Breeding Watch: Hardware time

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The Eclipse Awards were handed out on a glitzy Saturday night at Gulfstream Park and several stallions were represented by their first North American champions.

Take Charge Brandi was named champion 2-year-old filly after a late-season graded stakes triple. It’s hard to believe but she’s the first Eclipse Award champion by Ashford Stud’s Giant’s Causeway, owner of three North American sire titles.

Giant’s Causeway is much like his own sire, Storm Cat, in this respect.

As many top horses as the great Overbook Farm stallion sired, only his daughters Storm Flag Flying (2002 2-year-old filly) and Sweet Catomine (2004 2-year-old filly) were Eclipse Award winners.

On the other side of Take Charge Brandi’s pedigree we find a little more Eclipse success. She’s out of a Seeking the Gold sister to 2013 champion 3-year-old Will Take Charge and is the fifth Eclipse Award winner out of a mare by Seeking the Gold. That puts the son of Mr. Prospector in a tie with another former Claiborne Farm stalwart, Nijinsky II, for most all-time as a broodmare sire.

City Zip’s big Breeders’ Cup weekend translated into his first Eclipse successes.

A pair of runners by the Lane’s End stallion took home hardware Saturday – Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf heroine Dayatthespa and Xpressbet Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner Work All Week.

City Zip is the 12th sire with two individual Eclipse Award champions in the same year following his grandsire Mr. Prospector (1982), Seattle Slew (1984), Cox’s Ridge (1985), Nureyev (1987), Alydar (1988), Deputy Minister (1989), Seeking the Gold (1994), Cee’s Tizzy (2001), Sadler’s Wells (2003), Saint Ballado (2005) and Smart Strike (2007).

Two other prominent Central Kentucky stallions were represented by their first Eclipse Award champions in 2014 – City Zip’s half-brother Ghostzapper (Judy the Beauty, female sprinter) and second-crop sensation Pioneerof the Nile (American Pharaoh, 2-year-old male).

WinStar Farm’s Pioneerof the Nile started to emerge about this time last year with Triple Crown contenders Cairo Prince, Vinceremos and Social Inclusion. He has one of the early favorites for the 2015 classics in American Pharoah.

A son of Empire Maker, Pioneerof the Nile finished last season as North America’s leading second-crop sire and has an additional runner on the 2015 Kentucky Derby trail after Pioneerof the West ran third in the Grade 3 Sham Stakes Jan. 10 at Santa Anita Park.

American Pharoah (dam by Yankee Gentleman) and Pioneerof the West (Forestry) are out of granddaughters of Storm Cat. Empire Maker also had good success with the Storm Cat line, siring the likes of Grade 1 winners Bodemeister and In Lingerie out of Storm Cat daughters and Grade 2 winner Magical Feeling out of a mare by Forestry.

Champion older female Close Hatches broke the Eclipse Award maiden for Juddmonte Farm’s First Defence, a close relative to Empire Maker. A five-time Grade 1 winner in her career, Close Hatches is also out of a Storm Cat daughter. Storm Cat now has one more Eclipse Award champion as a broodmare sire than he did as a sire (2004 champion sprinter Speightstown and 2013 champion 2-year-old mare Shared Belief are the others).

Horse of the Year and champion 3-year-old male California Chrome is also the first champion for his sire, the California-based Lucky Pulpit, and his pair of 2014 titles makes it two straight years, and three of the past four, that a California-bred has earned hardware at the Eclipse Awards ceremony.

Acclamation (by Unusual Heat) parlayed wins in the Grade 1 Eddie Read Handicap and Grade 1 Pacific Classic Stakes into a 2011 older male championship. In 2013, the ill-fated Pointsoff the Bench (by Benchmark) got the nod as champion male sprinter after a pair of California Grade 1 victories.

Tapit and Elusive Quality were represented by their third Eclipse Award champions, respectively, Saturday night.

Untapable, the unanimous choice for 3-year-old filly, joins Hansen (2011 2-year-old male) and Stardom Bound (2008 2-year-old filly) as champions by her prolific sire. Elusive Quality is the sire of 2014’s champion steeplechase horse Demonstrative to go along with Smarty Jones (2004 3-year-old male) and Maryfield (2007 female sprinter).

Smart Strike remains the active leading Eclipse Award sire with four.

Today’s stallions have a lot of work to do to even approach Smart Strike’s sire, Mr. Prospector, the sire of 10 Eclipse Award champions.

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