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The 2-year-old races are a major part of what makes Saratoga and Del Mar so special. The tracks card these races almost daily, and many of the entrants go on to become the stars of the industry. Two years ago, Nyquist won everything that he entered at Del Mar, while last year, Always Dreaming began his career at Saratoga. The list continues with Breeders’ Cup winners Oscar Performance, New Money Honey, Champagne Room, and Classic Empire all making starts at Saratoga and Del Mar last year.
These elite maiden special weight races can sometimes be tricky to handicap and become more about the breeding than anything else because most horses in the races are first-time starters. The fields are loaded with the best stallions in America. Many of the entries will be sired by stallions with proven form, but there are always a few first-crop sires that make a name for themselves during this time period. Once again, the last two years are a perfect example of this, as first-year sires Bodemeister and Uncle Mo ended up producing the last two Kentucky Derby winners, Nyquist and Always Dreaming. Will that streak continue this year? Here are ten first-crop sires to watch this summer:
He was an undefeated Grade 1 winner at the age of 2, and heading into his 3-year-old year, he was considered one of the top contenders for the Kentucky Derby. However, an injury early in the year forced his early retirement. His early-career record is eye-catching (4-3-1-0) and could mean that he will produce some precious horses. So far in 2017, he’s had 14 starters that have won 4 races. Buy Sell Hold is his best offspring to date as she won the Kentucky Juvenile Stakes and is pointing towards Saratoga.
This one has been much hyped in the sales rings and horse farms. He was the 2 Year Old Horse of the Year while capturing three Grade 1’s in the Hopeful, Champagne, and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Stakes. He’s had 3 winners from just 11 starters so far, but has 114 reported two year olds that are in training. Recently he had a flashy debut winner at Belmont Park named Shangroyal who could be pointed towards Saratoga next time out.
Kentucky Derby winner Orb had been much talked about this year, and will be popular at the betting windows. Like Shanghai Bobby, Orb has only had 11 starters so far, and 2 of them have been winners. The pedigree here is fantastic, but I do wonder if his horses might be better as the distances get longer. His best horse to date is a colt named Earth, who won a maiden special weight at Gulfstream Park.
The horse that could do it all! Animal Kingdom ran fantastic on dirt, synthetic, and turf during his amazing career. Of course, he was also a Kentucky Derby and Dubai World Cup winner, and nearly won the Breeders’ Cup Turf Mile, finishing second to the amazing Wise Dan. So far, he’s had just 4 starters in the United States, but one of those is the filly Sunny Skies who won the Churchill Downs Debutante last time out. He’s had an eye-catching 5 winners overseas thus far, which signals to me that he could be set for a big year.
This is the current leader in the clubhouse as far as freshman sires go, with 8 winners out of 18 starters. This Grade 1 Arkansas Derby winner was never overpowering on the track, but his bloodlines could allow him to produce some nice runners. Take note of his hot start to open up his career, especially with so many big 2-year-old races this summer.
This Grade 1-winning millionaire is by the great A.P. Indy, so you know he will be popular in the breeding shed. How about on the track? It’s been a promising start so far, as he’s produced 4 winners out of 16 starters. His filly Gorgeous Ginny won a maiden special weight in dazzling style at Santa Anita before finishing second in the Landaluce Stakes last time out. This is another horse that assumably might produce horses that like going long, but his early-career success going short suggests otherwise.
Very much a sleeper in this solid crop, but you better take notice after his filly Surrender Now blew away the competition in the Landaluce Stakes last time out. Morning Line has had 7 starters so far and 2 of those have won. This horse was always talented but could never stay healthy. He showed brilliance in wins like the Grade 1 Carter Handicap and Grade 2 Pennsylvania Derby.
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Another under-the-radar type that many may underestimate. His hot start of 3 winners out of 13 starters is promising, and a few of those winners have looked solid, including the colts What a Catch (who recently gave Justin Phillip his first stakes victory in the Rockville Centre) and Baffin. Also, Upset Brewing was able to finish second in the Churchill Downs Debutante last time out. With this kind of start, he shouldn’t be taken lightly, and when going against the “flashy” sires out there, the betting public could score with a couple of his babies at a price.
The former Preakness winner was as tough as you get could on the race track and has a solid pedigree as well. This weekend, he got his first victory as a sire and has only had 5 starters. The jury is still out on him at this point, but he does have 76 reported 2-year-olds in training, so we’ll soon find out what he will produce. The positive sign is the fact that he was popular in the sales ring: his yearling sale average was $89,438.
The tremendously-popular Paynter, who was near death after a long list of ailments, will certainly be a fan favorite as a sire. He’s only had 4 runners so far and none have won. However, he has 95 reported 2-year-olds in training, many of which are pointed for debuts at Saratoga and Del Mar. Like Oxbow, Paynter is by Awesome Again, so the bloodlines suggest that he will produce some nice runners.
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