The Grey Panel

Moon shines

Last week’s subject stallion , who posted his only victory in a maiden race at Hastings in New Zealand, can take heart from the result of this year’s Kentucky Derby, the winner of which () is a son of – who is now established as one of America’s best stallions after a racing career which yielded nothing more notable than victory in a maiden special weight at Hollywood Park, writes John Berry.

Like Zed, Malibu Moon gained his place at stud thanks to his pedigree. Granted that the limited evidence of his brief racing career was that he had plenty of ability, but his achievements fell well short of what is generally required to gain a colt a stallion’s berth. Being a son of the top-class sire was obviously a big recommendation for Malibu Moon, but what also helped to seal his place stud was the family from which he came.

Malibu Moon’s fourth dam was one of the more distinguished Kentucky-based broodmares of the ‘70s, when her French-trained Nearctic colt won the 2,000 Guineas in 1974 and her Irish-trained Nijinsky colt showed good form as a three-year-old in 1978, when he was placed at Ascot in both the King Edward VII Stakes over 12 furlongs and the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes over a mile. Those colts’ Swaps half-sister couldn’t match their achievements on the track, but she became a very good broodmare, breeding three high-class French-trained fillies. Her Green Dancer daughter won the Group One Prix de la Salamandre as a two-year-old in 1982 before being placed the following year in both the Irish 1,000 Guineas and the Poule d’Essai des Pouliches; while her two Nureyev daughters both showed top-class form, with winning the Group Two Prix d’Astarte in 1989 and the Group Three winner finishing second in 1985 in both the Irish 1,000 Guineas and the Prix de l’Abbaye de Longchamp.

Unsurprisingly, Maximova followed her dam and her grand-dam in becoming an excellent broodmare. Her best product was her French-trained Seattle Slew colt (winner of four Group races including the Group One Prix de la Foret in 1990) while her Blushing Groom colt won two Grade Three races in the States as a four-year-old in 1992. Four of her daughters bred horses who showed Group/Grade form, with the best of them being Malibu Moon’s dam , a daughter of Mr Prospector who preceded her stud career by proving herself France’s best two-year-old filly of 1994 when winning the Prix Marcel Boussac from Criquette Head-Maarek’s stable.

Macoumba won the Prix Imprudence at Evry first-up as a three-year-old in 1995, but could only finish a respectable sixth behind Harayir in the 1,000 Guineas three weeks later before deteriorating thereafter. She was retired at the end of the year and sold by Haras d’Etreham to American breeder B. Wayne Hughes. He brought her back to the land of her birth and sent her the following to spring to the 1992 Horse of the Year A P Indy at Lane’s End Farm. This was an interesting mating as, bearing in mind that A P Indy is a son of Seattle Slew, the resultant foal would obviously be very closely related to Septieme Ciel. As it turned out, the foal was a colt: Malibu Moon.

All told, Macoumba has bred (so far) 12 foals of racing age. Of these, nine have raced and six have won, including the stakes performers and (a three-year-old son of Distorted Humor who most recently contested the Grade Two American Turf Stakes at Churchill Downs the day before Orb won the Kentucky Derby). One can argue that Malibu Moon was potentially the most talented of all of Macoumba’s foals, but unfortunately his racing career was so brief that one cannot be definite .

Hughes retained Malibu Moon and put him into training in California with Mel Stute. The colt came up very quickly as a juvenile, prompting Stute to let him make his debut at the end of April 1999 in a two-year-olds’ maiden special weight at Hollywood Park. The colt finished second, beaten by , before going one better four weeks later, when he landed a five-furlong maiden special weight at Hollywood Park at the end of May, ridden by Alex Solis. And that, unfortunately, was that. The racing of early two-year-olds can be a war of attrition; and Malibu Moon became a casualty, injury bringing his career to a close in the spring of his two-year-old year. It is pure speculation how high in the pecking order he would have risen had he not gone amiss; just as it is pure speculation whether he would have remained sound enough to enjoy a longer career had he been subjected to a less hasty introduction to racing.

Once Malibu Moon had gone from hugely promising juvenile to ex-racehorse, Hughes was faced with the problem of what to do with him. Respecting as he did the horse and his lineage, he decided to stand him as a stallion. The horse would clearly be only a tiny fish in the big pond of Kentucky, so he found him a place at Country Life Farm in Maryland as a spring three-year-old in 2000, when his fee was $3,000. Happily, Malibu Moon wasted no time in repaying the faith which his owner had showed in him.

Malibu Moon’s first crop of two-year-olds in 2003 did very well and his second crop did even better, thus prompting Malibu Moon’s relocation to Castletown Lyons Stud in Kentucky. There he remained until Hughes (who had syndicated Malibu Moon but still remained his principal owner) moved him and (who had carried his colours to victory in the 2003 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile) to the historic Spendthrift Farm, which he had bought in 2004. That purchase, happily, had seen the historic property given a secure future following several years of uncertainty.

Founded by Leslie Combs II in 1936, Spendthrift had been the home of such great horses as , , , , and , but the downturn in the bloodstock market in the mid-‘80s had seen its fortunes nose-dive. Under the management of Leslie Combs’ son Brownell, Spendthrift had been floated on the stock exchange at $12 a share while America’s bloodstock market was going mad in 1983. Boom, though, quickly and inevitably turned to bust, and by 1986 the shares were down to $3. The stud was declared bankrupt in 1988, which must have been a huge source of sadness to its founder, who died two years later, aged 88. Happily, though, Spendthrift is now back in the major league as the result of the investment of Hughes (who had made his fortune in the storage business) and largely thanks to the merit of Malibu Moon.

