High hopes for Bullet Train in challenging market

By his estimation, John Greely IV can’t recall a time when such a high number of first-year stallions were expected to flood the Kentucky market for the upcoming breeding season.

Challenging as the current climate may still be for the state’s signature industry, the early reaction generated by a certain new sire at Greely’s Wintergreen Stallion Station has the longtime horseman bursting with optimism regarding his prospects.

Less than a week after it was announced that Group III winner Bullet Train, a three-quarter brother to undefeated European champion Frankel, would enter stud for 2013 at Wintergreen for $7,500, the Midway-based operation formally introduced the blue-blooded son of Sadler’s Wells to Kentucky breeders during an open house on Tuesday.

Like his celebrated sibling, Bullet Train was bred and campaigned by Juddmonte Farms but gained most of his on-track notoriety by regularly serving as his younger brother’s pacesetter. With Frankel himself set to enter stud this coming year at Juddmonte’s Banstead Manor Stud in England for nearly $200,000, the move to bring Bullet Train stateside gives the 5-year-old a chance to standout among American breeders instead of being just another commodity in Europe.

“This year to me is funnier than I’ve ever seen because there are more first year stallions in Kentucky than I can remember in the last 10-20 years and obviously there are less mares in the  state of Kentucky because of our political climate,” Greely said Tuesday. “So I think it’s going to be a difficult year but I’ve been overrun and thrilled with the interest (Bullet Train) has drawn. We’ve had word from Deauville, Newmarket as well as California, New Jersey and all up and down the East Coast.

“We’re offering a product no one else can get. He’s not another Grade I winner on the dirt, he’s got a little bit more of an intangible than I can see a lot of these other first year stallions can get. People are clamoring to us before we can even reach out to clamor to them.”

While speed and precocity on dirt has long been the goal of the American breeder, now may be an ideal a time for Bullet Train to gain support on this side of the ocean. When The Jockey  Club released its report of mares bred for 2012, Ashford Stud’s Cape Blanco and Ramsey Farm’s Kitten’s Joy – both champion turf horses with European bloodlines – ranked  Nos. 1 and 3 in terms of productivity with 220 and 213 mares bred, respectively.

Bullet Train didn’t come close to those two in terms of on-track ability but the strength of his family, and his brother’s name, figures to catch more than a few eyes. Like Frankel, Cape Blanco is by Coolmore Ireland’s Galileo – himself a son of Sadler’s Wells and widely considered the best sire in the world. While Galileo has had his greatest impact overseas, the fact American breeders have shown a willingness to get on board with his turf-strong influence could be a mark in Bullet Train’s favor as well.

“I think (the attitude toward turf sires) is definitely turning here,” Greely said. “It hasn’t turned 100 percent or done a complete 180 but people just want a good stallion. They want some blood that they don’t have, something new as as long as it can throw a racehorse. You go to the sales and if you have a good racehorse, it doesn’t matter who they’re by, they’ll buy it.

“If you look at (Darley sire) Medaglia d’Oro, you had that whole sire line – El Prado, by Sadler’s Wells. El Prado was basically a turf horse and he has thrown dirt and turf. So there is nothing that would restrain Bullet Train to the turf. That being said, if he ends up being the next Kitten’s Joy, we’d all be thrilled.”

Out of the Danehill mare Kind, Bullet Train’s arrival in the states was no overnight deal as bloodstock agent Bob Feld – who will manage the stallion – first approached Greely about the possibility months ago.

“If (Juddmonte) has got the three-quarter brother who is the Cartier Horse of the Year (in Frankel), they have their focus there,” Greely said. “Where as Bullet Train comes in and he’ll be the focus here. We expected him to be well received but this is well beyond my expectations.”