Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile (gr. I)

(gr. I , 8f ,)

FURTHEST LAND (DK B/ g, 126 lb) $540,000
Smart Strike —Flagrant , by Rahy
B—Catherine Wills, KY.; O—Ramsey, Kenneth L. and Sarah K.; T—Michael J. Maker

Ready's Echo (DK B/ h, 126 lb) $180,000
More Than Ready —Menekineko , by Kingmambo
B—Michael J. Buckley, KY.; O—Let's Go Stable; T—Todd A. Pletcher

Midshipman (CH h, 123 lb) $99,000
Unbridled's Song —Fleet Lady , by Avenue of Flags
B—Stonerside Stable, KY.; O—Godolphin Racing LLC; T—Saeed bin Suroor

Margins: ¾, head, ¾. Others: Mastercraftsman (IRE) 123($60,000) , Mambo Meister 126($30,000) , Neko Bay 126 , Mr. Sidney 126 , Chocolate Candy 123 , Bullsbay 126 , Pyro 126 . Winning Jockey, Julien R. Leparoux.

Truth is stranger than fiction, because we write fiction to suit ourselves,Ó said the noted English writer G.K. Chesterton. Catherine Wills might well agree.

From the viewpoint of the Thoroughbred world, her pedigree is impeccable: a successful owner/breeder in her own right, she is the daughter of David Wills, breeder of 1959 Kentucky Derby winner Tomy Lee; and the sister of the late amateur jockey Martin Wills. Her literary credentials are also impressive, as she is largely responsible for the annual Martin Wills Memorial Trust writing award for young racing writers in the British Isles. But it seems unlikely that either Chesterton or Wills would ever have anticipated the improbable ending of the BreedersÕ Cup Dirt Mile (gr. I), in which the Wills-bred Furthest Land, a former $35,000 claimer, outran a field that included favored Mastercraftsman and last yearÕs juvenile champion Midshipman.

Owned by Ken and Sarah Ramsey, who claimed the gelding from Wills in October 2008, Furthest Land is by Smart Strike (Mr. ProspectorÑClassy Õn Smart). Currently fourth on the general sire list, the LaneÕs End stallion is represented by 15 stakes winners in 2009, including Lookin At Lucky, beaten just a head for the Grey Goose BreedersÕ Cup Juvenile (gr. I) after racing wide throughout and a leading contender for an Eclipse Award as champion juvenile male. In addition, Smart Strike is the broodmare sire of Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) winner Mine That Bird.

Given his accomplishments, which include two titles as U.S. leading sire, some might find it strange Smart StrikeÕs fee has been reduced from $125,000 in 2009 to $75,000 for 2010. Certainly, LaneÕs End has been among the leaders in recognizing the recessionÕs impact on the stallion market and adjusting their prices accordingly. However, the pricing may reflect Smart StrikeÕs relative lack of appeal to the major European buyers, whose first interest is quite naturally in lines that have proved themselves suitable to European conditions. Just as European money and racing were major factors in establishing Northern Dancer as the worldÕs pre-eminent sire and sire of sires, it appears that they will now be major factors in influencing which branches of more traditionally American linesÑMr. ProspectorÕs includedÑwill expand and flourish and which will shrink.

Wills has had previous success with the family of Furthest Land, having bred and raced the geldingÕs Òuncle,Ó Dynever. By Dynaformer out of the winning Zilzal mare Flamboyance, Dynever won two grade III races in WillsÕ colors and ran third in the 2003 BreedersÕ Cup Classic (gr. I). Wills was not so successful with DyneverÕs half-sister by Rahy, Flagrant, who never made it to the races, but to judge by the class of stallion she has visited, Wills has retained faith in the mare. Furthest Land is FlagrantÕs first foal, and her second foal is the Street Cry colt Street Move, who set a course record for 11Ú16 miles at Meadowlands this year. Her third foal of racing age, Embroidery (by More Than Ready) has yet to race.

To date, Smart Strike has six winners from six foals by Rahy mares, including Gulfstream Park stakes winner Miss Blakely (out of A Bit Special). He has also sired two winners from three starters, including listed stakes winner BrettÕs Favrette, from mares by Runaway GroomÑlike Rahy, a son of Blushing Groom. Generally speaking, the male line of Mr. Prospector has done well with Blushing Groom on the damÕs side, examples of this cross including champions Zarkava, Queena, Candy Ride, Forty Mirage, and Forty Greeta. By Avalyn Hunter