Wed, 02/05/2020 - 13:16

By: Chris McGrath


After surveying the four intakes since, each still safely immune from judgement on the track itself, today we finally reach the first group of stallions who have actually tested their ability to replicate the talent that first earned them--however marginally, in some cases--a place at stud.

Their first juveniles, last year, at least permitted some initial response to any erosion of their reputations, through the notoriously jittery and impressionable consensus of the yearling market. Yet there are few more instructive indices of the odds against them than the contrast between the typical averages achieved by their first and second crops of yearlings. Almost invariably, these will already have entered a decline that only some will ever reverse.

It remains far too early, of course, to reach reliable conclusions about many stallions when only their most precocious stock have tested the water. The blood we should covet most, after all, is supposed to get you through two turns on the first Saturday in May. And there have been plenty of champion freshmen, down the years, who have soon proved themselves too one-dimensional, and often too mediocre, to do that.


None of this group wrote his headlines more efficiently than LIAM'S MAP (Unbridled's Song- -Miss Macy Sue by Trippi), whose two stakes winners both won Grade Is: Basin, in the Runhappy Hopeful, and Wicked Whisper in the Frizette.

A late developer himself, Liam's Map was making a quiet start with his early runners until taking off at Saratoga. He's a conduit for some timeless Nerud blood and his Breeders' Cup performance, like that of half-brother Not This Time, confirmed that we are dealing with a seam of genetic gold.

Lane's End have managed Liam's Map as wisely as you would expect, with no giddy ups and downs but solid three-figure books through his first four years. He responded with a highly successful sales debut, his median six times his $25,000 opening fee, much as you would expect of a horse who himself raised $800,000 as a September yearling.

Nonetheless he received a precautionary trim to $20,000: the gray always promised to be a long-term play. As it was, those two stunning injections of Grade I publicity have immediately inflated his fee to $35,000, and maintained a six-figure average (behind only American Pharoah) with his second crop of yearlings.

Early success will often prove a flash in the pan but Liam's Map has such a strong pedigree that he seems plainly capable of sustaining this start. One thing is for sure: the $20,000 tag that earned him a "gold" recommendation on the value podium last year is receding in the rear-view mirror.

Liam's Map's studmate HONOR CODE (A.P. Indy--Serena's Cat by Storm Cat) has experienced contrasting fortunes, trimmed from $40,000 to $30,000 after failing to decorate any of his 14 winners with black type--and duly finding the going rather tougher with his second crop at the sales, albeit still ranking fourth in the intake.

But while he lacked the precocious animals to trade numerical blows with those who had more industrial backing, he had basically maintained a full book through his fourth year after a warm reception for his first yearlings.

Like Liam's Map, his two Grade Is at the age of four lent fresh distinction to one of the noblest families around; but he was also able to show his flair at two, winning the GII Remsen S. That didn't necessarily mean he was going to land running, however, and a glossy overall package--in pedigree, physique and performance--of course remains wholly undiminished by this low-key start.

Sure enough, last Saturday Honor Code notched a first graded stakes success through Max Player, in the GIII Withers S. Max Player was making a big step forward from two starts in Parx maidens and others in the crop will doubtless keep developing along the same lines. Certainly I'd remain confident that Honor Code can still contribute to the legacy of A.P. Indy. Quite apart from the royalty in his own family (Serena's Song etc), the cross between the farm's venerable patriarch and a Storm Cat mare combines Secretariat's celebrated daughters Weekend Surprise and Terlingua.

One way or another, an Honor Code filly will always retain value--whatever she does on the track. And Honor Code could yet replicate his GI Whitney S. display, when way off the early pace before running down the trailblazing Liam's Map.

Also finishing well that day, for third, was TONALIST (Tapit-- Settling Mist by Pleasant Colony)--who joined the other pair at Lane's End only to have his fee halved to $15,000 after failing to match their early traction. But while he was down to 63 mares in his fourth book, their owners could well have the last laugh.

Like Palace Malice, Tonalist is a Belmont winner who later recorded Grade I success at a mile, and collected triple-digit Beyers for fun in a hard-knocking career in which he banked $3.6 million. And his bottom line measures up even to his two regal contemporaries at Lane's End, his first two dams being half-sisters respectively to the mother of Havre De Grace (Saint Liam) and to champion Plugged Nickle (Key To The Mint); while his third is Broodmare of the Year Toll Booth.

Having made his only juvenile start in November, Tonalist was never likely to produce a cavalcade of Keeneland sprint maiden winners. But he remains a legitimate option to anyone in the business of breeding a runner, and his 16 winners last term were just a foundation stone. He wrapped up the year with a first stakes winner, by nine lengths, and the same filly, Tonalist's Shape, then gave her sire a graded stakes breakthrough in the GIII Forward Gal S. last weekend. Tonalist has every right to keep flourishing after fast-buck breeders have taken their money and fled from stallions of ostensibly "commercial" allure.


MR SPEAKER (Pulpit--Salute by Unbridled) had a tough break to overcome after being stranded in Chile, and his book at Lane's End last spring was unsurprisingly modest as a result. But he's clawing back lost ground with Three Technique, who ran such a promising race in the Smarty Jones S. the other day. Out of a Grade II-placed daughter of Personal Ensign, Mr Speaker won a Grade I on turf but his pedigree entitles him to summon up real dirt class at $10,000.


Chris McGrath’s Value Podium

Gold: Karakontie, $10,000 Gainesway
Someday elite turf quality will get more than lip service

Silver: Bayern, $15,000 Hill ‘n’ Dale
Something for all agendas: fast on the track, timeless on the page

Bronze: Tonalist, $15,000 Lane’s End
A sleeper, entitled to generate an overdue vogue on the track



Read the full article here.


Source: Thoroughbred Daily News