The two-day meeting at Pimlico was marked mainly by the Preakness Stakes, in which Exaggerator blew the first-in-life defeat to the Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist. However, the remaining seven graded races deserved attention too, including the Friday-run Pimlico Distaff Stakes (Gr.3), taken by a ½ length by the four-year-old Ahh Chocolate, the first black-type winner and so-far the most successful thoroughbred out of a dam by Saint Liam.
The American breeding has not sustained many such losses in the course of its history that could be compared to the untimely death of Saint Ballado’s son Saint Liam. The stallion got fatally injured on his way from the paddock at Lane’s End Farm in August 2006. The stallion who won the Eclipse Award for the Best Older Male Horse and even Horse of the Year a few months before was just six and had just one season at stud.
Bred by Edward P. Evans and bought as a yearling at the Fasig Tipton Sale at Saratoga for 130,000 dollars, he was not a precocious horse. He did not race at two and at three his biggest achievement was the second place in the Iowa Derby. At four, however, he made his way among the elite, finishing, late in the season, second in the Woodward Stakes (Gr.1) behind Ghostzapper, who went on to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic six weeks later, and he closed the season by winning the Clark Handicap (Gr.2). At five his career reached its peak. Of six runs in Gr.1 races he scored four wins and finished second once. He won the Donn Handicap, Stephen Foster Handicap, Woodward Stakes and then the Breeders’ Cup Classic as an excellent culmination of his career. He had a total of twenty races, of which he won nine, placed second in six and third in one. He earned 4,456,995 dollars.
His first, and sadly his last, season at stud was successful. With a fee of USD 50,000, Saint Liam, the most successful son of Saint Ballado and at the time the most promising representative of the Halo line at stud in America, was an attractive choice for breeders who searched for stallions of lines different from Mr Prospector and Northern Dancer. Thus the stallion was sent 115 mares and 98 foals were born.
As they began arriving at the racecourse, the untimely death of Saint Liam proved to be a yet bigger loss than at the time when the horse was unfortunately injured. Of 82 progeny who made it to the racecourse, fourteen of them scored in black-type races, nine won a black-type races, of which four were successful in Graded races. The high percentage of black-type progeny is a great advertisement for every stallion but Saint Liam made it even more special by a striking individuality among them, the four-time Gr.1 winner Havre de Grace, who was awarded not only the Best Older Female Horse but also, same as her sire, the Horse of the Year title.
Saint Liam could not enjoy the boost of demand following upon the achievements of the first crop and, unfortunately, neither could any of his sons. His black-type progeny consisted of five mares and three geldings, the only colt among them, the two-time Gr.2 winner at two Buddy’s Saint, had to be euthanised after fracturing his left shoulder in workout at Belmont Park. The blood of Saint Liam at stud was thus borne exclusively by his daughters.
The first progeny of his daughters were born as early as 2011, higher numbers arrived in next years. So far, twenty progeny of his daughters have raced, half of them won, two even in black-type races. Saint Liam’s name featured for the first time in the pedigree of a stakes winner as the damsire on November 26, 2015, when the two-time black-type placed Ahh Chocolate, out of Ahh unplaced in four races, won the Falls City Handicap at Churchill Downs. Ahh Chocolate, who commanded attention on Friday by winning the Pimlico Distaff Stakes, is so far the most successful progeny of Saint Liam’s daughters. Sharp Azteca, out of the unraced half-sister of the G2 winner Mint Lane, So Sharp, has achieved a graded win too as he won the Gr.3 Pat Day Mile Stakes on May 7. A place in a black-type race has been also achieved by the three-year-old Abbot, out of the unraced Saintly Sister, half-sister of the Gr.2 winner Dixie City.
The first black-type achievements for Saint Liam as damsire were thus brought by the progeny of his daughters who either had not raced or had not been successful on the racecourse. Although many racing champions resulted in a big disappointment at stud, it is impossible not to look forward to the progeny mainly of Havre de Grace, who was sold to stud for one of the biggest sums in history – 10 million dollars. This year, her first progeny could appear on the racecourse, the two-year-old Heavenly Grace, sired by Tapit. Last year, Havre de Grace gave birth to a colt by War Front and then partnered Tapit again – the filly was foaled this year. Maybe some of them, or quite someone else, will draw attention to Saint Liam’s name even more strongly than Ahh Chocolate has done now.