Californian Tom Stull Looking Good With Old Topper

California horseman Tom Stull raised a few eyebrows by proclaiming he would refund the 2003 and '04 stud fees for Old Topper if the stallion wasn't California's leading freshman sire by 2004 year-end progeny earnings. Well, it now looks as if Old Topper will be saving Stull a bunch of money.

"A guy at Del Mar comes up and says, 'You're going to have to pay off,' " said Stull, who owns Old Topper and stands him at his Tommy Town Thoroughbreds near Santa Ynez, Calif. "I said, 'I don't know what you're talking about. He's 13th nationally and first in California.' The guy looks at me like 'What?' "

Following that encounter, Old Topper solidified his hold on the top spot in California and moved up to 10th nationally with the help of his unbeaten son Top Money. A Tommy Town homebred who was bought back at auction, Top Money earned $60,000 in winning the Sept. 6 I'm Smokin Stakes for Cal-breds at Del Mar to boost his career total to $94,560.

Stull didn't make his initial proclamation blindly. "We were able to judge his first foals," he said about the group that arrived in 2002. "We were able to see how good they looked by conformation and when they were running in the field. I felt they would be precocious. I wanted to support him and felt I needed to make a commitment so people would come out and look at his babies."

Judging by Old Topper's race record and pedigree, Stull figured to be right about early development and speed. Old Topper won the Best Pal Stakes (gr. III) at 6 1/2 furlongs at Del Mar as a 2-year-old. His sire, Gilded Time, was a champion 2-year-old, and Old Topper's broodmare sire, Phone Trick, was an accomplished sprinter.

Nine-year-old Old Topper, who was produced from Shy Trick, impregnated 75 of the 80 mares bred to him in 2003 and 56 of the 59 mares bred to him in '04. His fee in those two years was $3,500. Of course, some were farm mares, but that still leaves Stull out on a big, big limb.

Old Topper's runners have earned $235,628 and the stallion's lead in the Cal-freshman race is six figures. Old Topper's progeny include stakes-placed Clear to the Top and Woodbine winner Tommy's Topper, who might run next in the $250,000-added Summer Stakes (Can-IIT) Sept. 19.