Keeneland presents American Graded Stakes Standings: Brilliance, Belief Pay Off for Airdrie
The fast start in 2012 American Graded Stakes races for Airdrie Stud could not have come at a better time. Just two months ago, the Midway, Ky., farm owned by Mr. and Mrs. Brereton C. Jones was reeling from the loss of its flagship stallion, 16-year-old Indian Charlie, due to Hemangiosarcoma, a rare, highly invasive form of cancer. The son of In Excess had sired four champions and was at the height of his popularity at stud.
“We were unbelievably fortunate to have a horse like Charlie,” said Bret Jones, the son of Brereton and Libby Jones who takes on a bigger role each year in the management of the family farm. “It was very sad around here when we lost him. It was devastating from a personal standpoint. But we knew we had to just roll up our sleeves and get back to work, to produce more fast horses. You can’t dwell on it.”
It didn’t take long for those fast horses to show up at the racetrack.
On Jan. 13, 3-year-old homebred colt Mark Valeski (by Airdrie stallion Proud Citizen) carried the colors of Brereton Jones to victory in an allowance race at Fair Grounds and is being ramped up for a start in the Grade 2 Risen Star Stakes in New Orleans a week from Saturday. On Jan. 14, Brereton Jones-bred and Airdrie-sold Silver Medallion (by Airdrie stallion Badge of Silver) won the G3 Ft. Lauderdale Stakes at Gulfstream Park for Black Rock Stables.
The next weekend, Brereton Jones homebred 3-year-old colt Mr. Bowling (by Airdrie stallion Istan) entered the Triple Crown picture with a hard-fought win in the G3 LeComte Stakes at Fair Grounds Feb. 21. The following day, the Brereton Jones-bred and Airdrie-sold Include Me Out (by Airdrie stallion Include) won the G2 La Canada Stakes at Santa Anita Park for Samantha Siegel’s Jay Em Ess Stable.
Year in and year out, Jones and Airdrie are among the leaders in producing American Graded Stakes performers, and they’ve done it with stallions that didn’t set the farm back tens of millions of dollars.
“The Boss has been doing this a long time and he’s tried different approaches over the years,” Bret Jones said of his father. “In the beginning, there was an emphasis on bringing in the top pedigrees and hoping they would replicate. But what he’s seen over and over again is that brilliance can trump all. So we look for a horse that has that brilliance, though it’s sometimes hard to define. Indian Charlie is a wonderful example. He had a California pedigree that a lot of Kentucky breeders weren’t comfortable with, but he was a brilliant racehorse and a really beautiful animal.”
Jones mentioned another young Airdrie stallion, Brother Derek (his first foals are now 2-year-olds), that he said is in “very much the same mold” as Indian Charlie. The California-bred son of Benchmark won the G2 Norfolk and G1 Hollywood Futurity at 2, the G2 duo of the San Rafael and Santa Catalina and G1 Santa Anita Derby at 3, when he also finished fourth in both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness.
“I will be very disappointed if he doesn’t make it,” Jones said of Brother Derek.
Majesticperfection is another horse Brereton and Bret Jones are very high on. The son of Harlan’s Holiday won 5-of-6 career starts, including the G1 Alfred G. Vanderbilt at Saratoga. “When Steve Asmussen says he’s the fastest horse he’s ever seen – not just the fastest one he’s ever trained – that helps define brilliance,” Bret Jones said.
Jones said he and his father both are big believers in physically matching a mare to a stallion during the planning stages of a mating. “In the commercial market, the physical match is obviously very important,” he said. “If a mare needs a little more hip, you breed a stallion that throws that. But when planning a mating, the most important thing is you have to truly believe in the stallion.”
G1 Pimlico Special winner Include, the sire of Include Me Out, has had 10 stakes winners each of the last two years and is currently ranked in the top 10 by North American progeny earnings.
“When we first brought Include to stud,” Bret Jones said, “just about everyone said the same thing: ‘He’s the best looking Broad Brush I’ve ever seen.’ Broad Brush was a tremendous sire, an elite sire. He didn’t always get you the prettiest horse, but Include is very nice physically, and luckily produces a very nice physical himself.”
Mr. Bowling is from the first crop of Istan, a son of Gone West who won 9-of-21 starts in Europe and North America, including a pair of G3 races in the U.S. on dirt and Polytrack.
“Istan was a horse that we believed in that never set the market afire because he didn’t have the name recognition,” said Jones. “He didn’t get a win at the top level, but again had the brilliance. He’s the only son of Gone West to run two zero Ragozins, and we hold those numbers in high regard. He was getting very good late in his career.
“With Badge of Silver (sire of Silver Medallion), we called him ‘The Freak’ in our ad campaign when he first came to stud because he won his first three by a combined 26 lengths. He had some injuries that derailed him along the way, but when he was good there was nobody faster. What we are seeing with Badge of Silver, being out of a mare by Silver Hawk – who was our top stallion before Indian Charlie, and primarily a sire of turf horses – as trainers put more Badge of Silvers on turf and stretch them out, we think they’ll move up.”
Airdrie sells about 100 yearlings each year, mostly horses bred in the name of Brereton C. Jones. “It’s rare when we sell for a client,” Bret Jones said. “The last few years it’s no secret it’s been more difficult to sell a racehorse. Mr. Bowling was a $14,000 RNA. Mark Valeski (named for a friend of Brereton and Libby Jones who is a manager at the Sea View Hotel in Bal Harbour, Fla.) was a $22,000 RNA. We believe enough in our product that when we don’t get them sold, we’ll race them.”
G1 Del Mar Oaks winner Summer Soiree, who was sold privately to Team Valor last spring after winning the G3 Bourbonette Oaks at Turfway Park, was listed as an RNA as both a weanling and yearling. “People know we don’t put giant reserve prices on our horses,” said Jones. “We thought Summer Soiree was a really nice filly, and I don’t know that we had a single scope (endoscopic exam) on her in two sales.”
This year, Airdrie added Haynesfield to its stallion roster. The New York-bred son of Speightstown won 10-of-19, including the 2010 G1 Jockey Club Gold Cup over champion Blame.
“He’s another horse that we believe has the requisite brilliance to be a sire,” said Jones. “He’s the best son of what we believe is a top sire in Speightstown, won stakes from 2-5, and was good enough to beat Blame. He won by four lengths and in a way that got our attention as a stallion prospect.”
Jones wouldn’t guarantee Haynesfield would be the next stallion success picked out by the Airdrie Stud team, but said simply: “The Boss is good at what he does.”