By Elaine Belval
I find it strange how politics can overlap into other aspects of your life in unexpected ways. Without getting too political, let’s just say I didn’t vote for George Bush.
In New Zealand, Waikato Stud stands one of the best stallions in the region, named O’Reilly. Now, every time this sire shows up in the pedigree of SWs (and he shows up a lot!), I cringe. O’Reilly is doing his best to continue the line of Northern Dancer through Try My Best. Now, O’Reilly was bred in New Zealand and he was born in 1993, so I seriously doubt he is named for a certain conservative TV personality by the same name. But, that doesn’t stop the internal cringe.
Now, imagine a horse actually named for said TV personality’s TV show!
The Factor proved super-impressive winning the G2 Rebel S. at Oaklawn some weeks back. I was sure he was a tired horse turning into the stretch, ready to be overwhelmed by several of his competitors. But, a couple of taps, and before I knew it, he was powering home by lengths. Clearly, an extended eight furlongs is not beyond this horse’s capabilities. He is an exciting prospect, Derby or not.
His sire, War Front, is proving a revelation, especially to me.
As I have mentioned before, selecting future good stallions from among unproven sires is one of the most difficult things in horse racing, and few people are truly experts at it. And I have to admit, War Front was not a stallion I had high expectations for.
It’s not as if he didn’t stand at one of the most successful stallions farms in racing history (Claiborne Farm). It’s not like he didn’t have an excellent pedigree (by leading sire Danzig out of SW and multiple GSP Starry Dreamer. She, in turn, the dam of three other SWs). But, while War Front was a very successful runner (winning the G2 Vanderbilt S. and finishing second in two G1 races), he was not a G1 winner. And, while Danzig has a couple of very nice sons at stud in the US (including Kentucky-based Exchange Rate and Langfuhr), his US-based sons have not come close to a Danehill’s or Green Desert’s influence in the US. So, I thought War Front was up against it.
Apparently my opinion didn’t matter to War Front.
He is the current leading second-crop sire in 2011. Perhaps more astonishing, he is currently ranked 15th on the General Sire List (mind you, he has just one crop of just turned three-year-old racing right now). He is ranked ahead of such quality sires as Sky Mesa, Stormy Atlantic, and Tiznow. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that he has two contenders for the 2011 Kentucky Derby. Soldat was an impressive winner of the G2 Fountain of Youth and is headed towards the Derby despite a fifth-place finish in the Florida Derby. And The Factor will be heavily favored this weekend in the Arkansas Derby.
War Front is showing all the signs of being as versatile as his sire Danzig was. Half of his SWs were two-year-old SWs, and three have won on turf (including the ultra-versatile Soldat). This bodes well for War Front, as he is certain to attract a wide range of mares. War Front stands at Claiborne Farm, and his 2011 fee is $15,000 (but, good luck getting to him at this point!).
Now, I generally make my Derby predictions Derby week. But, let’s just say, I am more likely to be rooting for Soldat—even with the Florida Derby loss—than The Factor!
(Elaine Belval is senior pedigree analyst at WTC.)