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Bloodlines: Hancock-Bred Mastery Shows Classic Promise

Mastery wins the Bob Hope Stakes

That man in Bourbon County. The one who bought in Sunday Silence at the Keeneland July sale, discovered that he had bought the colt for himself because the breeder didn’t want to retain him, and then watched the colt win two-thirds of the Triple Crown. Well, that horse-breeding Arthur Hancock is at it again, and he has not misplaced his lucky rabbit’s foot.

The latest stakes winner bred by Hancock is Mastery (by Candy Ride), who won the Grade 3 Bob Hope Stakes over 7 furlongs at Del Mar on Nov. 20. Unbeaten in two starts, Mastery is one of the progressive juveniles who will keep racing fans’ interest high in the coming months as he progresses toward the classics.

Last year, Hancock was the breeder of international champion Air Force Blue (War Front), a bay colt of striking quality and ability. Hancock sold Air Force Blue through his Stone Farm consignment for $490,000 at the 2014 Keeneland September sale to the lads at Coolmore. Racing in their dark, dark blue silks, Air Force Blue was a three-time winner at the Group 1 level as a 2-year-old, and he sealed the deal as his generation’s top juvenile performer last season with an impressive victory in the G1 Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket.

Virtually conceded the mile classics in 2016, the good-looking colt did not train on, never showed his proper form this season, and will enter stud at Coolmore’s Ashford Stud in Kentucky for the 2017 breeding year.

At this point in the colt’s career, Mastery is several steps behind where Air Force Blue was a year ago, but the handsome son of Candy Ride has looked like a top horse in the making with his two victories from two starts to date.

In his debut at Santa Anita on Oct. 22, Mastery rated in front on a narrow lead, then drew off in the stretch to win the six-furlong maiden special by 4 ¼ lengths in 1.09.56. In the Bob Hope, Mastery ran against horses who had won, but only one of them, the quick California Diamond, was well-backed against him at 3.10-to-1.

Breaking smoothly, Mastery held the lead narrowly in the early going, rated in front like a professional racehorse, and was farther from his competition at the end of the race than at any other point of call, winning by 1 ¼ lengths from California Diamond.

Now, there are hopes abounding for Mastery, and the colt’s victory makes him the second stakes winner out of his dam, the Old Trieste mare Steady Course.

At the 2009 Keeneland November breeding stock sale, Hancock acquired Steady Course. She was one of three broodmares Hancock bought from the Overbrook dispersal, and those were the only mares Hancock purchased at the November sale. Steady Course was the least expensive. The most costly was the Mr. Prospector mare Especially, dam of two graded stakes winners and in foal to Bernardini, at $350,000; second was the 10-years-younger Chatham (Maria’s Mon), in foal to Arch, for $190,000; and Steady Course was $20,000, although she was barren to Yes It’s True at the time of sale.

At the auction, Steady Course’s first foal, the non-winning 3-year-old in training Clear Sailing (Empire Maker), sold for $255,000, and the next season, as a 4-year-old, Clear Sailing became a stakes winner.

No, Mr. Hancock was not asleep at the wheel.

Mastery is the third foal Hancock has bred from Steady Course, and the May foal was such a striking yearling that he brought $425,000 at the 2015 Keeneland September sale. Cromwell Bloodstock, agent, bought Mastery, and the colt races for Cheyenne Stables LLC.

Steady Course is out of the stakes-placed Storm Cat mare Steady Cat, who is also the dam of the important racehorse and sire Jump Start (A.P. Indy). Steady Course is by A.P. Indy’s son Old Trieste; so the siblings are closely related.

The second dam of Steady Course produced four stakes horses, including stakes winner Apollo Cat (Storm Cat) and is a full sister to leading sire and broodmare sire Miswaki (Mr. Prospector).

With major performers and sires up close, this is a stallion pedigree, and if Mastery takes the next couple of steps successfully, this colt is going to be very exciting for everyone involved, as well as fans of the sport. And one of those cheering most robustly will be the man in Bourbon County.

If the breeder doesn’t carry a well-worn rabbit’s foot, I’m guessing he carries around the whole critter.

Frank Mitchell is author of Racehorse Breeding Theories, as well as the book Great Breeders and Their Methods: The Hancocks. In addition to writing the column “Sires and Dams” in Daily Racing Form for nearly 15 years, he has contributed articles to Thoroughbred Daily News, Thoroughbred Times, Thoroughbred Record, International Thoroughbred, and other major publications. In addition, Frank is chief of biomechanics for DataTrack International and is a hands-on caretaker of his own broodmares and foals in central Kentucky. Check out Frank’s lively Bloodstock in the Bluegrass blog.