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Congrats

August 8, 2014

With the new racing season comes the new stallions battling it out for First Season Sires' Honours.  Here is a piece I did some time ago on Congrats, the US stallion who shuttles to Vinery Stud.

Thoroughbred breeding is certainly unpredictable.  Some of the highest profile stallion prospects have become dismal and very expensive failures.  It seems to be becoming increasingly rare though to see an absolute success story at stud from rather humble beginnings.  Vinery though has uncovered a potential superstar in their latest shuttle offering Congrats.  The stallion was Champion US first season sire, and did this from the relative obscurity of the New York breeding scene.  In Australian terms, it is probably close to a Tasmanian sire winning the Australian title and I doubt if many in the US would have considered it possible.

To balance this just a little, and without detracting from the incredible performance, Congrats may not have been against the strongest crop of first season sires ever assembled.  We see that second on the list was Bluegrass Cat at a fee of $25k, while Bernardini who was third was the only sire to command a fee higher.  Fifth on the list was a Canadian based stallion in Old Forester, while eighth was a Florida based stallion, With Distinction.

According to bloodhorse.com, Congrats had a total of 108 foals in his first crop, of which an amazing 61 made it to the track in their first season.  Twenty five of these were winners, with nine winning more than one race, and three winning graded races.  In addition there were twelve stakes horses and this is a distinction made only in the US.  Congrats’ progeny earned a total of $1.66 million in prize money in his first season.

Congrats himself was a good performer on the track, and raced 26 times from a 2yo to a 6yo.  He won his only start as a 2yo at Belmont, and as a 3yo went on to win three from six starts and finish third in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy Stakes.  As an older horse he was to win the Grade 2 San Pasqual Handicap and run second to Rock Hard Ten in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap.  Congrats also ran third in the Hollywood Gold Cup behind Lava Man and Borrego, and earned himself a trip to the UAE.

The stallion is a son of the great US stallion, AP Indy.  To date, AP Indy has sired around 135 stakes winners, yet has had little opportunity in Australia.  He has only been represented by two sons in the moderately performed Storm Of Indya; and Bernardini who went to stud the same season as Congrats in the US and has yet to have runners here.  AP Indy also appears as the damsire of Any Given Saturday who also has yet to have runners in Australia.  Apart from being a wonderful sire, AP Indy was also a great racehorse, winning eight of his eleven starts and earning the titles of Horse of the Year and Champion 3yo.  He was also a Grade 1 winner as a 2yo, winning the Hollywood Futurity.  Significantly, AP Indy was a son of Seattle Slew out of a Secretariat mare, and these two stallions represent some of the major US bloodlines in modern history.  Surprisingly, neither has really made an indelible mark in Australia, and perhaps this has gone some way to this country viewing AP Indy with no great enthusiasm to date.  At this point it is probably appropriate to point out some of the short sightedness that breeders can display.  There is no doubt that Northern Dancer is one of the greatest influences that the modern thoroughbred has seen.  Northern Dancer had a number of sons who stood at stud in Australia with varying success.  Stallions like Storm Bird, Salmon Leap, Danzatore, Jugah and Grand Chaudiere all made an impact, but when we consider that Northern Dancer is widely regarded as the most dominant force in the thoroughbred since Phalaris, then these sons may not be quite what we would have expected.  In fact, we really need to go to the grandson of Northern Dancer in Danehill to see his full impact on the local breed.  Perhaps it will be a grandson of Seattle Slew that will cement his reputation in the Southern Hemisphere.

Seattle Slew has had little opportunity in Australia to date.   He was represented by Air De France who did quite a good job and produced the quality galloper, Bomber Bill.  Similarly, Secretariat had limited opportunity in Australia, and was perhaps largely inferior to Seattle Slew as a sire of sires.  Secretariat did give us the wonderful Melbourne Cup winner, Kingston Rule who was to prove a useful stallion.  As a broodmare sire, Secretariat was more impressive appearing in this role in the pedigrees of stallions like Dehere, Chief’s Crown, Storm Cat, Summer Squall, and more recently Dubleo and Holy Roman Emperor.

In turn, we find that Congats is out of a Mr Prospector mare, Praise who has also produced two stakes placed horses in Flatter and Gigger.  His second dam is the stakes winning Wild Applause who produced Yell, Roar, Blare of Trumpets and Eastern Echo.  The third dam is a former Broodmare of the Year in the stakes winning Glowing Tribute who produced Sea Hero, Hero’s Honor, Glowing Honor, Coronation Cup and Mackie.