Malibu Moon’s arrival at Spendthrift was particularly appropriate bearing in mind that the stud had been the home of his paternal grandsire . When won seven consecutive US sires’ premierships from 1963 to ’69 inclusive, his line looked set to dominate the sires’ table indefinitely – and when he recorded his eighth sires’ championship in 1973 (largely thanks to his Triple Crown-winning son ) that belief was further re-inforced. Bold Ruler’s line produced another Triple Crown winner four years later when his great-grandson Seattle Slew dominated the US Classic races of 1977 – but, sadly, the line nowadays thrives more or less only through Seattle Slew, whose lineage at one stage was considered to be ordinary but whose dam was represented by a British Classic winner (1983 2,000 Guineas winner ) almost exactly six years after Seattle Slew’s Kentucky Derby victory. Bold Ruler’s son (US champion sire in 1975 and ’76) has failed to establish a dynasty, as has , who scooped a rather surprising sires’ premiership in 1980. However, Seattle Slew’s influence has more than compensated for the many other Bold Ruler horses who have failed to leave a lasting sire-line legacy.

Seattle Slew won one US sires’ premiership (in 1984, largely thanks to the four Grade One victories posted that year by his top-class four-year-old son ). It was, though, another top-class son of Seattle Slew – , winner in 1992 of the Santa Anita Derby, Belmont Stakes and Breeders’ Cup Classic – who has proved to be easily the most successful Bold Ruler-line sire in the 21st century. Crucial to A P Indy’s two sires’ premierships (in 2003 and ’06) were the top-class gallopers and , and these two horses are now both established as high-class sires, as is the Vinery-based , sire of several Grade One winners including . The Grade Two-winning A P Indy horse did very well until dying prematurely last year at Claiborne, while happily his Wood Memorial-winning son has picked up the baton at Gainesway, where he stands for $125,000. Kentucky Derby weekend was particularly good for A P Indy horses, with (a former Grade One-winning juvenile who now stands at Ashford Stud) getting the Kentucky Oaks winner in his first crop and then, 24 hours later, Malibu Moon siring the Kentucky Derby winner Orb, from the same stud which Seattle Slew used to call home.

Malibu Moon’s career was kick-started by his first-crop daughter , a Grade Two-winning juvenile in California in 2003. His second crop contained (a gelding who won three graded stakes in Californian in 2004 including the Grade One Hollywood Futurity) and consequently Malibu Moon, despite his meagre racing record, was established as a serious stallion before he had even reached the age of eight. Further good horses emerged from that second crop including (winner of the Grade One Princess Rooney Handicap at Calder as a four-year-old in 2006). ’s victory in the Grade One CCA Oaks at Belmont in 2009 helped to raise Malibu Moon’s reputation further, and when another of his daughters (the two-year-old ) also landed a Grade One race at Belmont (the Frizette Stakes) later that year, it was plain that Malibu Moon deserved to be ranked among the best sires in the country.

Malibu Moon’s tally of individual Grade One winners rose to five when his five-year-old daughter won the Ogden Phipps Handicap at Belmont in June 2010, a fortnight before Devil May Care landed another Grade One victory by taking the Mother Goose Stakes on the same track. That summer’s Saragota Meet saw Devil May Care recording her third Grade One triumph by taking the CCA Oaks (which had been relocated from Belmont) and the four-year-old landing the Grade One Ruffian Handicap. Life At Ten won a second Grade One race (the Beldame Stakes at Belmont) later that year.

In 2011, Malibu Moon’s reputation as a sire of top-class and durable fillies was further boosted when the six-year-old (who had never won a graded stake at the start of the year) snared two Grade One races at Saratoga, the Ruffian Handicap and the Personal Ensign Handicap. Last year saw yet another top-level strike for a daughter of Malibu Moon: the three-year-old , winner of the Grade One Las Virgenes Stakes over a mile at Santa Anita. This year has seen any (groundless) suggestion that Malibu Moon might be solely a fillies’ sire blown out of the water, courtesy of the exploits of the mighty Orb, winner so far of the Fountain Of Youth Stakes, Florida Derby and now the Kentucky Derby..

Malibu Moon, who is still aged only 16, has worked his way up from the bottom of the pile to the top, in the process establishing himself as a top-class sire of two-year-olds, of three-year-olds and of older horses; of good winners across a wide spectrum of distances; and of colts, fillies and geldings. It is possible that he could sire good winners overseas and on turf, but it is unlikely that he will be given much of a chance to do so, bearing in mind that he has never sired a Group winner in Europe and that only seven of the 56 graded stakes in the United Stakes and Canada which his stock have won have been on turf. His stock at American yearlings sales are consequently sure to become ever more appealing to domestic purchasers, but seem less likely to be sought out by European buyers.

During the past 13 years, Malibu Moon’s stud fee has justifiably risen from $3,000 to $70,000 - and it would be no surprise to see it rise again in the future. In the fullness of time, he could end up proving as influential as his great father A P Indy (who is still alive at the age of 24 but who was retired from stud duties in 2011 after failing to get any of his small book of mares in foal) has been in keeping the Bold Ruler sire-line alive.

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