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Bill's Columns
Fappiano Rising
Date: October 16th, 2017
This article originally appeared in BloodHorse Daily.
By Bill Oppenheim
In the annals of Thoroughbred breeding, it is likely the horse that caused Fappiano to split off from Mr. Prospector like none of his other sons, was the 1964 French Derby winner Le Fabuleux, who was imported by Bull Hancock in 1972 after standing his first six seasons in France.
Time and time again the injection of Phalaris-line speed—Native Dancer, Nasrullah, and Northern Dancer, for example—in America, into lengthy staying European mares has paid big dividends for the breed. In this case, when Florida's storied Tartan Farms bred their Le Fabuleux mare Gana Facil to Fappiano in 1986, the result was Unbridled.
Fappiano, from the second crop by Mr. Prospector, won the 1981 Metropolitan Handicap (G1) and stood his first six seasons at Tartan Farm in Florida before moving to Lane's End, where he stood three seasons before he died at the age of 13 in 1990. His first crop included Tasso, who earned his spot in the record books when he defeated a colt by the name of Storm Cat in the 1985 Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1). His second crop included Cryptoclearance, Pentelicus, and Tappiano.
Tartan Farms and its longtime trainer and manger, Johnny Nerud, held a dispersal in 1987. Quiet American, out of a mare by Dr. Fager (so inbred 3x2 to Dr. Fager as Fappiano himself was out of a Dr. Fager mare), sold for $300,000 as a yearling at the dispersal to Darley.
Unbridled, then a foal, was bought for $70,000 by Minnesota owner Frances A. Genter. His dam, Gana Facil, was as noted by Le Fabuleux and was out of an In Reality daughter of Magic, who was by Buckpasser out of Aspidistra, a daughter of Better Self. Besides Magic, Aspidistra was also the dam of Dr. Fager and Ta Wee, both rockets.
You could argue that Unbridled's class came from being inbred 4x4 to Aspidistra, but the overall length that Unbridled imparts has to have come, in great degree, from Le Fabuleux, and it's that length that identifies at least this major part of the Fappiano line as distinct from other Mr. Prospector.
Unbridled famously won the 1990 Kentucky Derby (G1) and retired to stud in 1992. He sired 10 crops before he died at the age of 14 in 2001. His first crop included Unbridled's Song, who first made headlines as the first 2-year-old to sell for over $1 million at the Barretts 2-year-old sale in 1995, and finished up the year winning the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) over Hennessy in the mud at Belmont Park.
Unbridled's Song went to stud in 1997 and his first foals raced in 2000. Unbridled's Song was a terrific sire, but a string of failures by his early sire sons made it begin to look like the whole Fappiano line was going to be much more important on the damsire side than as a sire line.
Unbridled's eighth crop, foals of 2000, produced Empire Maker for Prince Khalid Abdullah's Juddmonte Farms. Out of the California grade 1 winner Toussaud, by El Gran Senor, Empire Maker was trained by the great Bobby Frankel. After winning the Florida Derby (G1) and Wood Memorial Stakes (G1), he was made favorite for the 2003 Kentucky Derby but was upended by Funny Cide, a New York-bred gelding from the first crop of Distorted Humor. Frankel skipped the Preakness Stakes (G1) with Empire Maker, then won the Belmont Stakes (G1) to notch his classic victory.
Empire Maker's first foals were born in 2005. His second crop, foals of 2006, included Pioneerof the Nile, bred by Zayat Stables from the Lord At War mare, Star of Goshen.
This was the era of synthetic tracks, and Pioneerof the Nile never raced on dirt until he ran second to Mine That Bird in the slop in the 2009 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands. Transferred to trainer Bob Baffert from Bill Mott after finishing fifth behind Midshipman and Square Eddie in the 2008 Breeders Cup Juvenile, Pioneerof the Nile reeled off four straight wins on the synthetic, in the Cashcall Futurity (G1), the Robert B. Lewis and the San Felipe stakes (both G2), and the Santa Anita Derby (G1). But after his second in Kentucky Derby, he was eased in the Preakness, and retired to Vinery for the 2010 covering season before moving to WinStar in 2013.
Though Unbridled was the principal strain of Fappiano, the $300,000 Tartan dispersal yearling Quiet American became a grade 1 winner for Darley and was a successful sire, standing at Gainsborough in Kentucky. The 1992 champion sprinter Rubiano was a pretty useful sire at Lane's End until his death in 2002.
A fourth strain of Fappiano, through Cryptoclearance, re-emerged through Candy Ride, who came up from Argentina to California in 2003. He was by a son of Cryptoclearance who was obscure even in Argentina, Ride the Rails. But Candy Ride had won all three of his starts in Argentina by daylight, including two group 1 contests, and was bought by Sid and Jenny Craig and turned over to the legendary Ron McAnally.
Candy Ride went three-for-three in California, winning the American Handicap (G2T) on the grass, then the Pacific Classic Stakes (G1) at 10 furlongs on the dirt, running a monster Beyer figure of 123 and defeating none other than Medaglia d'Oro by 3 1/4 lengths.
In the spring of 2010, Sidney's Candy, from Candy Ride's second crop, won the Santa Anita Derby, and in the second half of 2010, another colt from his second crop, Twirling Candy, emerged to win the Del Mar Derby (G2T) on the grass and the Malibu Stakes (G1), now back on the dirt.
