Thursday, July 22, 2010

Best bets on the Freshmen Sire List

Del Mar
Del Mar and Saratoga are all set for the pageantry of the summer racing festival. Last year’s yearlings with fancy pedigrees, heart stopping looks and expensive price tags will be unveiled throughout the summer, like anticipated Christmas presents.

Some of the heralded stallions on this year’s gift list look like the “B” list, but only in name. World Champion Bernardini, Bluegrass Cat, Bandini and the scintillating Bellamy Road, who equaled Riva Ridge’s 32 year old track record, are represented by a bevy of babies. Bewildered? This is where the pedigree portion of pedigree handicapping kicks in.

During the early months of juvenile racing, one expects to see chunky two year olds tearing through four and five furlong races like quarter horses with their tails afire. Normally these babies are the progeny of precocious sprint-type sires who rocket to the top of the freshmen sire list in June. By years end, the freshmen sire list looks totally different and a scouting party couldn’t find the early season leaders. It doesn’t appear to be the case this year.

Bluegrass Cat
So far, WinStar Farm is packing a punch to the First Crop Sire’s List with the top “B List” stallion, Bluegrass Cat. Bluegrass Cat is the surprise runaway leading freshman sire in terms of both victories, eight winners from 22 starters, one stakes winner, and earnings ($249,775). For a stallion that was second in the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes, one would have expected Blue Grass Cat’s offspring to be mid-season juveniles that would need at least six furlongs to win. A closer at his pedigree reveals Bluegrass Cat (Storm Cat - She's a Winner, by A.P. Indy) is by a sire who produces win early babies. His dam was unraced; however two of her full siblings were stakes winners. Bluegrass Cat Humor’s offspring should be multi-talented over a variety of surfaces and distance won’t be an issue.

Continuing the “B List” are two record setters, Bellamy Road and Bandini. Bellamy Road gave a jaw dropping performance in the 2005 Wood Memorial, equaling Riva Ridge’s track record. A

Bellamy Road
Graded stakes winner at age two, Bellamy Road is passing his win early style to his progeny. Most of his offspring are large two-turn types who nonetheless are athletic and mature. They should come out running and improve with time and distance.

Bandini created a love affair with Gulfstream Park, setting a seven furlong track record in a maiden race and later in his career at the same track capturing a record at nine furlongs. Both he and Bellamy Road are off to a compelling stud career. Each stallion boasts three winners from eight runners. However Bellamy Road has the distinction of a stakes winning daughter. The sires’ offspring should be similar in their surface preferences. They will show the best talent over dirt love the mud and handle most synthetic surfaces. Turf may be an option if the individual offspring’s female family is bred for the lawn.

Few horses obtain the Champion of the World honorific, yet that was the title bestowed upon Bernardini after his tour de force three year old campaign. He only raced for one year, making eight starts, but he made every race count. After breaking his maiden, he jumped into stakes competition, won the Preakness and beat older horses in the handicap division. After retirement, Bernardini’s first year date book was the rival of the Mayflower Madam’s, with a role call of prestigious mares. Like Bellamy Road and Bandini, Bernardini has eight starters, but only one winner. His offspring resemble their sire in looks and athletic ability so we’ll be seeing his royally bred babies coronated during the summer and fall. They should appreciate distance, run well over dirt and love getting their hooves dirty in the mud. Some could make their presence known over the “dirt like” Cushion Track and Pro-Ride. His offspring with turf influences in their female families may show ability over Polytrack and of course turf.

Expectations run high for the new sires. Some may surprise, others disappoint. One might step up and become the next big name to transcend generations. Whatever happens, one thing is for sure, we’ll all be entertained by their offspring for years to come.