Keeneland presents American Graded Stakes Standings: Darley, Jones Make Strong Case for Breeding Eclipse

by | 01.17.2013 | 11:44am

With the Eclipse Awards ceremony this weekend, there are a few categories that are pretty much cut and dried. One can probably safely assume that undefeated Shanghai Bobby will be named the champion juvenile male, and that the brilliant Groupie Doll will take home champion female sprinter honors.

There are a few categories that are very much up for grabs, both human and equine. One category that has never really provided much mystery in the past is that of leading breeder. But this year, Adena Springs, which has won the award seven of the past eight years, faces a stiff challenge from the other two finalists.

For Darley or Brereton C. Jones, it would be a first-time honor should either win (Darley was co-champion owner with Lael Stable in 2006, while Sheikh Mohammed's Godolphin Racing was named outstanding owner in 2009).

Darley finished 2012 at the top of the American Graded Stakes standings, breeding nine individual winners that notched a total of 15 graded stakes wins. Leading the way with three graded stakes wins was Alpha, a 3-year-old son of Darley stallion Bernardini who captured the Grade 3 Withers and Grade 2 Jim Dandy on his way to earning a dead-heat victory with Golden Ticket in the Grade 1 Travers Stakes.

Not to be outdone, 3-year-old filly Questing, by another Darley stallion, Hard Spun, won two graded stakes, both Grade 1's – the Coaching Club American Oaks and the Alabama. Questing missed out on a third Grade 1 win, falling by just a head to My Miss Aurelia in the Cotillion Stakes. Both Questing and My Miss Aurelia are finalists for champion 3-year-old filly.

One runner that was bred by Darley but didn't race under the Darley or Godolphin banner was the filly Grace Hall, who won three graded stakes during the year. The daughter of Empire Maker was sold as a yearling at the 2010 Keeneland September yearling sale to Tony Dutrow, who trained her for Michael Dubb. Grace Hall saw the winner's circle in three Oaks – Delaware, Indiana, and Gulfstream – all Grade 2 races.

Former Kentucky Governor Brereton C. Jones also had a banner year in 2012, breeding six individual graded stakes winners, which placed him second in the AGS standings. Four of those horses raced as homebreds for Jones; in fact, Jones fell just shy of placing among the top five on the AGS owners list.

One of Jones' best runners was his own Believe You Can, a classy daughter of Proud Citizen who captured both the Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks and Grade 2 Fair Grounds Oaks. Believe You Can's victory in the Kentucky Oaks marked the second time in five years that one of Jones' homebred fillies won the classic. Proud Spell, another daughter of Proud Citizen, won the lilies in 2008 on her way to being named champion 3-year-old filly that season. Believe You Can is a finalist for an Eclipse this year.

The most successful graded stakes winner of 2012 that was bred by Brereton Jones did not race in his green and orange silks. That distinction goes to the talented Include Me Out, one of the most dominant fillies in California last year.

Include Me Out was purchased as a yearling at the 2009 Fasig-Tipton July yearling sale by Jay Em Ess Stable. The 4-year-old daughter of Include won four of seven starts during the season, and never finished out of the money. Include Me Out won the Clement L. Hirsch Stakes and Santa Margarita Invitational Stakes (both Grade 1) in addition to capturing the La Canada Stakes and Marjorie L. Everett Stakes (both Grade 2). The Ron Ellis trainee is among the finalists for champion older female of 2012.

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