As the snow recedes from the landscape in upstate New York, this year’s crop of foals is taking its place. Even on the heels of a benchmark year for the New York State breeding and racing program in 2014, it is clear that New York breeders are continuing to up the ante with each cohort of foals, and the 2015 crop is no exception. A review of The Jockey Club’s “Report of Mares Bred” for 2014, which flags the home state of mares when that information is available, shows scores of matings by state-based breeders between high-quality mares and top-flight first crop sires.
New York breeders of course jumped at the chance to take advantage of multiple opportunities to breed to accomplished first crop sires with deep pedigrees close to home. They account for the vast majority of mares bred to the state’s five first crop stallions: Darley’s Grade 1 Forego winner Emcee (Sequel Stallions New York), multiple Grade 2 winning sprinter Forty Tales (Sequel Stallions New York), Heavy Breathing (Dutchess Views Farm), who is the graded placed full brother to smashing young New York sire Frost Giant, multiple graded stakes winner and 2012 New York-bred Horse of the Year The Lumber Guy (Keane Stud) and champion sprinter Trinniberg (Rockridge Stud).
The Jockey Club “Mares Bred” reports also show that New York breeders did not hesitate to go further afield to explore racetrack achievers who retired to stud in 2014 elsewhere. To single out a few headliners, last year mares reported to be New York-owned were bred to: Kentucky Derby and Dubai World Cup winner Animal Kingdom (5), Grade 1 winner Graydar (4), triple Grade 1 winner Flat Out (8), triple Grade 1 winner Fort Larned (4), Grade 1 Wood Memorial winner and morning line favorite for the 2009 Kentucky Derby I Want Revenge (1), Kentucky Derby winner Orb (2) and five-time grade winner and turf star Point Of Entry (4). Especially popular with New Yorkers were juvenile phenom Shanghai Bobby (16) and Take Charge Indy, a Grade 1 winning millionaire and son of three-time Grade 1 winner and 2013 broodmare of the year Take Charge Lady (17).
Obviously not all of these matings of New York-owned mares will necessarily produce New York-bred foals on the ground. By the same token, other mares not flagged in these reports as New York-owned may have been bred to top-flight first crop sires and be preparing to drop New York-bred eligible foals. Taken as a whole, however, the reports paint a broad picture of New York breeders looking for fresh blood and quality both at home and out-of-state.
Two prime examples can be seen from a visit to Questroyal North near Stillwater, which already has foals on the ground by Kentucky Derby heroes Orb and Animal Kingdom, both out of well-bred mares owned by Questroyal’s majority owner Barry R. Ostrager. Orb, a $2.6 million dollar earner and winner of the 2013 Grade 1 Kentucky Derby, Grade 1 Florida Derby and Grade 2 Fountain of Youth bred 122 mares last year according to The Jockey Club. Champion Animal Kingdom, an extraordinarily versatile son of Leroidesanimaux out of a Grade 3 winning German mare, won the Kentucky Derby his dirt debut and came back from injury to capture second in the Breeders’ Cup Mile and win the Grade 1 Dubai World Cup on synthetic. He earned over $8.3 million before retiring to stud and in 2014 he bred 148 mares.
The Questroyal Orb foal is a bay colt with a small star born March 16 out of Black Escort, a daughter of Southern Halo out of a Nureyev mare. Black Escort was a juvenile stakes winner and Grade 2 placed on turf in France. The pedigree of the new foal runs deep. The colt’s third dam Sigy (FR) was a champion 2-year-old filly and champion sprinter in France as well as a graded stakes producer. Black Escort has produced three winners, including Black Snowflake, a multiple stakes placed runner by Elusive Quality. Her Orb foal, who is bred on the same cross as Kauai Katie, is given an A+ rating by TrueNicks.
Questroyal Stud was not alone in selecting the 2013 Kentucky Derby winner for a mating. SF Bloodstock’s Charlie’s Legacy, an unraced Virginia-bred by Indian Charlie from the family of multiple champion Indian Blessing, whom they purchased for $245,000 at the 2011 Fasig-Tipton winter mixed sale, was also bred to Orb last year. No foal is reported to date.
Another well-bred foal on the ground at Questroyal is a filly by Animal Kingdom born March 11 with distinctive facial markings and a white half stocking on her left hind. Her color has yet to be determined. The filly’s dam is Dynamite Cocktail, a Kentucky-bred multiple winner of over $100,000 by Dynaformer who has produced three winners. Her top foal is Hollinger by Black Minnaloushe, multiple stakes winner, champion 2-year-old colt in Canada (2009) and earner of over $700,000. The filly’s third dam is stakes placed Luck’s Fancy, who is a half-sister to multiple graded stakes placed stakes winner Fancy ‘N Fabulous and two other stakes winners. The new filly, an outcross, receives an A++ TrueNicks rating.
In the many decades of the New York breeding program, 2014 saw unprecedented racetrack achievements by products of that program: Derby contenders, Grade 1 winners, a record number of Breeders’ Cup participants and an Eclipse champion. The year before set its own milestones. Breeders seem determined, however, not to rest on their laurels. As they push the ceiling higher for the program year by year, it would seem to be only be a matter of time before the foal crop of 2015 manages to set new benchmarks of its own, perhaps only to be superseded by the crop of the following year.