JANUARY 13, 2006
Ten 'A' turf sires for handicappers to profit from in 2006
by Tim Holland
One of the most valuable assets a horseplayer can own is the ability to spot potential overlays, and one method that can be successful comes through following stallions and finding ones whose progeny continually overachieve when raced on the turf. Even many novice players are aware of the merits of many of the top stallions, limiting their usefulness in regard to finding value. However, with the help of the recently published 2006 edition of the SIRE STATS book (www.brisnet.com/sirestats) and some additional research, astute handicappers are able to isolate less well-known sires who may be profitable to follow.
Last year's leading Californian turf sire, UNUSUAL HEAT (Nureyev), is a good example. Even though he was rated "A+" at the start of the year, eight of his 34 turf winners in 2005 were largely ignored at the betting windows, returning more than $20 for each $2 win wager, including a $72 payout for Sweet Gazelle at Del Mar; $44 for Master Heat's Santa Anita victory; and a $52 return on Hot Grip at Hollywood Park.
Being by Nureyev, who is also the sire of top turf stallion Theatrical (Ire), and out of a Scandinavian champion who also won the Flower Bowl H (G1), Unusual Heat has every right, pedigree-wise, to make a top stallion. His racing career began in Ireland, where, hindered by unsuitably soft ground, his best finish was a second in a Group 2 event. After missing his five-year-old season, Unusual Heat was sent to California at six where he showed ability for Richard Mandella before being claimed for $80,000 by trainer Barry Abrams. Unfortunately, he bowed a tendon two starts later while putting up his best stateside performance, a wire-to-wire victory at Hollywood Park.
After some efforts to sell him did not materialize, Abrams and partner Madelaine Auerbach decided to stand Unusual Heat themselves. They bred him to their own mares and raced his offspring. As a result of his success, Unusual Heat's stud fee has risen from $3,500 to $12,500 in 2006, and he's being bred to better mares. His best runners to date have been Clement Hirsch H (G2) winner Tucked Away, California Cup Mile victor Lennyfromalibu and the Grade 2-placed Juliesugardaddy, and one has to assume that more success is to come in the future.
BERTRANDO (Skywalker) and IN EXCESS (Ire) (Siberian Express) are two other California-based stallions who have been profitable to follow on the turf. Neither owned a pedigree necessary to entice top class mares when they entered stud, but both were multiple Grade 1 winners possessing an abundance of early speed. Even though both have been rated "A" Turf sires for the last three years, the betting public often overlooks their runners on the grass.
For example, last year Bertrando sired Strategically, who won a minor Turf Paradise stakes at odds of more than 25-1, and Kresgeville, the 30-1 winner of Hollywood Park's Manhattan Beach S. Both winners were cutting back to less than a mile on the turf for the first time, and so did Exceeding, a son of In Excess who took a stakes at Bay Meadows last September and returned $27. While the offspring of these two stallions should be watched at any distance on the turf, one must pay close attention when they run in grass sprints.
While stallion stats are generally reliable for older sires with many runners, it pays to use caution when dealing with horses who are represented by three or fewer crops. That is the case for another California sire, PERFECT MANDATE, a sprint stakes-placed son of the established sire of sires, Gone West. Last year, while standing at the same farm as Unusual Heat, Perfect Mandate finished 45th in the overall third crop sire list while represented by only 20 runners. He earned an "A" turf rating by virtue of his 2005 runners winning more than 25 percent of their turf starts. Even though this is from a small sample, the rating is deserved when one considers that his record includes a first, second and third in stakes races via three different horses.
With Perfect Mandate being bred for speed and his best runner being the sprint stakes-winning filly Tempting Date, one might assume that his offspring could have distance limitations. However, a son from his first crop, Perfect Mode, stands in contrast to that notion, displaying plenty of stamina to be second over 1 1/2 miles in the Quickentree S at Hollywood Park last summer.
