The 2022-23 All-Value Sire Team: Part 4 - Head Of The Freshman Class - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report

The 2022-23 All-Value Sire Team: Part 4 – Head Of The Freshman Class

Owner Vinnie Viola and Spendthrift Farm general manager Ned Toffey inspect Vino Rosso upon arrival at Spendthrift.

Everything will come to light in good time.

A year ago today, we were looking ahead at 2022 wondering which freshman sire would emerge as the head of his class and set himself up for a long career as a top stallion in Kentucky. Fast forward to the middle of December 2022, and we've got a three-horse race between Bolt d'Oro, Good Magic, and Justify that could come down to the last races of the day on Dec. 31.

There are a few common threads between the typical leading freshman sire in a given year, but for everything we think we know about a stallion's progeny as they prepare to turn two, we actually know very little.

We don't know which trainers will end up with which horses until after the 2-year-olds in training sales. We don't know how those trainers will assess and place their freshman-sired runners in their training and racing programs, which can have a huge bearing on their class and earnings ceiling. We don't know which freshman-sired runners might look like world-beaters in the summer, but flame out when the Breeders' Cup comes around. We don't know which freshman-sired runners will simply have that dog in them.

Gun Runner's first crop of juveniles? They had that dog in them.

Breeding to a stallion whose first 2-year-olds are hitting the track can be quite the gamble, with the covers in that fourth year at stud often happening just weeks before the first starters enter the gate. You'll likely have a good idea what kind of commercial demand awaits your foal when he or she arrives into the world the following year, but that could be a warm embrace or a cold shoulder.

Farms know this, though, and stud fees are often floated down from their debut price to account for the more immediate risk. That means a breeder who bet on the right horse could be at the crest of the wave if and when buyers come back to market looking for more of a good thing.

This time around, we'll be looking at two groups of stallions who don't have the racetrack performance of their foals on which to hang their hat. In addition to freshman sires, we'll take a look at a position I'm calling “The Prospect,” for stallions who will have first weanlings or yearlings in 2023. Their entire commercial reputations rest in the auction ring until it's time to send runners to the track in a few years, so I see them facing a similar situation with potential breeders.

If you've missed any previous installments of the All-Value Sire Team, they can be found below.

Part 1: The ground rules, Team Captain, and Turf Sire

Part 2: The Rookie and All-Weather Sire

Part 3: The Veteran and The Sprinter

The Freshman: A freshman sire of 2-year-olds in 2023.

First Team: Vino Rosso
Ch. H., 2015, Curlin x Mythical Bride, by Street Cry
Standing at Spendthrift Farm, KY, $15,000

Breeders' Cup Classic winner Vino Rosso

Only two freshman sires of 2023 are standing for more than $20,000 during the upcoming breeding season: Fellow Spendthrift resident Omaha Beach at $30,000 and WinStar Farm's Audible at $25,000. That means someone in the value ranks of this division stands a good chance of finishing the year as the leading freshman sire.

If anyone's going to pull that off, my money is on Vino Rosso.

Breeders piled in for Vino Rosso's debut book, and he'll have an army of 244 newly-turned 2-year-olds to hit the races in 2023, between seasons in the U.S. and Australia. Even if they don't hit at the graded level en masse, that's the kind of pipeline that could get him the freshman sire title by pure attrition if enough of them hit in nice maiden races.

Repole Stable and St. Elias Stables, the partnership that campaigned Vino Rosso, bought a trio of colts by the stallion at this year's Keeneland September Yearling Sale, and they buy to make stallions. If those colts are good to go for Saratoga, they'll be there to run for prestige and high purses, and four of the past six leading freshman sires got at least three progeny wins during their first Saratoga season.

If we're to look at Vino Rosso's own racetrack performance for inspiration, the son of Curlin went two-for-two as a juvenile, taking a maiden special weight at Aqueduct and an allowance optional claiming race around two turns at Tampa Bay Downs. He definitely got better as he got older, but I don't see his foals coming with a warning label pleading for patience.

That being said, this is definitely a family that's built on getting better with age. Vino Rosso picked up the champion older male Eclipse Award at age four after winning the Breeders' Cup Classic. His dam, Mythical Bride, is a half-sister to graded stakes winners and sires Commissioner and Laugh Track, who both arguably also did their best work at four.

Those active stallions in the female family went a long way in putting Vino Rosso on the First Team. Between Commissioner and Laugh Track under the second dam and fast-rising sire of sires Curlin on the top, this is comfortably a stallion's pedigree. If he hits, being a son of Vino Rosso at stud wouldn't sound weird.

Buyers seem to be in on this idea, too. His average yearling sale price of $92,642 is second-best among North American freshman sires of 2023 standing next year for $20,000 or less, behind only Spendthrift Farm teammate Mitole at $100,612.

I'll be interested to see how that momentum carries over into the 2-year-olds in training auction season. End-users and trainers went in hard for the Vino Rossos in September, which is a good sign for the racetrack, but makes one wonder what his supply might look like during the spring sales. Then again, he's got 244 foals in his debut crop. There are plenty of them out there to fill out whatever ranks he needs.

Physically, I was very impressed with how Vino Rosso has filled out after two years at stud. He's perhaps a touch stretchier than a typical son of Curlin at this point in his development, but when you look at the best sons of Curlin going right now like Good Magic and Connect, and some of his more exciting young sons like Idol and Global Campaign, they've also got more length than we've gotten used to seeing from the Curlin brand.

I don't think we're going to see Vino Rosso's best work in 2023, but that's the point. If they develop like him and the rest of his family, Vino Rosso is here for the long haul.