In terms of pedigree, Congrats has relatively little duplication, with us having to go to the fifth generation to see multiple lines of Nasrullah and Hail To Reason.  A little further back we also see Polynesian, Nearco, Turn-To and War Admiral duplicated.  All of these influences have been important in Australia, and would seem to give us plenty of scope to find suitable matings.

Congrats has a dosage profile which reads [0.78/3.00] [15-13-25-1-0].  This would generally reflect a horse that is best around a mile, and he won races from 1300m to 2000m.  Especially in the US, with a lack of distance racing, it is common to see runners with this type of dosage race effectively over more ground than we may expect in Australia.  Still, considering that his stakes wins were all from 1500m to 1700m, he probably fits the miler mold quite well.  While he has made his initial impact as a sire of 2yo’s in the US, I would still expect that his best performers will come around this distance.  We need to note that his two US Grade 1 winners were successful over 1700m, a distance we don’t often see races run in Australia.  Congrats though was also able to sire winners at much shorter distances, and we see that one was successful over the unusual distance of 700m.

It may be misleading to look at his successful runners in the US because, as we know, US and Australian breeding can be quite different.  Congrat’s two best runners though are Turbulent Descent and Wickedly Perfect.  Notably both are fillies, and both are out of mares who are grand daughters of Storm Cat, although neither sire is one that is found in Australia.  Interestingly we also see that the tail female line also reinforces a significant line in Congrats’ pedigree.  In the case of Turbulent Descent, it is Mr Prospector, and with Wickedly Perfect, Secretariat.  When looking at the list of his winners, it is hard not to notice two stallions who seem to have played a role in his success.  Firstly, Storm Cat has been prominent while a son of Mr Prospector in Seeking The Gold has also had a major impact.  He appears as the grand damsire of Turbulent Dancer as well as in the same position in the pedigree of another stakes horse in Wild Penny who is also out of a Storm Cat line mare, also in this case Forestry just like Turbulent Descent.  Seeking The Gold is best known in Australia as the sire of Secret Savings who was a more than useful stallion for many years and no doubt some of his daughters could prove interesting matings for this stallion.  Seeking The Gold was also the sire of the ill fated Dubai Millenium who is the sire of Dubawi who is starting to make a significant impact in world racing.  We must wonder though if the success of Congrats will continue with all sons of Storm Cat and Mr Prospector, or whether there is a particular affinity with these two in particular.

The other lesson that we may well learn from these pedigrees is that all are relatively heavily inbred and most likely this is a strategy that will work well with Congrats in Australia as well.  We do see a number of Storm Cat line stallions in Australia, and their daughters will likely be sought after for this stallion.  In addition, I would suggest that Storm Bird has had success in Australia through his son, Bluebird, and mares carrying these influences could well be considered for the stallion.

On face value though, given the pedigree of Congrats, it would seem that he would suit a wide range of mares.  With him standing in New York, the broodmare band in that state is limited compared to that he will cover in Kentucky.  Similarly, Congrats will find a more diverse range of mares in Australia, and of course this raises some questions as to whether he can continue to succeed with a large variety of mares.  Still, it would seem that Congrats is compatible with many.  Danehill and his sons are certainly not out of the question with the stallion and especially, I would suggest, those that carry additional lines of Northern Dancer, or Mr Prospector might be preferred.  Similarly, Encosta De Lago is another Northern Dancer line stallion with Mr Prospector prominent in his pedigree.  Very noticeable from a dosage perspective, these stallions represent a good source of classic bloodlines, which should reinforce those attributes found in the stallion through AP Indy.  While Congrats has proven to be a source of 2yo’s, it is certainly likely that many of these types of mares would allow him to produce some quality 3yo’s as well.  One thing that we have yet to mention is that AP Indy shares some similarity with the pedigree of Sir Tristram in that both carry Sir Gaylord and Round Table quite prominently.   We should not be surprised then if a quality mare from these lines were to produce a runner that was a Cups contender later in their career.

On face value, many will think of Congrats as a very US option.  However, a closer look at his pedigree shows the stallion may well be best utilised by reinforcing those lines that have succeeded in Australia rather than those that have found their forte on the dirt tracks of the US.  This good looking son of AP Indy may just prove to be the diamond that will establish some of these sensational bloodlines in Australia.

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