Bloodlines Presented By Merck Animal Health: Into Mischief Proves No ‘Joke’

by | 10.24.2017 | 12:14pm
Practical Joke (Into Mischief) and jockey Joel Rosario win the H. Allen Jerkens (Gr I) at Saratoga

On seeing that the relatively young 12-year-old stallion Into Mischief (by Harlan's Holiday) had supplanted evergreen Malibu Moon (A.P. Indy) as the high-priced stallion on the Spendthrift Farm roster, I wondered, “How many Kentucky Derby winners has Into Mischief sired?”

Fair question, but the answer is the same as for nearly all stallions: none.

So what prompted the change?

One of Spendthrift's veteran stallion season salesmen, Mark Toothaker, had the answer.

Toothaker said, “I've sold out Into Mischief in a day and a half. And despite the tremendous kind of year that Malibu Moon has had, I've still got a few seasons left to him.

“It's purely a function of market demand. Into Mischief is the most popular stallion we have, and the demand has been unlike anything we've seen.

“Literally, by the time we're at Saratoga, we had to start a waiting list for interested breeders wanting a season if anyone decided not to take the one they had spoken for, and we've had no defections from people who had verbally agreed to take a season.”

One reason for the strict allegiance to the horse is that Into Mischief has been doing right well since the Saratoga meeting this summer, when his son Practical Joke won the Grade 1 Allen Jerkens Stakes. The good-looking bay had won the G1 Hopeful and Champagne Stakes last fall before finishing third in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile behind divisional champion Classic Empire (Pioneerof the Nile) and Not This Time (Giant's Causeway).

Earlier this year, Practical Joke was second in the Fountain of Youth and Blue Grass Stakes, then fifth in the Kentucky Derby. After a short break, he came back to take the G2 Dwyer Stakes at Belmont, was third in the Haskell at Monmouth, and then won the Jerkens on Aug. 26.

Since then, Golden Mischief won the Flashy Lady Stakes on Sept. 24, Let It Ride Mom won the La Lorgnette Stakes on Sept. 30, Sister Nation won the Ruling Angel Stakes on Oct. 8, Engage won the G2 Futurity Stakes at Belmont on Oct. 14, and Miss Sunset won the Raven Run Stakes at Keeneland on Oct. 21.

The ability to sire Saturday (and Sunday) afternoon kinds of racers has been the hallmark of Into Mischief's stud career from the beginning. The stallion's first crop included Goldencents, winner of two runnings of the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile and Santa Anita Derby as his three G1 victories, and Canadian champion sprinter and older filly Miss Mischief, plus five other stakes winners.

Those first-crop performers were foals of 2010 and came to the races in 2012. At this time of year in the fall of 2012, five years ago, the sales of seasons to Into Mischief were getting a bit of a flutter because Goldencents had just finished a sharp second in the G1 Champagne behind the unbeaten Shanghai Bobby, a son of Harlan's Holiday who would go on to win the BC Juvenile and the Eclipse Award as champion 2-year-old colt of 2012.

At the time, Into Mischief needed a little wind in his sails. Like any stallion who isn't a classic winner or champion and enriched with the support of several serious breeders, the third and fourth years are very difficult times to fill a young sire's book.

For the 2012 breeding season, which was Into Mischief's fourth year, his stud fee had been $7,500 live foal, and there wasn't a swarm of breeders taking that. From those covers of 2012, before Into Mischief had a runner, there were 40 reported foals of 2013, with 36 named, according to Equineline stats.

Approaching the 2013 breeding season, however, getting mares for Into Mischief was a different matter, entirely.

Following his second in the Champagne, Goldencents went to Louisiana for the Delta Jackpot, and the $600,000 for winning that lucrative prize made Into Mischief a leading sire. Horse breeders make a habit of sensing the wind and setting their sails accordingly. With his first crop of racers doing so well, Into Mischief was at full sail.

Into Mischief has a good libido and high fertility, and that's a good thing because his 2012 freshman sire successes sent him more mares for the 2013 breeding season than the horse had seen in his entire previous stud career.

The stallion's stud fee for 2013 rose to $20,000, and his book size bloomed to 210, with 168 live foals of 2014 per Jockey Club statistics.

Among those were Practical Joke and Miss Sunset, plus a half-dozen other stakes winners this year from the 2014 foals. The good horses from the small early crops have kept Into Mischief so prominent among sires that his stud fee has continued to rise and now stands at six figures, with his first large crops now 2 and 3.

Sail on, Into Mischief.

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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