The freshman sire class of 2018 has been an evenly-matched group reaching back to when their first weanlings entered the sale ring. Heading into the fall slate of the 2-year-old stakes calendar, the group once again appears primed for another close finish by first-crop earnings.
Heading into mid-September, the race has become especially tight between the top two – Spendthrift Farm's Goldencents and Airdrie Stud's Cairo Prince. Goldencents entered the weekend as the leader by progeny earnings, was usurped by Cairo Prince after a strong showing on Saturday, then regained the lead in the following days.
In their immediate rear view are some familiar names, and a few whose lofty early placings surprised even the farms where they stand. A graded stakes win or two can shuffle the rankings drastically, making the earnings race especially volatile heading into the final prep races for the Breeders' Cup.
This year's freshman sire race could feature an extra wrinkle with the inclusion of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint, which puts another $1 million up for grabs in addition to the $6 million in purses from the four returning races for 2-year-olds. Three of the five lucrative juvenile races on the Breeders' Cup card are now for turf runners, which could have an influence on the final earnings tally if some freshman-sired runners factor into the finishes.
Following are the top five North American freshman sires by progeny earnings through Sept. 19.
#1 Goldencents – Spendthrift Farm
Into Mischief x Golden Works, by Banker's Gold
43 runners; 16 winners; $631,296
The freshman sire division's early leader regained his throne early in the week following a pair of maiden wins on Sunday at Belmont and Belterra Park.
Goldencents has blazed the trail in his division by getting horses on the track quickly and in large numbers, leading North America's freshman sire ranks by runners and winners. He has maintained a comfortable cushion in both categories over the past month, and with nearly two-thirds of his first crop still to debut, he stands to continue to benefit from the bulk numbers.
“With Goldencents, it looks like they're very precocious,” said Spendthrift Farm's Mark Toothaker. “He's had a lot of starters, and they've been all over the place. He's had East Coast, West Coast, Canada. They have a very sound look to them, and they looked like they were going to be very durable, but he had precocious horses. We're seeing some similarities there with Into Mischief along those lines, that they look like horses that are going to be around for a while.”
Early stakes success for Goldencents has come out of Louisiana. His leading earner is the Louisiana-bred filly Silvercents, who won the Louisiana Cup Juvenile Fillies Stakes at Louisiana Downs between a pair of runner-up efforts in Texas stakes races. Fellow Louisiana-bred Pickett was his first stakes winner, taking the D. S. Shine Young Futurity at Evangeline Downs.
North of the border, Goldencents had Gold Diggin Darlin run third in the Winnipeg Futurity at Assiniboia Downs.
#2 Cairo Prince – Airdrie Stud
Pioneerof the Nile x Holy Bubbette, by Holy Bull
35 runners; 11 winners; $601,229
A Saturday to remember on Sept. 15 briefly put Cairo Prince at the top of the freshman sire standings, highlighted by a trio of maiden special weight scores and his first graded stakes winner.
The charge was led by Cairo Cat, who parlayed a maiden win last month at Saratoga into a closing win in the Grade 3 Iroquois Stakes at Churchill Downs. The Iroquois was the first graded stakes race claimed by a freshman sire standing in Kentucky among this year's class.
“From everything we've heard from very early in the training process, it's that the Cairo Princes are going to get better as the distances increase and as they get closer to that 3-year-old year,” said Bret Jones of Airdrie Stud. “It had every right to play out the way that it has. He's from a classic sire line, he himself stretched out. We really always believed he could have been a classic-type horse had he not been derailed by injury. I think he's on an awfully good track right now.”
Cairo Prince has the second-most starters thus far among the freshman sires, and he is tied for second by winners. In addition to Cairo Cat, the sire's big Saturday was highlighted by graduating scores from Shazier and Abuela's Love at Gulfstream Park, and Pakhet at Belmont Park. All three of those wins came in the runners' second starts, which Jones said has been on-brand for the sire so far.
“What we're seeing is from that first race, you'll see an encouraging kind of run, and then by that second race, with more distance, they're improving,” he said, “In September of their 2-year-old years, that's exactly what you want to be seeing.”
#3 – Cross Traffic – Spendthrift Farm
Unbridled's Song x Stop Traffic, by Cure the Blues
31 starters; 11 winners; $477,363
As a horse that didn't begin his racing career until age four, and succeeded at two turns when he did reach the track, getting early 2-year-olds was not a box many expected Cross Traffic to check. Instead, Cross Traffic has not only gotten those early 2-year-olds, he's getting them to come back, win repeatedly, and do so at high levels.
Cross Traffic is tied for fourth by starters, and he is tied for second with Cairo Prince by winners. However, he stands alone by number of repeat winners (four, nobody else has more than two), black type stakes winners (three), and total black type earners (five).
“When you talk to Todd Pletcher, who had Cross Traffic, the horse had tremendous ability early,” Toothaker said. “He just had a lot of little setbacks that kind of plagued his career and forced him to have to take some time, but he has been a very pleasant surprise with the start he's gotten off to.
“[Spendthrift general manager] Ned Toffey actually pretty much called the shot. When we were looking at the progeny by all our young sires, he said, 'Don't be surprised if you see Cross Traffic. These things look like runners.'”
Dame Plata, a two-time stakes winner in Minnesota, is Cross Traffic's leading earner so far. That could soon change depending on the success of Jaywalk, winner of the White Clay Creek Stakes at Delaware Park, who trainer John Servis has indicated could be pointed for the G1 Frizette Stakes.
The class leader by average yearling sale price in 2017 ($159,807) has seen his early runners placed just as ambitiously. His four black type earners is the second-most in the class so far, led by Kim K, winner of the Barretts Debutante Stakes at Los Alamitos.
Dual-surface runner Lightscameraaction made her stakes debut with a second in the Exacta Systems Juvenile Fillies Stakes on the grass at Kentucky Downs, then came back to run third in the G2 Pocahontas Stakes on the main track at Churchill Downs.
Both Kim K's Barretts Debutante win and Lightscameraaction's Pocahontas third came on Sept. 15, giving Will Take Charge a big resume-building weekend akin to classmate Cairo Prince.
“Last weekend was really good, with the stakes placing and additional winner,” said Chris Baker of Three Chimneys Farm. “Our optimism hasn't wained at all, with the way he was a later-developing type, and the physicals that his yearlings and 2-year-olds have. We still think there's a lot of great things coming in his future, as his offspring continue to develop. We're pleased.”
One of the freshman sires that could benefit the most from a new Breeders' Cup race for 2-year-old turf runners has shown with his early runners that he has potential on any surface. Though his pedigree and race record lean heavily toward turf, two of Noble Mission's first five winners have come on dirt.
Noble Mission ranks third by starters among his class so far, which Bill Farish of Lane's End said he did not expect, but he was impressed by the versatility the runners have shown so far.
“I think they've been going great,” said Farish. “You wouldn't really think of him as an early 2-year-old sire, so the fact that he's had some good results already, and we've got a colt we're crazy about in Code of Honor, so we're hopeful he'll help move him up the sire table a little bit. Oddly enough, the colt we have broke his maiden on the dirt (an Aug. 18 maiden special weight at Saratoga), and we're going to run him back on the dirt and see how he goes from here.”
Life Mission has carried the banner for his sire in black type competition, finishing second in the Kentucky Downs Juvenile Turf Sprint Stakes.
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