By Alan Porter
2010 was a year for remarkably close races in the sire standings. On the overall list five horses were within little more than $750,000 of each other, with final leader Giant's Causeway recording his second title by less than $100,000 from Distorted Humor , with Malibu Moon close behind in third. Among the freshmen, it was nip-and-tuck between Congrats , Bluegrass Cat , and Bernardini , until mid-December when Turbulent Descent took the Hollywood Starlet Stakes (gr. I) to send Congrats clear. The third-season sire standings saw a similarly close battle, with the now-exported Lion Heart little more than $160,000 clear of Speightstown . (Incidentally, the quality of this group of third-crop sires is underlined by the fact that third, fourth, and fifth places were filled by Tapit , Medaglia d'Oro and, Candy Ride ).
Closest of all, however, was the second-crop fight that saw Wildcat Heir make a late run past long-time leader Afleet Alex to take the crown by less than $21,000. While we are used to seeing leading freshmen appear from Florida–as did Congrats this year–it’s relatively unusual for one to head the second-season list. But Wildcat Heir is one that achieved the feat, standing at Florida’s Journeyman Stud. Of course, Wildcat Heir was also last year’s leading freshman sire by number of winners, setting a new world record with 39 juvenile scorers. A son of Forest Wildcat, Wildcat Heir achieved his most significant victory in the Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash (gr. I) as 4-year-old, although he was also a winner and graded-placed in two starts at 2. He’s out of a mare by Pentelicus (a close relative to Unbridled), and under his second dam we find such as On to Royalty, Louis Quatorze, Royal Indy, J J’sdream, and Awesome Gem.
Although Wildcat Heir’s runners were precocious, they clearly trained on, as 80 of the 122 foals in his first crop are now winners, and five of his eight 2010 stakes winners were 3-year-olds, including his first graded winner, the Old Hat Stakes (gr. III) victress Richiegirlgonewild (out of a mare by Saint Ballado). In a rather odd statistical quirk, all nine of Wildcat Heir’s stakes winners are fillies, but all six of his black type-placed horses are colts. In addition to Richiegirlgonewild, he has another stakes winner out of a mare from the Hail to Reason line in Karmageddon (dam by Kissin Kris, by Kris S., from the Roberto branch). He also has two stakes winners out mares from the male line of Nijinsky II (a genetic relative to Wildcat Heir’s male-line ancestor Storm Bird), and another out of a mare by Personal Hope, a Storm Bird son from the same extended female line as Storm Cat.
Champion 3-year-old Afleet Alex made a promising start last year when Dublin emulated his sire with a win in the Three Chimneys Hopeful Stakes (gr. I). While Dublin’s 3-year-old season was side-tracked by injury, Afleet Alex had plenty of backup, and was represented by no fewer than 11 stakes winners in 2010, including the Travers Stakes (gr. I) hero Afleet Express and Withers Stakes (gr. III) victor Afleet Again. Afleet Alex is a son of Northern Afleet (by the Mr. Prospector horse Afleet, out of a Nureyev–by Northern Dancer, by Nearctic–mare that goes back to a Nearctic daughter closely inbred to Nearctic’s family). Afleet Alex’s dam is by Hawkster (by Silver Hawk), a second dam by Hawaii, and a third dam by Sensitivo, so the distaff side of the pedigree is an outcross to Northern Afleet. Perhaps as a result, Afleet Alex has done well with more infusions of Raise a Native (sire of Mr. Prospector) and Nearctic. For example, Afleet Express is out of a mare by Distant View (a son of Mr. Prospector, with Northern Dancer in the dam). He also has a stakes winner out of a mare by Kingmambo, a Mr. Prospector/Nureyev cross like Northern Afleet. For an interesting twist on that theme, we’ll also note Afleet Again is out of a mare by Wild Again (a Nearctic grandson, who has pedigree links to Hawaii), out of a mare by Jig Time, who is bred on an identical cross to Raise a Native.
