The contest for 2007 leading sire looked like a genuine horse race between the leader, A.P. Indy, and second-place Smart Strike (VIDEO) in early fall. But it didn’t take long before Smart Strike turned it into a rout.
Smart Strike put some sizable distance between himself and A.P. Indy with a big day Sept. 30 at Belmont Park by virtue of rich grade I wins by sons Curlin, English Channel, and Fabulous Strike.
But that achievement paled compared to Breeders’ Cup day Oct. 27 at Monmouth Park when Curlin won the Classic - Powered by Dodge (gr. I) and English Channel took the John Deere Turf (gr. IT). Instead of a $500,000 lead over A.P. Indy, it reached an unprecedented $5 million.
Smart Strike’s lead slipped a little at year’s end, but the son of Mr. Prospector, out of the champion Smarten mare Classy ’n Smart, still proved an easy winner. His runners earned a record $14,358,570, compared to $9,775,575 for A.P. Indy’s progeny. The winning sum shattered Elusive Quality’s mark of $10,756,659 set in 2004.
Ousting A.P. Indy was no small achievement. Clearly recognized as one of the world’s top stallions, A.P. Indy was the defending leading sire and had chalked up an earlier title in 2003.
The exacta of Smart Strike and A.P. Indy, both of whom stand at William S. Farish’s Lane’s End Farm near Versailles, Ky., was part of something even bigger. It was the first time since 1965 that the top two stallions stood at the same farm. That year, the peerless Bold Ruler and Double Jay, representing Arthur B. "Bull" Hancock Jr.’s Claiborne Farm near Paris, Ky., finished one-two, respectively, on the leading sires list.
The Lane’s End success story didn’t end with Smart Strike and A.P. Indy. Langfuhr, who also stands at Lane’s End, was nosed out for fourth place by Giant’s Causeway at the end of 2007 and finished fifth. Ending up third was Distorted Humor.
"It’s very gratifying, and it’s due to the breeders who have sent top-quality mares to these stallions and researched the pedigrees," Farish said. "There are some interesting patterns with each of them.
"Smart Strike has shown a particular affinity for Northern Dancer-line mares, and both Curlin and English Channel are from Northern Dancer-line mares. A.P. Indy has probably 35 stakes winners from Mr. Prospector-line mares. We saw the success of that cross early on with Pulpit (a grade II winner for Claiborne Farm). Langfuhr, a son of Danzig (by Northern Dancer), also has achieved success with Mr. Prospector-line mares.
"Smart Strike, who measures 16 hands, does well with mares who are a little larger than him. Curlin and Tenpins (a millionaire) are out of stout Deputy Minister mares. English Channel’s dam is by Theatrical (IRE), who is a large Northern Dancer-type horse."
Curlin clearly ranks as Smart Strike’s all-time leading runner, and was the 2007 chief earner representing deceased Deputy Minister as a broodmare sire. (Deputy Minister was the leading maternal grandsire, with earnings of $16,382,938. See page 188.) Curlin figures to be a lock for Horse of the Year and champion 3-year-old male.
Unraced at 2, Curlin ran third to winner Street Sense in the 2007 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) in just his fourth start, and then beat the Derby winner in the Preakness Stakes (gr. I) in a come-from-behind effort. Favored in the Belmont Stakes (gr. I), he met his match in the A.P. Indy filly Rags to Riches and was beaten a head.
Curlin won twice following the Belmont. After finishing third in the Haskell Invitational Stakes (gr. I), he faced older horses in both the Sept. 30 Jockey Club Gold Cup (gr. I) and the Breeders’ Cup Classic. He won the Gold Cup by a neck over top older male Lawyer Ron and was an easy winner of the Classic. He ended the year with earnings of $5,102,800.
Curlin, who is now owned by Jess Jackson’s Stonestreet Stables and the Midnight Cry Stable of Shirley Cunningham Jr. and William Gallion, is being pointed toward a 2008 campaign under the care of trainer Steve Asmussen.
