ASHFORD STUD SCORES A DOUBLE TRIPLE
In early February 2015, American Pharoah returned to the work tab in California for the first time since being scratched from the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile due to injury, with no guarantee that he would maintain his form off the layoff. The young broodmare Stage Magic wandered the fields at Glennwood Farm in Kentucky, carrying a Scat Daddy colt whom she would deliver the following month. The Triple Crown trophy had still been gathering dust since Affirmed outdueled Alydar in the 1978 Belmont Stakes.
Four years later, Coolmore’s Ashford Stud in Versailles, Ky., will open its breeding shed for business with Triple Crown heroes American Pharoah and Justify residing in its stallion barn. American Pharoah’s commercial-blockbuster first crop will be preparing to race as juveniles. Meanwhile Justify, who won all six starts by a combined 23 3/4 lengths in a meteoric career spanning 111 days, is the most anticipated new stallion in America for 2019.
Ashford, founded in the mid-1970’s and sold to the Coolmore group in 1984, becomes the fourth farm to stand multiple American Triple Crown winners. Claiborne Farm stood Gallant Fox (1930) and his son Omaha (1935), and later in its rich history stood Secretariat (1973). Calumet Farm homebreds Whirlaway (1941) and Citation (1948) returned home for their stud careers. Spendthrift Farm launched the careers of Seattle Slew (1977) and Affirmed (1978), both of whom later relocated.
“The significance of that is not something that is lost on us,” said Ashford’s Adrian Wallace. “The individual careers of both of these horses is our responsibility to the Thoroughbred industry, so to have two Triple Crown winners standing here at the same time only enhances that responsibility.”
Justify becomes the latest major chance for Coolmore to continue to build the legacy of its late sire Scat Daddy, and it has continued to make major investments in his progeny. Securing the colt’s stallion rights earlier this year represented a major coup for the international operation, which negotiated the opportunity to stand him from an ownership partnership that included another major stallion operation, WinStar Farm, which stands Pioneerof the Nile, sire of American Pharoah.
Justify, whose retirement was announced in July after his recovery from filling in an ankle closed the window of time to prepare him for a final start in the Breeders’ Cup Classic, was campaigned by WinStar, China Horse Club, Head of Plains Partners, and Starlight Racing. Head of Plains and Starlight had purchased racing rights to the colt from SF Bloodstock, which maintained breeding rights. It was widely known throughout the industry that a stud deal with Coolmore was in the works, and WinStar and Coolmore confirmed that deal in September.
“After much deliberation with all the partners, we’ve decided to accept Coolmore’s offer to stand Justify,” WinStar president, CEO, and racing manager Elliott Walden said a press release at the time. “As you can imagine, this is a bittersweet moment for all of us connected to this special horse who gave us the ultimate thrill of a lifetime. We believe strongly in Justify as a stallion, and the ownership group has retained breeding rights. We look forward to supporting him at Ashford Stud.”
Justify thus becomes the latest in his internationally prominent male line, beginning with Irish champion Storm Bird, to call Ashford home. Storm Bird was purchased by Ashford founders William Lockridge and Robert Hefner to stand in Kentucky, and Lockridge’s working relationship with William T. Young led to the mating that produced the stallion’s son Storm Cat, a phenomenally influential stallion at Overbrook Farm. Coolmore stood the Storm Cat son Hennessy and his juvenile champion Johannesburg, who sired Scat Daddy from his first crop.
“The whole Storm Bird line has been instrumental in Coolmore America’s history,” Wallace said. “It is a line that is noted for 2-year-old brilliance, but also
for horses that train on to be top class at 3. Giant’s Causeway is an excellent example of this, unbeaten at 2 and a five-time Group 1 winner who went on to be a champion sire three times. The whole line is synonymous with Ashford Stud and what we are trying to achieve, which is not only to get precocious 2-year-olds but for them to go on to be classic horses.”
Scat Daddy, a Grade 1 winner at ages 2 and 3, died in December 2015 of a suspected cardiac event. The 11-year-old was on the rise at the time of his death, with a stud fee slated to climb from $35,000 in 2015 to $100,000 in 2016. Proving how prescient that plan was, the stallion’s stock has only continued its ascent posthumously. Scat Daddy’s daughter Lady Aurelia was honored as a European champion in 2016, as she won at the Royal Ascot meeting for the first of two consecutive seasons. Another well-traveled daughter of the stallion, Chilean champion Dacita, shipped to the United States and became a multiple Grade 1 winner. The versatile Daddys Lil Darling finished second in the 2017 Kentucky Oaks before landing a Grade 1 on turf. Meanwhile, Caravaggio became a multiple Group 1 winner in Europe, and $3 million yearling purchase Mendelssohn captured the 2017 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf and became a seasoned group stakes performer worldwide.
And then came Justify, one of four starters in this year’s Kentucky Derby from Scat Daddy’s penultimate crop.
