If there was much doubt about the best 3-year-old sprinter this season, Jack Christopher (by Munnings) cleared it up with a strong victory over fellow Grade 1 winner Gunite (Gun Runner) in the Grade 1 Allen Jerkens Memorial at Saratoga on Aug. 27.
Bred in Kentucky by Castleton Lyons and Kilboy Estate, Jack Christopher has been an active advertisement for the best qualities of his sire Munnings (Speightstown), and no son could be more like the sire. Munnings was such a precocious and talented prospect that he brought $1.7 million from Demi O’Byrne, agent, at the 2008 Fasig-Tipton Florida sale of juveniles in training.
Trained by Todd Pletcher, Munnings won his debut on July 26 for owners Michael Tabor, Mrs. John Magnier, and Derrick Smith with six furlongs in 1:09.84 and jumped straight into G1 company, finishing third in the Hopeful, then second in the Champagne. A disastrous result in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (10th) was followed by a layoff of more than seven months. When Munnings returned at three, he won the G2 Woody Stephens and Tom Fool Stakes, then had a trio of thirds in Grade 1 races: the Haskell, King’s Bishop, and Vosburgh.
At four, Munnings added a third Grade 2 triumph with the Gulfstream Park Sprint Championship, then another Grade 1 third in the Carter, but the massively constructed chestnut did not truly prosper in his final season and retired to Coolmore’s Kentucky stud, Ashford, without the highly coveted Grade 1 victory.
We cannot praise the stallion more highly than to say that it didn’t matter. Munnings has become a necessary addition to any breeding program wanting fast horses.
His son Jack Christopher is now a three-time Grade 1 winner (Champagne, Woody Stephens, and Jerkens Memorial), and the flashy chestnut is being pointed for a date with the Breeders’ Cup, either in the Dirt Mile or the Sprint. The Breeders’ Cup Sprint would bring a confrontation with older sprinters, including division leader Jackie’s Warrior (Maclean’s Music), who finished second to Cody’s Wish (Curlin) earlier on the Travers card.
From the eighth crop by Munnings, Jack Christopher is out of Rushin No Blushin, a mare who ran second once in eight starts, earning $5,766. A half-sister to the two-time Grade 1 winner Street Boss (Street Cry), Rushin No Blushin is by the little-known stallion Half Ours (Unbridled’s Song), who is the answer to an interesting trivia question.
Who is the highest-priced colt of racing age ever sold at Keeneland? Half Ours was not a 2-year-old at the time of sale, and several distinguished race fillies have brought more, but the gray son of Unbridled’s Song is the answer.
At the 2006 Keeneland November sale, Half Ours was sold to dissolve a partnership between co-owners Aaron Jones and Barry Schwartz. At the time, Half Ours was three. The imposing colt had been a spectacular early 2-year-old, winning a mid-April maiden special at Keeneland by 10 3/4 lengths and coming back the first week of May to take the listed Juvenile Stakes at Churchill by 4 1/4 lengths.
From May of 2005 to November 2006, the colt had not raced again. Trained by Todd Pletcher, Half Ours was doing well, however, and both owners were well aware that the colt was progressing nicely.
When the bidding began, it became obvious how well aware of the colt’s well-being the co-owners were.
Frank Taylor of Taylor Made Farm recalled the situation. “Half Ours was a really talented colt,” he said, “and Barry and Sheryl were perfect partners, but Mr. Jones wanted to direct the racing program to maximize the colt’s stallion potential.
“So a sale at auction was the simple solution.” Taylor was there to bid with Jones; Buzz Chace was bidding for Schwartz; and Coolmore was part of the bidding, as well, Taylor recalled. “I told the bid spotter that as long as Mr. Jones’s hat was on, he was bidding.
“The bidding started at $100,000, $200,000, going up quickly,” Taylor recalled. The bids crashed past $1 million, then $2 million, and the bidding became a runaway train, fueled by the desire of each man to own the colt outright.
“Then, Coolmore got in and stayed in with the bidding till $5 million to $5.5 million. Mr. Jones had just been sitting there with his hat on, and he looked over at me and said, ‘I don’t like this plan. I like bidding,’ and he started bidding by hand with the spotter.
“Buzz had the bid at $6 million for Barry, and I looked at Mr. Jones and said, ‘That’s plenty. You’re getting full value if you let him go.’ He just grinned back at me and threw his hand in the air.”
Jones was the winning bidder at $6.1 million.
Slightly more than a month later, Half Ours returned to racing at Aqueduct and won a six-furlong allowance by a neck in 1:10.96.
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The colt came back in February to win an allowance at Gulfstream going a mile, then won the G2 Gulfstream Park Sprint Championship. Unbeaten in five races, Half Ours was targeted for major “stallion” races but lost his unbeaten status in the G3 Alysheba at Churchill, his prep for the Metropolitan Handicap. Second as the favorite in the Alysheba, Half Ours came back in the Met Mile and finished 7th behind a string of future Kentucky-based stallion prospects.
The winner was Corinthian (Pulpit) over Political Force (Unbridled’s Song) and Lawyer Ron (Langfuhr), with Sun King (Charismatic), Latent Heat (Maria’s Mon), and Silver Wagon (Wagon Limit) next.
Half Ours raced no more but was retired to Taylor Made Farm south of Lexington, where the good-looking colt’s sire stood at stud. Half Ours attracted some notice, being a fast and attractive son of a highly commercial sire, and Rushin No Blushin was one of the horse’s first crop of foals.
Neither Half Ours nor his superiors in the Metropolitan remained active stallions in Kentucky, although Lawyer Ron, for one, was not sold but sadly died very young. Corinthian went first to Pennsylvania, then was sold to stand in Turkey. Half Ours was sold to Clear Creek Stud in Louisiana, became one of the leading sires in that market, and died last year at age 18.
Yet a bit of the legacy and lore surrounding Half Ours lives on in Jack Christopher.