Winchell Thoroughbreds spent $680,000 on four mares during the first two sessions of the ongoing Keeneland January horses of ages sale, some of whom may wind up as mates for the breeding/racing operation's high-profile new stallion Gun Runner .
"It is possible, though we haven't made any final decisions yet," said David Fiske, manager for Winchell Thoroughbreds. "We've got some Tapit mares that should work with him as well. A lot of people feel Mr. Prospector-line mares will be a good cross."
Ron Winchell, the owner of Winchell Thoroughbreds, campaigned Tapit and continues to be a co-owner of North America's three-time leading sire through a syndicate that includes Gainesway (where the stallion stands) and other shareholders.
The mares purchased at Keeneland by Winchell include:
- Happy Mesa, a multiple stakes-winning daughter of Sky Mesa , bought for $300,000 out of the Bluewater Sales consignment—the 4-year-old broodmare prospect earned $237,555 as a racehorse.
- Louisville First, a stakes-winning daughter of Girolamo, bought for $150,000 from Indian Creek as agent—the 5-year-old New York-bred broodmare prospect won three races and earned $211,442.
- Gone Away, a 5-year-old graded stakes-placed, stakes-winning daughter of Leroidesanimaux, bought for $150,000 out of Mill Ridge Sales' consignment—the mare is out of the family of grade 1 winner Bellamy Road and multiple graded stakes winner Calibrachoa.
- Shining Strike, an unraced daughter of Smart Strike, bought for $80,000 out of the Bedouin Bloodstock consignment. Her dam is grade 1-placed, black-type winner Resplendency, who is out of grade 3-placed Doppio Espresso and is a granddaughter of group 3 winner and graded stakes producer Eastern Dawn.
Fiske said all of these mares were attractive because they were young, and all but one were successful at the racetrack.
"Those are usually my first two considerations," said Fiske, who confessed he doesn't pay too much attention to pedigree patterns or nicking. "They don't have to be stakes horses, but the three are stakes winners and that looks good on the catalog page. A lot of mares never get the chance to get into a stakes race but were still decent runners. I look first for winners that have a high SSI of 5 or 4."
The Standard Starts Index is similar to the Class Performance Index (CPI) that is a ratio of a runner's average earnings per start relative to the average earnings of all runners of the same age and sex racing in a particular country during a given year. An SSI or CPI of 5 means a horse's average earnings per start was five times higher than all other runners.
Fiske said he liked Shining Strike, even though she was unraced, because he got to see her first foal, a yearling colt by Constitution that sold for $90,000 right before the mare went through the ring.
"I thought he was a very nice colt, and that being her first foal moved her up the list," he said.
Though Fiske said pedigree was not a prominent consideration for these four mares, three of them possess strong potential as mates to Gun Runner based on crosses that have worked well with Gun Runner's sire Candy Ride .
As for Mr. Prospector-line mares, which include Shining Strike, Candy Ride crossed with sons of Mr. Prospector have produced 125 foals to date, of which 61 (51%) have become winners and seven (5.8%) have won black-type stakes. These percentages exclude five 2-year-olds of 2018. This cross is represented by graded stakes winners Ascend, Twirling Candy , Clubhouse Ride , and Dubai Sky.
Girolamo is a son of A.P. Indy and Sky Mesa is a grandson of A.P. Indy through Pulpit, who is also the sire of Tapit. Sons and grandsons of A.P. Indy crossed with Candy Ride have produced 41 foals to date, excluding 2-year-olds of 2018. These foals include 24 winners (58.5%) out of 29 starters and five black-type winners (12.2%). The cross is represented by graded stakes winners Mastery , Chocolate Ride, and Eagle , along with two other listed black-type winners.
Gun Runner, the leading candidate for 2017 Horse of the Year honors on the strength of his four grade 1 victories this year that include the Breeders' Cup Classic, will enter stud at Three Chimneys Farm after he contests the $16 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational Stakes (G1) Jan. 27. He will stand for a fee of $70,000.
Doug Cauthen, vice chairman of Three Chimneys Farm, said interest in Gun Runner has been so high that around 150 mares have already been booked.
"I think if he's knocking out his pregnancies we'll add some, but it won't be crazy," Cauthen said. "He has been very popular, so you try and let in the people that have helped you and with the quality of mares that are coming, it's hard to turn some of them down. He's going to have a good book. Ron Winchell is breeding a good number of quality mares, Three Chimneys is breeding about a dozen top mares, so he's getting support from within and outside as well."
Fiske said he expects Gun Runner to suit a wide range of mares.
"He is slightly larger than the average horse," he said. "His front end conformation is good, and he is not very wide across his chest, but he is very well balanced. He was not a particularly big 2-year-old. In fact, he was referred to as a 'nice little horse' at 2 so you might expect some of his foals to be later developing like he was. But that is going to depend on the mares he gets. I expect he'll have a balanced book because he hits the bull's-eye and will cross with a lot of mares."
Alicia Wincze Hughes contributed to this report.