It’s going to take an exceptionally fast old horse to defeat the 4-year-old gray gelding X Y Jet in the G1 Dubai Golden Shaheen, a 1200-meter dirt race with a $2 million purse that’s attracted nine others with a combined average age of almost 7 years. X Y Jet has been brilliant in his last five starts — all wins — and is a specialist Florida-bred sprinter at the top of his game and a terrific advertisement for his Ocala Stud-based sire, Kantharos, who was dazzling himself and undefeated in a very short racing career that spanned only three races over three months at 2.
Bred in Kentucky by Lena Hedberg’s Hedberg Hall, Inc., Kantharos is by Lion Heart from Contessa Halo, by Southern Halo, and was exceptional physically, selling for $80,000 as a Keeneland September yearling of 2009. The price was the second-highest of his sire’s 28 auction yearlings that year. Kantharos was pinhooked at the OBS March 2-year-olds-in-training sale in 2010 and was sold from the Eddie Woods consignment for $250,000 to Jess Jackson’s Stonestreet, an outfit known for buying outstanding physicals with size, substance, and scope — all the attributes possessed by Kantharos. Of course it didn’t hurt that Kantharos had worked fast, either, and looked very much a colt who would be ready early.
And that’s how the Kantharos story played out. Trained by Steve Asmussen, Kantharos won his debut by 11-plus lengths at Churchill on May 13 over 5F as a talking horse.
Kantharos returned in the July 3 G3 Bashford Manor over 6F and won easily again, this time by nine-plus lengths in 1:09.89. He next won the G2 Saratoga Special at 6.5F on August 16 by seven-plus lengths in 1:18.63 and appeared to be the successor to Rachel Alexandra for the stable but broke down two weeks later in the morning and was done, such is luck.
His type of speed and early maturity — coupled with a pedigree and race record that couldn’t have been sustained early in Kentucky — was perfect for Florida, and he entered stud at age 3 at Vinery’s Florida division for $5,000, the same fee for which he now stands at Ocala Stud and quite a bargain it is at that. He’s been a success from the start. X Y Jet is from Kantharos’s first crop — now age 4 and numbering only 51 foals — that also includes the gray Mr. Jordan, a G3 winner at 8.5F, and three other stakes winners. His second crop includes only 22 foals but in 2015 — off the success of his first runners, which included 18 2-year-old winners of 2014, or 35 percent from foals — he was bred to 112 mares and no doubt will be even more popular this year as X Y Jet propels his name into the national and international spotlight.
If the Kantharos story alone explains the speed of X Y Jet, there’s more from this branch of a sire line that traces to Storm Cat through Tale of the Cat, a G2-winning sprinter who stretched out to 9F when second to Awesome Again in the G1 Whitney. Sent to Ashford Stud, Tale of the Cat sired among others Lion Heart, Kantharos’s sire and a $1.4 million Fasig-Tipton February 2-year-old.
Early maturity translated to a win in the G1 Hollywood Futurity for Lion Heart, who parlayed that into a second in the Kentucky Derby the following year and a win in the G1 Haskell at 9F. Like his sire, Lion Heart went to stud at Ashford and got a range of stakes winners, from G1 Breeders Cup Turf winner Dangerous Midge and G1 Eddie Read winner Tom’s Tribute on turf, to G1 Arkansas Derby winner Line of David (now at Spendthrift and the sire of Firing Line and others) and G2 Super Derby winner Bourbon Courage on dirt, to Canadian Horse of the Year at 2, Uncaptured, on all weather. The latter also stands at Ocala Stud with Kantharos, for $6,000. Lion Heart, altogether the sire of at least 42 stakes winners, has since been sent to Turkey but his presence here continues and X Y Jet can add to its significance on Dubai World Cup day.