By Sid Fernando
If there’s a lesson learned from Dialed In’s first-crop sire championship, it’s that an inexpensive stallion can sometimes play David to Goliath, as Dialed In did by edging out Union Rags, the most expensive horse to enter stud in 2013 at $35,000 live foal. In contrast, Dialed In began at $7,500. It’s something Pope McLean knows, and it’s the arena in which he plies his trade at Crestwood, which has been standing inexpensive stallions since the early 1990s. Crestwood’s latest is Texas Red, the G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner of 2014 who will enter stud for $7,500. Another member of the same crop, Firing Line, the colt who ran second to American Pharoah in the 2015 Kentucky Derby, will enter stud next year for $5,000.
Firing Line is by Line of David from Sister Girl Blues, by Hold for Gold, which is not exactly a glittering pedigree line. But it was responsible for a colt who made $65,000 as a weanling at Keeneland November in 2012, $150,000 as a yearling at the 2013 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky July sale, and $240,000 as a Keeneland April 2-year-old in 2014. The money was a testament mostly to Firing Line’s physique, because Sister Girl Blues had produced only one winner from three foals when Firing Line was offered, and Firing Line was from Line of David’s first crop when he stood for an advertised $7,500 fee at Spendthrift.
— frank mitchell (@f_mitchell07) December 15, 2016
Raced by Arnold Zetcher, Firing Line ran to his looks and was one of the leading classic colts of his year. He earned $976,000 in eight starts, with two wins and four placings, and he was unlucky not to win a G1 race. He did win the G3 Sunland Derby by 14 1/4 lengths while setting a track record of 1:47.39 for a mile and an eighth. And he also placed in both the G1 Los Alamitos Futurity, beaten a head by Dortmund, and the G3 Robert B. Lewis Stakes, again beaten a head by Dortmund. In the Derby, he finished ahead of Dortmund in third and Frosted (who enters stud for $50,000) in fourth. A high-class 2-year-old and a classics-placed 3-year-old, his career was compromised after ankle surgery for chips, and he made only one start in 2016, more than a year after his last race in 2015. Firing Line, however, did make money for everyone associated with him, and McLean and Zetcher — who’s reportedly retaining the lion’s share of the horse — are hoping the story continues in his next chapter as a stallion.
— Los Alamitos Racing (@losalracing) November 30, 2016
There’s some poetry to Firing Line standing at Crestwood because his dam, Sister Girl Blues, was raised at the farm for former longtime client and breeder Jeffrey Nielsen’s Everest Stables, for whom McLean also stood Sister Girl Blue’s sire, Hold for Gold.
Hold for Gold, a son of the Roberto stallion Red Ransom, was unraced. He’d been purchased by Everest for $21,000 at the 1996 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky July sale, and when he didn’t make it to the races, he was put to stud. He started off for nothing or next to nothing but did well enough the hard way to get to $3,500 after his runners hit the track. He sired blue-collar horses and four black type winners, but Sister Girl Blues was arguably his best runner, though she was only stakes placed.
Bred and raced by Everest, Sister Girl Blues was unraced at 2 but won her debut at 3 and then was second next out in the G2 Hollywood Breeders’ Cup Oaks. Later, at 4, she put up a strong performance to run second to champion Azeri in the G1 Vanity at a mile and an eighth, dueling the champion on the lead the entire race before yielding by two lengths. She, like her son, was unlucky not to win a G1 race.
Sister Girl Blues was a half-sister to the Maria’s Mon G2 Dwyer winner Mint Lane and their dam and granddam, the Conquistador Cielo mare Sister Girl and the Danzig mare Scipio, respectively, were bred by Henryk de Kwiatkowski’s Kennelot Stables, which raced both sires. Farther back, E.P. Taylor had bred three consecutive dams in this family, including Firing Line’s fifth dam, Kamar — a champion 3-year-old filly in Canada and a Broodmare of the Year. The page explodes under her.
Sister Girl Blues, in foal to Crestwood’s successful Seeking the Gold horse Petionville, was sold by McLean for Everest at the 2009 Keeneland January sale for $53,000 to Richard Lister. Two years later at the same sale, Eamon Cleary, owner of Clearsky Farms and the breeder of Firing Line, bought the mare for $25,000 and bred her that spring to Line of David.
Line of David is a Storm Cat-line horse who won the G1 Arkansas Derby. His sire, Lion Heart, won the G1 Hollywood Futurity and the G1 Haskell Invitational, and in between, he was also second in the Kentucky Derby. By Storm Cat’s sprinting son Tale of the Cat, Lion Heart was sent to Turkey after showing promise here at stud. He sired a wide variety of good horses during his short stay at Ashford, from precocious 2-year-olds like Kantharos — now a promising young sire — to the mile and half G1 turf winner Dangerous Midge.
Pope McLean was partial to Storm Cat well before Storm Cat was Storm Cat, because he was co-breeder of Storm Cat’s G1 winner Sardula, a filly from his third crop whom he co-bred on a foal share with W.T. Young’s Overbrook. McLean also stood the stakes-placed Storm Cat horse Storm Boot, a member of Storm Cat’s first crop.
Storm Boot started off at $1,000 and made his way to $15,000 and was the quintessential small-guy success story, siring 52 black type winners. He was put down in 2007 at the age of 18 and is, with Petionville, most responsible for putting Crestwood on the map as a stud farm.
Firing Line is bigger, taller, and prettier than the short, stocky, and muscular Storm Boot, but if he can emulate Storm Boot’s performance at stud, McLean and Zetcher should be pleased.
Who’s not hot?
Line of David isn’t in Kentucky anymore. Despite starting off well at stud with several stakes horses from his first crop, by 2016 Line of David’s fee was down to $3,500 at Spendthrift. In 2017, he’ll stand in Louisiana at Jay Adcock’s Red River Farm for $2,500. He’s very usable there at that price and should be among the leaders in the state in the coming years.