While Triple Crown winner American Pharoah (by Pioneerof the Nile) is battling for freshman sire supremacy with Florida Derby winner Constitution (Tapit), nestled in among the highly ranked young sires standing for five-figure or six-figure fees is a pair of less-expensive animals: Competitive Edge (Super Saver) in third and Khozan (Distorted Humor) in fourth on the current freshman sire list.
Those two are sitting just clear of Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile winner Liam's Map (Unbridled's Song), Breeders' Cup Classic winner Bayern (Offlee Wild), and Belmont Stakes winner Palace Malice (Curlin). Tapiture (Tapit), Wicked Strong (Hard Spun), and Carpe Diem (Giant's Causeway) round out the top 10.
Nine of the freshmen sires stand in Kentucky; the outlier in the group is Khozan, who stands in Florida at Brent and Crystal Fernung's Journeyman Stud north of Ocala. And Khozan has been standing for the smallest fee in the group, $4,000 live foal. [The fee will hop to $8,500 in 2020.]
The reason for the smaller stud fee is the good-looking sire's race record, or actually the absence of the mulit-season, high-achieving race record of a G1 winner or champion. A half-brother to champion Royal Delta and one of the top lots at the Fasig-Tipton Florida sale of 2-year-olds in training in 2014, selling to Al Shaqab Racing for $1 million, Khozan made only two starts. In the first, a seven-furlong maiden at Gulfstream on Jan. 24, 2015, the strong-bodied colt put himself in the race from the start, advancing from fourth at the quarter pole to a two-length lead at the stretch call, then pulling away to win by 3 ¾ lengths.
That race made believers of many, and when Khozan made his second start four weeks later in a mile allowance at Gulfstream, he was odds on at 1-20. The colt again placed himself well and kept on finding the speed to massacre his opposition, pulling away to win by 12 ¾ lengths “with an uncocked whip as the easiest of winners,” according to the chart.
Khozan never raced again.
The powerful bay was a likely favorite for the Florida Derby but picked up an injury to his right hind ankle shortly before his expected stakes debut.
Brent Fernung said, “After that second race, I was assuming he'd be a Grade I winner and go to stud in Kentucky, but he came up with an injury that sent him to stud. It was very fortunate for somebody like me to be able to get their hands on a horse like Khozan, and we ended up with a really good group of guys to back him. Al Shaqab kept a big percentage in him, and Gil Campbell, over at Stonehedge Farm, took a quarter. He's bred a lot of good mares to this horse” and bred the stallion's first stakes winner, Liam's Lucky Charm.
Their commitment and hard work are paying off big time. Now sitting fourth on the national list of freshmen sires, Khozan has three stakes winners and three stakes-placed horses among his 31 starters and 14 winners out of a first crop of 73 foals, which is also the smallest number of foals among the top 15 freshmen sires.
The stallion's stakes winners are: Liam's Lucky Charm, winner of the $200,000 Florida Sire Stakes Affirmed Division on Aug. 31 at Gulfstream Park; Airbus, winner of the G1 Clasico Polla de Potrillos on Sept. 8 in Peru; and Sebs Princess, winner of the Louisiana Jewel Stakes at Delta Downs on Oct. 18.
The latter was bred in Louisiana by Jay Adcock and Red River Farms from A True Star (Yes It's True), a mare that Adcock bought for $2,500 at the OBS winter mixed sale in 2017. He said, “I try to buy little stakes mares or stakes producers, and this mare had produced a nice colt by Congrats named Joe Hollywood, who'd have been counted a really good horse if a couple of close decisions had gone his way. He was from the A.P. Indy line, and I wanted her to breed to Guilt Trip or Bind,” both A.P. Indy-line horses that Adcock stands in Louisiana.
“I knew the mare was in foal to Khozan,” Adcock said, “who had looked really promising and had run some good numbers, and we got a really nice filly out of the mare. This filly was a big, tall, leggy filly with a lot of scope who came to the sale with a clean vet report, and nobody even wanted to look at her. The buyers here had never heard of the horse, never seen him run, and they didn't want her. The man who bought her [for $5,500] was a fellow who did know something about Khozan.”
Racing for Northpointe Thoroughbreds, Sebs Princess has won $79,500 from two victories in five starts and was doing her best racing in the last quarter-mile of the Louisiana Jewel.
In what appears to be a conscious effort to spread the Khozan stock into different hands, Journeyman sold mares in foal to the stallion, and they were widely dispersed, none more so than the dam of Airbus.
Gracie's Kitty G., the dam of Airbus, was an unraced mare by D'Wildcat that Journeyman sold on behalf of breeders Allen and Jenny Gardner for $3,500 at the OBS January sale in 2017 to Vicente Portaro, agent. A half-sister to G2 stakes winner Oprah Winney (Royal Academy), Gracie's Kitty G. produced her first foal in 2015, and Airbus, foaled in Peru, is her second.
That approach has paid off handsomely through the varied opportunities available to Khozan's stock, and Fernung observed, “This was a really fast horse who worked the co-fastest furlong at Fasig's February sale in 2014, and he's by a really fast horse in Distorted Humor who became a leading sire.” Distorted Humor's best racing sons have been Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Funny Cide, Whitney winner Commentator, Travers winner Flower Alley, Haskell winner Any Given Saturday, and Belmont Stakes and Breeders' Cup Classic winner Drosselmeyer.
Interestingly, however, Distorted Humor's most successful son at stud to date has been the freakishly fast Maclean's Music, sire of 2017 Preakness winner Cloud Computing; Malibu Stakes winner Jimmy Creed, sire of 11 stakes winners to date; and Alternation, sire of the 2019 Kentucky Oaks winner Serengeti Empress.
The fast and talented Khozan is bidding to join them as an important sire.
Frank Mitchell is author of Racehorse Breeding Theories, as well as the book Great Breeders and Their Methods: The Hancocks. In addition to writing the column “Sires and Dams” in Daily Racing Form for nearly 15 years, he has contributed articles to Thoroughbred Daily News, Thoroughbred Times, Thoroughbred Record, International Thoroughbred, and other major publications. In addition, Frank is chief of biomechanics for DataTrack International and is a hands-on caretaker of his own broodmares and foals in Central Kentucky. Check out Frank's lively Bloodstock in the Bluegrass blog.
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