The number of new foreign-bred and/or primarily foreign-raced stallions standing in Kentucky keeps increasing incrementally each year, it seems. At the moment the only two active leading sires bred or raced abroad on the Top 40 General Sire list of 2015 are Lane’s End’s Candy Ride, bred in Argentina; and Ashford’s Giant’s Causeway, raced in Europe. Darley’s Street Cry, who died in 2014, was bred in Ireland. And Castleton Lyons’s Bernstein, who died in 2011, was raced in Europe.
Bernstein’s Japanese-bred son Karakontie entered stud this year at Gainesway and is one of several young foreigners — horses without runners yet — available to breeders this year. Others include Spendthrift’s Hampton Court, bred in Australia; Millennium’s Hakassan, bred in Chile; Lane’s End’s Noble Mission, bred in Great Britain; Ashford’s Magician, bred in Ireland; Ashford’s Declaration of War, raced in Europe; and Crestwood’s Bullet Train, bred in Great Britain. Calumet Farm has three that fit the bill: Americain, raced abroad; Musketier, bred in Germany; and Snapy Halo, bred in Argentina.
In the late ’70s and through the ’80s, foreign-bred and/or -raced stallions were commonplace in Kentucky, especially at Gainesway where Karakontie resides. They included such as Sharpen Up, Vaguely Noble, Green Dancer, Riverman, Lyphard, Blushing Groom, Irish River, Cresta Rider, Wolf Power, Melyno, L’Emigrant, among others, during the era of John Gaines, who sold the farm to South African Graham Beck in 1989.
Beck’s son, Antony, now runs Gainesway, and during his tenure US-bred and -raced Tapit, who entered stud for $15,000 in 2005, has risen to become the leading sire in North America and now stands for $300,000.
An internationalist like his father and Gaines, Beck helped to bring Empire Maker to Gainesway from Japan for the current season, and before him, he relocated Japanese-bred Hat Trick, a son of Sunday Silence, from Walmac to his farm. Now enter Karakontie, a French Guineas winner like previous Gainesway sires Riverman, Green Dancer, Blushing Groom, Irish River, Melyno, and L’Emigrant, all of whom stood at the farm during the ’80s. Karakontie’s entry fee is $15,000 like Tapit’s was, and he is the first French Guineas winner to stand in North America since Kingmambo, who died earlier this year and was perhaps the last great international stallion to stand in North America. And as it happens, Karakontie is from the immediate family of Kingmambo, a son of the great Miesque — 3rd dam of Karakontie. His provenance is impeccable, and there’s more.
Karakontie, like Miesque and Kingmambo, is a homebred for the Niarchos family’s Flaxman Holdings Ltd., and there’s some shared history between the Niarchos family and Gainesway, too, because the late Stavros Niarchos raced the aforementioned French Guineas winners Melyno and L’Emigrant, as well as French Group winner Cresta Rider.
Karakontie is by the Storm Cat sire Bernstein from Japanese-bred and French-raced Sun Is Up, a daughter of Sunday Silence. He was foaled in Japan because Flaxman was one of the first European breeders to patronize Japanese stallions, especially Sunday Silence and later his son Deep Impact. Sun Is Up’s dam, the Woodman mare Moon Is Up — a three-quarter sister to Kingmambo — had been sent to breed to Sunday Silence and later to Dream Well, Flaxman’s French and Irish Derby winner by Sadler’s Wells who had been sold to Shadai.
Foaled in Japan in 1998, Sun Is Up was unplaced and was later brought to North America to begin her breeding career, where she produced two stakes winners, Sunday Sunrise (by Lemon Drop Kid) and Bottega (by Mineshaft). She was sent back to Japan in foal to Bernstein to be bred to the ex-Flaxman Arc winner Bago and foaled Karakontie in 2011.
Karakontie was raced in France at 2, where he won the G1 Prix Jean-Luc Lagardere (Grand Criterium) over 1400 meters; and at 3 in France and North America, where he won the G1 Poule d’Essai des Poulains (French Guineas) over 1600 meters and the G1 Breeders’ Cup Mile at Santa Anita — a race won twice by Miesque — in the time of 1:32.88. The colt made a few starts at 4 and attempted the BC Mile again, but he was not the same class as the year before and was retired with a record of five wins from 12 starts and the equivalent of almost $2 million in earnings.
He’s an interesting horse for North American breeders and a potentially influential one based on the sire records of Gainesway’s previous French Guineas winners. His sire, Bernstein, died at 14 but was a very good stallion who sired more than 90 stakes winners here and in Argentina, to where he shuttled and was held in even higher regard than here. He is the sire of back-to-back Breeders’ Cup Mile winners, too, as Tepin, from the penultimate crop of her sire like Karakontie, won the race last year.
Karakontie’s family is high-class and includes top milers Miesque and Kingmambo, the latter an outstanding international stallion. His race record is top-shelf, too, as a G1 winner at 2, a French classic winner at a mile and the BC Mile winner at 3 in fast time. Physically, he appears to be a European type, a horse of quality if not mass, with plenty of stretch and leg, and he will probably find the broodmare population here with lines of Mr. Prospector, Northern Dancer, and Seattle Slew to his liking.