There are few people in the Thoroughbred industry as gifted as John Sikura when it comes to identifying bloodstock opportunities and then acting upon them, thus infusing top-shelf female families to his broodmare band at Hill 'n' Dale Farms near Lexington.
Sikura, for example, bought into Better Than Honour, the great broodmare who produced back-to-back Belmont Stakes (gr. I) winners Jazil and Rags to Riches, before selling her in 2008 for a tidy $14 million. So it is no surprise that Sikura hit another home run when he bought Ben Walden Jr. out of his interest in the Deputy Minister mareMalka, who was bred by Walden and Philip Steinberg after that pair paid $300,000 for her dam, Get Lucky, in 2002. Sikura appreciated the deep Phipps pedigree of Malka's female family, and, after sending Malka to A.P. Indy in his last season at stud, co-bred with Steinberg Got Lucky, winner of this year's Juddmonte Spinster Stakes (gr. I) and a contender in the Oct. 30 Longines Breeders' Cup Distaff (gr. I) at Keeneland.
"You don't get a chance to get into those pedigrees very often, and Deputy Minister is one of, if not the most important broodmare sire you can find in a pedigree," Sikura noted. "I was there as a kid when he ran as a 2-year-old in Canada and he was a magnificent-looking, fast horse."
Daijin, the foundation mare of Hill 'n' Dale, is by Deputy Minister, as is Better Than Honour.
A look into Got Lucky's pedigree shows why Sikura was anxious to buy into the bloodlines. Fourth dam Numbered Account was North America's champion 2-year-old filly of 1971 and a 12-time stakes winner bred by Ogden Phipps. Besides multiple grade I winner Private Account, she produced grade I winner Dance Number, a Northern Dancer filly.
Dance Number, another Phipps homebred, is the third dam of Got Lucky and the dam of champion 2-year-old colt Rhythm, by Mr. Prospector. Rhythm won the 1989 Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I) and the next season's Travers Stakes (gr. I). Dance Number also produced Not For Love, for years the leading sire in Maryland.
She also issued forth Get Lucky, the second dam of Got Lucky and a graded stakes winner herself. Get Lucky, bred by Ogden Mills Phipps, set the template for success with A.P. Indy, the sire of Got Lucky. Bred to A.P. Indy repeatedly, Get Lucky authored grade III-winning colt Accelerator, grade II winner Daydreaming, and grade I victor and a top first-year sire of 2015 Girolamo.
"The depth of that family is incredible," Sikura said. "We sent Malka to A.P. Indy because you go with what's familiar, and he was arguably the best sire in America and a classic sire who obviously worked with the family. Malka was a short, compact mare who needed a little more stretch and classic distance, so we just did the obvious. And A.P. Indy over Deputy Minister is how we bred Serenading and Handpainted, both major stakes winners."
In 2011 Sikura topped the Keeneland September yearling sale when Powerful, a full brother to Got Lucky, fetched a $1.4 million bid. Malka's final foal is Lucky Number, a Smart Strike filly retained by Sikura. Malka died after giving birth to Lucky Number in 2012. Lucky Number may be offered next week in Keeneland's November mixed sale.
Sikura and Steinberg have not yet decided whether the Distaff will be the final race for 4-year-old Got Lucky.
"The breeder's dilemma when you have a good horse and win a race like the Spinster is whether to bring her home to be a broodmare," Sikura said. "She's a grade I winner and nearly a millionaire, so I don't know how much more she can accomplish. She's going to come to the farm after the Distaff to either get a break or reside here."
Either way, the heavy lifting is over. Sikura has secured yet another terrific family for Hill 'n' Dale. A victory in the Distaff would be the cherry on the icing on the cake.