12/21/2017 1:16PM

Year of transition coming for California sire ranks

Susie Raisher
Ministers Wild Cat is California's leading living stallion with runners sired in the state.

The California stallion ranks are in a season of change. The state’s general sire list provides a snapshot of that shifting landscape, with recently deceased state stalwarts, prominent active stallions with California-sired progeny, and accomplished newcomers to the region all playing a role.

Bluegrass Cat and Stay Thirsty, neither of whom has California-sired progeny on the track yet, appear at the top of the earnings list among stallions who will stand in California in 2018, indicating that they are prepared to be a force in their new state. Bluegrass Cat (seasonal progeny earnings of $4,754,368 through Dec. 10) moved to Ballena Vista Farm for the 2015 season after previously standing in Kentucky and New York, and his first California-sired foals will hit the track next year. Stay Thirsty ($3,541,763) is preparing for his first season at Lovacres Ranch in 2018 after moving from Kentucky.

The next three stallions on the earnings list are all deceased, with perennial leader Unusual Heat ($3,319,375), who died in May, continuing to lead all stallions with current California-born runners. Unusual Heat, whose several Grade 1 winners include Eclipse Award champion Acclamation, is California’s all-time leading sire by total progeny earnings, California-bred progeny earnings, and turf progeny earnings. A former Harris Farms resident, Unusual Heat was led this season by Majestic Heat, whose three stakes victories on the year included the Grade 2 Bayakoa Stakes. Unusual Heat’s final foals arrived this year.

Next on the list by earnings were Lucky Pulpit ($3,220,120), who died of a cardiac event while covering his first mare of the season at Harris Farms, and Ballena Vista’s late Tribal Rule ($2,860,547), who died in 2014. The Tribal Rule horse Pee Wee Reese won the Grade 3 American Stakes in July on the Santa Anita turf, posting a Beyer Speed Figure of 106, the highest number of the year for a California-bred. Seven of Tribal Rule’s progeny accounted for 16 Beyer Speed Figures topping 90, tops among California sires on Daily Racing Form’s Beyer Sire Performance Standings.

That leaves Tommy Town Thoroughbreds’s Ministers Wild Cat ($2,083,274), sixth on the earnings list, as the leading living sire with California-sired progeny – a new distinction for the Deputy Minister horse, who has been among the state’s top 10 stallions every year since 2012.

Ministers Wild Cat was led in 2017 by Mr. Hinx. The 3-year-old California-bred gelding, who races as a homebred for Gary Barber, captured 5 of 11 starts this year for earnings of $438,548. He won the Echo Eddie Stakes at Santa Anita and Real Good Deal Stakes at Del Mar against statebreds before stepping into open company toward the end of the season, with solid results. He finished second by a length in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Sprint Championship to Roy H, who subsequently won the Breeders’ Cup Sprint. Mr. Hinx’s Beyer Speed Figure of 104 was second highest on the year for a California-bred. He then finished second in the Damascus Stakes on the Breeders’ Cup undercard at Del Mar.

A multiple stakes winner, Ministers Wild Cat is out of Breeders’ Cup Distaff winner and multiple stakes producer Hollywood Wildcat. Ministers Wild Cat helps anchor the roster at Tom and Debi Stull’s Tommy Town, which has established itself among the leading farms in the state and appears poised for continued success. In addition to established sires Ministers Wild Cat, Grazen, Kafwain, and Old Topper, the farm stands young Grade 1 winner Boisterous and well-bred Stormberg, both of whom's first foals will race in 2018, and new stallions in Bedford Falls, Saburo, Stanford, and War Envoy.

Vronsky among leading turf sires

Unusual Heat and Tribal Rule filled their customary positions atop California’s turf sires list by earnings, with Vronsky following them as the state’s top active stallion in the category for 2017.

Vronsky, a son of Danzig who stands at Old English Rancho, had progeny turf earnings of $997,794 through Dec. 10. He was once again led by What a View, despite the 6-year-old gelding’s campaign having ended in June. What a View won the Crystal Water Stakes at Santa Anita and placed in three other stakes, including the Grade 1 Frank E. Kilroe Mile, beaten just a head by Bal a Bali. He won that race last year, along with the Grade 3 Thunder Road Stakes.

Following Vronsky was Square Eddie with $778,887 on the turf earnings list. The Smart Strike horse was led by B Squared, who won a pair of stakes in California – the Silky Sullivan Stakes at Golden Gate and the California Flag Handicap at Santa Anita. He finished second in the Grade 3 Affirmed Stakes at Santa Anita to Battle of Midway, who had finished third in the Kentucky Derby and later won the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile. He also was third in the Grade 3 Los Alamitos Derby behind West Coast and Grade 1 winner Klimt. West Coast went on to win the Travers Stakes and Pennsylvania Derby.

Square Eddie stands at Ocean Breeze Ranch, which is only a few miles from the San Luis Rey training center, which was devastated by fast-moving wildfires in early December. Ocean Breeze, which also is home to broodmares and young stock owned by J. Paul Reddam, escaped major damage.

Smiling Tiger top freshman

While Harris Farms lost two prominent sires in Unusual Heat and Lucky Pulpit this year, it appears to have an up-and-coming star.

Smiling Tiger, a multiple Grade 1 winner and millionaire, appears to have passed his talents on to his progeny, with a huge lead as California’s top freshman sire of 2017. His first runners had bankrolled $461,852 through Dec. 10, making him the only sire in the category with more than $200,000 in earnings. That bankroll also is enough to make him the leading active overall juvenile sire in the state, behind the deceased Lucky Pulpit.

Smiling Tiger’s leading earner from seven first-crop winners is Spiced Perfection, who has not missed the board in her six starts. She won the Generous Portion Stakes at Del Mar, and finished second in both the Golden State Juvenile Fillies and Soviet Problem Stakes.

Next on the first-crop sires list by winners is Barton Thoroughbreds resident Champ Pegasus, with five winners.