Second Team: Maximus Mischief
B. h., 2016, Into Mischief x Reina Maria, by Songandaprayer
Standing at Spendthrift Farm, KY, $7,500

Based on the page alone, Maximus Mischief should be a 2-year-old runner machine. Into Mischief is perennially a top source of juvenile stars, and Songandaprayer was a top freshman sire who got 2-year-olds out to the track on the regular. Dam Reina Maria is a half-sister to the ill-fated Secret Compass, who was a Grade 1 winner at two, as well.

Maximus Mischief was a fireball during his own 2-year-old campaign, turning in Beyer Speed Figures of 94 or higher during all three of his starts that season, including a 97 when he won the Grade 2 Remsen Stakes.

The freshman class for Spendthrift Farm is stacked for 2023, also including Omaha Beach, Mitole, Vino Rosso, and Coal Front, and standing out among that class – let alone the rest of North America's freshmen – is going to be a tall task. He won't have as many runners on the ground as several of his fellow Spendthrift freshmen, but what he has in his corner is a clear and immediate target.

People are going to expect the Maximus Mischiefs to get out quickly, and I expect trainers to prepare them as such. I have no trouble picturing them lighting up stopwatches during the 2-year-old sales, and ending up in top barns from there. If they live up to that billing in quick order, an enterprising breeder could see a nice windfall from a $7,500 stud fee, and even if he doesn't hit that mark with a bullseye, that price point at least minimizes how much an owner or breeder needs to make back in order to get out ahead.

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The Prospect: A stallion whose first foals are weanlings or yearlings of 2023. He has foals on the ground (or will soon), but none yet of racing age.

First Team: Instagrand
B. h., 2016, Into Mischief x Assets of War, by Lawyer Ron
Standing at Taylor Made Stallions, KY, $7,500


At this point, there are very few major or semi-major commercial farms that aren't standing at least one son of Into Mischief. With the market so flooded by sons of one sire on a broad spectrum of price levels, splitting hairs to find just the right one for your mare and your budget can certainly appear daunting.

That's why one that does a little more for a little less stands out for me when making picks for the All-Value Sire Team. For what he has to offer, and for what he's already done at auction, a $7,500 stud fee could end up looking quite generous by the time it's all said and done.

I've noticed that the sons of Into Mischief that have retired to stud over the past two or three years have evolved from the ones that preceded them. As Into Mischief has met more two-turn mares in his own books, his sons at stud have shown more scope than he has himself, or that he passed on to his early stallions.

In that sense, Instagrand is something of a throwback. Whatever bits of Storm Cat have survived over the course of four generations, through Harlan, Harlan's Holiday, and Into Mischief, have manifested in Instagrand. He's got a thick neck and shoulder, both of which have been passed on to his first weanlings. His large foot, if passed on, could give his runners a fair shot on any surface.

With that being said, he's not all just muscle and power, even if that's the highlight. Instagrand has plenty of leg under him, and being Grade 1-placed around two turns, he's likely got it in him to get a solid distance runner if paired with a mare to help him get there.

He'll have ample chance with his first runners in 2024. His debut crop comprises 136 foals, and he followed up in his second season with 141 mares bred.

It's easy to imagine those first foals will come out running early at two. Instagrand was himself a $1.2-million purchase as a 2-year-old, and he went on later that year to win the G2 Best Pal Stakes by 10 ¼ lengths. His dam, the Lawyer Ron mare Assets of War, was a first-out winner as a 2-year-old at Churchill Downs. Put that all together with the stout physical that Instagrand is already impressing on his foals, and a fast start seems inevitable.

So far, so good on the auction front, as well. His debut weanlings averaged $65,509 during the fall mixed sales, which was the second-best among debut sires standing the upcoming breeding season for $20,000 or less. I can easily see the Instagrands being a hot target by pinhook buyers during the yearling sales of 2023, and then being popular in the 2-year-old sales a year later.

There is more than one son of Into Mischief that offers some combination of what Instagrand brings to the table, but what makes him stand out is his combination of upside and a low stud fee. He's got a puncher's chance to succeed with his first runners, and if he does, the true believers during his third book will be in a position to take advantage off a low entry price.

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Second Team: Known Agenda
Ch. H., 2018, Curlin x Byrama, by Byron
Standing at Spendthrift Farm, KY, $10,000

Known Agenda

When Spendthrift Farm debuted Known Agenda at $10,000 for the 2022 breeding season, I thought it was in the running for the biggest bargain on the market. For a first-year sire by a proven sire-maker in Curlin, out of a Grade 1 winner, with a win in the G1 Florida Derby, that price seemed like an incredible act of restraint.

Breeders in his second season won't have the benefit of the first-crop bump in the auction ring (or else he'd be first in his division by a generous margin), but all the other things that make Known Agenda an attractive stallion are still there.

What he offers on paper could give him a degree of versatility on what kind of mares he could get. His own race record features a Grade 1 score on the dirt, his dam Byrama was a Grade 1 winner over an all-weather surface, and his deeper page skews European. He was a Grade 2-placed maiden winner at two, then he got even better at three, winning the Florida Derby and missing out on a classic placing in the Belmont Stakes by just three-quarters of a length. Whatever you're breeding for, it looks like he's got something on his resume that can play to it.

Where I mentioned earlier that a lot of the new sons of Curlin at stud are on the stretchier side, Known Agenda is stouter, with a wide chest and his sire's solid rump. Send him a mare with some leg, and wait for good things to happen.

Come back next week for the final installment of the 2022-23 All-Value Sire Team, where we look at value stallions about to hit the prime of their careers, and regional standouts.

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