In terms of an emerging force as a broodmare sire, 2016 season has been the year of the kid: Lemon Drop Kid, that is.
The 20-year-old stallion, who stands at William S. Farish's Lane's End Farm in Versailles, Ky., sired the dams of two 2016 Breeders' Cup winners: Las Vegas Dirt Mile (gr. I) champ Tamarkuz and Filly & Mare Sprint (gr. I) winner Finest City.
He's also the broodmare sire of three more grade I winners this year: Frizette (gr. I) heroine Yellow Agate, Apple Blossom Handicap and Beldame Stakes (both gr. I) winner Forever Unbridled, and Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (gr. IT) victor Divisidero.
The son of Kingmambo—Charming Lassie, by Seattle Slew, currently ranks at number 31 (through Dec. 4) on the leading broodmare sires list, higher than many older standouts with more daughters and their foals. His daughters have foaled only 608 cumulative foals so far, one of the lower amounts on the entire list and a fraction of his competitors' numbers.
His 1.6 AEI is comparable to 2016 leading broodmare sire Sunday Silence's 1.66. And the cumulative number of foals from Lemon Drop Kid's daughters is significantly less than even older sires or his higher-profile contemporaries, such as A.P. Indy or Distorted Humor. The latter two have percentages of runners to winners comparable to those of Lemon Drop Kid.
The Kid's Speedy Grandkids
Bred by Farish and W.S. Kilroy in Kentucky, Lemon Drop Kid exemplifies a long-striding, classic type. Winner of the Futurity (gr. I) at 2, the colt seemed to fly under the radar when capturing both the Belmont and Travers stakes (both gr. I) in 1999. At age 4, Jeanne Vance's Lemon Drop Kid would earn an older male championship by winning the Whitney Handicap and Woodward Stakes (both gr. I).
"In Lemon Drop Kid's case, he's gotten a number of good daughters. I think he is priced exceptionally well, and he's a very versatile stallion that again can get you all kinds of types and now he's producing daughters that are producing," said Lane's End director of stallion seasons and shares Chance Timm.
For example, 2006 Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) winner Lemons Forever produced both the aforementioned Forever Unbridled and her grade I-winning full sister, Unbridled Forever. In 2011, Lemon Drop Kid's grade I-winning daughter Christmas Kid topped the dispersal of her late owner-breeder, Edward P. "Ned" Evans, at $4.2 million. Her son Black Sea won an Irish stakes this year, while two of her other foals are group-placed.
Hank R. Nothhaft, breeder of Finest City in the name of his HnR Nothhaft Horseracing, was drawn to Lemon Drop Kid's record on the track. He stated that he was "a strong believer in sire race records when you can get them." Lemon Drop Kid won graded races each season he raced, giving him hope for "precocious and long-enduring" offspring that could run far on a range of surfaces.
One of Nothhaft's sprint-type broodmares is currently in foal to Lemon Drop Kid, which Nothhaft hopes will yield a longer-bodied, "classic, two-turn foal." Timm agreed, adding, "Physically, I think he puts great structure in his progeny. They're exceptionally well-footed horses, great bone. I think that's a common characteristic of his progeny, and obviously that contributes to their soundness."
A Perfectly Potent Pedigree
Tom Hinkle of Hinkle Farms in Paris, Ky., purchased Madame du Lac, a Lemon Drop Kid mare in foal to Kitten's Joy, at the 2011 Keeneland November sale; the resulting foal was turf star Divisidero. Although Hinkle was looking for mares in foal to Kitten's Joy at the time, "there was every reason to think Lemon Drop Kid might be a good broodmare sire with his pedigree," he recalled.
Timm enthused, "I think his female family is perhaps one of the best in the stud book and he's by a stallion who's also exceptionally well-bred, so I think it's a combination of his female family and his sire line that makes him an extremely potent stallion, both as a sire and a broodmare sire."
Indeed, Lemon Drop Kid's pedigree is rich in European and American talent. His sire, Kingmambo, was a French classic-winning son of Mr. Prospector. He was out of two-time Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT) winner Miesque. Also dam of French champion East of the Moon, Miesque is the ancestress of fellow Breeders' Cup Mile winners Karakontie and Six Perfections.
On his maternal side, Lemon Drop Kid boasts as his fourth dam the blue hen Missy Baba, who foaled 1980 champion sire Raja Baba and grade I winner Sauce Boat (himself broodmare sire of dual classic winner Tabasco Cat). Recent stars from this female family are 2011 Horse of the Year Havre de Grace, 2014 Belmont winner Tonalist , and European champions Duke of Marmalade and Ruler of the World. Most importantly, Missy Baba was the third dam of grade III winner Weekend Surprise. A Secretariat half sister to Lemon Drop Kid's dam, Weekend Surprise foaled classic-winning half siblings Summer Squall and two-time leading sire A.P. Indy, both of whom also stood at Lane's End.
Nothhaft purchased Finest City's dam, the Lemon Drop Kid mare Be Envied, in foal to City Zip at the 2011 Keeneland November sale. Be Envied's enviable resume—she's a half sister to grade I winner Burning Roma—was complemented by her sire's pedigree, which Nothhaft described as full of "class, flawless, elegant, impeccable top and bottom." He added, "I think Lemon Drop Kid should get credit for producing horses that can run extremely well on all surfaces at classic distances."
Be Envied's 2-year-old, Grand Prix, added more luster to her damsire's record on Nov. 25, when she was just nosed out of a win in the Golden Gate Debutante Stakes.
"I think he's a little bit underappreciated as a stallion in general," Hinkle said of Lemon Drop Kid. "He was a good racehorse, he was sound, and I think a lot of the Lemon Drop Kids are sort of plain brown wrappers, so to speak. They're sound-looking horses, but they don't have that flash that some of the offspring of maybe an A.P. Indy ... or something like that. But gosh, it's just a strong, strong pedigree that he has, and it just makes plenty of sense (that he'd rise in the broodmare sire ranks)."
Hinkle also noted the quality mares that Lane's End and its clients breed to their stallions and that Lemon Drop Kid's granddam was sired by Buckpasser.