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Breeders' Cup 2017

I Can Only Choose One...

Smart Strike at Lane's End Farm

Written by Matt Bernier


As we continue down the Road to the Kentucky Derby, some of the most common discussions are about young three year old colts and fillies and their pedigrees. Is (fill in the blank) bred to stay the ten, grueling furlongs of the Kentucky Derby? (Fill in the blank) was a precocious filly that displayed brilliant speed as a two year old, but does she have the ability to carry that speed for nine furlongs the First Friday in May at Churchill Downs on Oaks Day? With such a small sample size with which to create an opinion, one of the few factors that potentially sheds some light on the matter is a three year old’s lineage.


As I go through and look at the potential contenders for the Derby and the Oaks and their pedigrees, it gets me thinking – if money wasn’t an issue and I owned a mare, which sire would I have her bred to? Without getting too deep into the world of breeding and crosses and whatnot, I’m going to assume my hypothetical mare happened to handle dirt, turf and synthetic surfaces equally well. As far as her preferred distance, she excelled at eight furlongs – respectable at 6-7 furlongs as well as 8.5-9 furlongs, but truly excelled at a flat mile. Having that information regarding the background of “Mare”, I came up with a list of ten of North America’s top sires that are still active that I would consider breeding her to.


Giant’s Causeway

Storm Cat-Mariah’s Storm, by Rahy


Champion sire in 2009, 2010 and 2012, Giant’s Causeway is one of the rare horses whose offspring have performed at the absolute top level on dirt, turf and synthetic surfaces. From an earnings standpoint, the best runner he’s produced to date has been the Japanese raced Eishin Apollon, who excelled at middle distances on the grass. More recently, some of Giant’s Causeway’s most famous runners domestically have been Fed Biz, Book Review and Creative Cause.




Gone West-Silken Cat, by Storm Cat


As far as versatility is concerned, Speightstown may be at the head of the class. Speightstown’s famous runners have ranged from Bridgetown winning graded stakes sprinting on the grass, to Haynesfield taking the Jockey Club Gold Cup on dirt, to Jersey Town winning the Kelso at a flat mile. At the moment, his most recognized runner may be Golden Ticket, who dead heated to win the 2012 Travers Stakes and recently destroyed an allowance field while making his four year old debut at Gulfstream Park.




Pulpit-Tap Your Heels, by Unbridled


It’s difficult to miss any of Tapit’s children on the race track, seeing as 95% of his offspring are gray/roan. The first of his kids that probably comes to mind is Hansen, if for no other reason because of the publicity that was created for the colt by his owner, Dr. Kendall Hansen. Tapit’s progeny have had success all over the world, as evidenced by the success of Testa Matta, who won the Group 1 February Stakes in Japan last year. Domestically, some of his more famous offspring include Tapitsfly, who is a multiple Grade 1 winner on turf, Dance Card, who is an up and coming filly that won the Grade 1 Gazelle in November, and Tapizar, winner of the 2012 Breeders’ Cup Mile. The Tapit’s are making some noise early on the Road to the Kentucky Derby, as well. Flashback, He’s Had Enough and Honorable Dillon are all young three year olds that seem to have loads of potential.



Smart Strike

Mr. Prospector-Classy ‘n Smart, by Smarten


Smart Strike is another stallion whose progeny have shown the ability to handle multiple surfaces. Quite clearly, the most famous son of Smart Strike is North America’s highest money earner of all time, Curlin. More recently, Champion Two Year Old filly My Miss Aurelia and Champion Two and Three Year Old male Lookin at Lucky come to mind. As far as turf ability is concerned, Smart Strike has sired some great runners. English Channel and Never Retreat are just a couple that come to mind. The one constant that seems to be evident with the best of his progeny is the fact that a route of ground seems to suit them best. Smart Strike has had some successful sprinters, but it’s clear that his most successful children have excelled routing.



Malibu Moon

A.P. Indy-Macoumba, by Mr. Prospector


Malibu Moon is a stallion that has gained steam over the past few seasons. While he doesn’t boast the list of monster offspring that some of the others may have already established, Malibu Moon hasn’t been a slouch by any stretch of the imagination. To date, the mare Life At Ten has been his most successful descendant. However, her title may be in serious danger because of a young filly by the name of Kauai Katie. Early in her three year old campaign, it could be argued that Kauai Katie is one of the top five sprinters in the country, let alone her division. Another three year old of Malibu Moon’s that I’m very fond of is Orb. While many of Malibu Moon’s children have had their best success sprinting, I’m hopeful Orb will excel at the classic distances.



