You know how it is with breeders. They breed one Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) winner, and the next thing you know, they’re trying to come up with another.
That’s the way it is with Dr. Gary Knapp, breeder of this year’s Derby and Preakness Stakes (gr. I) winner Big Brown in the name of his Monticule farm. Knapp chose the stallion Stormy Atlantic as a mate for Big Brown’s dam, Mien, by Nureyev, for some of the same reasons he selected Boundary as a mate for Mien in the mating that produced the dual classic winner. The breeding to Stormy Atlantic took place May 15 at John Sikura’s Hill ‘n’ Dale Farms near Lexington.
“Physically, Mien fits extraordinarily well with Stormy Atlantic on the EQUIX analysis,” said Knapp, whose Monticule is located near Lexington. “And if you look at Stormy Atlantic’s runners, there are some successful ones that are inbred to Northern Dancer.”
The best of them is Stormello, a grade I winner at 2 and now a stallion at Dr. Tom Simon’s Vinery near Lexington.
Big Brown not only is inbred to the great Northern Dancer, but also to fellow prominent stallions Damascus and Round Table. The resultant Stormy Atlantic--Mien foal also will be inbred to Northern Dancer.
Knapp is a big fan of inbreeding to superior broodmares. In the case of the Stormy Atlantic/Mien mating, it will result in a 5x5x6 inbreeding to the blue hen mare Rough Shod II. One presence is through Stormy Atlantic, and the other two are through Mien.
“I did some research on my own and found from 1914 to 2002 that 85% of the American classic winners had one or more crosses of significant female families in their pedigrees,” said Knapp, who referenced American Classic Pedigrees (1914-2002). “I want to be in that group when I breed horses.”
American Classic Pedigrees not only classified the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Belmont Stakes (gr. I) as classics, but also the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) and Coaching Club American Oaks (gr. I), which are exclusively for fillies.
Knapp set a minimum stud fee when searching for a stallion this year. “I can’t remember, but it was either $20,000 or $25,000,” he said. “I looked at all the stallions standing in Central Kentucky at that level or higher, and all of them had one of more crosses of significant female families within the first seven generations, except five stallions.”
Knapp also comes armed with a backup list of stallions that fits the criteria in case something happens.
“We tried to breed Mien to Congaree (in 2006), but I think he had an injured ankle at the time, so we couldn’t breed to him," Knapp said. "We went to another stallion on the list and that was Touch Gold.”
Mien produced a Touch Gold filly in 2007. She will be consigned to the Keeneland September yearling sale.
The same year Mien produced Big Brown, she was supposed to be bred back to Boundary, who was standing at the Hancock family’s Claiborne Farm near Paris, Ky.
“But that was when he was having fertility problems,” Knapp said. “So, I said, 'Who else is on the list?’ and can we get to him? That stallion was Horse Chestnut, and he sired a nice filly.”
Horse Chestnut, who stands at Claiborne, was standing that 2005 season for $10,000.
“I typically wouldn’t have bred to a stallion for a fee like that, but it was getting to that time of year and I had to do something,” Knapp said.
This year, Mien produced a Belong to Me filly about two weeks before the Kentucky Derby.
Boundary, who was pensioned in 2005, resides at Claiborne.