The previously unheralded Pollard's Vision leapt in to prominence last year to take third spot on the freshman list, primarily due to his outstanding daughter Blind Luck. He remains in third in this group, and once again, Blind Luck was a major player for him, her credits including the Kentucky Oaks and BetFair TVG Alabama Stakes (both gr. I). It would, however, be a mistake to regard Pollard’s Vision as a one-horse sire, as his first crop has now produced eight stakes winners from 105 named foals, the others including the prolific Italian black-type scorer Air Crew and another smart U.S. filly in Fuzzy Britches.
By Carson City, Pollard’s Vision is out of a sister to the tough graded stakes winner and multiple grade I performer Bowman’s Band (by Dixieland Band), from the same branch of the Chris Evert family as Sightseek and Tates Creek. He actually ran more like a Dixieland Band than a Carson City, being a tough middle-distance horse whose best wins came in the Illinois Derby (gr. II), Walmac Lone Star Derby (gr. III), and Leonard Richards Stakes (gr. III) at 3, and the National Jockey Club Handicap (gr. III) at 4. His star Blind Luck is linebred to the Chris Evert family, as her broodmare sire, Best of Luck, is out of a mare by Chief’s Crown, a grandson of Chris Evert.
At the time he retired to stud, Ghostzapper was the giant of this group, commencing his stud career at an advertised fee of $200,000. He ended last year as 21st on the freshman table, and for 2011 his asking price is $20,000. That statistic tells a story all of its own of course, but the news has not been all bad. Ghostzapper did end 2010 as fourth leading second-season stallion, represented by five stakes winners, including his first grade I scorer, the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) winner Stately Victor. Ghostzapper’s relative lack of impact to date is made all the more puzzling by the success of his half brother City Zip , a very accomplished runner, but not one who would compare with Ghostzapper, who we would mark down as the most naturally talented performer to run in the U.S. since Holy Bull, at least. He’s even bred on somewhat similar lines to City Zip, since City Zip’s sire, Carson City, is by Mr. Prospector out of a Blushing Groom mare, and Ghostzapper is by Awesome Again , whose dam is by Blushing Groom out of a Mr. Prospector mare. We do have one hypothesis. Ghostzapper is by a sire whose pedigree is an outcross at four generations, and his own pedigree is an outcross at five generations (and virtually a complete outcross at six). His career is guided by an operation that is a staunch believer in outcrossing, and we wonder if successive generations of outcrossing have dissipated important gene groups. It is interesting to note that two of his six stakes winners–including Stately Victor–do go against the grain, and have a duplication of In Reality (both through Valid Appeal), himself the most closely inbred horse in Ghostzapper’s immediate pedigree. It would be interesting to see whether a change in matings might herald a change in fortunes. We can note that Ghostzapper has been particularly helped by nicks that also benefit Awesome Again and Deputy Minister, as five of his six stakes winners are TrueNicks A++ crosses, and the other is an A+.
As an obverse to Ghostzapper, Roman Ruler (by Fusaichi Pegasus–Silvery Swan by Silver Deputy), who is fifth on the second-season list, is inbred 2x4 to Mr. Prospector. He has five stakes winners–all from his first crop – and another nine stakes-placed horses. The stakes winners including the Champagne Stakes (gr. I) winner Homeboykris (out of a mare by Salutely, from the Hoist the Flag branch of Ribot), and the Boyd Gaming’s Delta Jackpot Stakes (gr. III) scorer Rule (out of a mare by Personal Flag, a full brother of Personal Ensign). Among his stakes-placed horses are the Mother Goose Stakes (gr. I) second Connie and Michael, and the Dixiana Breeders’ Futurity (gr. I) third Roman Invasion. The most intriguing of all from a pedigree standpoint, however, is the Busher Stakes winner Roman Chestnut. She is out of a mare Roman Ruler’s own broodmare sire, Silver Deputy, and so has Silver Deputy 3x2 and Mr. Prospector 3x5x4.