Every farm standing a freshman sire hopes in its wildest dreams to have just one of the stallion’s progeny starting in the Breeders’ Cup World Championships. What better way to get stamped early as a producer of quality?
For Darley’s freshman Bernardini , this year’s Breeders’ Cup is an embarrassment of riches. The classic-winning son of A.P. Indy has four starters—A Z Warrior and Theysken’s Theory in The Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) and Stay Thirsty and Biondetti in The Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I).
It would have been understood if Bernardini’s offspring had been good as 2-year-olds and really blossomed at 3 considering Bernardini didn’t start at 2 and his sire A.P. Indy didn’t break his maiden until Oct. 27 of his juvenile year. Bernardini at 3 went on to win three grade I races, including the Preakness Stakes, the Travers, and The Jockey Club Gold Cup, and finished second in the Breeders’ Cup Classic powered by Dodge (gr. I).
“It is always interesting that we have these preconceived ideas about horses,” said Jimmy Bell, president of Darley America, which stands Bernardini at its Lexington farm. “But now looking back, Bernardini was an extremely talented horse. I think he could have done whatever, whenever. The cream it rises to the top and Bernardini was certainly the cream.”
A Z Warrior is at the head of her class, too, as the morning-line favorite in the Juvenile Fillies. Out of the Carson City mare Carson Jen, the Zayat Stable filly is coming into the Breeders’ Cup off a win in the grade I Frizette Stakes at Belmont Park. Prior to the Frizette she ran fifth in the Darley Debutante Stakes (gr. I) at Del Mar but had excuses. A Z Warrior is trained by Bob Baffert and will be ridden Nov. 5 by Martin Garcia.
Theysken’s Theory, out of Heat Lightning, by Summer Squall, broke her maiden by five lengths at Newmarket and went on to win the Chichester Observer Prestige Stakes (Eng-III) and finish third in the Meon Valley Stud Fillies’ Mile (Eng-I) at Ascot. The filly is trained by Brian Meehan, owned by Andrew Rosen, and will be ridden by Frankie Dettori.
In the Juvenile, Stay Thirsty is co-third choice in the morning line at 8-1 with Jaycito. Out of the Storm Bird mare Marozia, the colt broke his maiden by 5 1/2 lengths at Saratoga before finishing second to Boys at Tosconova in the Three Chimneys Hopeful Stakes (gr. I). Stay Thirsty is owned by Mike Repole.
Sheikh Mohammed’s Godolphin Racing owns the undefeated Biondetti. The colt out of the Lyphard mare Lyphard’s Delta broke his maiden on the grass then won the Totesport Conditions Stakes on the Kempton Polytrack. He comes into the Juvenile off a half-length victory in the Gran Criterium (Ity-I). Because his pedigree seems suited to the dirt, Godolphin chose the grade I Juvenile over the grade II Juvenile Turf. Biondetti is trained by Mahmood Al Zarooni, former assistant to Saheed bin Suroor and who was promoted to a head Godolphin trainer earlier this year.
Despite the expectations, Bernardini’s first book of mares should have indicated his first crop would come out strong. A study of freshman sires by The Blood-Horse MarketWatch showed Bernardini as the leading sire by Comparable Index (4.97), the top sire by Class Performance Index (11.13), and his first book of mares had the produced the highest percentage of 2-year-old stakes winners (5.8%).
The CI is an index based on earnings, like the Average Earnings Index. The difference is that it includes only the earnings of the foals by other stallions produced by the mares that were bred to Bernardini. The CPI is indicator of how good the mares were as runners, comparing their average earnings with all other female runners competing in the same country during a given year. If a mare had a 2.0 CPI, then she earned twice as much on average as her peers.
Bell said Bernardini’s success may also be attributed to an important characteristic he possessed and seems to be passing along—focus.
“One of the intangibles he seems to possess is he had a mental focus,” he said. “He had a great demeanor. A great mental outlook. Never rattled. Very professional. By and large, you are seeing that in his offspring. Four runners in the Breeders’ Cup is pretty heavy stuff.”
Will his runners be focused enough to win Nov. 5 and Nov. 6?
“We’ll be on the big stage and see how they behave,” Bell said. “So far, they have handled it at the highest level. They are competing in grade I events and that separates them pretty quick.”
Other freshman sires who are or may be represented by a Breedes' Cup starter include: Bluegrass Cat (Kathmanblu, Juvenile Fillies Turf); Borrego, (also-eligible Nina Fever, Juvenile Fillies Turf); Congrats (Jordy Y, Juvenile Fillies); and War Front (Soldat , Juvenile Turf).