Thoroughbred Times feature: Decades-old Domination
Monday, February 27, 2012 Share on Facebook RSS Feeds

Florida stallions easily atop leaders in the region.

Journeyman Stud’s Wildcat Heir tops Florida sire list for second
consecutive season with earnings of more than $5-million
Technically, there are seven states in the Southeast region that stand Thoroughbred stallions - Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee - but to suggest that they each are home to an “industry” might be stretching it.

Five of the seven have no legalized pair-mutual wagering within their borders, and another has not seen live horse racing since 1995. The only one that offers pair-mutual wagering on the ponies is Florida, which also happens to be home to a growing racing business. Each year, many millions of dollars are pushed through the betting windows, across the poker tables, and into the slots, with a percentage of resulting revenues peeled off in support of the Thoroughbred industry. Any guesses as to which of the above - named states is thriving?

When it comes to the Southeast, it is all about Florida - always has been and looks like it always will be.

Florida stallions routinely send out some of America’s finest runners, giving their brethren in Kentucky a run for those gold and bronze statuettes handed out each January.

Florida-sired runners in 2011 included Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1) winner and champion three-year-old male Animal Kingdom, champion female sprinter Musical Romance, undefeated champion Awesome Feather, and Grade 1 winners Jackson Bend and Currency Swap. Also worth noting is that several of Florida’s most important sires were themselves homegrown products, among them Wildcat Heir and Awesome of Course

Florida’s best Wildcat Heir raced no farther than six furlongs, but in that sphere he was a good one, winning half of his starts and in Grade 1 company before a hairline fracture suffered in the 2004 TVG Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) ended his career. The son of Forest Wildcat went into retirement in Florida and, three crops later, is now on top of the region.

To say that Wildcat Heir has been successful would be an understatement of some magnitude. As a first-crop sire in 2009, he established a Northern Hemisphere record with 39 juvenile winners; in 2010 he was America’s second leading second-crop sire; and last year, he finished first nationally among third-crop sires by winners. With just two crops racing, Wildcat Heir topped Florida’s general sire list in 2010, and he easily duplicated that effort in 2011.

Although himself untried at beyond six furlongs, Wildcat Heir’s runners are proving quite capable of going farther. Eight of Wildcat Heir’s offspring last season earned stakes wins at distances of up to 11/16miles, at major racetracks in California, New York, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, New Jersey, and Canada, and his 17 total stakes performers was unsurpassed in his home state.

The 2012 stallion roster at Brent and Crystal Fernung’s Journeyman Stud in Ocala, home to the two-time leading state sire, also includes Saint Anddan and Exclusive Quality - both top-20 freshman sires nationally in 2011; Hear  No  Evil, represented last season by New York Grade 1 winner Jackson Bend; and incoming Grade 1 winner J P’s Gusto.

Awesome of Course - struck again ... and again
in 2011, proving emphatically that he is no
one-hit wonder.
Yet another Journeyman stallion - the remarkable and rather unexpected Awesome of Course - struck again ... and again in 2011, proving emphatically that he is no one-hit wonder. Best known as the sire of unbeaten 2010 champion two-year old filly Awesome Feather (now undefeated in nine starts), he added to his resume last season with an impressive group of two-year-olds. Three members of that ten-foal crop (his largest to date) became stakes winners, and two, Fort Loudon and Awesome Belle, captured the male and filly divisions of the $300,000 Florida Stallion Stakes. Toss in Awesome Feather, who returned at three in Grade 1 form, and you have something of a dream season for this once under-appreciated stallion.

Awesome of Course himself had been nothing particularly special, a minor sprint stakes winner with a career-best six furlongs of 1:11.16. No surprise, then, that he entered stud in 2004 without fanfare and few takers, even at a modest $2,500 fee. The son of Awesome Again hails from a female family peppered with quality black type, though one not noted for producing top sires. But like the honey badger, Awesome of Course did not care. His five racing age crops through 2011, comprised of 40 foals, have thus far netted an extraordinary 23% stakes horses from starters (seven of 30). No doubt about it - Awesome of Course is the real deal.

By Mary Simon
Thoroughbred Times, Feb. 11, 2012

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