Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Good evening, Officer

I can't say the sensation is nearly the same as learning about the death of Real Quiet, but I felt a sense of loss Wednesday when I read that American stallion Officer was the latest to be sold off to Korean interests.

Taylor Made Stallions of Nicholasville, Ky., announced the sale Wednesday.

"I think the Koreans got a great horse at a great price," said Ben Taylor, vice president of Taylor Made Stallions Inc.

I concur. Which is why it's so hard to see this one go.

The son of Bertrando joins a growing roster of North American studs who now are the property of the Korean Racing Authority: Peace Rules; Exploit; Commendable; Volponi; Yankee Victor; Menifee; Vicar; Forest Camp; Pico Central; Hawk Wing; and One Cool Cat.

In my opinion, none of those approach Officer in the magnitude of their loss to the American market.

Officer was a solid value among U.S. stallions. Standing this year for $10,000, he has gotten 20 stakes winners, four of them graded winners, from five crops of racing age. His 2-year-olds run and win, with nearly half of them having started as juveniles and more than one in five breaking their maidens -- including 83 current babies who haven't had a full season yet for adding to those numbers.

His son, Boys at Tosconova, is one of the elite 2-year-olds of 2010.

I'm an advocate of adding stamina to the breed, and Officer undoubtedly is not the poster boy for that cause; his get have an average winning distance of 6.25 furlongs. A brilliant juvenile himself who retired hurt early at 3, he isn't exactly a source of sturdiness, either. And Officer's average progeny earnings of $50,869 aren't stellar and his 1.40 Average Earnings Index vs. a Comparable Index of 1.52 for his mares suggests that he hasn't done quite as well with those mares as have other stallions to which they were bred.

But what's good for the market, and for the breed, goes deeper than such numbers.

Officer is by Bertrando, a son of Skywalker, from the Relaunch branch of the In Reality line. He's one of a relative few remaining American stallions who can claim they hail directly from the line of the great Man O' War. He's from an excellent broodmare-sire line, that of Relaunch. And he's not only an outcross for the Mr. Prospector line, he also carries just one strain of Northern Dancer (who appears in the sixth generation of his pedigree); those being the two predominant sires appearing in American pedigrees these days.

Fostering genetic diversity is key to the long-term strength of the breed. The aforementioned 11 other sires purchased by the KRA over the past few years include four from the Mr. Prospector line (Peace Rules, Commendable, Volponi, Hawk Wing) and another three from the Storm Cat branch of Northern Dancer's line (Exploit, Menifee, One Cool Cat). Thus, to its credit, the KRA has also acquired the services of several stallions offering the diversity any market needs: Yankee Victor (Hail to Reason and Halo via Saint Ballado); Vicar (Wild Again); Forest Camp (Deputy Minister); and Pico Central (Buckpasser via his grandson Spend a Buck). Three of those sires -- Yankee Victor, Vicar and Forest Camp -- are from lines that still retain some strength in the States. But the Buckpasser line is vaporizing.

Relaunch's line does still have its strong points in America. The highly successful (on the track and at stud) Tiznow is the marquee descendant, with his sire, Cee's Tizzy ($6,000 in California), and others such as Honour and Glory ($6,500 in Pennsylvania) and Bright Launch (just $1,500 in Kentucky) doing commendable work considering their opportunities.

But Officer was by far the best of only a trio of sons at stud by Relaunch's son Bertrando. And, presented mares who were sound, should have served long and well on the U.S. beat.

From the looks of things, the Koreans have a grasp of why diversity is of value in a stallion roster, and they systematically pursue that goal.

Taylor Made has a number of additional, noteworthy stallions held in joint venture with WinStar Farm. And it lost a promising son of A.P. Indy in Master Command, who reared, fell and was mortally injured prior to breeding a mare in April.

But with the remainder of the roster on the Taylor Made property presently including the unsound 2011 freshman sire Eskendereya (Storm Cat via Giant's Causeway), Forestry (Storm Cat), Northern Afleet (Mr. Prospector via Afleet), the unsound 2010 freshman Old Fashioned (distant Mr. Prospector via Unbridled's Song), and the oft-alleged chief source of American unsoundness himself, Unbridled's Song, both Taylor Made and the U.S. market would have been well-served to have kept this Officer on the force.


  1. But those Unbridled's Songs from Taylor Made sure look pretty!

    Re Officer: he's definitely not a sire of two-turn classic horses. Tends to pass on fairly small and ineffective hearts as well. I presume the Koreans knew what they were getting and took him for the reasons you suggest. And I'm sure Taylor Made was happy to sell him before he slipped into mid-career doldrums here in the US.

  2. Certainly Officer wasn't getting the two-turn horse. His progeny average winning distance is among the shorter you'll ever see. Interesting news about the "small and ineffective hearts."

    I do figure that Taylor Made was glad to move him. As someone told me recently -- heck, maybe it was you, Steve -- the old horseman's rule is "always take the money."


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