English Channel, the favorite for an Eclipse Award in the male turf division, also won the 2007 United Nations Stakes (gr. IT) in course-record time and the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic Invitational Stakes (gr. IT). He was retired with career earnings of $5,319,028 and will enter stud for a fee of $25,000 at Ben P. Walden Jr., and partners Hurricane Hall near Lexington.
English Channel’s success—he earned $2,640,000 in 2007—went a long way in Smart Strike being crowned leading turf sire in North America. Smart Strike finished the year with $5,440,109 in grass earnings compared to $4,244,674 for Giant’s Causeway.
The $5 million-plus in earnings for both Curlin and English Channel not only places each of them in special company, but it does the same for Smart Strike. He is the first stallion to have sired as many as two North American-based $5 million-plus earners. Considering there aren’t many stallions with even one $5 million-plus earner, it’s quite an accomplishment.
Fabulous Strike figures to get support in Eclipse Award balloting in the sprint category. He dominated in both the Sept. 30 Vosburgh Stakes (gr. I) at Belmont and the Aristides Stakes (gr. III) in June.
Another way to measure Smart Strike’s recent success is by Average-Earning Index compared to Comparable Index. The CI indicates the average earnings of progeny produced from mares bred to one sire, when these same mares were bred to other sires.
Smart Strike’s AEI increased dramatically from the start of 2007. Smart Strike, who finished 11th on the 2006 leading sires list by progeny earnings, began 2007 with a 2.59 AEI and a 2.02 CI. He ended the year with a 2.86 AEI and a 1.96 CI.
Smart Strike’s 2007 success merited a sizable increase in stud fee. Smart Strike, who began his career for $30,000 in 1997, will stand in 2008 for $150,000, which is double his 2007 fee.
Smart Strike, now 16, doesn’t figure to be the sole Lane’s End stallion with a 2007 Eclipse Award winner. Rags to Riches is a lock to become A.P. Indy’s fourth Eclipse Award winner. In addition to the Belmont, Rags to Riches won the 2007 Kentucky and Santa Anita Oaks (both gr. I), plus the Las Virgenes Stakes (gr. I). She is being pointed toward a 2008 campaign with trainer Todd Pletcher.
Now 19, A.P. Indy (Seattle Slew—Weekend Surprise, by Secretariat) once again will stand for $300,000.
Langfuhr’s son Lawyer Ron figures to be in the mix for an Eclipse Award. A 4-year-old in 2007, Lawyer Ron won the Whitney Handicap (gr. I) in track-record time and the Woodward Stakes (gr. I) in consecutive starts at Saratoga. He has been retired for stallion duty at Audrey Haisfield’s Stonewall Farm near Versailles, where he will stand for $30,000.
Langfuhr, who is out of the stakes-winning Briartic mare Sweet Briar Too, will stand for $25,000 for the second straight year.
Distorted Humor, who holds court at Bill Casner and Kenny Troutt’s WinStar Farm near Versailles, experienced another rewarding season. For the third straight year, he was ranked among the top six stallions by progeny earnings, which helped merit a rise in stud fee from $225,000 in 2007 to $300,000 in 2008. His 2007 runners earned $9,752,227, and included U.S. grade I winners Any Given Saturday, Bit of Whimsy, and Hystericalady. The first-named has been retired and will stand for $40,000 at Sheikh Mohammed’s Darley near Lexington.
Now 15, Distorted Humor (Forty Niner—Danzig’s Beauty, by Danzig) was represented by at least 20 stakes winners for the second year in a row.
Giant’s Causeway experienced his second consecutive year with progeny earnings of $8 million-plus. His 2007 runners earned $8,749,622—his highest total ever—and included grade I turf winner My Typhoon.
Giant’s Causeway, an 11-year-old son of Storm Cat out of the grade II-winning Rahy mare Mariah’s Storm, stands at Ashford Stud near Versailles. His 2008 fee is $125,000.