Bobby Zen

We all know how hard it is to stand a turf horse in Kentucky today. For the minority of breeders sufficiently enlightened to offer such sires some commercial viability, moreover, the reel snapped a couple of years ago with the loss of Kitten’s Joy and English Channel within months of each other.

Happily, it has not taken long to cast a new leading man.

Oscar Performance has delivered his lines confidently from the first take. In fact, he has even improved on the script–his leading earner, to this point, being Red Carpet Ready, a triple graded stakes scorer on dirt. Another from his debut crop to have excelled on the main track is Tumbarumba, who recently

failed only by a nose to add a Grade II prize to the Grade III he won at Gulfstream in January.

It seems rather a pity, then, that Endlessly (Oscar Performance)–in the silks of his sire’s owner-breeders–is declining the GI Kentucky Derby gate he secured with that dashing display in the GIII Jeff Ruby Steaks on Saturday. After all, this is the trial that produced the Derby winner and runner-up in the last two years, perhaps partly because the synthetic surface at Turfway is so much less demanding.

Obviously it has a comforting kinship with grass, perceived as the natural metier of Endlessly. But ours is an era that urgently needs to reconcile gene pools too long divided, not just by an ocean, but by a failure of imagination. It was the international exchange of bloodlines that invigorated the breed in the

last century–and it’s primarily our own inflexibility that has stifled the versatility our predecessors discovered in Nasrullah, Northern Dancer and Sunday Silence. Perhaps the sensational impact of Justify in Europe can renew that kind of traffic. In the meantime, however, Oscar Performance is certainly well placed to profit from the expanding turf and synthetic programs in his own backyard. In fact, Endlessly was only one of three sophomore winners for the Mill Ridge sire on the Turfway card (the others included Rushaway S. winner Trikari) while another member of the same crop broke his maiden on grass at Santa Anita later that day.

One way or another, Oscar Performance must be counted a wholesome influence as a Grade I winner at two, three and four. He covered 160 mares last spring, much his biggest book after suffering the habitual slide to 63 in his fourth season, and his fee (nudged to $25,000 this year) will surely keep advancing with the traction he’s achieving.

But we can safely leave such decisions to those standing him, not least a farm that had been out of the stallion game for a generation but is proving admirably alert to 21 st Century needs and opportunities. On the same basis, the remarkable program that produced him, and has now also come up with Endlessly, can plainly manage perfectly well without any impertinent musings about the kind of priceless marketing opportunity they’re now passing up.

Endlessly’s immediate family admittedly has chlorophyll flavors: second dam Society Dream (Fr) (Akarad {Fr}) was a stakes performer in Europe before being imported by the Amermans, who duly kept her on the “weeds” to get her graded stakes-placed. Three of her daughters have produced stakes winners on turf: one, by Royal Academy, notably came up with GI Just A Game S. winner Coffee Clique (Medaglia d’Oro); another, by Quality Road, gave Oscar Performance a first-crop headliner in Hawthorne Derby winner Act a Fool; and a third, an unraced daughter of Langfuhr, is responsible for Endlessly himself.

But remember that Langfuhr is by one of the great diversifiers in Danzig, and won iconic showcases of dirt speed like the Met Mile, Forego, Carter and Vosburgh. As sire of Lawyer Ron, and damsire of Proud Spell and Firenze Fire, Langfuhr is certainly every bit as eligible to help a daughter draw out any dirt aptitude in Oscar Performance as, say, Street Sense–himself, of course, by the turf-bred Street Cry (Ire)–who happens to be damsire of both Red Carpet Ready and Tumbarumba.

In fairness, the second dam of both those horses (who are bred with remarkable symmetry) is by A.P. Indy, while Red Carpet Ready actually traces to Yarn/Narrate. But Endlessly’s own family, besides its single-generation detour to France, has similarly indigenous roots: ultimately, indeed, it is the dynasty of Bull Lea.

Not even I can pretend that Oscar Performance‘s own sire was a versatile influence, while his dam (synthetic stakes winner) was by Theatrical. But the seeding of all the next dams is straight down the middle of Main Street: Mr. Prospector, Slew o’ Gold, Danzig (Langfuhr’s sire again), Bold Reason, Buckpasser (this last mare, moreover, out of matriarch Lady Pitt).

Bottom line is that none of us ever knows exactly which strands of a pedigree will shape the flesh-and-blood animal in front of us. The people around Endlessly naturally have a more intimate grasp of his adaptability, but as a wider principle I think we all need to be less prescriptive and remember that no race is ever run on paper.

 

Another One That Got Away…
With 100 starting points evidently going down one black hole at Turfway, and so many others disappearing into a deeper one in California, there may be some credibility issues about a few that eventually find themselves with a Derby gate. Yet missing second by a head in the Jeff Ruby may yet prevent this messy situation containing seeds of its own redemption through a fairytale Derby bid for Seize The Grey (Arrogate).

Arrogate | Horsephotos

He’s improving with experience, much as we might expect of a horse being brought along by the evergreen genius–and priceless advocate for our sport–who trains him. He also belongs to the final crop of Arrogate, who from tragically curtailed opportunity bequeathed Classic winners in each of the last two years: first Secret Oath, for D. Wayne Lukas himself, and then champion Arcangelo.

