By Frank Mitchell
We are still in the early furlongs of the freshman sires' race, but the first returns have been promising for the well-regarded young stallions Bluegrass Cat, Sharp Humor, and First Samurai, who are the top three Kentucky-based sires on the list, as well as for the Florida freshmen Congrats, With Distinction, and Mass Media.
WinStar Farm's Bluegrass Cat and Sharp Humor have gotten a precocious lot of young racers, with 18 and 20 starters to date. First Samurai has not had so many starters–eight–but he leapt right into contention on Friday when his first stakes winner, Le Mi Geaux, won the Grade 3 Schuylerville Stakes on Saratoga's opening day program.
The filly's victory put her young sire in third place among Kentucky freshmen and sixth nationally, with Bluegrass Cat leading both groups.
First Samurai was an outstanding juvenile racer himself, winning four of his five starts for Bruce Lunsford and Lansdon Robbins III, including the Hopeful at Saratoga and the Champagne at Belmont and losing only the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, when he was third to Stevie Wonderboy and Henny Hughes.
Sent to stud at Claiborne Farm after suffering an injury to his ribs at the start of the Blue Grass Stakes, First Samurai received good books of classy mares and has 72 2-year-olds in his first crop at the races.
And one of the most fascinating things about the prospects of First Samurai on the freshman stallion list goes beyond the impact that a major first-crop success would have for Claiborne and the farm's young sire.
If First Samurai leads all freshmen sires, or even comes close, it would be the second year in a row that sons of the top Storm Cat stallion Giant's Causeway have scored high marks on the international listings of freshman sires.
With the first stallion sons of Giant's Causeway getting their runners to the races last year in Europe, Shamardal was the European leader, and Footstepsinthesand was prominent on the list. This year, their stock has trained on to greater successes. So far in 2010, Shamardal's son Lope de Vega has won the Prix du Jockey-Club (French Derby), the young stallion has progeny earnings of nearly $2.3 million, and the ball is in play for Giant's Causeway.
One more big strike with a young sire, and Giant's Causeway simply will be the hottest sire of stallions in the world.
Aside from the commercial impact of that realization, such an occurrence will also signal the direction that bloodlines are likely to take over the next decade. There is already a clear shift in the flow of power toward A.P. Indy and his sons, especially through Pulpit, and confirmation that Giant's Causeway is going to breed on for the Storm Cat branch of Northern Dancer will give breeders quite a lot to think about as they plan their matings.
Breeders like to see patterns emerge in bloodlines that are winning at the top level of competition. That allows them to arrange their own matings and to estimate how their stock is likely to fare, either commercially or athletically, in the years to come.
The pattern of Le Mi Geaux's pedigree is First Samurai (Northern Dancer line) out of the stakes winner Message Red, by Cryptoclearance (Mr. Prospector line). It's just the old standard of Northern Dancer over Mr. P.
The filly is inbred to Mr. Prospector's son Fappiano, and if there is any import to that, it might be that Mr. Prospector is like sweat in the summer: just running all over the place.
Le Mi Geaux is running all over, too. The chestnut filly has won two of her first three starts, and trainer Rick Dutrow has indicated that she is likely to start next in the Spinaway on Sept. 5 at Saratoga.
This was a particularly satisfying victory for Lansdon Robbins, who bred and races Le Mi Geaux. The Schuylerville winner is the third foal out of Message Red, who was Robbins' very first stakes winner. First Samurai was the second Grade 1 winner he ever raced. The mare's fourth foal is a yearling full brother to Le Mi Geaux.
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 a private consultant to breeders on pedigrees, matings, and conformation. He is a hands-on caretaker of his own broodmares and foals in central Kentucky. Check out Frank's lively Bloodstock in the Bluegrass blog.
Copyright © 2010, Frank Mitchell
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