by | 11.17.2010 | 12:47am

By Frank Mitchell

The Mr. Prospector stallion Smart Strike has good karma with Monmouth Park. Fourteen years ago, Smart Strike won the Philip H. Iselin Handicap at the New Jersey track. It was one of his six victories from eight starts, but the Iselin was the most important. The race gave Smart Strike the all-important Grade 1 success that guaranteed him a spot at stud in Kentucky at a major farm where he would have a serious chance to succeed as a sire.

In the Iselin, Smart Strike ran a Beyer Speed Figure of 115, which was impressive as it looked, with champion Serena's Song among the beaten field. At that point, Smart Strike had won six races in a row, and with his pedigree, he was an instant stallion prospect of great significance.

The bay stallion has made the most of his opportunities by producing Horse of the Year Curlin, champion turf horse English Channel, perennial leading sprinter Fabulous Strike, and last year's champion juvenile colt Lookin At Lucky.

There is a notable amount of versatility in that stud record. Much more so than we typically see among contemporary sires, most of whom tend toward specialties.

If Smart Strike has a specialty, it might be in siring winners of the Preakness Stakes, as both Curlin and Lookin At Lucky have won the Pimlico classic.

Unraced since his victory in the Preakness, Lookin At Lucky polished up the family karma at Monmouth with a facile victory on Sunday in the Haskell. That race was a G1, but that point made much less difference to the handsome bay, as he was already a multiple winner at the premier level.

The Haskell, however, established Lookin At Lucky as the leader of his age group because he defeated Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver, as well nearly every other 3-year-old colt with pretensions to dominating the division.

All these things are good news for breeders coming to the yearling sales this year with stock by Smart Strike. As a leading sire and sire of champions, the fillies and colts by Smart Strike will get their fair share of lookers.

But, as with some other top stallions, it took the proof of racing performances before buyers would shell out major money to purchase Smart Strike yearlings, in particular. Many of them can appear somewhat immature at that stage, and the stallion tends not to sire the really big, thick yearlings with strongly defined muscles that the sales market rewards with premium prices.

Even without the unequivocal backing of the commercial market, Smart Strike has become a successful sire because he passes along enough of the proper athletic tools, which he possessed himself.

When I spoke last year with Smart Strike's trainer, Mark Frostad, he said the horse was “cut out to be a top-class 3-year-old but didn't win a stakes until he was 4 because he was injured at 3 – tore a tendon where it attaches to the foot, which required time to heal, and he was out for a year.”

The stallion's breeder, Sam-Son Farm, raced the bay colt produced by their tremendous broodmare Classy 'n Smart (by Smarten), and Sam-Son stayed involved with Smart Strike after they chose to syndicate him and send him to stud at Lane's End for the 1997 breeding season.

Patrick Lawley-Wakelin, who is the bloodstock adviser to Sam-Son, said that “Mark Frostad said Smart Strike was going to be a good stallion. Sam-Son ended up keeping 10 shares in the horse, and that was an awful lot to keep because it was a big commitment on our part, and Mark was the architect of that.”

This family has also been a goldmine of top performers for the Sam-Son operation of the late Ernie Samuel, with such premium racers as Breeders' Cup Distaff winner Dance Smartly, an older half-sister to Smart Strike.

Lawley-Wakelin said, “Mark has done an extraordinary job with this family. We have worked on the matings and work to produce racehorses, which he trained, then kept the successful fillies, and put them into the broodmare band to produce more racehorses. It's very rare these days for trainers to be involved in the bloodstock side of the business. For me, this has been the best job in the country because we not only planned the matings but raced the offspring for generations” of horses.

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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