But, in a further inadvertent blow to the sire line, at the end of 2010 it was announced that Juddmonte had sold Empire Maker to Japanese breeders. Yes, Candy Ride was looking promising, and Bodemeister, by Empire Maker, emerged to run second to I'll Have Another in the 2012 Kentucky Derby and Preakness. But on balance, up until 2015, it still looked very much like Fappiano was going to survive much more as a broodmare sire line than as a sire line.
Unbridled's Song looked like a failed sire of sires, but a tremendous broodmare sire (at last count he is the damsire of 110 'A Runners', which are roughly the equivalent of listed stakes winners and above). But on the broodmare sire of sires angle—wow: Unbridled is the damsire of Tapit ; Rubiano is the damsire of War Front; and Quiet American is the damsire of Bernardini , three of America's top sires since 2010.
Return Of The Sire Line
Suddenly, though, the landscape is changing. Unbridled's Song has three final shots as a sire of sires, and arguably they are the three best he has ever had.
Finishing unplaced in all three Triple Crown races but trained by Wayne Lukas, the man who broke all the records in his heyday, Will Take Charge woke up to win the Travers Stakes (G1) and Pennsylvania Derby (G2), got beat a nose by Mucho Macho Man in the Breeders' Cup Classic (G1), then came back to beat older horses in the Clark Handicap (G1) to scoop the Eclipse Award for champion 3-year-old in 2013.
He has a great pedigree, and unlike many of the earlier sons of Unbridled's Song, he was nothing if not tough and sound. Standing at Three Chimneys, he was the top commercial sire with first foals of 2016 at that year's foal sales, and he's the top North American first-year sire on average at the 2017 yearling sales so far.
Breathing down his neck is Airdrie Stud's Cairo Prince, who was from Pioneerof the Nile's first crop and won the 2014 Holy Bull Stakes (G2), but was injured and never ran again after finishing fourth in the Florida Derby. They are by a long way one-two on average for first-year North American sires of yearlings. Each has had 58 yearlings sell so far: Will Take Charge has an average of $177,103; Cairo Prince's average is $166,862. A one-two for the Fappiano sire line.
Number two contender for Unbridled's Song is Lane's End's Liam's Map, who won six of eight lifetime starts, with two seconds. He finished off with Beyers of 113-114-114 as a 4-year-old: run down by Honor Code's impossible late charge in the 2015 Whitney Stakes (G1), then scoring easily in the Woodward Stakes (G1) and the Las Vegas Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile (G1), his last race where he was the easiest kind of winner at Keeneland at odds of 1-2.
There are 24 weanlings from his first crop cataloged in the November sales. There are also 28 weanlings cataloged by another interesting Fappiano-line sire, Pioneerof the Nile's son American Pharoah, 2015's first winner of the American Triple Crown in 37 years. So two more top prospects from the Fappiano line, one by Unbridled's Song, one by Pioneerof the Nile, including American Pharoah as one of the most exciting debuting sires in years.
On the racetrack, the two best 4-year-olds in the country, and the two favorites for this year's Breeders' Cup Classic are both from the Fappiano sire line: Arrogate, by Unbridled's Song; and Gun Runner, by Candy Ride.
Arrogate, like Will Take Charge three years before, exploded in the second half of his 3-year-old year to win divisional honors after winning the 2016 Travers and Breeders' Cup Classic over California Chrome; then went on to win $13 million in two top-level races early this year—the Pegasus World Cup Invitational Stakes and Dubai World Cup Sponsored By Emirates Airline, in which he defeated Gun Runner.
That was Gun Runner's only defeat in his last six starts. Having run third in the Kentucky Derby and beaten older horses in the Clark Handicap at 3 last year, since Dubai Gun Runner has swept through three straight grade 1 races—the Stephen Foster Handicap, Whitney, and Woodward—to the extent that he is likely to be favored over Arrogate at Del Mar next month. But the point is another top-class one-two for the Fappiano line—this time one for Unbridled's Song, one for Candy Ride.
Arrogate (Juddmonte) has been announced as going to stud in 2018 and breeders are hoping Gun Runner (Three Chimneys) will too. Two further sons of Pioneerof the Nile will most likely be swelling the Fappiano stallion ranks in 2018: Classic Empire (Ashford), champion 2-year-old colt of 2016; and Midnight Storm (Taylor Made), ultra-tough winner of one grade 1 and five grade 2 races.
And yet another string to the Fappiano bow is Mastery, like Gun Runner by Candy Ride. He goes to Claiborne for $25,000 having won all four of his starts for trainer Baffert—three-for-three at 2, including the Los Alamitos Futurity (G1) and the San Felipe this year by nearly seven lengths, before injury intervened.
Finally, there is Bodemeister, who like Pioneerof the Nile stands at WinStar. He's the sire of 2017 Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming in his first crop, foals of 2014, so is a second string to Empire Maker's bow, along with Pioneerof the Nile.
It's all starting to add up to a big impending wave of Fappiano influence—and, interestingly, the prospect of extensive inbreeding to Fappiano as these sires are bred to mares by Tapit, War Front, and Bernardini—all themselves out of Fappiano-line mares. That'll set us pedigree mavens' tongues wagging.
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