01/08/2010 12:00AM

Unusual Heat repeats as top California stallion

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ARCADIA, Calif. - Unusual Heat successfully defended his title as California's leading stallion by progeny earnings in 2009, but his progeny earned slightly less than last year.

Last year, Unusual Heat's progeny earned $5,184,194, shy of the 2008 figure of $5,827,513, a record for a California-based stallion. In 2009, Unusual Heat reached a new level with his first Grade 1 male winner, The Usual Q.T., in the $300,000 Hollywood Derby in November.

The Usual Q.T. won four consecutive stakes from October through the end of the year - the California Cup Mile, Grade 2 Oak Tree Derby, Hollywood Derby, and Grade 3 Sir Beaufort Stakes - to lead all Unusual Heat progeny with season earnings of $498,670.

Unusual Heat's 2009 progeny earnings left him 29th on the nation's overall list, well behind Kentucky-based Giant's Causeway, who had progeny earnings of $11,079,918. In 2008, Unusual Heat ranked 20th on the national list.

In 2009, Unusual Heat had 141 runners win 75 races. He had nine stakes winners. Similar to 2008, Unusual Heat's 2009 runners showed ability on synthetic tracks and turf courses throughout California.

For the second consecutive year, Unusual Heat had a commanding lead on the state's list. Silic finished second in 2009 with progeny earnings of $3,729,851, but $3,297,720 of that came from Gladiatorus, who won Group 1 races in Dubai and Italy. Rounding out the top five were Benchmark ($3,006,436), Stormin Fever ($2,612,483), and In Excess ($2,484,901).

Fitting for a stallion at the top of the list, Unusual Heat's stud fee of $20,000 is the highest among California's active stallions. Unusual Heat was bred to 80 mares last year, with 70 foals expected in his 2010 crop.

Unusual Heat will be bred to a similar number of horses this year, according to Madeline Auerbach, one of the principal partners in the syndicate that owns the 20-year-old stallion.

"It looks pretty consistent," Auerbach said.

Standing at Old English Rancho in Sanger, Calif., Unusual Heat is not booked full, Auerbach said, though California breeders are known to book matings closer to the start of the breeding season in February than breeders in other regions.

"We still have some spaces open," Auerbach said. "I think some of the breeders that have supported him have new stallions they need to support."

Unusual Heat's 2009 progeny earnings put him in elite company among California stallions. He joined Cee's Tizzy as the only stallion with two consecutive seasons of progeny earnings of $5 million or more. Back in 2000 and 2001, Cee's Tizzy was led by Tiznow, winner of the Breeders' Cup Classic in those seasons.

State's first-year stallion leaders

The state's leading first-year stallion rankings are more confusing. Southern Image led all California stallions with earnings of $378,927, but has yet to stand a season in the state.

Southern Image arrived in the state last fall, having previously stood in Kentucky. He will stand for $5,000 at Rancho San Miguel this year.

The leading freshman stallion based in this state throughout his stud career is Ministers Wild Cat, who had 2009 progeny earnings of $166,292 and ranked second on the state's freshman sire list.

Ministers Wild Cat, who stands at Tommy Town Thoroughbreds in Santa Ynez, Calif., for a $4,000 fee, had 25 horses win 10 races in 2009. His leading progeny earner was Royalty Gone Wild, who earned $26,520 and was third in the Generous Portion Stakes for statebred 2-year-old fillies at Del Mar.

Southern Image, 9, was 25th overall on the national freshman stallion list, while the 10-year-old Ministers Wild Cat was 39th. Offlee Wild led the freshman list with earnings of $1,951,283.