When we bought Rough Water and Winning Bet at auction in January, they certainly had plenty of appeal in and of themselves, physically and on the basis of their respective produce records and female families. But another very attractive aspect was the stallion to which each was in-foal at the time of the sale – which is not always the case when shopping for a broodmare. More often than not, it seems, an interesting mare is pregnant to a stallion that looks to be a liability rather than an asset, or else she is empty, meaning no sale-able foal that can help you recoup your costs for 18 months or so, at best.
However, in Bodemeister (Winning Bet) and Daredevil (Rough Water), we are looking forward to foals by exciting young stallions and which are the product of thoughtful matings – even if we didn’t plan them ourselves.
Bodemeister sprang to prominence on the Kentucky Derby trail in the spring of 2012 for trainer Bob Baffert. A $260,000 yearling purchase by Zayat Stables, Bodemeister did not start as a juvenile because of immaturity, according to Baffert. He was 2nd in his racetrack debut going 5-1/2 furlongs in January of his sophomore season, then romped by nine lengths when stretched out to a mile for his second start, completing the distance in a very sharp 1:34.45. Jumped right into Graded stakes company thereafter, Bodemeister ran a close 2nd to Grade 1 winner Creative Cause in the Grade 2 San Felipe, before storming home nine lengths clear in the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby. That effort was impressive enough that Bodemeister was sent off the favorite in the Kentucky Derby despite trying to buck the “Apollo curse” and with just four lifetime starts to his credit.
Bodemeister set historic fractions in the Derby, only to be run down in the final furlong by I’ll Have Another – a performance that earned him almost as many accolades as the winner. It also earned him favoritism again in the Preakness Stakes, despite the fact that I’ll Have Another was again in the field – and though the margin was smaller this time, the result was the same, with I’ll Have Another running down a loose-on-the-lead Bodemeister in the final strides. Bodemeister then skipped the Belmont Stakes and pointed towards the Haskell, but was retired to WinStar Farm because of a freak shoulder injury without running again.
Bodemeister was easily the most brilliant son of Empire Maker, though not the first to finish runner-up in the Kentucky Derby (that honor going to Pioneerof the Nile, subsequently the sire of Triple Crown winner American Pharoah). Himself a Derby runner-up, Empire Maker won the Florida Derby-G1 and Belmont Stakes-G1 as a 3-year-old, but missed out on the Eclipse Award to Derby winner Funny Cide. A successful sire (though not for his owner, Juddmonte), Empire Maker was sold to Japan in 2010, before being repatriated in 2015 following the success of American Pharoah. Bodemeister is out of a precocious Storm Cat daughter, Untouched Talent – which explains where he got his high cruising speed.
Though he traces tail-male to the very tall Unbridled (also known for siring big horses, like his son Unbridled’s Song), Bodemeister himself is not a large horse – but he is incredibly well-balanced and correct. His offspring, on the whole, have been an attractive bunch and have sold well, and his first crop ran to their looks in 2016 when Bodemeister finished at #3 on the First-Crop Sires List. Among his leading runners are the stakes winners Bode’s Dream and O Dionysus, as well as American Anthem, who currently ranks highly on many Kentucky Derby contender lists, and the TDN Rising Star Faja.
Winning Bet is carrying a member of Bodemeister’s fourth crop, and he will have every chance to succeed further, having bred 174, 176, 177 and 174 mares in his first four books, respectively. Winning Bet has already produced a winner (and $330,000 2-year-old in-training purchase) by Unbridled’s Song, and a $100,000 yearling by Unbridled’s son Broken Vow, so this is a cross that has produced nice horses. We think that physically Bodemeister might be a better fit for Winning Bet than those others, too, as it will be more a case of like-to-like, given that she is a smaller, well-balanced mare and they are both quite large horses in the mold of many sons of Unbridled.
And if Bodemeister heats up a bit this year with his first 3-year-olds (not a stretch, given that he himself didn’t even run at 2), it will be a fine time to have a member of one of later crops, acquired for a fraction of what his stud fee could be a year from now (see, for example, Curlin and Ghostzapper).
