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What kind of boost will Birdstone's stallion career receive from Mine That Bird's Derby win?
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Anne M. Eberhardt

'Big Horse' Boost for First-Crop Sires?

How does a first-crop classic winner affect a stallion's career?

If there’s one thing that never hurt a fledgling stallion’s career, it’s a “big horse” in the first crop to race – especially a Classic winner. Thanks to Mine That Bird (Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I)) and Rachel Alexandra (Blackberry Preakness Stakes (gr. I)), respectively, both Birdstone and Medaglia d’Oro have achieved the distinction of becoming Classic sires with their first crops. But how much of a boost will it really give them?

History provides more question marks than answers, at least in the last quarter-century. And perhaps this is only what should have been expected. While a stallion is likely to attract better mates in the next couple of breeding seasons after a Classic winner emerges, he may well end up as a one-hit wonder if he doesn’t capitalize rapidly on his improved opportunities as the breeding market will move on to the next “hot” sire.

Over the previous 35 years, 11 Classic winners have emerged from the first crops of their sires, beginning with 1975 Preakness Stakes winner Master Derby. His sire, 1970 Kentucky Derby winner Dust Commander, added 1976 Arlington-Washington Futurity (gr. I) winner Run Dusty Run in his third crop but had little opportunity to capitalize on Master Derby’s success as he spent the 1974-1978 breeding seasons in Japan. By the time he was repatriated for the 1979 breeding season, the excitement had pretty well died, and Dust Commander spent the rest of his career siring more bread-and-butter horses than standouts. The Jockey Club credits him with 17 stakes winners from 548 foals.

Irish Castle struck the following year with Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes (gr. I) winner Bold Forbes. A useful but inconsistent stallion, Irish Castle never sired anything else approaching Bold Forbes in class and ended his career having sired 32 stakes winners from 546 foals.

Next up was Bold Reasoning, who landed the Holy Grail of American racing with the great Seattle Slew’s Triple Crown in 1977. Bold Reasoning begot 1977 French champion juvenile male Super Concorde in his second crop but, alas, died before he could benefit from either of his champion sons’ successes. The results from his three small crops suggest that he might well have become an excellent sire; as it was, he left 10 stakes winners from 64 foals.

Sovereign Dancer, on the other hand, benefitted considerably from the success of his son Gate Dancer in the 1984 Preakness. An indifferent racehorse who was given a chance at stud because of his royal pedigree (by Northern Dancer out of Bold Princess, a stakes-winning full sister to two-time leading sire What a Pleasure), Sovereign Dancer went on to sire 56 stakes winners from 592 foals, including 1990 champion turf male Itsallgreektome and two-time French champion Priolo.

Creme Fraiche proved himself a fine stayer with his win in the 1985 Belmont, but he did little for his sire Rich Cream. A late-maturing sprinter from a sire line that was fading from fashion -- that of Heliopolis -- Rich Cream sired only five other stakes winners from 338 foals. Likewise, Sportin’ Life was unable to capitalize on the 1987 Belmont victory of his son Bet Twice, finishing out his stud career with 11 stakes winners from 443 foals.

Woodman had an uneven record after getting both 1991 Preakness and Belmont winner Hansel and 1991 Dubai Poule d’Essai des Poulains (Fr-I) winner Hector Protector in his first crop. To date, The Jockey Club credits him with 110 stakes winners – not an exceptional percentage (6%) of stakes winners from his 1,987 foals of racing age. But those stakes winners do include some first-rate runners, among them 1994 champion juvenile male Timber Country, 1999 Canadian champion Woodcarver, multiple Japanese champion Hishi Akebono, and European champions/highweights Hawk Wing, Bosra Sham, Way of Light, Gay Gallanta, Mujtahid, and Dr Johnson.

1990 Kentucky Derby winner Unbridled followed in the hoof prints of Dust Commander by getting the 1996 Kentucky Derby winner Grindstone in his first crop. Although Unbridled was criticized for passing on unsoundness, there was no question that he could pass on racing talent as well. He died of colic in 2001, but not before siring 2000 Preakness winner Red Bullet, 2003 Belmont winner Empire Maker , and champions Anees, Banshee Breeze, and Halfbridled among his 49 stakes winners from 582 foals.

Following the 2001 Kentucky Derby victory of his son Monarchos, Maria’s Mon took advantage of the upturn in his fortunes, getting 2006 champion 3-year-old filly Wait a While, 2006 Malibu Stakes (gr. I) winner Latent Heat, and grade III winners Cause to Believe and Criminologist from his first crop sired on mares attracted to his court after Monarcho’s Classic win. Unfortunately, the stallion died Sept. 14, 2007 of an undiagnosed illness. To date, he is credited with 40 stakes winners from 883 foals of racing age; his last crop will come to the races in 2010.

Funny Cide, the Derby and Preakness winner of 2003, was one of 12 Northern Hemisphere first-crop stakes winners for Distorted Humor , who has since become one of the premier stallions in the American market. To date, Distorted Humor has 73 stakes winners from 812 foals of racing age worldwide. In 2009, he has already been represented by seven stakes winners including United Arab Emirates Derby Sponsored by Saeed & Mahammed Al Naboodah Group (UAE-II) winner Regal Ransom.

Finally, of course, there is Street Sense , who won the 2007 Kentucky Derby for first-crop sire Street Cry (IRE). Also the sire of unbeaten 2008 champion older female Zenyatta, multiple grade I-winning sprinter Street Boss, and English group I winner Majestic Roi from his first crop, Street Cry has had 27 stakes winners so far from 525 foals of racing age per The Jockey Club. That’s not a high percentage, but it must be remembered that these figures include foals born in the Southern Hemisphere, where Street Cry has not been as successful; it also includes foals of 2007, only 11 of which have even started as yet.