Commentary: Running Start
by Dan Liebman
Date Posted: 8/28/2007 11:36:59 AM
Last Updated: 8/28/2007 11:37:41 AM

Dan Liebman
Executive Editor

Photo: Lee Thomas

The names Street Sense, Curlin, Hard Spun, and Any Given Saturday—the top three finishers in the first two legs of the Triple Crown and winners of the grade I Travers (Street Sense), King’s Bishop (Hard Spun), and Haskell (Any Given Saturday)—would appear on anyone’s ranking of the top 3-year-olds of 2007.

Three of the four are also on the list of top stallion deals already done this year, with multi-million-dollar contracts signed complete with terms, kickers, and impending retirements. Obviously there has been interest in the fourth as a stallion prospect, leaving one to wonder if the lack of an agreement on Curlin has more to do with the fact two of his owners are currently behind bars than anything about his race record, pedigree, or conformation.

What if there was a 3-year-old that was retired after winning his only start at 2 and two allowance races at 3? What about a horse that at 2 won a grade I and finished second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I), but then only made two starts at 3; or a two-time stakes-­winning track-record-setting sprinter? Would farms be interested in standing them? Thankfully, someone at the time did have an interest in standing Danzig, Storm Cat, and Mr. Prospector, respectively. And, our breed has been changed forever because of their decisions.

Seth Hancock of Claiborne Farm was connected to two, standing Danzig his entire career and Mr. Prospector after he moved from Florida. Hancock took Danzig because trainer Woody Stephens convinced him that though unsound, the son of Northern Dancer had tremendous talent. Danzig entered stud in 1981 for $20,000, was never bred to more than 70 mares a season, and now stands just two shy of siring 200 stakes winners. The leading sire by progeny earnings three times, his lifetime percentage of stakes winners from foals, 18%, is a staggering number.

Mr. Prospector began at the Aisco Farm of his owner, A.I. “Butch” Savin, for $7,500 in 1975, and was moved to Claiborne after his runners took off. The man behind that deal was Peter Brant. The son of Raise a Native sired 181 stakes winners, led the sire list twice, broodmare sire list nine times, and juvenile sire list once. The fees for Danzig and Mr. Prospector both eventually rose to $250,000.

Storm Cat is still standing at Overbrook Farm, founded by the late W.T. Young and operated now by his son and daughter. Young was offered $8 million for the son of Storm Bird before the Juvenile, but when the colt lost, the price dropped and his owner decided to keep him. His fee was $30,000 in 1987 and in 2007 he commanded $500,000 for the sixth year in a row. Storm Cat, now 24, has led the sire list twice and 2-year-old sire list seven times. He is the sire of 155 stakes winners and also is the leading sire of million-dollar yearlings.

At sales they like to say a good horse can come from anywhere. A good stallion can, too.

PAST AND FUTURE

Since 1992, this column has been penned by Ray Paulick, who is no longer associated with Blood-Horse Publications. Ray’s insights were carefully crafted in his columns, which did not stray from controversial topics or journalistic principles. The publisher and trustees of The Blood-Horse, which has been reporting on the industry for more than 90 years, will soon name a new Editor-in-Chief, a position only five persons have held: Thomas Cromwell, Joe Estes, Kent Hollingsworth, Ed Bowen, and Paulick. As the search for a new Editor-in-Chief begins, The Blood-Horse family extends its appreciation to Ray for the past and best wishes for the future to him, his wife, Carol, and their children, Chris and Meg.



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