Distorted Humor

Forty Niner-Danzig’s Beauty, by Danzig


Distorted Humor has one acknowledgement that no other active sire can stake claim to. He’s the only active stallion to have sired winners of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes. How’s that for being able to handle a route of ground? Turf isn’t necessarily his strong suit as a stallion, but his offspring’s ability to handle dirt more than makes up for that. With the likes of Commentator, Any Given Saturday, Funny Cide, Flower Alley, and 2011 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Drosselmeyer to his credit, it’s plain to see why Distorted Humor still commands a $100,000 stud fee in 2013.



Medaglia d’Oro

El Prado-Cappucino Bay, by Bailjumper


When people hear the name Medaglia d’Oro, they immediately think of 2009 Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra (get well soon, champ), and rightfully so. What many people often overlook is the versatility of Medaglia d’Oro as a sire. While Rachel Alexandra and Plum Pretty, both dirt horses, top the list of all time earners of his, he’s also had some outstanding turf runners. Of the lot, the five year old mare Marketing Mix is probably his best overall. Add in the likes of Al Khali and C.S. Silk, and it’s plain to see why Medaglia d’Oro is still such a highly regarded stallion. By the way, did I mention one of this year’s early Derby favorites, Violence, is by Medaglia d’Oro?




Awesome Again-Baby Zip, by Relaunch


It could be argued that, because of his versatility, Ghostzapper was the best thoroughbred of the 2000’s. Horses don’t come around very often that win Grade 1’s at 6.5 furlongs, 8 furlongs, 9 furlongs and 10 furlongs over a twenty month span. While he was brilliant on the track, Ghostzapper’s progeny haven’t quite reached his level of racing success. Having said that, he had the second most graded stakes wins in the nation last year as a sire, led by Grade 1 Test champion Contested. Throw in a graded stakes winner on the turf in La Cloche and a grade one winner in Stately Victor, and it’s hard to argue with Ghostzapper as a top level stallion.




A.P. Indy-Cara Rafaela, by Quiet American


As the relatively new kid on the block, Bernardini has taken the breeding world by storm. His overall numbers may be slightly lower than some of the other’s listed here, but his upside has already been witnessed on the race track. His most successful son to date has been Stay Thirsty, winner of the 2011 Jim Dandy, 2011 Travers, and 2012 Cigar Mile. Not to be outshined, Bernardini has sired graded stakes winners in To Honor and Serve, Alpha and Wilburn, as well. One of his more popular runners at the moment has to be Eblouissante, a two-for-two half-sister to the great Zenyatta, who is awaiting her stakes debut. He’s just had a foal out of Rachel Alexandra and we’re all awaiting his foal from Zenyatta in the near future – Bernardini is most definitely the hot stallion at the moment.



Street Cry

Machiavellian-Helen Street, by Troy


How many stallions can be credited with producing a Kentucky Derby winner, a Travers winner, a Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic winner, a Breeders’ Cup Classic winner, a Melbourne Cup winner, and a two time Grade 1 winning sprinter over synthetics? I’m not sure what the exact number is, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say it’s probably less than two – and Street Cry is one of them. For the most part, in the United States, breeding revolves around horse’s potential on dirt. It’s very rare that you find a sire that not only can produce top level dirt horses, but can also produce the very best on turf and synthetic surfaces. Zenyatta is obviously Street Cry’s “Mona Lisa”, but when you add horses like Street Sense, Shocking and Street Boss to his credentials, you’ve got yourself a beast of a stallion.



Clearly there are other noteworthy stallions that could be listed here, but these were the ten I chose to proceed with. If I were to choose one of these ten, I’d send “Mare” off to be bred to Speightstown. Obviously everyone would like to think that the healthy colt or filly they’re getting back is classic bound, but odds are that isn’t the case. Knowing this, I’d want to take my best shot at getting a top notch racehorse, regardless of the distance or the surface, and I believe Speightstown would give me my best chance at getting that. I’m anxious to see which sire other people would choose if they were in this position – maybe they select one of the stallions listed here, or maybe they go with a “write in”, such as Tiznow, Arch, Big Brown, Curlin or Candy Ride. I’d select Speightstown – who would you select?


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Older Comments about I Can Only Choose One......

Speightstown seems to be based off his wives, as far as distance goes. Haynesfield was out of a distance running mare while Speightstown's sprinters are usually out of sprinters. He is a good pick for any mare, but if you're looking for a colt who wants 10f and the mommy only wanted 8f, I think Hat Trick or Street Cry would be your man.

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