"A" rated turf sires with upset sprint successes are not limited to California. Another good example is Florida's leading turf sire of 2005, CONCORDE'S TUNE (Concorde Bound). A stakes-winning sprinter, Concorde's Tune does not own a pedigree associated with top stallions but has nevertheless sired 17 stakes winners to-date from eight crops to race, with many paying healthy mutuels. In June 2005, his daughter Lakes Tune won Monmouth's Crankitup S. at 17-1 over five furlongs in her turf debut, and his son, Marley's Revenge, had only one turf try to his credit when he won the 5 1/2-furlong Taylor's Special S. at Arlington in 2004, paying more than $44.
Meanwhile, other progeny of Concorde's Tune have managed to win by carrying their speed to route success. Mr. Silver, a promising three-year-old this season, captured the 8 1/2-furlong Arthur I. Appleton Juvenile Turf S. last fall at Calder, and Tune of the Spirit won a 1 1/16-mile event at 51-1 odds at Delaware the year before. As with the offspring of In Excess and Bertrando, progeny of Concorde's Tune should not be overlooked when making their first or second turf tries, especially in sprints or when they could be the controlling speed in turf routes.
WILD EVENT (Wild Again) also stands in Florida and won six graded turf routes, including the 1999 Early Times Turf Classic (G1) at Churchill Downs. As well as possessing tactical speed, Wild Event sports top bloodlines as a half-brother to turf champion Paradise Creek and, more importantly, is out of a three-quarter sister to Theatrical. With 14 of his 33 turf runners in 2005 proving successful, and five of those returning more than $20 on a $2 wager, Wild Event is another whose progeny bear watching. Recognizing Wild Event's runners early in their route turf careers can pay big dividends. Lady's Event ($55) at Calder and Heza Wild Guy ($51) at Tampa were a couple examples last season.
Speed on the turf is a quality that many of these successful stallions have used to their advantage, and the Kentucky-based MILITARY, who is by leading sire Danzig from a solid grass orientated family, fits this profile. A wire-to-wire winner of both the 1998 Oak Tree Turf Championship S. (G1) and the Citation H. (G2), several of his progeny, such as son Pirates Bite, who won last summer's Regaey Island S. at Ellis Park, have used this tactic to pull off upsets. Military's best runner is Gun Salute, who pulled off an upset in the 2005 Secretariat S. (G1) at Arlington Park from just off the pace, a prime example of this young stallion's ability to produce top-class turf competitors.
MORE THAN READY (Southern Halo), whose race resume includes a victory in the seven-furlong King's Bishop S. (G1), finished fifth in the second season sire list last year. Being a somewhat more commercial type sire than the previously mentioned stallions, many of More Than Ready's progeny end up with high-profile connections, limiting the prospect of value. Seventeen of his 34 progeny who tried the turf last year won at least once, proving himself as a legitimate "A" rated turf producer. However, the $67 win payoff his son Prevy posted when racing on the grass for the first time at Lone Star this past summer shows that value can found with More Than Ready's offspring.
The oldest stallion on this list is the 18-year-old REPRICED, a son of the great turf influence Roberto. His biggest racing success came through a front-running win in the Oceanside S. at Del Mar in 1991 and with eight crops of racing age, he has sired 12 stakes winners, including Rich in Spirit and Spruce Run who both won Group 3 events in 2005. Repriced has been an "A" rated turf sire for the last two years. With winners such as Azidiscount, who paid his followers a huge $105 at Kentucky Downs in his first turf attempt, Repriced continues to merit close attention with turf runners over a mile or farther.
The youngest sire of the 10 is FREUD (Storm Cat), who is perhaps most famous for being a full-brother to the sensational racehorse and sire Giant's Causeway. A Group 3-placed sprinter in England, Freud stands in New York. With his first crop racing last year, he has made a promising start to his turf stallion career with four winners from eight horses to try the surface, one being stakes-placed. As mentioned earlier, one must be careful in making assumptions about stallions who have had few runners, but it will be a surprise if Freud does not prove to be worthwhile for handicappers to follow.
As noted earlier, it is easy for players to recognize, even at first glance, the turf talents of the offspring of stallions such as Danzig, Theatrical or Storm Cat, but, just as with any other betting angle, to locate value one has to dig deeper. The 10 stallions above all have merits, but none are fully exposed and they will continue to produce longshot overlays. By following these and other "A" rated stallions found in the Sire Stat book, the horseplayer can find an edge.
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