Cloudy skies may have hung over most of Florida on Sunshine Millions Day, Jan. 26, but there was plenty of sunshine for the Florida breeding industry in the racing action, as seven of the eight Sunshine Millions races were won by Florida-breds. Among those winners was Mike Tarp’s filly American County, who came home a solid winner in the Sunshine Millions Oaks at Gulfstream Park.
Bred by North Florida Equine, American County is the second stakes winner for Gibson County, who has made the most of a reprieve from the gelding knife to stamp himself as a rising young regional sire. A three-time winner in restricted stakes for California-breds, the son of In Excess (Ire) attracted little attention as a stallion prospect at the close of his racing career and was slated for gelding and retraining as a Western performance horse. However, Luke McKathan (whose sons run the McKathan Brothers Farm near Citra, Fla., where the horse was being boarded) took a shine to the handsome, muscular horse and asked the animal’s owner-breeder, Mike Pegram, for permission to breed a few mares to him. Pegram not only agreed but gave the horse to the McKathans, retaining an interest for himself.
Pegram’s generosity has paid dividends. From his first tiny crop of eight named foals, Gibson County sired six juvenile winners including Genuine Talent, winner of the 2006 Willard L. Proctor Memorial Stakes. That was enough to rank the stallion 34th on the 2006 U.S. freshman sire list. After standing the 2007 season at Cloverleaf Farms II, Gibson County was moved to Ocala Stud, where he will stand the 2008 season for $3,000. Given what his first two crops have accomplished, the price seems fair. From the 39 foals of his first two crops, Gibson County has 25 starters and 18 winners as of Jan. 28.
Although California-bred himself, Gibson County has a Florida connection through his dam, the Winrightt mare Miss Gibson County. A full sister to 1993 Coaltown Breeders’ Cup Stakes (gr. III) winner Big Jewel and to multiple listed stakes winner Charlies Paradise, Miss Gibson County was quite a nice race mare on her own account, her eight stakes wins including two legs of the 1993 Florida Stallion Stakes series and four listed events.
American County is the sixth foal and first stakes winner produced from Young American, a daughter of the late Florida-based sire Pentelicus. A son of Fappiano and Charedi, Pentelicus is similarly bred to 1990 Horse of the Year Unbridled and 1991 Wood Memorial Stakes (gr. I) winner Cahill Road, both by Fappiano out of Charedi’s daughter Gana Facil (by *Le Fabuleux). Pentelicus was a much different sort of horse from his close relatives, however. While they took both massive size and staying ability from *Le Fabuleux, Pentelicus was a much smaller horse who more closely resembled his broodmare sire, In Reality, and had a similar stallion profile in that his stock generally had a reputation for being quick, precocious, and durable.
A half-sister to listed stakes winner Roana Gale (by Prospector’s Halo), Young American is out of Aroanappeal, an unraced daughter of another veteran Florida sire in Valid Appeal (In Reality–Desert Trial, by Moslem Chief). Valid Appeal was a full brother to two-time champion American filly Desert Vixen and a good racer, winning the 1974 Dwyer Stakes (gr. II). He proved to be a much better stallion than anyone had anticipated. A perennial leading Florida sire at Harry Mangurian’s Mockingbird Farm until his pensioning in 1997 (he died in 2002), Valid Appeal sired 88 stakes winners and has been succeeded at stud by perennial leading Texas sire Valid Expectations and by 2004 U.S. leading freshman sire Successful Appeal.
Young American is, thus, inbred 3 x 3 to In Reality, himself a closely inbred horse as he was by Intentionally, by Intent, by War Relic, out of My Dear Girl, out of Iltis, by War Relic; he was also inbred 5 x 5 x 5 to War Relic’s grandsire, Fair Play. (Young American is also inbred 5 x 5 x 5 to Ocala Stud’s original foundation sire Rough’n Tumble, who appears as the sire of My Dear Girl and of Dr. Fager, maternal grandsire of Fappiano.) As if that were not inbreeding enough, War Relic was, in turn, inbred 3 x 3 to 1903 English Triple Crown winner Rock Sand., himself inbred 4 x 4 x 4 to Stockwell.
With such a pile of inbreedings stacked up in her pedigree, it is perhaps not surprising that Young American should have produced her best foal to date to a complete outcross; in fact, American County has no duplications between the paternal and maternal sides of her pedigree within the first six generations. Young American’s second-best foal, American Forum (by Open Forum), earned $112,395 during his career and is also the result of a complete outcross within five generations. Inbreeding patterns can be fascinating, but the broodmare career of Young American tends to support the conventional wisdom that, beyond a certain level, inbreeding can depress performance and needs to be balanced by outcrossing. To judge by American County’s performance in the Sunshine Millions, in her case, the needed balance was achieved.