by the state of California.”

With demand high, Auerbach said she has resisted the temptation to increase the size of Unusual Heat’s book of mares, especially considering the stallion’s age.

“He’s been managed very carefully by Harris Farms,” she said. “I’d rather see him live a long, healthy life.”

Many owners who send mares to Unusual Heat breed to race, but when his progeny do appear in yearling sales they are in demand. Last fall, at the Barretts October yearling sale in Pomona, Calif., seven Unusual Heat yearlings sold for an average of $55,143. The sale had an overall average price of $23,026.

At Tuesday’s Barretts January mixed sale, there is one yearling filly and one 2-year-old colt by Unusual Heat.

Auerbach said she will continue to race most of his progeny.

“We don’t put anything in the sale unless they are outstanding,” Auerbach said. “Beautiful ones you can sell. The ones that no one wants to buy, because of this, that, or the other, we get to race. I get people asking me all the time to buy them.”

For the 2013 racing season, Auerbach is optimistic that Lakerville can be one of Unusual Heat’s leading runners. Trained by co-breeder Barry Abrams, who trained Unusual Heat at the end of his career, Lakerville has won four of six starts and earned $212,540. A 4-year-old in 2012, Lakerville won two optional claimers on turf at Del Mar and was second in the Green Flash Handicap there before being sidelined by an injury. He was considered a candidate for the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint last year.

“I really expect to see Lakerville come back with a bang,” Auerbach said. “He’s due back in two weeks to start getting ready for the summer.”