Flip back to the cover for a second and get a good look. I’ll wait. Some head shot, isn’t it? Jump Start, the region’s leading sire for 2014, is a beast.
He always was.
Back in 2001, I put him on the front page of The Saratoga Special newspaper after he won the only stakes of his career. He has the same look–big head, massive jowls my brother Sean described them as being “as big as picnic platters” and a general look of controlled aggression, speed, power. The Overbrook Farm homebred made a mockery of the Saratoga Special-G2 (the race), racing three wide throughout and turning for home–barely–with plenty of work to do. He caught Maryland-bred Heavy-weight Champ in deep stretch and rolled on by to win by three-quarters of a length as the favorite. The roll continued all the way back to the winner’s circle as the 2-year-old dragged Pat Day beyond the photo spot and up the stretch toward the quarter pole.
Trainer D. Wayne Lukas laughed about it afterward.
“It wasn’t too artistic, but he got the job done,” he said. “I really think a lot of this horse. He has great quality. He’s got looks and pedigree. He’s got a lot going for him. He has a beautiful mind. We’re pretty optimistic.”
As these things go, that was the last race Jump Start ever won.
Two weeks later, the son of A.P. Indy finished fifth in the Hopeful-G1 at Sara-toga. He was second in the Champagne-G1 in October and broke down while finishing 11th in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile-G1 to end his career. He underwent four hours of surgery to fix a fractured cannonbone and sesamoids, an operation so precarious that veterinarians feared for the horse’s life.
Nearly 14 years later, that left front leg still looks rough, but Jump Start really did live up to the opinions of Lukas and others.
Standing at Northview PA in Peach Bottom, Pa., the 16-year-old led all regional sires in 2014 earnings with $5,996,060, knocking off perennial leader Not For Love by more than $2.5 million. Jump Start finished nearly $400,000 ahead of Rockport Harbor–the region’s only stallions to pass $5 million in progeny earnings for the year.
Jump Start’s chief earner last year, Miss Behaviour, placed in a Grade 1 and bankrolled more than $500,000. The dark bay has sired 44 stakes winners (and counting), among them millionaires Prayer for Relief, Rail Trip and Pants On Fire. In South America, where he has five crops of racing age, Jump Start has sired Group 1 winners Idolo Porteno and Livingstone.
The horses can sprint (like Miss Behaviour, who won a Grade 2 at 6 furlongs) and stay (like Idolo Porteno, who won an Argentine Group 1 at 11?2 miles on the turf in December).
“In my opinion, and I know I’ve got a bias, he’s the best stallion outside of Kentucky,” said Northview’s Paul O’Loughlin. “I’m sure if he was down there they’d have no problem getting 15 to 20 thousand dollars for him. There’s been a big demand for him the last couple of years. I’m optimistic he’ll get close to 100 mares this year.”
Jump Start stands for $10,000 and offers a chance to tap into some interesting pedigree influences–his dam Steady Cat, a daughter of Storm Cat, won five races, earned $224,427 and placed in two graded stakes.
Some of that precocity comes out in the stallion, who spent much of Feb. 9 racing neighbor Smarty Jones up and down the paddock fence.
“I don’t know what was going on, they were running around like 2-year-olds which was great to see,” said O’Loughlin. “I think they know breeding season is about to start.”
Other than racing his stablemates, Jump Start rarely gets revved up these days. He eats, he sleeps, he spends time outside in his paddock. If he misses the warmth of winter in South America, he isn’t showing it. The old leg injury doesn’t bother him.
“He’s the model,” O’Loughlin said. “We’re lucky with all the stallions we have, but he’s easy to handle. He gets fed in the morning, goes out in the paddock, does his thing. He’s easy to catch, easy to bring in.”
After that risky surgery, Jump Start began his stallion career at Overbrook Farm in 2003. His first crop included 76 named foals, a number that has stayed fairly consistent through moves to Ghost Ridge Farm in 2010, Northview the next year and the shuttle seasons.
Every once in awhile, O’Loughlin stops and stares at the horse the way Lukas and the fans at Saratoga in 2001 must have.
“You look at him, he looks like a racehorse–good hip and shoulder on him, great head, good eye. He still looks like a racehorse.”