With a wire-to-wire victory in the Grade 1 Travers Stakes, West Coast defeated each winner of the 2017 classics, as well as the winners of the Haskell and Jim Dandy.
Now a winner in five of his seven starts, West Coast never has finished worse than second, and his earnings to date stand at $993,800. That makes him the most accomplished racer yet from the now-19-year-old mare Caressing (Honour and Glory), who won the 2000 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies and was the Eclipse Award winner as top 2-year-old filly.
Bred in Kentucky by CFP Thoroughbreds LLC, the bloodstock holdings of breeder Carl Pollard, West Coast was foaled and raised at Hermitage Farm, and Hermitage's general manager, Bill Landes, said the colt's victory put him right up with the best historic Hermitage had produced. Landes said, “As I was telling Doc Lavin yesterday, West Coast's picture goes right up there on the wall next to Dark Star.”
Likewise bred and raised at Hermitage, then sold for $6,500 as a yearling to Harry F. Guggenheim's Cain Hoy Stable, Dark Star upset the 1953 Kentucky Derby with a nose victory over champion Native Dancer, and Dark Star went to stud at Claiborne Farm, which was a significant step for breeder Warner Jones and his relationship with the Hancock family of Claiborne.
Landes said, “Mr. Jones and Mr. Hancock (both Bull Hancock and his son Seth) were lifelong friends, and when I came to Hermitage in 1977, Mr. Jones told me that when working on matings, look to Claiborne.” Carl Pollard succeeded Jones as owner of Hermitage (now owned by Laura Lee Brown and Steve Wilson), and Seth Hancock succeeded his father at Claiborne (now presided over by Walker Hancock).
So, four years ago, Landes looked to Claiborne and their good sire Flatter for Carl Pollard's mare Caressing. They were looking for a stallion who could help the mare to get the right kind of foal.
Landes said, “The mare started off slow. She got a couple of small ones, including a Storm Cat that we foal-shared with Overbrook, but she is now a graded stakes producer over in Japan.” The Storm Cat, a filly named My Goodness, sold for $475,000 as a yearling at Keeneland September in 2006, and that was a year when the super sire's yearlings averaged more than $1.25 million.
My Goodness and the mare's next foal, a Distorted Humor filly named Fun Affair, became winners on the racetrack. Only slightly more than 40 percent of the annual foal crop does that, but so much more was expected of Caressing's early foals that the mare was beginning to look like a disappointment.
Then she came up with a pair of useful stakes-placed horses in Gold Hawk (Empire Maker), plus Juan and Bina (Indian Charlie). Both placed in graded stakes and earned more than $150,000 apiece; so all the breeder and farm manager needed was to get a correct and strong colt.
They got him from the mating with Flatter that resulted in West Coast.
Landes recalled the Travers winner was a “May 14 foal, and when we showed him to Keeneland, that foaling date was the big concern for placement (in the catalog) and what he could do (in price). He was nice all along and just blossomed coming into the September sale. He looked just wonderful when he went through the ring on Saturday (5th session) at the sale, just wonderful, and the price reflected that.”
West Coast brought $425,000 at the 2015 Keeneland September sale, which made him the co-second highest-priced yearling by Flatter that year. The other yearling at the same price was the filly Your Love. Steve Young bought her as Hip 1030 out of the Claiborne Farm consignment, and Your Love races for Paul Pompa, with Chad Brown as trainer. She has won two of her three starts. Her only loss came when she was sixth in the G1 Test Stakes earlier this month.
The high-priced yearling by Flatter in 2015 was the colt later named Hot Sean. He sold for $550,000 out of the Bluewater consignment to Three Amigos Stable (Pegram, Watson, and Weitman), with Bob Baffert training. Hot Sean won two of four starts last year, was second in the G3 Delta Jackpot, and has been training steadily in 2017. He has eight works in the last eight weeks.
A big, ruggedly made horse, Flatter tends to get strong stock that race effectively. They have speed, and they can carry it. They race early, and they frequently last several seasons, like multiple G1 winner Flat Out, whose first foals are now 2.
As a son of Horse of the Year and leading sire A.P. Indy, Flatter has inherited some of his sire's most effective qualities as a breeding horse, but Flatter did not enter stud as a star with a high fee.
A winner in four of six starts, Flatter was third in the G2 Washington Park Handicap. If he hadn't shown high ability, however, he wouldn't have gone to stud at all. Claiborne had enough faith in the big brown horse's class to give him a shot, and Flatter entered stud for $5,000 live foal.
Carl Pollard bought a share in the syndicate that supported the horse. Landes recalled Claiborne's Bernie Sams “syndicated Flatter the night that Mr. Robert Courtney was honored at the Thoroughbred Club of America dinner. Bernie went around the room and syndicated the horse in one night with the people there for the TCA dinner. It was an old-fashioned kind of syndication, just talking to people who like horses and breed horses. So we've bred to him every year, and Mr. Pollard has been very lucky with him.”
Indeed. West Coast is the second G1 winner that CFP Thoroughbreds has produced from a mating to Flatter. The first was Paola Queen, winner of the 2016 Test Stakes at Saratoga. Racing for Grupo Seven C Stable, Paola Queen was also second in the G2 Gulfstream Park Oaks and sold to SF Bloodstock for $1.7 million at the 2016 Keeneland November sale.
With an annually improving sire profile, Flatter has established himself as a significant stallion. Landes concurred and said, “Claiborne has done marvels with this horse, and they keep on getting good horses, year after year.”
As Bernie Sams said, Flatter “has done nothing but good for everybody who's been involved with him.”
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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