By: Griffin Coop
When Lookin at Lee hits the track for the 149th running of the Belmont Stakes on Saturday, he’ll have a chance to continue the impressive legacy of Canadian-bred sires in the Triple Crown.
Lookin at Lee is out of a mare by Canadian-bred Langfuhr who was the Champion Sprinter in Canada in 1996. If Lookin at Lee wins, he’ll be the 10th Belmont Stakes winner in the past 30 years to have a Canadian-bred sire or broodmare sire. The influence of Canadian-bred sires continues down the Triple Crown tote board as well. Since 2000, horses whose sire or broodmare sire was bred in Canada have finished in the top three in 13 of the last 17 runnings of the Belmont Stakes. Lookin at Lee, who finished second in the Kentucky Derby, is currently listed as the co-fourth choice at odds of 8-to-1.
Bred in Ontario by Gustav Schickedanz, Langfuhr won the Sovereign Award as Canada’s Champion Sprinter in 1996 and won the Metropolitan Handicap at Belmont Park in 1997. In all, the son of Danzig won $700,000 on the track before retiring to Lane’s End in Versailles, KY. At stud, Langfuhr has sired 2003 Canadian Triple Crown winner Wando and his progeny have won more than $107 million. As a broodmare sire, he’s sired 48 stakes winners and his progeny have earned more than $45 million.
“He’s been a very successful stallion and his continued influence through his daughters will no doubt play a role in the world’s most important races,” said Mike Cline, Farm Manager at Lane’s End Farm. “We’re very grateful to Mr. Schickedanz for the opportunity to stand him at stud.”
The recent impressive run of Canadian-bred sires on the Triple Crown began in 1986 when Ferdinand, a son of Canadian-bred Nijinksy II, won the Kentucky Derby. Ferdinand went on to finish second in the Preakness Stakes and third in the Belmont Stakes before winning the Breeders’ Cup Classic the following year.
Bred by E.P. Taylor of Windfields Farm in Ontario, Nijinsky II was the Champion two-year-old in England and Ireland in 1969 before winning the English Triple Crown in 1970. Upon retirement, he stood at Claiborne Farm in Paris, KY where he carried on the successful sire line of Taylor’s influential Canadian-bred sire Northern Dancer. Nijinsky II sired 155 stakes winners over the course of his career.
In addition to Ferdinand, Nijinsky II sired Colonial Affair who won the 1993 Belmont Stakes. A winner of more than $1.6 million in his career, Colonial Affair skipped the first two legs of the Triple Crown but defeated Kentucky Derby winner Sea Hero and Preakness winner Prairie Bayou in his Belmont Stakes triumph.
In addition to his impact on the Triple Crown, Nijinksy II sired 17 Champions, including winners of the English Derby, the English Guineas, the French Derby and Breeders’ Cup.
“Probably the biggest part of the influence (of Nijinksy II) outside of Ferdinand would have been the European turf part of it,” said Bernie Sams, Bloodstock Manager at Claiborne Farm.
Nijinsky II was very successful as a broodmare sire as well. He produced 244 stakes winners and more than $239 million as a broodmare sire and was the leading broodmare sire in 1993 and 1994.
“I think (breeding into the best families) would have a lot to do with it,” Sams said. “When the horse came in, he had been a very successful racehorse. And he was tremendously popular at that point and that helped him get the best mares and that helps him be a broodmare sire.”
Over the past 30 years, Deputy Minister has had the biggest impact on the Triple Crown of all the Canadian sires. Deputy Minister sired 1997 Belmont Stakes winner Touch Gold and was the broodmare sire for Thunder Gulch (1995 Kentucky Derby), Curlin (2007 Preakness Stakes), Sarava (2002 Belmont Stakes), Jazil (2006 Belmont Stakes) and Rags to Riches (2007 Belmont Stakes).
Bred by Centurion Farms in Ontario, Deputy Minister won 8 of 9 races in 1981 as a two-year-old at Woodbine, Belmont Park and The Meadowlands. For his efforts, he was named Champion Two-Year-Old in both Canada and the United States and was named Horse of the Year in Canada.
Deputy Minister began his breeding career in 1985 at Windfields Farm in Chesapeake City, MD before moving to Brookdale Farm in Versailles, KY in 1990. Before his death in 2004, Deputy Minister sired 90 stakes winners from 1,162 foals (8 percent) who earned more than $84 million, according to Equineline. As a broodmare sire, Deputy Minister produced 226 stakes winners and his progeny have earned more than $257 million, according to Equineline.
