Keeneland presents American Graded Stakes Standings: Howe Great?
The story behind Howe Great, winner of last Sunday’s Grade 3 Palm Beach Stakes at Gulfstream Park, sounds somewhat similar to the one associated with last year’s Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom.
Both horses race for Team Valor International. Animal Kingdom was bred by Team Valor and Howe Great was bred by Team Valor founder Barry Irwin. Both are by sires and out of dams brought to the United States by Irwin, whose Team Valor partnerships are better known for owning racehorses than for breeding them. But Team Valor’s breeding operations have enjoyed some success.
Animal Kingdom is a son of the Brazilian-bred Leroidesanimaux out of a German mare, Dalicia, by Acatenango. Howe Great is a son of the Sunday Silence stallion Hat Trick, who was bred in Japan, and out of a South African mare, Ginger Sea, by Western Winter.
Hat Trick came to Irwin’s attention in 2007 when the Japanese champion miler became available as a stallion prospect in a country that already was flooded with sons and grandsons of Sunday Silence, the 1989 North American Horse of the Year who was purchased by the late Zenya Yoshida and stood at his family’s Shadai Stallion Station. Sunday Silence, a son of leading sire Halo, had the most prolific stud career of any stallion in Japanese history.
Irwin bought the horse and initially tried to put together a deal to export Hat Trick to South Africa, but the asking price was a little too steep and instead he suggested Johnny Jones III of Walmac International take a look at the horse.
“I owned him for a week,” Irwin recalled. “It was hard to raise the money in South Africa, and it was multiple millions of dollars. I sold him to Johnny Jones and he brought him here. The thing about that horse is he was out of an American mare (American Graded Stakes winner Tricky Code, by Lost Code), and that appealed to Johnny, who went over and looked at the horse and liked him. I got a breeding right, which is what I used to breed Howe Great with. “
Hat Trick became the first son of Sunday Silence who was a major stakes winner in Japan to stand in the United States.
“This horse was fast,” Irwin said of Hat Trick. “He didn’t run at two, but he is really well built. He’s got good muscle and bone.”
Reminded that Sunday Silence was sold to Yoshida because of the cold reception Stone Farm’s Arthur Hancock got from breeders for the son of Halo when he tried to syndicate him following his retirement in 1990, Irwin said, “I love the Halo sire line. He was one of the toughest son of a guns who ever lived. And Sunday Silence was a great racehorse. Maybe he wasn’t Secretariat, but he was a very good horse from the get go.”
After Dabirsim, from Hat Trick’s first crop of foals, developed into a major stakes winner and 2-year-old champion of 2011 in France, Antony Beck of Gainesway Farm purchased Hat Trick and resyndicated the horse for the 2012 breeding season. His stud fee is $15,000.
Howe Great is Hat Trick’s first American Graded Stakes winner.
“He must have paid Walmac a lot of money (for Hat Trick),” Irwin said of Beck. “I brought them an offer from one of the biggest farms in Australia to buy the horse outright, and they turned him down. Walmac cashed out to a certain extent that is meaningful for them.”
Interestingly, when Beck made the deal, he commented on a subject that is dear to Irwin’s heart, horses that raced without medication. “I am thrilled to stand the only champion son of the great Sunday Silence at stud in North America,” said Beck. “Hat Trick raced at the highest level with no medication, which is very important to breeders the world over, and to sire a champion in his first crop proves his ability to pass on his greatness.”
One reason Irwin has increased the number of horses he breeds, he said, is so that “I am able to get my horses to the races from zero. I’m just doing things that certain guys used to do in Kentucky, and I’m breeding to race, not for the sales ring. I’m not using ‘fashionable’ sires, but sires that I think can produce good racehorses. My plan is to prove the mares by having control over the racing careers of the young horses. Once we’ve done that, then we’ll start selling the offspring.”
As for Howe Great, the Palm Beach was on turf, and he’s likely to start next in the Blue Grass on Polytrack. He broke his maiden on dirt but Irwin isn’t convinced he’s a true dirt horse.
“I don’t think his stride looked as good on dirt as it does on turf,” he said. “He was green (when he won a maiden race at Parx Oct. 31). The minute we put him on turf, his stride got longer, he was more elastic. He should like the synthetic. He’s a funny horse. He doesn’t do anything in the morning. He gets outworked all the time. Until we try him on these other surfaces we won’t know.”