Hennessy, leading juvenile sire of 2001.

Hennessy, leading juvenile sire of 2001.

Courtesy of Primus Advertising

Johannesburg Propels Hennessy to Top of Juvenile Sire List

Published in the Jan. 12 issue of The Blood-Horse
Johannesburg was the "big horse" for Hennessy prior to last year's Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships, having won all six of his races in Europe, three of them in group I company. But his 1 1/4-length triumph in the Bessemer Trust Juvenile (gr. I) did more than fill the pockets of owners Michael Tabor and Sue Magnier to the tune of $520,000. It put Hennessy on top of the list of leading sires of 2-year-olds in 2001 and convinced management of Irish-based Coolmore to jump the son of Storm Cat's 2002 stud fee from a previously announced $20,000 to $45,000 live foal.

The Juvenile victory couldn't have been more timely. Hennessy stood the 2001 breeding season at Japan's East Stud on a one-year lease arrangement, and Johannesburg made a perfect poster boy, signaling his return to Coolmore's Kentucky division, Ashford Stud. The revised fee of $45,000 was identical to his advertised stud fee in 1999 and 2000.

Year-end earnings of $1,752,466 made Hennessy the third most productive sire of 2-year-olds ever, behind Capote's all-time record year of $2,759,053 in 1996, when Boston Harbor and Acceptable gave the son of Seattle Slew the one-two finishers in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, and Danzig's 1984 season, when the Northern Dancer stallion was represented by Juvenile winner Chief's Crown and the earners of $2,154,858.

Hennessy's 1999 crop, his second, consisted of 96 foals, with 46 runners and 17 winners (37%). He had two additional 2-year-old stakes winners besides Johannesburg, both colts: Cowdin Stakes (gr. III) winner Sunray Spirit and Fort Springs Stakes winner Handsome Hunk. Thus, his 2-year-old stakes-winning percentage from foals was 7% in 2001.

It comes as no surprise to D. Wayne Lukas, who trained Hennessy, that the chestnut colt has become a leading sire of 2-year-olds. "He had a natural turn of foot, a lot of speed," Lukas recalled. "Many of the Storm Cats are tough to handle, but Hennessy had a great disposition, and he liked to train."

Interestingly, Lukas and his wife, Laura, are partners in Check Him Out, a grade I-winning Quarter Horse sired by Hennessy and winner of four of nine starts and $236,619 as a 2-year-old in 2001. Wayne Lukas arranged the mating to Hennessy and Laura trains the colt. "He should be the California-bred champion," Lukas said.

Under the Hall of Fame trainer's care and carrying the green and yellow silks of Robert and Beverly Lewis, Hennessy won four of nine starts at two, including three stakes, the Hollywood Juvenile Championship (gr. II) in July, and the Sapling Stakes (gr. II) and Hopeful Stakes (gr. I) in August. He finished sixth behind eventual 2-year-old champion Maria's Mon in the Moet Champagne Stakes (gr. I) in October, three weeks before losing by a neck to Unbridled's Song in a game effort in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile.

Hennessy made two more starts in 1995, finishing second by a half-length to Cobra King in the Hollywood Preview Stakes (gr. III) and a distant fourth to Matty G in the Hollywood Futurity (gr. I). He was weighted at 124 pounds on the Experimental Free Handicap, two pounds below the co-highweights, Maria's Mon and Unbridled's Song.

Bruises and abscesses began to plague Hennessy's feet, and he never returned to serious training the following year. His retirement and purchase by Coolmore for a reported $8 million was announced in September.

Lukas purchased Hennessy on behalf of the Lewises at the Keeneland July yearling sale. He had seen the colt on several occasions before the sale, since Hennessy was bred by William T. Young's Overbrook Farm, another important Lukas client. He was produced from Young's Hawaii mare, Island Kitty. "I scored him as a yearling at the farm and really liked him," Lukas said. "Once I saw him in the consignment, I liked him even more."

Another trainer, the late Brian Mayberry, also had his eye on the colt, according to Lukas. "Brian told me he liked this horse and had $300,000 to spend on him. I said, 'I don't think you can buy him for that.' Lo and behold, Brian sat in the second row of the pavilion and when (the late auctioneer) Tom Caldwell asked for an opening bid of $50,000, Brian said, '$300,000.' Well, I jumped in, and eventually got him for $500,000."

Hennessy earned back the purchase price, winning $580,400 on the racetrack. Johannesburg has virtually assured that the current owners of the 2001 juvenile sire leader will turn a profit, too.