New York Stallion Series

Sunday at Aqueduct features six races in the New York Stallion Series, for horses whose sires are standing in New York State. Three races for the girls, three for the boys; two on the turf; two for two-year-olds; and some personal favorites are making an appearance, some of whom we last saw on New York Showcase Day at Belmont in October.

First, a look at three of the stallions with multiple runners on Sunday. Freud is currently the #1 New York-based stallion by money earned this year ($2,846,121). This full brother to Giant’s Causeway, originally owned by the Tabor/Magnier/Rags to Riches/Green Monkey group, had to be a big disappointment, earning just $44,016 and compiling a record of 12–1–2–1, winning no races of note. Currently standing at Sequel Stallions, Freud commands a $10,000 stud fee and has sired four of Sunday’s starters; among his leading progeny are two-year-old Dagnabit and three-year-old Meriweather Jessica, neither of whom is in action this weekend. Of 97 runners this year, he’s had 48 winners.

Western Expression, #5 on the New York money list, has five starters going on Sunday. Standing for $5,000 at Highcliff Farm, Western Expression is the sire of I Lost My Choo, winner of the Grade III Virginia Oaks; his progeny have earned $1,786,342 this year. On the racetrack, Western Expression’s best finish was a second in the 2000 Carter. Other Western Expression top performers this year are Pennington (entered in Sunday’s seventh race, the Cormorant), Expresstothewest, and Stunt Man; he’s got 45 winners from 87 runners.

With six horses in on Sunday, Hook and Ladder is well-represented in the Stallion Series. His starters this year have earned $1,614,446, and his 67 runners have brought in 30 wins. Hook and Ladder stands with Freud at Sequel Stallions, for the same $10,000 fee. Of the three sires discussed here, Hook and Ladder boasts the most impressive race record, with a third in the 2001 Carter and wins in the Mr. Prospector and Gulfstream Park Breeders’ Cup Sprint, and an overall record of 6 wins from 19 starts. Ninth on the New York State earnings list, Hook and Ladder boasts stakes winners in Big Truck and Spanky Fischbein, the latter of whom is entered in the Thunder Rumble on Sunday.

But it’s not only sires who interest me on Sunday; a couple of horses about whom I write regularly are entered. Early Response, a two year old maiden by Hook and Ladder, makes his fourth start; he brings two seconds and a fourth, that last over a sloppy Belmont track that he clearly didn’t like. He is ambitiously placed here and meets again Scooty the Pro, a Scott Schwartz stablemate of Be Bullish; Scooty the Pro beat him at Saratoga in Early Response’s first start by the narrowest of margins.

Also entered is Irish Blast, the Kelly Kip colt trained by Allen Jerkens who made his first start after a layoff on New York Showcase day, finishing tenth. In this colt’s first five starts, he had three wins and two seconds, with Alan Garcia up for all of them. He gets Garcia back on Saturday. Perhaps of note is that he’s the only entrant without double-digit starts (his injury layoff accounts for that); topping the list is Gold and Roses with forty starts. Average number of starts for the eight starters: 21.6.

As I’ve written here several times, one of the pleasures of locally-bred horses is that we get to see them with some regularity; they won’t be heading south in the next few weeks, and their race careers generally last longer than the superstars–how many great horses–or even really good ones–make twenty starts before they’re retired?

Speaking last month with a friend who’s the manager of a racing partnership, I wasn’t surprised to hear him rank New York-breds last among the big four breeding states (Kentucky, California, Florida being the other three). He indicated that the state-bred program is so lucrative in New York that one doesn’t need to have a good horse to make money, so the incentive to breed well isn’t as exigent as it might be elsewhere. He also noted that he thinks that’s changing, and that the quality of the New York-bred is increasing.

Much as I love to see “the big horses,” I am looking as forward to heading out to Aqueduct on Sunday to see Irish Blast and Early Response as I was to see Ginger Punch and Commentator at Saratoga, and I was as thrilled to see Be Bullish win last week as I was to see Curlin win the Jockey Club Gold Cup. Of course, the added fillip of having fed carrots and mints to the New York-breds Sunday doesn’t hurt—it’s pretty cool to watch a horse run–and win–remembering that you’ve wiped their spit on your jeans.

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