The latter’s profile matched that of his sire, in that he developed too late to make the Derby, so Seize The Grey is ahead of the game. And likewise Liberal Arts, who can build on a really promising comeback when lining up for the GI Arkansas Derby this weekend. He will carry fervent support from the many friends made in the business by Evan Ferraro of Fasig-Tipton, who co-bred (and co-owns) this colt with his father Stephen.

Moreover Arrogate’s final crop now has an additional Classic shot through Everland, who banked 50 GI Kentucky Oaks points with her own stakes success on the Turfway synthetic last Saturday. Her rise was chronicled in Monday’s TDN by colleague T.D. Thornton, and there’s no reason why she shouldn’t prove equally effective on dirt.

She was certainly an alert claim, with her residual value seemingly guaranteed: she was bred by previous owner George Strawbridge Jr. from a daughter of Tapit and Rainbow View (Dynaformer), who won him Group 1 prizes at two and three when trained in Europe. It was only last week that we had occasion to celebrate this family, Rainbow View’s Grade I- winning dam No Matter What (Nureyev) having been a half-sister to Vronsky (Danzig), sire of Californian sprint idol The Chosen Vron.

The dam of Vronsky and No Matter What additionally produced GI Travers runner-up E Dubai (Mr Prospector), while her full sister gave us Raven’s Pass (Elusive Quality) to win the GI Breeders’ Cup Classic in 2008–a race won four years later by E Dubai’s standout son Fort Larned.

Quite a family, then, and the program that risked Everland in a claimer suffered another cruel twist at Turfway on Saturday, as a result of discarding another female at Fasig-Tipton’s February Sale in 2021.

The fact that the 13-year-old Dynamic Holiday (Harlan’s Holiday) made only $14,000, as a well-bred graded stakes winner in foal to Oscar Performance, tells you that it was a pretty logical cull. Despite some good covers, her breeding record had been abysmal. Yet the foal she was carrying has now turned out to be Turfway stakes winner Trikari. (As if the Amermans weren’t adequately committed to Oscar performance, they actually bought this fellow as an OBS October yearling for $27,500.)

Still, the team that lost both Everland and the dam of Trikari might not be the only ones kicking themselves. The mare appears to have been moved on again since, in a Fasig digital sale in October, for $3,500.

Extending the GII Louisiana Derby since 2020 has worked out extremely well, the second such running having produced four of the first six past the post at Churchill, and then Epicenter the following year. Perhaps the reluctance of trainers today to give sophomores an old-fashioned grounding is favoring those that have redressed the resulting deficiency at least by running a distance of ground.

Catching a Rising Tide… 

As such we need to respect the prospects of Catching Freedom (Constitution), who is palpably beginning to figure things out. He’s by no means the finished article, but is certainly vindicating his selection by Albaugh Family Stables as a $575,000 Book I yearling at the Keeneland September Sale.

Constitution | Sarah Andrew

However he proceeds from here, there’s certainly no anomaly about a Derby colt for Constitution, who’s just entering the next big cycle of his career. With his current 4-year-olds conceived at just $15,000, Catching Freedom belongs to his first crop sired even at $40,000–and it’s a very big one, too, the breeders of 187 live foals having responded to his freshman breakout in 2019 (runner-up to American Pharoah). But the upgrade really kicks in with his incoming juveniles, sired at $85,000 after first-crop star Tiz The Law had proved himself an elite 3-year-old.

Catching Freedom raised the curtain on what was always going to be a big year for his sire by winning the Smart Jones S. on its very first day, and his progress must be creating plenty of excitement at WinStar–not only as the farm that stands Constitution himself, but also as the breeders of this colt out of the Grade I-placed stakes winner Catch My Drift (Pioneerof The Nile).

Purchased at the end of her career for $400,000, at Fasig-Tipton in November 2015, she has since divided her favors between the home farm roster and assignations elsewhere. Uncle Mo, for instance, gave her Bishops Bay, who showed plenty of talent in a light sophomore campaign last year. Sold as a yearling for $450,000, he beat last weekend’s GIII Essex H. scorer First Mission (Street Sense) on debut and also ran nascent champion Arcangelo to a head in the GIII Peter Pan. Catch My Drift also has a stakes-placed daughter by Into Mischief.

It must be acknowledged that her family offers finite explanation for the quality she has shown, first on the track and now as a producer. Nor would first four dams by Yonaguska, Tabasco Cat, Crafty Prospector and Baldski shout “a blanket of roses” for her son. On the other hand, he entwines sire-lines of ‘unbridled’ Classic branding: his damsire is by Unbridled’s son Empire Maker; and his grandsire Tapit is out of an Unbridled mare. The length of his rehearsal certainly drew on that well, and will again leave the Louisiana Derby winner as one of the few copper-bottomed stayers on the first Saturday in May.

The post Breeding Digest: No Oscar Nominations for Typecasting appeared first on TDN | Thoroughbred Daily News | Horse Racing News, Results and Video | Thoroughbred Breeding and Auctions.

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