Keeneland presents American Graded Stakes Standings: Family History Guides Janney’s Success
Thoroughbred racing is a sport that links generations. The horses, of course, pass on their genes and create new generations of runners. But the people in the game do something similar.
A parent takes her children to the racetrack, and they become fans. A trainer’s son becomes a trainer. A breeding farm stays in the family.
So, as we remember the great filly Ruffian this week – she was born 40 years ago on April 17, 1972 – it seems appropriate to highlight the recent success of breeder/owner Stuart S. Janney III. His parents, Stuart S. Janney Jr. and Barbara Phipps Janney, bred and owned Ruffian. They also raced Private Terms, who competed in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness after sweeping the Gotham Stakes and Wood Memorial in 1988. Stuart Janney Jr. died later that year in a car accident at the age of 81.
Stuart Janney III carried on his parents’ tradition of top-end breeding with Coronado’s Quest, who won the 1998 Haskell and Travers and finished fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Classic during that same 3-year-old campaign. Janney has produced other notable runners, including Carriage Trail and Criminologist.
But coming from racing lineage doesn’t assure consistent success. There were some lean years, and Janney admits he made some mistakes.
“I was kind of hurt by Coronado’s Quest,” Janney said. “I did breed quite a few to him, and things didn’t work out too well. That put a dent in things for a while.”
But Janney’s record has certainly shined since the turn of this decade. His runners’ earnings nearly doubled from 2009 to 2010 and again from 2010 to 2011. Last year, those winnings topped $1.1 million as Janney produced a 27% win percentage and three graded stakes victories. This year, he already has three graded stakes trophies with three different horses, including Data Link, who won last Friday’s Grade 1 Maker’s 46 Mile at Keeneland, and Hymn Book, who captured the Grade 1 Donn Handicap at Gulfstream Park in February. Both runners’ dams have the same mother.
“I bought a filly called Sunset Service at the sales, and she ended up hurting herself and became a broodmare,” Janney said. “That family’s been very live.”
Data Link’s mare, Database, will be bred back to his sire, War Front, this year. Same goes for Hymn Book’s parents – Arch and Vespers.
“Database and Vespers are not show-stoppingly good-looking mares,” said Janney. “I have some mares that are good-looking, and they are not even in the top half. But they had pretty decent race records, and they were tough. Plus, they had families.”
In addition to seeking out those positive familial patterns, Janney is relying on something else he learned from his parents.
“Have a few people that you trust and have long-standing relationships with,” he said. “Foster an atmosphere of trust and that can make a real contribution to what you’re doing. That’s the kind of relationship I’ve had with Claiborne and Shug.”
Janney keeps all of his mares at Claiborne Farm, and the go-to trainer for his stable of about 15 runners is Hall of Famer Shug McGaughey.
“Shug has trained most of the grandmothers of these horses, and Seth Hancock has seen all of these families develop the same way. The three of us put our heads together to see who we could breed to. We’ve had some luck, but we’ve identified sires that work pretty well with these mares.”
Take War Front, whose stock soared last year with a 3-year-old group that included The Factor, Summer Soiree and Soldat. That first crop has produced more than $5.6 million in earnings worldwide.
“Shug had a high regard for War Front, and he encouraged me to take a hard look at him,” said Janney. “You could see it out in the field when his foals were eight weeks old. They all looked terrific, and they all looked like him.”
Janney also places a high value on stallions he believes raced as medication-free as possible. As chairman of the Jockey Club’s Thoroughbred Safety Committee, Janney has said the end of race-day medication “cannot come soon enough.”
“We’ve got to get to a point where the horse arrives at the starting gate free of medication,” Janney said. “Until we get ourselves away from over-medicating our horses, we’re in danger of losing the sport.”
But Janney believes all is not lost. He applauds the American Graded Stakes Committee for pursuing a ban of race-day medication for juvenile stakes, even though the committee later postponed the effort due to the difficulty of getting cooperation from state racing commissions.
“Perhaps the unintended benefit of backing off was to create an outcry and refocus people on the issue,” said Janney. “We’re going to continue working with the various racing commissions.”
On the track, Janney’s graded stakes record could get a boost with the return of the Smart Strike turf specialist Air Support. The 4-year-old had a shoe problem in an allowance race this month at Keeneland, where he was returning from a nine-month layoff. Air Support won the Grade 2 Virginia Derby and the Grade 3 Transylvania last year. The great-grandmother of Air Support’s dam, Gaze?
Shenanigans, the mare that foaled Ruffian.