By Alan Porter
If we had held a competition on New Year’s Eve to guess the name of the second-crop sire that would be represented first by a graded stakes winner in 2010, we suspect few would have suggested Act of Duty. In fact we wonder how many people in the game would have even recognized the name.
However, there was a time when Act of Duty was a high-profile individual indeed. By Mr. Prospector out of the Nureyev mare Nuryette, he was purchased as a yearling for $3.6 million by Sheikh Mohammed at the 2001 Keeneland July Sale, the fifth-highest price paid for a yearling colt in 2001. Sent to England, Act of Duty made his debut in a mile maiden at Newbury as a 3-year-old and took second, beaten just 3/4-length behind subsequent group II winner Kalaman (IRE) (who also raced as Oriental Magic). Odds-on favorite for a similar event at Newmarket on his second outing, Act of Duty finished a distant sixth and then went to the sidelines for the better part of two years. When he did reappear it was to finish last of 12 in a mile handicap at Nad al Sheba.
Act of Duty owns his presence at stud to shrewd Florida horseman Bill Murphy (who has bred a number of smart winners from his Elangeni Farm in Ocala). Murphy traveled to England, purchased Act of Duty, and syndicated him to stand at Bridlewood Farm in Ocala. What attracted Murphy to Act of Duty was not just his multi-million dollar looks and his early racecourse promise, but the fact that he was closely-bred half-brother to Northern Afleet . By Mr. Prospector’s son Afleet, out of Nuryette, Northern Afleet developed into a high-class sprinter/miler at 4, and after making a bright start with his Florida crops he moved to Taylor Made Stallions in Kentucky. From his Sunshine State crops, Northern Afleet sired 2005 champion 3-year-old Afleet Alex and 2009 Dubai Golden Shaheen Sponsored by Gulf News (UAE-I) winner Big City Man. His first Kentucky crop yielded seven stakes winners, and from his second Kentucky crop, 2-year-olds of 2009, he has been represented by the Darley Alcibiades Stakes (gr. I) victress Negligee and by Aegean, who took the Kentucky Juvenile Stakes (gr. III).
Act of Duty’s credentials proved sufficiently strong for him to sire a first crop that contained 57 named foals. Nine of that first crop were winners at 2 last year – placing their sire seventh among Florida freshmen – with the most promising appearing to by Fly By Phil. Bred and owned by Act of Duty shareholder Gil Campbell, Fly By Phil was beaten a head and 3/4-length in his first two starts. Given the chance to stretch out to a mile on his third outing, he took a Calder maiden by nearly 11 lengths, then returned to score a comfortable victory in an allowance race December 11 at the same track. Switched to the grass for his 2010 debut, Fly By Phil became his sire’s first stakes winner when upsetting the highly-rated Lost Aptitude January 1 in the Tropical Park Derby (gr. IIIT), closing in the final strides to score by a head.
Fly By Phil is the sixth foal and fourth winner for his dam True Mood, an unraced daughter of Deputy Minister. True Mood’s dam Intimate Moments (by the Damascus horse Benefice) never won, and never produced a black type horse, but she is half-sister to a notable performer in Afternoon Deelites (by Private Terms, a grandson of Damascus). Undefeated at 2, Afternoon Deelites took the Hollywood Prevue Breeders’ Cup Stakes (gr. III) and Hollywood Futurity (gr. I) at that age. The following year, he started five times and won three, all graded, including the Malibu Stakes (gr. I). As a 4-year-old, Afternoon Deelites won only one of his four outings, but established that he had a versatility to match his talent capturing the Commonwealth Breeders’ Cup Stakes (gr. II) at seven furlongs, missing by inches when dead-heating for second in the Metropolitan Handicap (gr. I) at a mile, and taking second in the Strub Stakes (gr. I) at 10 furlongs.
Act of Duty’s chances of staying a mile and a quarter look quite reasonable too. His third dam, Intimate Girl, is by Medaille d’Or (a son of Secretariat), out of a mare by Horse of the Year Ack Ack, and his fifth dam, Loyal Ruler, is by Belmont Stakes victor Gallant Man. Incidentally, Loyal Ruler is not only the third dam of Intimate Moments, and Afternoon Deelites, but also of other notable Damascus-line horse Soul of the Matter (like Afternoon Deelites, by Private Terms), winner of four graded stakes including the Super Derby (gr. I).
The broad cross of Mr. Prospector sons over mares by Deputy Minister has produced numerous stakes winners, the most notable being Horse of the Year Curlin, Belmont Stakes (gr. I) winner Jazil, and grade I winner Bob and John. Fly By Phil has three crosses of Northern Dancer, and in that context it’s worth noting that Act of Duty’s third dam is Nangela, a daughter of Northern Dancer’s sire Nearctic.