“What was remarkable about his consistently high ranking as a successful broodmare sire is that he did not breed into the best families until later in his stud career,” said Ric Waldman, former Vice President of Thoroughbred Operations at Windfields. “If you look at the leading broodmare sire lists, most of the leading broodmare sires are sires who stood for high stud fees, therefore breeding into the best families.”
While Deputy Minister was dominant as a two-year-old, his progeny have proven to be successful at a variety of ages and distances, including the longer distances of the American Classic races and the 1 ½-mile Belmont Stakes. In addition to Touch Gold, he sired three American Champion two-year-olds (Open Mind, Go for Wand and Dehere) and Canadian Hall of Famer Awesome Again who won the 1998 Breeders’ Cup Classic.
“Personally, I don’t think there was an indication that stamina was or was not an inherent quality with Deputy Minister,” Waldman said. “He was a precocious two-year-old champion. That suggested to me that he could be a successful sire. He was from the ultra prepotent Northern Dancer sire line and being by the underrated Vice Regent, who, himself sired successful runners at all distances.”
Also bred by E.P. Taylor, Vice Regent won only $6,215 on the track, but had so much success at as a stallion that he was inducted into the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame based on his success at stud. Vice Regent, who stood at Windfields in Ontario, sired 103 stakes winners and was the broodmare sire of 137 stakes winners, including Victory Gallop who edged Real Quiet by a nose in the 1998 Belmont Stakes and won $3.5 million on the track, according to Equineline.
“Deputy Minister’s sire, Vice Regent, who did not breed into the best families, also was notable by ranking relatively high as a broodmare sire, although not to the extent as Deputy Minster,” Waldman said.
Storm Bird is another Canadian-bred sire who had an impact on the Triple Crown as well as an incredible impact on the breeding industry as a whole. Also bred by Taylor, Storm Bird (by Northern Dancer) won four stakes races in 1980 and was named the Champion two-year-old in the Ireland and the United Kingdom. Storm Bird was retired to Coolmore America’s Ashford Stud in Versailles, KY where he stood for as much as $175,000 over 17 breeding seasons.
Storm Bird sired 1990 Preakness Stakes winner Summer Squall and was the broodmare sire of 1997 Belmont Stakes winner Thunder Gulch and 2004 Belmont Stakes winner Birdstone. Storm Bird also produced other successful stallions, including the legendary Storm Cat who sired Tabasco Cat, who won the 1994 Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes.
“He has had a huge influence on the breed all over the world,” said Richard Barry, Stallion Manager at Ashford Stud.
“Storm Cat on his own has created a legacy and is alongside Sadler’s as the strongest branch of Northern Dancer.”
Storm Bird’s legacy is apparent in the pedigrees of other stallions at Ashford, including American Triple Crown winner American Pharoah and European three-year-old Champion Giant’s Causeway.
“There have also been many other successful sires and broodmares by Storm Bird, you only need to look at the current stallion roster at Ashford to see his influence,” Barry said. “We have seven stallions on our roster that have Storm Bird in their lineage in addition to our pensioned stallion Thunder Gulch who is out of a daughter of Storm Bird.”
Smart Strike, bred by Sam-Son Farm of Milton, Ontario, has also influenced the Triple Crown. The bay stallion by Mr. Prospector won 6 of 8 starts for total earnings of $337,376 when he his career was cut short by a condylar fracture, but his greatest accomplishments were at stud. Smart Strike sired 2007 Preakness Stakes winner Curlin whose broodmare sire happened to be Deputy Minister.
Curlin would go on to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic and the Dubai World Cup while amassing total earnings of more than $10.5 million. Smart Strike also sired 2010 Preakness Stakes winner Lookin at Lucky and was the broodmare sire of 2009 Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird. Smart Strike stood at Lane’s End Farm in Versailles, KY before he passed away in 2015.
Another Canadian sire making an impact is Awesome Again who was bred in Ontario by Frank Stronach. Awesome Again won the 1998 Breeders’ Cup Classic and became the only winner of the race to sire a Breeders’ Cup Classic winner when his son, Ghostzapper, won the race in 2004. Awesome Again also sired Oxbow who won the 2013 Preakness Stakes and finished second in the Belmont Stakes. He also sired Paynter who finished 2nd in the 2012 Belmont Stakes. Awesome Again stands at Adena Springs in Paris, KY for a private stud fee.
Dancing Count, also bred by Taylor, was the broodmare sire for Hansel who won the 1991 Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes. Dancing Count (by Northern Dancer) is notable for having sired 20 stakes winners despite having only run in one race as a racehorse himself.