This time of year must bring a glow of satisfaction to all at WinStar Farm in Kentucky with the memory that the last weekend of March in 2009 saw the WinStar owned and bred Well Armed victorious in the world's richest race, the Dubai World Cup writes John Berry.
That victory, of course, represents merely one of many famous races to have fallen to WinStar horses. Well Armed's sire Tiznow keeps coming up with Grade One horses - including two Grade One winners, Morning Line and Tizway, in 2011 - while things are ticking along very nicely for the other WinStar sires too. Distorted Humor remains among the elite, not least thanks to the 2011 Breeders' Cup Classic victory of his son Drosselmeyer, who has now joined his father on the WinStar roster. Bellamy Road also hit the Grade One bull's eye last year, courtesy of Toby's Corner. One young WinStar sire who has yet to record his first Grade/Group One winner is Artie Schiller, but his turn will surely come - and the exciting thing is that it could just as easily come in either hemisphere. The month of March has seen the young sire represented by a Grade/Group One place-getter in both California and Sydney and, with his oldest offspring aged only four in America and three in Australia, it is surely a case of when, rather than if, he will break through at the highest level.
Artie Schiller is, of course, perfectly entitled to sire top-class winners, because he was a top-class horse himself. In an honorable 22-race career over four seasons, Artie Schiller finished in the first three 18 times, posting his best performance as a four-year-old when landing the Breeders' Cup Mile in 2005 at his home track, Belmont Park.
Although bred by a French stud (Haras du Mezeray) Artie Schiller is a true US-bred, coming from a family bursting with high-class American runners. His dam Hidden Light, a daughter of the Triple Grade One winner Majestic Light, won two Grade One races in California, as did her full-brother Prince True; while Hidden Light's dam Tallahto won three Grade Ones in that state. The best horse in the family was also Californian-trained, even if one of his finest hours came elsewhere: the Charlie Whittingham-trained Ferdinand headed east to win the Kentucky Derby in 1986 before posting an even greater achievement closer to home the following year, beating that year's Kentucky Derby winner Alysheba in a memorable Breeders' Cup Classic at Hollywood Park. That latter victory resulted in Ferdinand's dam Banja Luka (a half-sister to Tallahto) being voted Kentucky Broodmare of the Year for 1987. With such a background, one might have expected two things: that Artie Schiller would have fetched more than the $67,000 which he realised at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale in 2002, and that he would have excelled on dirt, which was not the case.
The key to both points surely lies in Artie Schiller's sire, El Prado. What we now know about El Prado (who died in 2009) is that ultimately he made a massive success of his stud career, as a sire of both runners and sires. El Prado now ranks as sire of two proven top-class stallions, Medaglia D'oro and Kitten's Joy. However, in 2002 he would not have been the height of fashion in the eyes of many buyers at Keeneland. Even though both of his parents were American-bred, El Prado would have been seen as a very European horse and as a big influence for turf racing, neither of which factors would have helped him in the eyes of many yearling purchasers at Keeneland. A son of two Vincent O'Brien-trained Irish Classic winners (his sire Sadler's Wells won the Irish 2,000 Guineas in 1984 and his dam Lady Capulet won the Irish 1,000 Guineas in 1977) El Prado, who was trained by O'Brien too, had been Ireland's champion two-year-old of 1991 before conspicuously failing to 'train on' the following year. It is probably fair to say that he went to stud in America by default, because European breeders might have been put off by his dire form in his second season, and also by the fact that, on the one occasion during his seemingly glorious two-year-old campaign on which he ventured outside Ireland, he could only finish twelfth in a sales race at Newmarket. Furthermore, by the time that Artie Schiller went to the yearling sales, El Prado had been represented by six crops on the racecourse, but had only just managed to sire a first Grade One winner. It is easy, therefore, to understand why yearlings by El Prado did not necessarily attract much attention at the time.
Perceptions of El Prado changed very quickly shortly afterwards, though. By the end of 2002, he had topped America's General Sires' Table, thanks largely to the exploits of Medaglia D'Oro, who finished second in that year's Breeders' Cup Classic, and would see his stud fee more than doubled for the following spring. He has continued to be represented by top-class horses regularly since then. However, despite Medaglia D'Oro having recorded all his many top-class performances on dirt, El Prado has remained partially synonymous with turf racing, as befits a son of Sadler's Wells. Borrego, winner of the Jockey Club Gold Cup in 2005, followed Medaglia D'Oro in excelling on dirt, but the likes of Kitten's Joy, Paddy O'prado and (in Europe) Spanish Moon have all consolidated El Prado's reputation as a turf sire. And that is exactly what Artie Schiller did, too.
Put into training in New York with Jimmy Jerkens, Artie Schiller contested five races as a two-year-old, four on his home ground at Belmont and one at nearby Aqueduct. He ran well each time, with two wins (over six and eight furlongs), a second, a third and a fourth. However, he was some way short of the best of his generation at that stage: the only time that he ventured into graded stakes company came on his final outing of the year when, although finishing fourth of the 11 runners, he was beaten more than 15 lengths by the winner Read The Footnotes. That run, though, in the Grade Two Remsen Stakes at Aqueduct, came on one of his rare sorties onto dirt, and it clearly was not his true form.
