Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Life and Legacy of Grand Slam

Grand Slam's daughter Millionreasonswhy winning The Matron-G2
Photo:  Adam Coglianese, Courtesy of NYRA

Grand Slam, a regally bred son of champion sire Gone West who demonstrated brilliance and tenacity on the track, and as a sire, passed those attributes on to his progeny, died suddenly yesterday, felled by heart failure.  The 17-year-old stallion, who has thus far sired 73 stakes winners from 11 crops of racing age, was standing at Coolmore’s Ashford Stud in Versailles, Kentucky at the time of his death, for a published fee of $12,000. 

Grand Slam’s unexpected passing came just two days after the untimely demise of Coolmore’s world-class sire, Montjeu, a 16-year-old champion son of Chef-de-Race Sadler’s Wells who stood at the group’s main farm in Ireland.

Bred by Overbrook Farm, Grand Slam was a $300,000 Keeneland yearling, purchased by the partnership of Robert and Christina Baker, William Mack, and David Cornstein, who raced him under the tutelage of Wayne Lukas. 

Grand Slam signaled from the outset that he was something special, breaking his maiden by 11 lengths in his first start while equaling the Belmont track record (1:03.06) for five and a half furlongs. He went on to triumph in the Grade I Futurity and Champagne, and seemed invincible until the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, when he suffered a gash to his hind leg that not only took him out of the race, but almost ended his career.

He was never quite the same again, though his sheer courage and ability shone through again at three, when he captured the nine-furlong Peter Pan at Belmont and ignited hopes that he was good as new.  Alas, that wasn’t true.  But Grand Slam acquitted himself with honor for the rest of that season, gutting out second-place finishes in the six-furlong Breeders’ Cup Sprint-G1, the one-mile Jerome-G2, and the nine-furlong Swaps-G2, as well as a third-place effort in the Haskell. 

Visionaire winning the King's Bishop-G1 at Saratoga
Photo:  Adam Coglianese, Courtesy of NYRA
At stud, Grand Slam has sired 26 graded stakes winners, many of whom were produced from mares who, like his own dam, Bright Candles (by El Gran Senor), descend from Northern Dancer. They include Jim Dandy-G2 winner Strong Hope (out of Shining Through, by Deputy Minister), King’s Bishop-G1 victor Visionaire (out of Scarlet Tango, by French Deputy), Brooklyn Handicap-G2 winner Limehouse (out of Dixieland Blues, by Dixieland Band), Mr. Prospector-G3 winner Apriority (out of Midway Squall, by Storm Bird), Daytona-G3 turf specialist Dilemma (out of Heavenly Cat, by Tabasco Cat), and Kentucky Cup Classic-G2 hero and recent Old Friends retiree, Ball Four (out of Making Faces, by Lyphard).

Malibu Prayer winning the Ruffian-G1 at Saratoga
Photo:  Adam Coglianese, Courtesy of NYRA
Grand Slam has also shown an affinity with A. P. Indy, having sired the current Kentucky Oaks hopeful Millionreasonswhy (out of In Secure, by A. P. Indy), winner of the Matron-G2 at two and of the Wide Country Stakes at Laurel last month.  Grand Slam’s stakes-winning daughter, Grand Prayer, who brought $1 million at last November’s Edward P. Evans dispersal at Keeneland (in foal to Medaglia D’Oro), produced the highly regarded Grade I winner Malibu Prayer (by A. P. Indy), who sold for $2 million (in foal to Smart Strike) at the same dispersal.  Both mares were purchased by Besilu Stables.

In the sales ring, Grand Slam’s individuals seem to get better as they mature.  His 137 weanlings sold at auction have averaged $88,613, his 719 yearlings, $110,281, and his 191 two-year-olds, $127,412.  Grand Slam’s colts have typically brought significantly more than his fillies, and for the most part, they have outshone his fillies on the racetrack, too.  He will have one of each sex in next week’s Keeneland April Two-Year-Olds-in-Training Sale.  A dark bay or brown colt out of the Awesome Again mare, Tyne, will be offered as Hip #81, and a chestnut filly named, “Work for a Living,” out of the Tiznow mare, Tiz Maya, is catalogued as Hip #77; she was a $4500 Keeneland September yearling.

Through March 25th, Grand Slam had sired 798 winners, with average earnings per starter of over $60,000.  At the time of the stallion’s death, Coolmore’s website sported a banner broadcasting his achievement in siring four three-year-old stakes winners in just the last three weeks:  Tribune (Fr) (out of Tanguista, by War Chant); Slamit (out of Excedius, by Seattle Dancer), Millionreasonswhy, and The Lumber Guy (out of Boltono, by Unbridled’s Song).  He will be missed.

No comments:

Post a Comment