Breeding Watch: Birdstone earns respect

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The unsung Birdstone sired another Grade 1 winner last weekend and the Scat Daddy juveniles continue to fly out of the sale ring, one right into the winners’ enclosure at Royal Ascot.

Maybe it was the fluky circumstances under which his first Grade 1 winner, Mine That Bird, won 2009 Kentucky Derby. Maybe it’s because he’s by the failed Unbridled stallion Grindstone. Whatever the reason, Gainesway Farm’s Birdstone has become the Rodney Dangerfield of Kentucky stallions. Despite a pair of classic-winning champions in his first crop, he just can’t get any respect.

Birdstone stood the 2015 season for an advertised fee of $5,000 with free seasons available for mares with graded stake horses in the immediate family. Those breeders who took advantage of that pricing were surely pleased with the results of last Saturday night’s Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap when Birdstone’s son Noble Bird flew home first over Lea.

The fast-improving 4-year-old is his sire’s 15th stakes winner from 321 starters, a strike rate of just 4.6 percent stakes winners from starters, which may explain some breeder’s trepidation. However, two thirds of those winners have won at the graded level.

Noble Bird is also the 10th stakes winner and second Grade 1 winner for the daughters of WinStar Farm’s Tiznow. Two more of those 10 are graded winners by other Fappiano-line stallions – Grade 3 Schuylerville Stakes heroine Fashion Alert (by the Unbridled’s Song stallion Old Fashioned) and Grade 2 Bayakoa Stakes winner Tiz Midnight (by the Real Quiet son Midnight Lute), both in 2014.

A homebred for Marylou Whitney’s Whitney Stable out of the Storm Bird mare Dear Birdie, Birdstone is the only Grade 1 winner sired by the former Overbrook Farm stallion Grindstone, hero of the 1996 Kentucky Derby. Whitney also bred the only (North American) Grade 1 winner by Overbrook’s Cape Town, Birdstone’s Kentucky Oaks-winning sister Bird Town.


There’s certainly been no lack of respect for Scat Daddy’s 2015 juvenile crop. He’s the sire of the $1.4 million Fasig-Tipton Florida topper and a record-setting (then tied) $575,000 colt at this week’s OBS June 2-year-olds in training sale. In between, a pair of Scat Daddy juveniles brought $750,000 and $530,000, respectively, at the OBS March sale of selected 2-year-olds in training.

The $750,000 OBS March filly, now named Acapulco, has already returned prestigious dividends for the powerhouse Coolmore operation. She won Wednesday’s Group 2 Queen Mary Stakes on the second day of the Royal Ascot meeting for U.S.-based trainer Wesley Ward.

Out of a mare by the Forty Niner son End Sweep, Acapulco is the 26th stakes winner and 14th group or graded winner in the Northern Hemisphere for Scat Daddy. She’s also his eighth stakes winner north of the equator in 2015, a figure that currently ranks behind only five other stallions.

Like Birdstone, the well-traveled Henny Hughes has also had his moments in the breeding shed but not enough to earn consistent support of Kentucky breeders. The very speedy son of Hennessy began his career at Darley in Kentucky and now stands in Japan (via Australia and a 2013 pit stop at Walmac Farm in the Bluegrass).

His signature runner is multiple champion Beholder (dam by Tricky Creek), who added yet another stakes trophy to her case in last Saturday’s Grade 3 Adoration Stakes.

The following day, another Henny Hughes filly, Academic, schooled the field in the $500,800 Woodbine Oaks. The gate-to-wire winner at 66-1 is the 25th black-type winner for her sire and the 39th black-type winner out of a mare by the Adena Springs stallion Awesome Again.


The overall Storm Cat-Deputy Minister cross has yielded at least 59 stakes winners.

Daughters of Awesome Again have contributed four others to that total – stakes winners by the Hennessy son Johannesburg, two by his son Scat Daddy (the stakes winning full siblings Amarish and Daddy D T) and a stakes winner by the Storm Cat grandson First Samurai (by Giant’s Causeway).

Another globetrotter, Hard Spun, is firmly (one would think) back home at Darley America. He’s already the sire of group or graded winners in the U. S., Australia, South Africa and Dubai this year and his latest runner to make the grade is Island Town, hero of Saturday’s Grade 3 Matt Winn Stakes at Churchill.

The Ian Wilkes pupil fought off Fame And Power down the lane to become worldwide stakes winner No. 42 and group or graded winner No. 18 for the son of Danzig. Island Down is out of a mare by the Forty Niner son Distorted Humor, who’s out of a Danzig mare.

There are now 301 black-type winners showing a Danzig double within four generations.

Hard Spun is the sire of one other, the five-time listed winner Free as a Bird (second dam by Chief’s Crown). Distorted Humor is the broodmare sire of eight of those 301, all by different sires.

Matt O’Neil is a freelance writer and pedigree consultant based in Chicago. A former editor of Owner-Breeder International, his work has also appeared in numerous publications that include The Blood-Horse MarketWatch, The Florida Horse and Keeneland Magazine. He is currently marketing and social media coordinator for Adena Springs Farm and a partner in the fantasy horse racing game