Likely Eclipse Champion Turf Male Up to the Mark is one of the first-year stallions for 2024 that we are most excited about. Originally a $450,000 yearling purchase by Mike Repole & St. Elias Stables, he was highly thought of as a juvenile (he reportedly outworked eventual graded winner Wit at Saratoga as a juvenile prior to experiencing a series of minor setbacks which delayed his debut for a year) before eventually winning first-time out at Saratoga as a 3YO going 6 furlongs on dirt. Disappointing in a series of allowance races the rest of that season, he made his turf debut at Gulfstream in his first start as a 4YO, and rocketed home by 4 lengths in 1:33 for the mile. Another impressive Gulfstream allowance win followed, this time in 1:40 for 1-1/16 miles, before he stepped straight into Grade 1 company for his stakes debut, which was a 3rd place finish in Keeneland’s Maker’s Mark Mile, only a neck behind the reigning Breeders’ Cup Mile winner Modern Games.
Stretched out to 1-1/8 miles on the Kentucky Derby undercard, Up to the Mark scored a devastating win in the G1 Turf Classic, circling the field off the turn and drawing off with his wicked turn of foot. He showed that same acceleration again when taking the G1 Manhattan at 1-1/4 miles in 1:59 1/5 on Belmont Stakes Day, earning a 105 Beyer Speed Figure on the heels of his 103 at Churchill.
After missing some time with a minor issue over the summer, Up to the Mark shortened back up for Keeneland’s G1 Coolmore Turf Mile, and after an eventful trip was able to run down the favored Master of the Seas (who won the Breeders’ Cup Mile in his next start) just on the wire to win his third straight Grade 1.
Connections opted for the 1-1/2 mile Breeders’ Cup Turf over the Mile for him at Santa Anita to close his career, and Up to the Mark ran a game race to finish 2nd after a wide trip, beaten under a length by dual Derby winner Auguste Rodin, who snuck through with a ground-saving trip.
Up to the Mark retired with a career record of (12) 6-1-2, and earnings of $2,511,050.
Despite his success as a turf horse, Up to the Mark has an undeniably dirt pedigree, being a son of leading sire Not This Time (also the sire of Eclipse Champion, Travers winner and promising young stallion Epicenter, and himself a son of Giant’s Causeway, the best racing and sire son of Storm Cat) out of a mare by leading sire Ghostzapper (winner of the Met Mile and BC Classic), who is herself a full-sister to a dirt sprint stakes winner, the pair of them, in turn, out of the wickedly fast G1 Test winner Capote Belle. Given that he himself was a winner at 6 furlongs on dirt in his debut before eventually scoring top-level wins on turf at 8 furlongs, 9 furlongs and 10 furlongs, plus an excellent placing against the highest company at 12 furlongs, Up to the Mark possessed a dazzling amount of versatility in addition to his obvious quality and turn of foot. We think he has every shot to make it, and the package he brings to stud makes him strong value at his first-year $25,000 fee.
In Calling All Angels, he gets a mate who was purchased as a Goffs Orby yearling for the equivalent of $105k by DJ Stable, and made her first four starts as a 2YO in Ireland (including a 3rd over 5 furlongs at Naas). Shipped stateside for her sophomore campaign, she ran eight times here and won three races, plus was 2nd in three more. Her wins came at 7-1/2 furlongs on turf, 1-1/16 miles on turf, and at 1-1/16 miles on the all-weather at Gulfstream.
In addition to her own achievements, Calling All Angels is a half-sister to the G2W Duhail, by Lope de Vega – a European-based grandson of Giant’s Causeway, just like Up to the Mark. And Giant’s Causeway-line stallions, when crossed with Dark Angel mares like Calling All Angels, have so far produced a pair of stakes winners from just 18 starters, good for an “A++” on TrueNicks.
Also of note for this matchup, we think, is the fact that Calling All Angels’s dam, Single, is inbred 2×3 to the full-siblings Glorious Song and Devil’s Bag (so Rasmussen Factor inbreeding to their dam, Ballade), and Up to the Mark brings another instance of Glorious Song as the dam of Rahy (he the broodmare sire of Giant’s Causeway).
And then physically this should be a nice match of like-to-like between a pair of well-made, well-balanced, medium-sized horses.
All of which, hopefully, leads to a versatile, classy and commercial foal to kick off Calling All Angels’s breeding career in 2025!