One of the annual rituals in racing and breeding circles is to watch for signs of young sires who are emerging with more than average promise. This is one of the endless pleasures of the sport, as we assess form and weigh brilliance in the balance.
Earlier this year at the sales of 2-year-olds in training, champion juvenile and now freshman sire Midshipman (by Unbridled's Song) served a star turn as his first youngsters worked blazing times and drew high prices. Two other freshmen, Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver (Maria's Mon) and Warrior's Reward (Medaglia d'Oro) were notably well received, even with less flashy times from their young race prospects.
Super Saver, in particular, had undergone a revolution in commercial appeal as buyers began to see his stock breeze at the under-tack shows in Florida and elsewhere. Yearlings that were nice had become 2-year-olds who were really nice. The Super Savers tended to be medium-sized horses, fluent movers with frequently better than average strides, and they were indicating balance and athletic potential for all to see.
Not surprisingly, some of these sold through the roof. The Grade 2 Saratoga Special winner I Spent It brought $600,000 out of Eddie Woods's consignment at the Fasig-Tipton Florida March sale of juveniles, making a huge multiple on his yearling price of $65,000 at Fasig-Tipton October in Kentucky only five months before.
Of the stallion's juvenile sales horses, only the colt Competitive Edge ($750,000 from the Niall Brennan consignment at Fasig-Tipton's March sale) and High Dollar Woman ($675,000 at OBS March from the Eddie Woods consignment again) brought higher prices, and there were plenty of other quite good sales for the sire's juvenile colts and fillies. Alex and JoAnne Lieblong bought both I Spent It and High Dollar Woman.
Now at the dawn of their stallion careers, Super Saver and Warrior's Reward have become the toastiest young sires in the country. The Kentucky Derby winner has multiple maiden special winners in New York, including all three of those mentioned above; now has two stakes winners (I Spent It and the cleverly named Hashtag Bourbon); and is the current leading freshman sire in the country.
In contrast to Warrior's Reward, who is the first significant son of Medaglia d'Oro with racers, Super Saver has burst out with his first-crop success rather against the grain of popular prejudice. The reason is that Super Saver's sire, the fine stallion Maria's Mon, was the sire of not one but two Kentucky Derby winners.
The first is the grand-looking gray Monarchos, who combined good conformation, high speed, a classy race record, and a deep female family to be a commendable stallion prospect. He earned a first-rate chance at stud, went to Claiborne Farm, and has been a deep disappointment.
Monarchos, to be just, gets good winners, and he also sired the game G1 winner Informed Decision, but the good horse produced too many disappointments along the way to remain a commercial sire in Kentucky. As an indicator of how difficult a proposition that is, ask yourself when you last considered the horse's contemporaries Point Given or Congaree as sales sires? Being a top-end sire is no fairy tale. You either is or you isn't. The old boy has a good home at Nuckols Farm, however, and there are breeders who still use him to breed and race.
So, there was a hint of prejudice against Super Saver when he went to stud and when his first foals came to the sales, but the horse stands at WinStar, which has given him deep support and put a lot of work into promotion of him for the sales. The work has paid off.
If the athleticism that we saw at the 2-year-old trials indicated early maturity, it also suggested that the Kentucky Derby winner's stock would stretch out well to two turns. Their greatest assets in their early tests at the in-training sales were stride length, which was consistently above average, and their power, which suggested some maneuverability and gate speed.
Likewise getting out of the gate quickly, Super Saver's fellow freshman sire Warrior's Reward has had seven debut winners in maiden special weights, and four of those are now stakes horses, including stakes winner Strawberry Baby (Prairie Gold Lassie). In a crop of freshmen sires that includes champions Lookin at Lucky and Blame, along with the highly talented Quality Road, interested observers will have plenty to enjoy for months to come.
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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