AMERICAN GRADED STAKES STANDINGS brought to you by Keeneland: CONGRATS TO CONGRATS
By Ray Paulick
Congrats has a long way to go before he is among the leaders on the list of sires of American Graded Stakes winners, but we’re going to make special mention of this son of A.P. Indy out of the Mr. Prospector mare Preach. Congrats, standing at Vinery in Florida, had his first AGS winner from his first crop of foals Aug. 6 at Del Mar when his 2-year-old daughter Wickedly Perfect won the Grade 3 Sorrento Stakes.
Congrats had previously been represented by a Group 3 winner in Puerto Rico when Check My Cheeks won a stakes earlier this month, her fifth victory without a defeat.
Wickedly Perfect was bred in Florida by Y-Lo Racing Stables and sold for $70,000 at the OBS April sale of 2-year-olds in training. Dennis O’Neill, brother of the filly’s trainer, Doug O’Neill, picked her out of the sale with the assistance of bloodstock agent Bob Feld. She races for Peter Moehrke, Jay Schneider’s Rafter JR Ranch, and STD Racing (Steve, Tracy, and Dave Kenly).
The current crop of 2-year-olds by Congrats was conceived at Cloverleaf Farms II, the Reddick, Fla., nursery owned by John Sykes, who purchased the horse in April 2006 as a 6-year-old. Bred and owned for most of his career by Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider (who had a pretty good weekend at Saratoga when their Blame upset Quality Road to win the Grade 1 Whitney), Congrats won his first race, a maiden special going 6 1/2 furlongs at Saratoga, as a 2-year-old for trainer Shug McGaughey.
Congrats remained in McGaughey’s barn until the end of his 4-year-old season, having won six of 14 starts, including the Alysheba Stakes. He was sent to Richard Mandella in California, and earned his first and only AGS victory in 2005 when he captured the Grade 2 San Pasqual Handicap by 5 1/2 lengths. He finished second to Rock Hard Ten in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap and third to Lava Man in the Grade 1 Hollywood Gold Cup.
Claiborne already owned Flatter, a year-older full brother to Congrats, and he entered stud at the Paris, Ky., farm in 2004, which gave Sykes a good marketing tool when Congrats went to stud at Cloverleaf in 2007. (Congrats raced twice for Cloverleaf and trainer Kathleen O’Connell and completed his career with seven wins, three seconds, and three thirds from 27 starts for earnings of $998,960.). Flatter and Congrats were produced from Praise, a Mr. Prospector mare out of Wild Applause, herself out of Glowing Tribute. Flatter and Congrats are from the family of sires Roar, Eastern Echo, Sea Hero, and Hero’s Honor.
Priced at $12,500 live foal his first year, Congrats was bred to 172 mares, then moved to Vinery, which limited his book to 125 mares at the same fee in 2008. His third year saw a predictable decline in numbers, especially given the economic climate, and he was bred to only 56 mares at a $10,000 stud fee. Vinery dropped the fee to $4,500 in 2010, and breeders responded enthusiastically by sending 128 mares to the stallion.
The jump in 2010, according to Vinery Florida stallion administrator Declan Doyle, was his reception at 2009 yearling sales and especially the 2010 2-year-old sales, along with the lower stud fee. Congrats’ 2009 yearlings averaged $23,047 for 38 sold, and his 2-year-olds of 2010 averaged $49,636 from 33 sold.
“We’ve always marketed him as the best-looking stallion in Ocala, which he is undoubtedly is,” said Doyle. “With his yearlings and foals, you get the impression his runners will be two-turn horses, so we’ve been pleasantly surprised by his early success. A lot of people felt his 2-year-olds would need more time, but the fact they are winning early sends some of those pre-conceived notions out the window.”
Congrats all around.