Friday, September 25, 2009

Gone West, El Prado, Summer Squall ... now Cryptoclearance

It's been a tough few weeks for 20-something stallions and pensioners.

Cryptoclearance, who won or placed in 21 graded-stakes and has been a noteworthy member of the American sire community since 1990, is dead at age 25.

The son of Fappiano-Naval Orange, by Hoist the Flag, died Thursday at the Rood and Riddle Equine Clinic in Lexington, Ky. He most recently stood for $5,000 at Margaux Farm in Midway, Ky.

Cryptoclearance raced 44 times and won 12 of them for owner Phil Teinowitz, including four Grade 1s in the Florida Derby, Pegasus Handicap, Widener Handicap (1:59 2/5), and 1989 Donn Handicap (mislabeled 1992), earning $3,376,327. He was a durable horse and a tough competitor, and when not winning was often finishing as the runner-up to other spectacular horses of the day in the sport's biggest races.

He was second to Easy Goer in the 1989 Jockey Club Gold Cup-G1, when that race was still run at a mile and a half. Distance was not a problem for Cryptoclearance, as he was second also to Bet Twice in the 1987 Belmont Stakes. He was runner-up twice to Jade Hunter in Grade 1s, the 1988 Gulfstream Park and Donn handicaps. Java Gold relegated him to second in the 1987 Travers.

The horse seemed to pass a measure of that competitiveness -- and quite a bit of durability -- along to his foals.

His best son so far has been Victory Gallop, winner of the Belmont Stakes in 1998 and champion older male a year later. But he also sired Breeders' Cup Classic long-shot champion Volponi, Blue Grass S.-G1 winner Millennium Wind, Spinaway S.-G1 winner Strategic Maneuver, Futurity S.-G1 winner Traitor (who died in a Florida barn fire at stud), and Canadian champion Cryptocloser (whose record there sadly is both blank and locked).

His daughters have had some success as producers, as well. Cryptoclearance is the broodmare sire of two-times G1-winning millionaire Elloluv, Hutcheson S.-G2 winner and sire Keyed Entry (who has two minor stakes-winning siblings), Irish G3 winner and sire Ishiguru (who was euthanized Sept. 18 after complications from a knee injury), Ishigru's half-sister and Santa Anita G2-winner Cat Fighter, and a least 26 other stakes winners in the U.S. and abroad.

According to, Cryptoclearance's 1,163 racing-age foals to date have included 966 starters (83 percent, a splendid figure), 681 winners (59 percent, a solid number), and 42 stakes winners (a modest 4 percent). Those 966 runners have made 21,401 starts, an average of 22.15 per runner, this at a time when, according to The Blood-Horse, the average number of starts per raced-foal was declining from 29.03 (1970-79)  to 16.72 (2000-2003 crops).

The fact that Cryptoclearance's stud fee continued to fall through the years (from $15,000 to $5,000) and that his two richest sons, Volponi and Victory Gallop, have already been flushed from the U.S. stallion ranks to other countries (Korea in the former case, Turkey in the latter) is but one piece of evidence that perhaps American breeders have lost their way in the ever-intensifying search for precocity and brute speed. As a breeding nation, we've largely lost our appreciation for a rugged horse who can get a distance of ground.

That was Cryptoclearance. Rugged. Fierce in the heat of the fight. At his best from 9 furlongs to a mile and a half.

Old-school in the era of New Kids on the Block.

"He was a breed-shaping horse," said Steve Johnson, managing partner of Margaux Farm.

And he was. Probably in more ways than most observers would ever know, or ever appreciate.

(Photo: Bill Strauss)

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