Victory in the Group 3 Prix du Bois on June 29 at Chantilly made Maven the first stakes winner from the first crop of racers by 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah (by Pioneerof the Nile). A champion at both 2 and 3, American Pharoah became the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed (Exclusive Native) in 1978.
Affirmed was the last of a trio of Triple Crown winners in the 1970s that began with Secretariat (Bold Ruler) in 1973 and followed with Seattle Slew (Bold Reasoning) in 1977. Triple Crown winners have tended to come in clusters. Four in the 1940s: Whirlaway (Blenheim), Count Fleet (Reigh Count), Assault (Bold Venture), and Citation (Bull Lea). And American Pharoah has heralded a pair of them in the second decade of the new century with Justify (Scat Daddy) following in 2018.
In the 1950s, 1960s, 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s, there were no Triple Crown winners, but the feat is no small accomplishment.
Furthermore, with the exception of Assault, who was essentially sterile, all the proven Triple Crown winners above became useful sires or better. Count Fleet, Seattle Slew, and Secretariat became leading sires; Citation and Affirmed sired champions; and Whirlaway sired 17 stakes winners (9 percent from 183 foals), including Scattered, winner of the 1948 Coaching Club American Oaks and also a half-sister to a nonwinner by Princequillo named Somethingroyal, who later became the dam of Secretariat and his high-class half-brother Sir Gaylord (Turn-to).
So now American Pharoah needs only 16 more stakes winners to match the lifetime stakes winners sired by Whirlaway, and if the bay son of Pioneerof the Nile can duplicate the percentage of stakes winners to foals that Whirlaway produced, then American Pharoah ought to get very nearly that many from his first crop, which numbers 163, according to Jockey Club data.
One of the difficulties of contemporary Thoroughbred breeding is the degree to which practices have changed over the past 25 years with the vast increases in book sizes for more popular stallions, accompanied by the shuttle programs to use stallions in both the Northern and Southern hemispheres year-round. This is a challenge for anyone wanting to evaluate the success of stallions of different eras because the volume of foals is so greatly different.
For instance, the 163 foals of 2017 are the progeny from American Pharoah's Kentucky book of 208 mares in 2016 that resulted in 178 mares being reported back in foal. That's only 20 fewer foals than Whirlaway sired in his entire stud career. The extremely long-lived Count Fleet, on the other hand, sired 432 foals and 38 stakes winners (9 percent) from 22 crops.
As a result of this vast difference in scale, the only effective comparison for young stallions in the big-book era is with other young stallions of near quality. With American Pharoah, Uncle Mo (Indian Charlie) is probably the most effective comparable sire. Both stand at Ashford Stud outside of Versailles, Ky., for Coolmore, both were champion juveniles, and both have similar physiques with very good size and scope more associated with performance at a mile or more rather than sprinting.
Statistically, Uncle Mo had 157 named foals in his first crop, 126 starters (80 percent), 97 winners (62 percent), and 25 stakes winners (16 percent). Those are excellent statistics, exceeding nearly every other stallion put to stud since 1995, and if American Pharoah can approach those numbers, he will have done very well indeed.
In that first crop, Uncle Mo exceeded the breed norms by about 20 percent each for starters and winners, by 13 percent for stakes winners. Those stats pose very high benchmarks for any first-crop stallion, and we can watch with great interest as the first crop by American Pharoah come to the races in the coming months.
To date, American Pharoah has had 11 starters, 4 winners, 1 stakes winner (and group stakes winner), plus a second in the G2 Railway Stakes, also over the weekend, with Monarch of Egypt.
Maven's victory in the Prix du Bois was his second in two career starts. The chestnut colt had been entered in the G2 Norfolk Stakes at Royal Ascot but was withdrawn due to the soft going. Earlier that week, Maven went through the ring at the Goffs London sale and was bought back at 725,000 pounds.
Now the colt is a group winner.
Bred in Kentucky by trainer Wesley Ward, Maven is owned by Richard Ravin and is out of the stakes winner Richies Party Girl (Any Given Saturday). Born on May 24, Maven is the first foal out of the mare, who is one of two stakes winners out of the Majestic Light mare Very Special Lite. Very Special Lite won the G3 Vineland Handicap, plus the Bryan Station Stakes at Keeneland. She was the last foal out of Very Special Lady (Buckpasser), who was twice second in stakes and ran third in the G1 Fantasy Stakes at 3.
Overall, this is a family with some noticeable leanings toward turf racing and distances of at least a mile. Maven's dam is the primary exception to this, and the young juvenile colt's effectiveness over sprint distances may indicate that he will find a different focus when trained to race over longer distances.
But even if the 1,000 meters of the Prix du Bois is the limit of Maven's racing effectiveness, he has taken a position in history as the first stakes winner for his famous sire.
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