When one says “Keeneland,” one almost automatically thinks of equine royalty, especially in the sale ring. More multimillion-dollar yearlings have passed through the ring at Keeneland than any other place in North America or Europe, and some have gone on to be fine racers.
Fortunately, one need not have the wealth of Coolmore or the Maktoum family to buy a good racehorse. The point has seldom been better illustrated than with the sales yearlings of 2005. Seventeen youngsters that year went for prices of $2 million or more in Europe and North America, 13 of them through Keeneland. The group was headed by Jalil, a full brother to this year’s turf star After Market, who went to Sheikh Mohammed for $9.7 million. So far, not one of these expensive yearlings has come close to justifying its purchase price. But at the other end of the spectrum, a $4,000 yearling from the Keeneland January mixed sale hasn’t done too badly. Now named Going Ballistic, the bargain colt has so far earned $671,242, his most recent victory coming in the Super Derby (gr. II).
Going Ballistic was a bargain in more ways than one, for his sire, Lite the Fuse, stood for a modest $7,500 when the colt was conceived in 2003. Now in Pennsylvania, where he stands for $3,500, Lite the Fuse has been the state’s leading sire for three consecutive years. So far, he has sired 222 winners and 22 stakes winners in his first seven – a quite respectable 62% and 6.1% of foals, respectively – but Going Ballistic is his first graded stakes winner.
Lite the Fuse was quite a good racehorse on his own account, although he took some time to develop. He did not earn his first stakes win until age 4 but was one of the best sprinters in North America at 4 and 5. His six graded stakes wins included the 1995 and 1996 editions of the Carter Handicap (gr. I) and the Frank J. DeFrancis Memorial Dash Stakes (gr. II), and he retired with nine wins from 21 starts and earnings of $1,036,882.
Primarily a sire of sprinters like himself, Lite the Fuse has nonetheless shown the ability to get a two-turn horse when bred to the right mare. Besides Going Ballistic, he is the sire of Ablo, whose victories include the Canadian counterpart to the Preakness Stakes, the Prince of Wales Stakes. He appears to have done well with mares from the Mr. Prospector and Bold Ruler male lines (but not the Seattle Slew branch of Bold Ruler) and also appears to have an affinity for mares returning multiple strains of *Nasrullah.
In many ways, Lite the Fuse has been typical of Buckpasser-line sires, which have included Silver Buck, Buckaroo, Spend a Buck, Montbrook, and Bucksplasher. While many of these horses have been quite useful – particularly as regional sires – and have been able to sire the occasional “big horse,” as a group they have not been commercially attractive, nor have they attracted the type of mares that would give them decent chances to become either good sires of sires or notable broodmare sires. Some of the line’s best representatives have not even gotten enough patronage to be viable stallions in regional markets: Hard Buck (by Spend a Buck), a winner at the top level in both Brazil and the United States, served only 18 mares during his one season in Florida before returning to Brazil full-time, while the crack sprinter-miler Pico Central (also by Spend a Buck) likewise proved a hard sell in Florida despite being a three-time grade I winner in the United States and is now in Korea. Silver Buck’s best son, 1997 U.S. champion 3-year-old male Silver Charm, disappointed in Kentucky and is now in Japan. So at this point, the only commercially viable Buckpasser-line stallion in the national market appears to be Chapel Royal (by Montbrook), whose first yearlings have averaged $50,657 so far this year.
The female line of Going Ballistic, like his purchase price and his sire line, leans more toward the blue-collar than the royal. His dam, the Holy Bull mare Holy Lightning, never won in five starts, nor did any of her siblings particularly distinguish themselves on the track. She was produced from Blazing Hot (by Irish River [Fr]), who proved a better racer than broodmare as she captured the listed Summer Stakes against males.
Blazing Hot was, in turn, produced from Hot Milk, whose other foals included 1998 John B. Campbell Handicap (gr. III) winner Hot Brush (by Broad Brush). Herself a listed stakes winner and a full sister to another stakes winner in Nuit d’Amour, Hot Milk was sired by Restless Native, a useful sire son of Native Dancer and two-time champion filly Next Move, out of Nuit Blanche (by Gray Phantom), a stakes-placed half-sister to multiple stakes winner and multiple stakes producer Champagne Woman (by Barbizon).
Although prosaic by the standards of the commercial market, the pedigree of Going Ballistic contains a strong leavening of horses who earned their keep and then some on the racetrack, and points out the merits of using the best members of even fairly modest families as breeding stock. He is also among the increasingly small pool of prospective stallions whose pedigrees are completely free of Northern Dancer, Mr. Prospector, and Seattle Slew, giving him potential value as an outcross sire. That will probably not be enough to earn him a place at a major Kentucky farm; for that, he will need a grade I win and probably more than one. But it should be enough to earn him a chance at stud somewhere and, perhaps, a chance to continue the male line of Buckpasser for another generation.