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First Crop Intrigue

Now, before I begin I must admit that this is based purely on what I have been studying as I follow American Pharoah as a sire. Given the last Triple Crown winner before American Pharoah was Affirmed back in 1978.

The first crop of any sire hitting the track is always an exciting time. It is also one of guess work.

One would assume that a trainer would simply try to replicate, so to speak, the sire’s career.

Which sounds reasonable. Except that people seem to forget that the mare factors in 50% of a foals DNA.

For example, his first winner won on Turf, in Ireland. Which makes sense, given his dam was a well-bred, multiple graded stakes winning, Irish bred mare.

However, it was a curve ball no one expected, given Pharoah never raced on the turf.

This continued throughout his first crop’s two-year-old season, but again, several of the mares had raced on the turf. At least once.

Granted, some fans were disappointed that his foals (so far) were dominating on the turf, while others were thrilled, since that was the one thing we never saw Pharoah do.

Regardless of what surface the foals were being run on, fans were excited to see his few dirt winners rack up points for the Kentucky Derby and Oaks and were especially excited to see them in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile/Juvenile Fillies.

Except that didn’t happen. As Pharoah had a small percentage of foals do well at two, and the only dirt one ended up with bad shin issues.

Instead, the year ended with three turf foals in the Breeders’ Cup. Two in the Juvenile Turf Sprint, and one in the Breeders’ Cup Fillies Turf. Where, one won, and the other two both finished third respectfully.

Another curve ball. Because, despite missing the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile thanks to a nasty hoof bruise, Pharoah ran well enough as a two-year-old, to receive Two-Year-Old Male Champion honors.

Not to worry though, as I mentioned earlier in the article, dealing with new sires can be guess work. We’ll simply get it with his second crop hitting the track for the first time.

This however, turned out to roughly be the same regarding them not doing well, and showing preference for the turf. With the exception of Van Gogh (USA). This US bred, Irish based (now three-year-old) ran seven times, in five graded stakes races, where he placed in three, before ending the year capturing a win in a grade one, earning him top two-year-old honors in Europe.

Now, I’m sure this has stumped you as much as it has trainers.

What now?

Well, as we continue to watch his foals as three-year-olds, not only were we getting more winners, but we were also getting more dirt winners as well. With one missing out on the Kentucky Derby due to Covid-19.

His foals are simply late developers.

Confusing, perhaps, unless you remember my earlier statement about 50% of the foals DNA coming from the dam.

While writing this, I did some quick research, and, it turns out, some of the dams didn’t start racing until they were three.

It would appear, that Pharoah stamps them, and gives them his sweet disposition, and incredible stride, while the dam gives them the rest.

Another interesting factor is how many of his foals have done well internationally.

Japan was the one with the Pharoah foal who could have been in the Kentucky Derby.

Another is doing well with his barrier trails (mock races). And while being gelded and given blinkers has probably helped, being swam, and trotting more than galloping could be an even stronger factor. As both are recognized as great ways to build muscle. Some believe both swimming and trotting are far superior ways of working a horse.

A star of France who’s light started to dim just a touch has been sent here, and, though he has only put in two workouts, isn’t doing half bad.

One that seemingly disappeared at two, has come back (now four) and has put in two stellar workouts.

My takeaway?

Always keep the dam in mind. They seem to be completely forgotten unless they were a famous racehorse or producer.

And throw out your pre-conceived notion of what a great sire is.

With American Pharoah, we’re finally getting more older horses racing, and just because they aren’t winning the more, “popular,” races (yet), they are winning, and winning some incredible races. A grade one is the highest-ranking graded race after all.

As for not having a Derby winner because his foals are proving to be better older. Well, neither Curlin nor Justify ran at two.

Curlin placed third in the Derby, won the Preakness, and finished second by a nose in the Belmont. While Justify won the Triple Crown.

As for why I chose American Pharoah for this article?

Aside from the fact that my page is dedicated to following his foals, in doing so, I do study other sires, and when it comes to the foals of the first Triple Crown winner in 37 years compared to other now third crop sires, it seems like owners try harder when it comes to making his foals a success. Whether that be a new trainer, new equipment, or selling them to a whole new country.

Now, I’m not saying that natural talent hasn’t played a key role either, or that I’m correct in terms of how his foals are handled compared to other sires. I’m simply making an observation.

Whatever the case may be, following the foals of American Pharoah has not only been fascinating, but incredibly educational as well.

Something of which I am very grateful for.


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