We have previously mentioned in this space how even one’s best laid plans can go awry in the Thoroughbred breeding game, and as the 2018 breeding season wraps up, we have again had to make a few last-minute adjustments. Originally this spring, I’m Engaged was booked to Lord Nelson at Spendthrift and Littlemissperfect was slated for Fed Biz at WinStar Farm, but both mares have switched to different mates (for different reasons) for late season covers in an attempt to make sure they are pregnant for 2019.
Although we stuck with Lord Nelson for I’m Engaged this spring after he was forced to miss last year’s breeding season with his well-document case of laminitis, the pair did not hit it off in the breeding shed this spring; after three unsuccessful covers since March, I’m Engaged’s last mating of 2018 will be with Hill ‘N’ Dale’s Kantharos.
We have repeatedly raved about the prospects of Kantharos as a rising star in the stallion ranks, having already booked Midnight Swinger and Paluxy Princess to him this spring, and recommended him as an option for several other mares, as well.
A brilliant 2-year-old himself, Kantharos has so far achieved 6.8% stakes winners from his 220 foals aged 3 and up, good for an AEI of 1.66. These results have come from his early years at stud in Florida, where his books of mares were good for just a 1.26 CI. Now that he’s in Kentucky (he relocated ahead of the 2017 breeding season), we believe the sky is the limit for Kantharos, and are excited to be sending I’m Engaged to him before he is priced out of our range when these better-bred crops reach the races.
Since our earlier posts relating to Midnight Swinger and Paluxy Princess, Kantharos has had some additional successes worth mentioning here, with his first-crop Graded stakes-winning son Mr. Jordan taking another stakes recently at Gulfstream; his Graded stakes-winning daughter Ancient Secret adding a Graded placing to her resume in the G3 Monrovia over Santa Anita’s tricky downhill turf course; his Graded stakes-winning son Bucchero placing in the G2 Shakertown and the G3 Twin Spires Turf Sprint ahead of a try at Royal Ascot next month; and some truly remarkable results at April’s OBS Spring Sale.
In addition to earlier juvenile sales prices this spring of $410,000 and $130,000, at OBS in April Kantharos accounted for the highest priced colt when his son out of Valid Concorde brought $800,000 from Stonestreet and eFive. He also had another pair that brought huge prices from top agents, as a colt out of La Catira Jatar was sold for $400,000 to Solis/Litt, and a filly out of Smart Sis brought $300,000 from Justin Casse. Three more Kantharos 2-year-olds at that sale sold for $100,000 or more, all off of a $5,000 stud fee with Florida mares.
There is obviously something to the old adage, “breed the best to the best and hope for the best,” and Kantharos is quite clearly the best sire in his price range at this time, but we think that he matches up well with I’m Engaged on pedigree beyond just being a highly-accomplished and affordable stallion. Kantharos has already produced one stakes winner from a Fappiano-line mare like I’m Engaged (that one being Danbury, out of a daughter of the Unbridled’s Song stallion Werblin) from fairly limited opportunities, though his first-crop son Focus On Me, out of a Quiet American mare, upset the top-class turf sprinter Pure Sensation earlier in 2018 and could be black-type quality. And Kantharos has had plenty success with mares from other Mr. Prospector sire-lines, as well. But given that Kantharos’s grandsire Tale of the Cat, when crossed with mares by Fappiano’s sons or grandsons, has produced the likes of Eclipse Champion 2-year-old filly She’s a Tiger and Graded stakes winners A Shin Top, Appealing Tale, Favorite Tale, Spellbinder, Alpha Kitten and Meal Penalty, we think there’s every reason to believe this cross will be successful with more opportunities.
Especially since I’m Engaged’s female family has already had success with Storm Cat-line stallions, this is a mating for which we have high hopes. From limited matings with Storm Cat or his sons, the mares in I’m Engaged’s family have accounted for Grade 3 winner Irish Surf (by Giant’s Causeway) and stakes winner Surfside Tiara (by Scat Daddy, a son of Johannesburg, who is closely-related to Tale of the Cat).
Interestingly, this mating will produce 4×3 inbreeding tail-male and tail-female to the similarly-bred Storm Cat and Starlet Storm, who are both by Storm Bird and out of Secretariat mares, while Storm Bird’s close relative Nijinsky II will also appear in this foal’s fourth generation. There is also the omnipresent inbreeding to Northern Dancer and Mr. Prospector, who will both appear 5x5x5.
Physically, I’m Engaged and Kantharos are a fantastic match, both being medium-sized horses who are extremely well-balanced – a great case of like-to-like, which we always prefer to achieve when possible, and we are hopeful that she successfully catches to him here at the end of the season.
We have also been forced to make a late change with Littlemissperfect, though for entirely different reasons. She was bred to Fed Biz back in February, a week into the breeding season. She got in foal on a single cover, and then stayed in Kentucky until she was 45 days in-foal, at which point she shipped back to Maryland. Unfortunately, sometime after her arrival here she lost that pregnancy. The good news is that, with a month left to breeding season at the time we discovered she was empty, there was a shot to get Littlemissperfect mated again – but it would be impractical to van her all the way back to Kentucky for the possibility of another mating with Fed Biz. Instead, since she’s now in Maryland, we are going to take a shot with a local son of Giant’s Causeway, namely Imagining.
Imagining fits Littlemissperfect for many of the same reasons that Fed Biz did, with both being sons of the recently-deceased Giant’s Causeway, who was the best racing and breeding son of Storm Cat – a line with which Littlemissperfect’s female family has had prior success (most immediately, her dam’s full-sister, Procession, produced the Grade 3 winner of 20 races, Proceed Bee, by the Storm Cat son Bernstein). And, as Littlemissperfect is sired by the Street Cry stallion Street Hero, this mating also creates some similarities to the pedigree of Group 1 winner (and now leading sire) Shamardal – the first high-class runner and sire by Giant’s Causeway, who happens to be out of a full-sister to Street Cry. The cross of Giant’s Causeway and his sons with Street Cry-line mares has produced 2017 multiple Grade 2 winner Sharp Samurai, among others.
Whereas mating Littlemissperfect with Fed Biz would have resulted in 5×5 inbreeding to Ruffian’s dam Shenanigans, breeding her to Imagining is going to produce inbreeding to a pair of Blue Hen mares instead (two different instances of the Rasmussen Factor in one mating): Weekend Surprise, the dam of classic winners A.P. Indy and Summer Squall, will appear 4×5 through those two sons, while the Phipps family’s champion Numbered Account will appear 5×5 through her Grade 1-winning daughter Dance Number and her Grade 1-winning son Private Account. And inbreeding to Numbered Account is a pattern that has actually had quite a bit of success relative to opportunities (including multiple times through the Maryland stalwarts Not For Love and Polish Numbers, both from the same female family as Imagining, and who both featured in the pedigree of the dam of recent Horse of the Year California Chrome).
Whereas Fed Biz shared some of the same racetrack versatility that Littlemissperfect herself demonstrated, Imagining was strictly a turf performer, as we laid out in our mating plan for Tuxedo Annie. However, he was certainly bred to be any kind on either surface, and we won’t be surprised if his foals can handle dirt just as well as turf (especially since the ones that we’ve seen have had plenty of the hindquarter muscling more typical of dirt runners than turfers). But, even if he is prone to producing foals who prefer the grass, that should jive just fine with Littlemissperfect’s own pedigree and proclivities – and they run plenty of turf races in Maryland.
Imagining and Littlemissperfect are also a nice case of like-to-like physically, as good-sized, long-bodied horses, and hopefully he will contribute a bit of bulk and beauty to Littlemissperfect’s foal.