Sent down to Florida for the winter, Artie Schiller ran on dirt again on his first start as a three-year-old and again ran disappointingly, finishing only fourth of eight when favourite for an ungraded stake. Consequently, he never ran on dirt again - and he never looked back. In his next six races, between May and September of 2004, Artie Schiller recorded five victories (over eight and nine furlongs) and one second place (when beaten by his top-class paternal half-brother Kitten's Joy when tried over 10 furlongs in a Grade Three race at Colonial Downs). The best of these five victories came when he landed wide-margin wins in Grade Two events at Saratoga and Belmont, most notably breaking the 9-furlong turf track record at the latter track when recording 1:45.5 under a big weight in the Jamaica Handicap. Consequently, Artie Schiller headed off to the Breeders' Cup Meeting at Lone Star Park in Texas as seemingly a leading hope. However, that venture led to disappointment: he started joint-favourite in the Breeders' Cup Mile, but finished among the tail-enders behind Singletary.
Artie Schiller's four-year-old season in 2005 represented another very successful campaign. He couldn't match the five wins which he had recorded the previous term, but his haul of three victories was still very good - especially as two of his wins came in Grade Two company and one, on his final run of the year, came in the highest company of all: he won the Breeders' Cup Mile at Belmont, passing the post three quarters of a length clear of Leroidesanimaux, with the likes of Gorella, Whipper, Singletary, Ad Valorem and Valixir further behind.
Artie Schiller remained in training as a five-year-old in 2006, but failed to match that level of achievement. He only ran three times that year, with his best performance coming when he finished second, beaten only a nose by the subsequent Breeders' Cup Mile winner Miesque's Approval, in the Grade Two Maker's Mark Mile at Keeneland, giving 6lb to the winner. Stumps were drawn on his career after he had been a beaten odds-on favourite in a Grade Two race at Saratoga in the summer, and he headed off to Hurricane Hall in Kentucky to start his stud career early in 2007, with his passage booked for a southern hemisphere stint at the Independent Stallion Station in Victoria in the second half of the year.
Unsurprisingly, Artie Schiller now looks well on the way to a successful stud career. The other stallions in his immediate family had not thrived particularly at stud (Ferdinand in Japan and Prince True in Australia) but he is doing very well. Best of his first American-bred juveniles was Anne's Beauty, a Listed winner in Canada in 2010, but when this crop turned three a proper star emerged. Mr Commons finished third in the Grade One Santa Anita Derby as a spring three-year-old and has continued to post good runs ever since then. He looks better than ever this year as a four-year-old, having already landed the Grade Two Arcadia Handicap over a mile at Santa Anita and, most recently, having finished second (beaten only a neck by his Arcadia Handicap victim Willyconker) in the Grade One Frank E. Kilroe Mile over the same course and distance on firm turf.
The first notable performance in New York from a son or daughter or Artie Schiller was an interesting one: his first-crop daughter Parting Words finished third as a three-year-old in last year's Grade Two Sands Point Stakes on a firm turf track at Belmont, a race in which the winner (Winter Memories) was sired by El Prado and the runner-up (Celestial Kitten) was by another El Prado stallion, Kitten's Joy. The same crop also contained another three-year-old to show good form in New York: Irish Art, winner of the Uniformity Stakes at Saratoga.
Two stakes winners have so far emerged from Artie Schiller's first Australian crop: Secret Liaison, a three-year-old Listed winner at Sandown over 1400m last November, and Moving Money, winner of the Tasmanian Guineas over 1600m at Launceston in January. Moving Money's trainer Leon Macdonald, who is noted for his skill in unearthing high-class horses from relatively unfashionable stallions, seems to be a big fan of Artie Schiller. He has had two recent two-year-old winners by him, including Southern Strike, a half-sister to the stable's Caulfield Cup winner Southern Speed. A third member of Artie Schiller's first Australian crop, the Gai Waterhouse-trained Laser Hawk, looks sure shortly to become a stakes winner too (especially as the stock of Artie Schiller look as if they generally follow their father's example of improving as they get older). On his most recent run, Laser Hawk finished third, beaten only half a length, behind the multiple Group One winner Mosheen in the Group One Randwick Guineas over 1600m in Sydney.
Artie Schiller is currently in eighth place on America's third-season sires' table and in fourth place in the second-season sires' table in Australia, where he is one of only two second-season sires to have been represented by more than one stakes winner this term. All things considered, WinStar (whose roster Artie Schiller joined only this year) must be very happy with the way that his career is progressing.
HOOFNOTE - Artie Schiller duly sired his first Group One winner four days after this article went on-line, Laser Hawk landing the Rosehill Guineas in Sydney. The same day, incidentally, also saw the Artie Schiller two-year-old Big Chill land the Group Three Breeders' Stakes in Adelaide.