By the late 1990s, it seemed almost certain that the male line of Hall of Famer Alydar would not survive. Alysheba (now in Saudi Arabia) and Turkoman had not lived up to expectations as sires; Easy Goer had died in 1994, leaving only 1996 Travers Stakes (gr. I) winner Will's Way
(now a sire in Pennsylvania) as a possible successor; and Criminal Type had been exported to Japan.
Before he died in 1990, however, Alydar sired one last runner of some note. This was Benchmark, who did not reach his best form until age six. That year, the son of the Danzig mare Winter's Love won three Grade II events over eight and nine furlongs.
A late-maturing son of a stallion who had proven a disappointment as a sire of sires was not the sort of horse to attract much attention from Kentucky studmasters, and Benchmark entered stud as a regional sire in California. He is now attracting considerably more attention, thanks to the emergence of Santa Anita Oaks (gr. I) winner Silent Sighs from his second crop and current Breeders' Cup Classic–Powered By Dodge (gr. I) candidate Brother Derek from his fourth crop.
A half brother to multiple Grade I winner Tranquility Lake, Benchmark is out of a half sister to 1983 Belmont Stakes (gr. I) winner Caveat. In a career perhaps foreshadowing that of his "nephew," Caveat proved quite a good regional sire in Maryland after being ignored by the major Kentucky farms, his forty stakes winners from 419 foals including Grade I winners Awad, Timely Writer, and Ops Smile.
Although the numbers of foals involved are small, Benchmark has done very well with mares by the Group II-placed Mr. Prospector horse Siyah Kalem, getting three stakes winners from four foals of racing age bred on this cross. He has also done well with mares by 1993 U.S. champion older male Bertrando, getting Silent Sighs and 2006 El Encino Stakes (gr. II) winner Proposed from twenty-six foals of racing age bred on this cross. Brother Derek combines elements of both these crosses: produced from the Siyah Kalem mare Miss Soft Sell (also dam of restricted stakes winner Don'tsellmeshort to Benchmark's cover), his second dam is Solamente Un Vez, a stakes-winning daughter of Bertrando's paternal grandsire Relaunch.
Benchmark himself won in Graded company at nine furlongs and reasonably could have been expected to stay much further given his breeding. Given his own genetic background, his affinity for mares sired by horses capable of throwing speed may be quite understandable. In Brother Derek's case, the speed supplied by his broodmare sire is reinforced by a female line that has generally shown its best at a mile or less. Miss Soft Sell never raced, but her dam Solamente Un Vez had an average winning distance of 6.64 furlongs, while the next dam, the Flit-to mare Gavel Gertie, was stakes-placed three times at sprint distances.
Brother Derek is inbred 3x4 to Raise a Native, a cross that many breeders prefer to avoid due to concerns about soundness. In his case, however, the cross is interesting in that it comes through two high-class sons with contrasting aptitudes. Although Alydar was capable of brilliant speed, he could stay as far as horses are asked to go in American racing, running his great rival Affirmed to a head in the Belmont Stakes (gr. I). Mr. Prospector was something else entirely; although his trainer, Jimmy Croll, believes that he could have stayed nine furlongs or more had he not been repeatedly stopped by injuries, he made his name as a brilliantly fast sprinter and is still the co-holder of the six-furlong track record at Gulfstream Park.
Brother Derek has not won a stakes since the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) on April 8, though he ran a fine race to dead-heat for fourth in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) considering that he got an extremely wide trip all the way and lost a shoe into the bargain. He will need much better luck, plus a big step up from his most recent races, to contend at Churchill Downs on November 4.