We profiled Daredevil last spring as one of the many intriguing newcomers to the Kentucky stallion ranks in 2016, and we will hit the highlights again here.
A $260,000 yearling purchase by Let’s Go Stables, Daredevil was entered but forced to scratch from his intended debut in June of his juvenile season, then subsequently made his first start in September. Going 6 furlongs at Belmont that day, he romped by six lengths over a muddy/sealed surface as the heavy favorite for trainer Todd Pletcher. He wheeled back just three weeks later and outran the talented Upstart by two lengths in the Champagne-G1 (when the track was sloppy/sealed), with that pair 13 lengths clear of the likes of El Kabeir, Holy Boss and I Spent It. In a very visually impressive performance, Daredevil received only a couple of slaps on the shoulder from Javier Castellano off the turn, and held Upstart at bay with the jockey motionless through the final furlong. The effort earned Daredevil an astronomical Beyer Speed Figure of 107, the best for a juvenile since Uncle Mo and The Factor in 2010, and the best earned by a 2-year-old at a mile in over 20 years. After one final unsuccessful start at 2-years-old, Daredevil returned at 3 with a strong 2nd in the Swale-G2 at 7 furlongs, in which he couldn’t run down the speedy Ready For Rye but was 10 lengths clear of the rest, in very good time. Daredevil’s last start was a tiring 4th behind Frosted as the favorite in the Wood Memorial-G1 going a mile-and-an-eighth at Aqueduct.
Daredevil subsequently retired to WinStar Farm, who had purchased an ownership interest in the colt from Let’s Go Stables prior to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile-G1. A further share was sold to the China Horse Club before Daredevil’s sophomore season.
Daredevil was the second top-level runner sired by More Than Ready to race for Pletcher and Let’s Go Stables in two years, following on the heels of 2013 Haskell-G1 winner Verrazano, who was among the most popular first year sires in 2015 (and to whom we bred Atlantic Rainbow in 2015 and will breed Rough Water in 2017). These two North American sons appeared after More Than Ready had previously been known more for the exploits of his offspring “Down Under”. Daredevil is also the second Grade 1 winner produced by his dam, a daughter of Eclipse Champion 2-year-old Forty Niner. Daredevil’s second dam is a Grade 1 winner, and she has produced a pair of fast and precocious European Group stakes winners. She is also the granddam of Grade 1-winning sprinter Here Comes Ben.
A dark liver chestnut with a distinctive star on his forehead (which features prominently in the clever, superhero-invoking print ad campaign that WinStar has run for him), Daredevil is even more compact and close-coupled than his sire More Than Ready; it is easy to see where his early speed came from. And while his two brilliant victories and his popularity among Pletcher’s owners suggest that Daredevil had more talent than the public got to witness, skeptics will point to the track condition as having contributed to both of his victories (though a strong effort in the Swale on a fast track makes something of a counterargument). As it stands, Daredevil is a hard horse to whom to give full credit for the impressiveness of his signature win, since he never validated that effort thereafter – though we still have a hard time overlooking just how impressive his two victories were.
There are a couple of factors that make Rough Water a particularly attractive mate for Daredevil: first, her size. Rough Water is a tall, brawny, long-bodied mare with great bone who can hopefully help offset some of Daredevil’s compactness and lack of height. And second, Rough Water has already thrown a pair of winners by Daredevil’s sire More Than Ready, who were each good-looking enough to bring $300,000 at auction prior to their racing careers. One of the reasons that Rough Water has had success with More Than Ready – and will hopefully have success with Daredevil – is the presence in her pedigree of Hail To Reason, to whom More Than Ready traces to tail-male and who is the sire of Rough Water’s 3rd dam, and this inbreeding has proven effective for More Than Ready. Plus, Daredevil brings a second line of Hail To Reason (both through his son Halo).
The knocks on him notwithstanding, we are big fans of Daredevil and think he has a shot to make it, and are extremely excited to be expecting a foal from his first crop.