The fillies from Sportswriter’s first crop have earned $133,000 more in the Ontario Sire Stakes program than the freshman daughters of the next 17 OSS sires combined. The results for the colts are similar. The seven-year-old son of Artsplace has hijacked the program, marginalizing last year’s first crop star Shadow Play in the process. While some, like Sportswriter’s former trainer Casie Coleman, have evidenced an unwavering faith in his potential as a stallion—she bought nine of them at the sales—the murky climate for racing in Ontario hasn’t exactly provided a steady wave for Sporty to ride. He stood his first two seasons at Tara Hills for a $6,000 fee. That was reduced to $5,000 in 2013, when the marriage of gaming and racing was put in jeopardy by the Liberal Government. And his fee was reduced once more to $4,000 this year. These cuts were all introduced prior to his first issue hitting the track.
While Sportswriter’s daddy, Artsplace, fought the good fight on the track against Die Laughing, Precious Bunny and numerous others that came down from Meadow Skipper and struggled against Skipper’s multi-pronged breeding machine throughout his siring career, he also benefited in a big way from the mares in that family. Art Major, Steinam’s Place, Astreos, Dream Away, Armbro Amoretto, Modern Art, Artiscape and Armbro Amimate are just a few of the Artsplace sons and daughters out of Meadow Skipper line mares. The same good fortune has come Sportswriter’s way; almost all of his freshman winners result from this cross. Sportswriter sired half the fillies in the Battle of the Belles final and half the colts in the Battle of Waterloo—all ten are out of Skipper’s mares. And when all those SBSW ladies get a little older and are looking for an appropriate partner, Sporty may be their man.
Sportswriter took 7 of 8 at two and won his division on both sides of the border. He logged wins in the Metro, Nassagaweya and Champlain, and that propensity for early speed seems to have been passed on to his offspring. Yes, his NA Cup victory tops the list, but he had problems with his feet that year and had to be retired early. So, while he did race in the Meadowlands Pace—under duress due to an inability to cope with the hot weather—he didn’t have much of an opportunity to showcase himself in the States. That left Rock N Roll Heaven with the field pretty much to himself, with the incomplete One More Laugh serving as the opposition.
The Cup was Sportswriter’s only win at three; it put him over the million dollar mark in career earnings. However, like fellow Ontario stallion Big Jim, who also had his sophomore season cut short due to injury, Sporty did not have momentum working for him when he embarked on his career as a stallion. Heaven may have lost the Cup and the Pace, but in the fall he won the Jug, Tattersalls Pace, Messenger and Breeders Crown, greasing the skids for a very positive transition into the second phase of his career.
Sportswriter’s coming out party was Monday, July 7, when his colts swept the three $70,000 OSS-Gold legs at Mohawk. Bob Ben And John, a $17,000 Lexington purchase by Casie Coleman, won by four; another Coleman colt, Rollwiththepunches, was placed first after a disqualification; and Jody Jamieson won with his dad’s colt, Sporting The Look. All three out of Skipper line mares. Nine days later at Grand River Bob, Ben And John and Rollwiththepunches repeated while The Sporting Life broke on the last turn at 1/5 for JJ. No problem, Casie’s Southwind Indy, a Sportswriter out of the Rocknroll daughter of Armbro Wallflower, It’s Only Rocknroll, stepped in and took the winners share of the $70,000 purse. Six up and six down for the colts in the Gold Series.
The fillies got their shot on Tuesday, July 11 at Mohawk, and they swept their three OSS-Gold splits. Southwind Mischief, out of the Western Hanover mare, Mondiane Hanover, won the first for Chris Christoforou and Coleman. And Code One Hanover—another one—was second, followed by her paternal sister, pacesetter Lady Hill. Jamieson won the second split with the highly regarded Sports Chic, a half-sister to Rainbow Blue, and Coleman’s Sportswriter filly, Business As Usual, was second. Pop Writer took the third division for Doug McNair and Tony Alagna. As was the case with the colts, all of the above are out of Skipper line mares.
The following week at Grand River Sports Chic took another Gold split; Code One Hanover, a $75,000 yearling purchase at Lexington by Jack Darling, who was a good second the previous week, won another; and Yves Filion won the third with a $45,000 buy out of the very good Western ideal mare, Casino Nights. So the first twelve Gold splits all went to members of Sporty’s brood.
In Monday’s Battle of the Belles, five Sportswriter fillies made it into the final, and Win The Gold took the largest share of the $138,000 purse. She paid a generous $43.60. The top four finishers were all by you know who. And although five Sportswriter colts also made it to the final of the $217,140 Battle of Waterloo, Hall Of Famer John Campbell pulled off an upset with 7/1 Go Daddy Go, a son of Ponder. Sporting The Look was second and Bob Ben And John third.
Still, our enthusiasm for Sportswriter’s early domination of the Ontario program must be tempered by the fact that no pacing sire in that region is a player of any consequence on the Grand Circuit. Mach Three may be the sire of SBSW, but his get rarely stray from the OSS during their first two seasons of racing. Twenty-seven-year-old Camluck sired Little Brown Jug winner Michael’s Power, but he was an anomaly. As is the case with Mach Three, he doesn’t produce open stakes types. And the same can be said of new kid on the block, Shadow Play.
Sportswriter’s second freshman class will get a taste of what it’s like in the more competitive programs next year when Bettor’s Delight’s only Canadian crop competes in the OSS. Sporty is obviously for real, but we can’t pass over the fact that there’s no equivalency between the OSS and the PASS or the NYSS.
Staking will also come into play. As one would expect, most of his better sons were nominated to the Metro, but fewer than half of his performing sons and daughters were staked to the Breeders Crown and few have been nominated to next year’s Meadowlands Pace. Bob Ben And John, who may be the best, was not staked to the Metro, BC or Pace. His early success should trigger a correction. If not, he can’t move beyond regional stallion status. We’ve watched Always B Miki’s futile attempt to expand the playing field for Always A Virgin, but he isn’t staked to much and neither are most of his paternal brothers and sisters. Sports Bettor is staked to the Metro Pace, Breeders Crown and Meadowlands Pace, but it takes lots of those to create a reputation in the open realm.