Bloodlines: Value And ‘Upside’ In Embracing Turf?

by | 09.12.2017 | 11:56am
Miss Temple City (Temple City) wins the Kentucky Downs Ladies Turf (G3) at Kentucky Downs on 9/9/2017. Edgar Prado up, Graham Motion trainer and Sagamore racing, The Club Racing, Needle in a Haystack owners.

When breeders come to review potential mates for their mares, the majority of mare owners are looking for the most commercial sires, and that generally means “young, precocious, and dirt-oriented,” if not campaigned entirely on domestic, conventional dirt surfaces.

This makes the revelation of “turf form” all the more interesting from the progeny of stallions and mares that spent their entire careers on the dirt racetracks of North (and South) America.

One of the most unexpected revelations in this regard has been the superb stallion career of the late Scat Daddy. Never raced on turf himself, and a Grade 1 winner on dirt in the 2007 Florida Derby, Scat Daddy had nonetheless shown himself a stallion of remarkable versatility, much like his famous sire Johannesburg.

A son of dirt-raced stallion Hennessy (himself a son of Storm Cat and one who race only as a juvenile), Johannesburg turned out to be an exceptional 2-year-old. The top colt of his year in Europe, Johannesburg came to the States, won the G1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile from a high-class group, and took home the Eclipse Award as champion 2-year-old colt after his impressive victory over the dirt course at Belmont Park.

The two best performers by Scat Daddy this year are both G1 winners on turf in Europe. The fleet filly Lady Aurelia was a star performer under the same conditions last, as was Caravaggio, a remarkably strong gray colt, who has won at the G1 level the past two years and was victor in the Flying Five Stakes over the weekend.

No surprise then when a pair of colts from the last crop by Scat Daddy topped the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky Turf Showcase on Sept. 10. Each sold for $250,000, and the next-highest prices ($200,000) were for a third colt by Scat Daddy and a filly by noted turf sire Kitten's Joy.

The same day at Kentucky Downs, the Scat Daddy 3-year-old filly Daddy's Lil Darling won the Dueling Grounds Oaks in 2:10.97, a time that is the new course record and was .60 faster than the Dueling Grounds Derby for colts.

G1-placed last year in the Alcibiades and this year in the Kentucky Oaks and Ashland Stakes, Daddy's Lil Darling is owned and bred by Normandy Farm and is trained by Ken McPeek.

Another sharp winner at Kentucky Downs was the three-time G1 winner Miss Temple City, who won the Kentucky Downs feature for mares on Sept. 9. The dark bay daughter of Temple City (Dynaformer) comes from her sire's first crop and was bred by Bob Feld Bloodstock.

Racing for The Club Racing LLC, Needle In A Haystack, LLC and Sagamore Farm, Miss Temple City was unbeaten at 2, became a stakes winner (G1-placed) at 3, and a G1 winner at 4. The 5-year-old will be consigned to the Fasig-Tipton November sale on Nov. 6. She has earned nearly $1.7 million from 7 victories in 19 starts.

The mare's sire Temple City went to stud at Spendthrift for the 2011 breeding season after a good racing career. The tall, nearly black horse had won a G3 stakes and was second in the G1 Hollywood Turf Cup. But Temple City was a turf horse by a stallion who is famed for the quality and success of his turf horses.

That alone is enough to make many breeders ignore Temple City.

But not the intrepid Bob Feld. He said, “I'm a huge fan of turf!” And to his enduring credit, Feld put his money on the line to back up that point of view.

Since this was a Spendthrift stallion, they offered the horse as part of their Share the Upside program. That arrangement allows breeders to acquire breeding rights to a stallion, such as Temple City, by breeding to the horse and paying the full fee. A large subset of breeders showed interest in Temple City, and Feld was one of those.

In particular, Feld had a mare named Glittering Tax by champion sprinter Artax, one of the most powerful animals I've ever seen, and he sent that mare to Temple City. Glittering Tax was stakes-placed in her racing career and possessed a fair share of the power from her sire. The breeder said, “I thought that Temple City would be a good match because I love Dynaformer, and I had bought a breeding right through the Share the Upside program when Temple City retired.”

Glittering Tax is now the dam of two stakes winners, both graded, and Miss Temple City will take her next step in the great cycle of racing and breeding after she is sold in November, because she is likely to be retired as a broodmare for next year.

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.

  • Blue Larkspur

    Americans have difficulty thinking out of the box about some things…

  • Jbumi

    When it comes to breeding, the one word that’s crept in that I wish would be replaced is “precocious”. Suggestions to replace it: longevity, endurance, soundness, etc. I think this one word has done more harm than any other one thing in breeding – the focus is all off-kilter.

    • Lehane

      Agree. I cringe every time “precocious” is used. My great grandfather was a racehorse owner and thoroughbred pedigree consultant. He spoke out about the indiscriminate breeding that was creeping in, to no avail. And that was back in the 1920s here in Australia.

  • Miss the Magic

    The problem with turf racing is first getting. In the race they always over fill then if it rains it comes off the turf. To bad one of the best turf tracks in the country is Colonial Downs, no racing for five years the turf courses should be good.

  • Most main line Kentucky commercial breeders are not risk takers. They want to tick all of the boxes. Turf breeding or mares that excelled on turf do not tick the boxes. This is the tragedy of the loss of those hardy individuals that used to breed to race. They would buy a turf mare in a heart beat. But not today’s commercial breeders.

  • egremont

    “Temple City was a turf horse, that alone is enough to make many breeders ignore him”..
    The imports that virtually made the modern American thoroughbred. viz:- Star Shoot, Sir Gallahad, Sickle, Blenheim, Bull Dog, Mahmoud, Heliopolis, Nasrullah, Princequillo, et Al., were all turf runners, why did those 1920’s -1940’s.. breeders have a better understanding of turf stallions..?

    • In nearly every instance, the quandary results from the problem that Barry Irwin addressed in his comment. Breeding, especially in Kentucky, is so expensive that almost nobody can afford to own a farm, manage a big staff, pay stud fees, and race a large string of horses. And a serious number of the few who have the capital participate only in racing, not breeding, because there is more action on the racetrack.

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