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Evans families burning bright

DISPERSALS are invariably treasure troves for breeders and the one offered by the estate of Edward Evans at Keeneland in 2011 was no different.

Evans had bred numerous talented horses at his Spring Hill Farm in Virginia, among them American Horse of the Year Saint Liam, four-time Grade 1 winner Quality Road and Irish champion Minstrella. Many of his families were the product of thoughtful cultivation over time and it stood to reason that the complete dispersal of his stock would attract many of the bloodstock world’s big hitters.

In all, the dispersal – 51 yearlings and 174 mares, weanlings and horses of racing age – realised close to $48 million when offered through Lane’s End Farm at the 2011 Keeneland September and November Sales. And it didn’t take long for the rewards to roll in.

Barronstown Stud, for example, went to $360,000 for More Hennessy in foal to Quality Road; the resulting foal was Prix Morny runner-up Hootenanny.

Significantly more expensive was Grade 1 winner Christmas Kid, who was knocked down to Aisling Duignan for $4.2 million. Coolmore later sent her to Galileo, to whom she foaled Leopardstown 2,000 Guineas Trial winner Black Sea.

The biggest player, however, was Benjamin Leon of Besilu Stables, then a rapidly emerging force in the American market who outlaid $11.4 million for six lots. They included Saint Liam’s then 18-year-old dam Quiet Dance, who cost $800,000, and two of her daughters in Listed winner Quiet Giant, a daughter of Giant’s Causeway who cost $3 million, and her Medaglia d’Oro weanling, who cost $2.6 million.

It was a bold investment to make but as anticipated, it significantly enhanced Leon’s fledgling programme; the Medaglia d’Oro weanling developed into the Grade 1-placed Miss Besilu while Quiet Giant gifted Besilu with the brilliant Gun Runner.

Gun Runner, the first foal out of Quiet Giant, burst on to the Classic scene last spring at Fair Grounds when taking the Risen Star Stakes and Louisiana Derby. He wasn’t disgraced in third behind Nyquist in the Kentucky Derby, then bounced back to take the Matt Winn Stakes and after creditable placed efforts in the Travers Stakes and Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, landed that coveted Grade 1 win in the Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs.

Last year, however, the Candy Ride colt took it to another level for Steve Asmussen, reeling off straight Grade 1 wide-margin victories in the Stephen Foster Handicap, Whitney Stakes, Woodward Stakes and Breeders’ Cup Classic. Unsurprisingly, he was at short odds to sign off his career with victory in the Pegasus World Cup and he didn’t disappoint, bounding clear of West Coast for a clear cut success. A stud career at Three Chimneys Farm, where he promises to be popular at $70,000, now beckons.

Gun Runner ended 2017 as America’s Horse of the Year, thereby becoming the second horse within the immediate generations of his family to gain such a title following Saint Liam, a half-brother to Gun Runner’s dam Quiet Giant.

Like Gun Runner, Evans’ homebred was a highly tried three-year-old who thrived as an older horse. In Saint Liam’s case, it wasn’t until a five-year-old that he hit full stride, with the son of Saint Ballado pulling off a major quartet of victories in the Donn Handicap, Stephen Foster Handicap, Woodward Stakes and Breeders’ Cup Classic.

Saint Liam was retired to Lane’s End Farm following that victory but sadly survived only one season. He left behind 98 foals but one of them was champion Havre De Grace while he has already left some mark through his daughters as the Graded stakes winners Sharp Azteca and Ahh Chocolate testify.

Saint Liam was the best of five stakes horses out of Quiet Dance, herself a Listed winner at Pimlico. The aforementioned Grade 1-placed Miss Besilu was high-class on her day as were Congressionalhonor, winner of the 2004 Grade 3 Bay Meadows Derby, and the 2011 Busanda Stakes winner Dance Quietly. Another winning daughter, Quiet Now, is the dam of last year’s Grade 2 San Clemente Handicap runner-up Lull while the unraced Beatem Buster bred 2011 Grade 1 Mother Goose Stakes winner Buster’s Ready, now a member of the Wertheimers broodmare band.

Evans had bought into this family back in the early 1970’s with the purchase of Gun Runner’s fourth dam Flight Dancer at Tattersalls. A Misty Flight granddaughter of multiple Grade 1 winner Gallorette and a half-sister to 1967 Irish St Leger runner-up Dancing Moss, Flight Dancer had run third in the 1970 Queen Mary Stakes and duly became an important mare for Evans as the dam of his champion Irish two-year-old Minstrella and Grade 2 winner Misty Gallore.

Minstrella’s championship two-year-old season in 1986 comprised wins in the Heinz 57 Phoenix, Moyglare Stud and Cheveley Park Stakes, the latter of which she was awarded at the controversial expense of Forest Flower.

Both Minstrella and Misty Gallore – the granddam of successful sire Silver Ghost – became influential mares in their own right but neither can quite match the influence of Flight Dancer’s final filly, Misty Dancer. The daughter of Lyphard failed to trouble the judge in three starts but more than made up for it at stud, primarily as the dam of Quiet Dance and granddam of Grade 1 winner Rolling Fog.

Thus, Gun Runner has quite the foundation to support him at stud. It also doesn’t hurt that he is a son of the Argentinean-bred Candy Ride – a modern day Forli of sorts whose 12 Grade 1 winners also include successful young sire Twirling Candy – and out of a Giant’s Causeway mare; indeed Candy Ride has long fared well with Storm Cat line mares, as fellow Grade 1 winners Capt Candyman Can, Evita Argentina, Shared Belief and Sidney’s Candy illustrate.

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