“If there was ever a criticism of Scat Daddy, it was that up until the last couple of years people had considered him primarily a turf sire due to his success with No Nay Never, Lady Aurelia, Caravaggio,” Wallace said. “But horses like Justify and Mendelssohn have proven just how versatile he was. We anticipate Justify to be as versatile as his father and will support him heavily with around 40 to 50 of our own mares. We view him as an ideal match for Galileo and Danzig-line mares.”
Relatively early in this phase of his career – his oldest sons are just 9 – Scat Daddy is
already showing promise as a sire of sires. From his handful of stallions with their first juveniles this year, No Nay Never has emerged as a worldwide leader among freshman sires.
No Nay Never – who won the Group 1 Prix Morny in France and Group 2 Norfolk at Royal Ascot during his own juvenile
campaign – is based at Coolmore Ireland, and through November had sired 29 winners. Those are led by Group 1 Middle Park winner Ten Sovereigns and Group 2 Richmond winner Land Force. He also is the sire of Mae Never No, a stakes winner in the United States; Irish stakes winners All The King’s Men, No Needs Never, and Servalan; Group 1-placed The Irish Rover; Group 2-placed Neverland Rock; Group 3-placed We Go; and stakes-placed Art du Val, Chestnut Honey, Cosmic Law, and Nonna Grazia. No Nay Never has been rewarded for his fast start with a quadrupled stud fee of 100,000 euros (about $114,000 U.S.) for 2019.
Joining No Nay Never and Caravaggio – whose first foals arrive in 2019 – at Coolmore Ireland next season will be Group 1 winner Sioux Nation. Meanwhile, the globe-trotting Mendelssohn also will stand at Ashford alongside Justify. Mendelssohn, who won the 2018 UAE Derby by 18 1/2 lengths, is a half-brother to four-time Eclipse Award winner Beholder. Even better for his stud prospects, he is a half-brother to Grade 1 winner and leading sire Into Mischief.
“All of our team loved Mendelssohn from the first time we saw him as a yearling, and he has developed into a magnificentlooking horse,” Ashford manager Dermot Ryan said upon the colt’s retirement. “Being by our own Scat Daddy and a halfbrother to Into Mischief and Beholder, you couldn’t ask for a better pedigree . . . We have already had a huge number of enquiries about him, and I have no doubt that he will prove extremely popular.”
Justify and Mendelssohn become the most accomplished sons of Scat Daddy to stand in Kentucky, where only Chilean Group 3 winner Tu Brutus represented the stallion in 2018, standing at Crestwood Farm. Scat Daddy was a popular shuttle sire in Chile, with champions including two Horse of the Year honorees, and his influence there continues to be apparent in the ranks of incoming stallions. Scat Daddy’s son Daddy Long Legs launched his career there, with a Group 1 winner in his first crop, and has now been purchased by the partnership of Taylor Made Farm, Phoenix Thoroughbreds, and KatieRich Farms to stand in Kentucky for 2019, making it four sons of Scat Daddy at stud in Kentucky, and 11 overall in the United States.
Unlike American Pharoah, who competes against sire Pioneerof the Nile and his grandsire, Gainesway’s Empire Maker, at six-figure price points in the market, Justify has supply-and-demand economics in his favor as he debuts for an advertised fee of $150,000 in 2019. As an additional benefit to the young stallions, American Pharoah and now Justify have arrived in a bloodstock market that, while still somewhat polarized, has recovered and stabilized following the recession of a decade ago, as evidenced by long-term investments made at the recent November breeding stock sales in Kentucky.
While stud fees are again soaring, fees for first-year stallions have remained moderate, as the market trended toward proven stock. The Triple Crown heroes have proven the exception, as the only two to debut for six-figure fees in the last decade. American Pharoah, who won the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic after taking the Triple Crown, entered stud for an advertised fee of $200,000 in 2016, which made him the most expensive incoming stallion in North America since champion Ghostzapper commanded the same fee in 2006, prior to the recession. American Pharoah’s stud fee also tied him for the second most expensive stallion on the continent overall, behind only perennial leading sire Tapit at $300,000. Pioneerof the Nile stood for $125,000 in 2016, and Empire Maker stood for $100,000 that season. It was later revealed that some breeders were sending approved mares to American Pharoah on a two-for-one deal as Coolmore sought to assemble a quality book, not an uncommon practice to support a young stallion in a competitive market. American Pharoah’s fee was listed as private for both 2017 and 2018. Off a season in which his first yearlings averaged $453,273 worldwide, he will stand for $110,000 in 2019.
Justify’s fee, of course, makes him the most expensive incoming stallion in North America for 2019 – and why not? Not only is he the only multiple Grade 1-winning son from the handful of representatives for his deceased sire on the continent, his unique and meteoric career made racing history.
“The year we bought Mendelssohn, [bloodstock agent] Paul Shanahan commented that we had no idea how valuable Scat Daddy was going to be for us,” Wallace said. “Those words have never been truer.”
Justify (above) joins fellow Triple Crown winner American Pharoah at Ashford Stud, which becomes the fourth farm to stand multiple Triple Crown winners.
Justify is paraded in front of the fans at Churchill Downs days after becoming the 13th Triple Crown winner.