about Atreides…

Earlier today, it was announced that four-year-old colt Atreides was being retired.  He is packing off to Kentucky, and will be standing at Hill ‘N Dale effective immediately.

If Atreides is in no condition to run again, or to run against the level of horse which his talent suggests he can take, Stonestreet is absolutely doing the right thing by taking him off the racetrack.  That decision to retire him, I have no questions about.  I unwaveringly trust and commend their respect for his health.

Still, the stud part has me scratching my head a bit.

Was he well bred?  Without a doubt.  He was out of Dream Rush, a fairly new broodmare.  Still, Dream Rush was a multiple graded stakes winning sprinter, winner of both the Test (GI) and the Prioress (GI) in 2007.  Her first foal, the A. P. Indy mare Dreaming of Julia, flashed excellent precocity as a two-year-old, and added a Gulfstream Park Oaks (GII) win at three.  Atreides was her second, a Medaglia d’Oro colt.  Perchance, a 2012 Distorted Humor filly, is her third.  She won a maiden special weight at Aqueduct last month as easily as her 1/2 odds suggested she may, and is working at Palm Meadows in preparation for a three-year-old season.  With her first three foals showing that much run, it appears Dream Rush is a broodmare to watch.

Atreides was nicely bred, but is that enough to suggest that he belongs at stud?

He did show talent on the track, though his career spanned just five races.  In four wins, all over the the dirt at Gulfstream, he won by no fewer than three lengths.  He could wire a field, though more commonly he stalked, pounced, and left the field in the dust.  The only blemish on his record was a flat sixth-place finish in the Indiana Derby (GII).  That flop raised questions: was he just a Gulfstream savant?  Did he inherit distance limitations?  Was it just an off day?  According to trainer Martin Wolfson, he came out of that race with a tendon injury, and he took two months before his next race.  He raced once more, an easy win in the one-mile Aventura Handicap at Gulfstream on December 7.  He flashed the old Atreides, the one who could easily dispatch with an ungraded field at Gulfstream.

With only five races from debut to curtains, questions linger.  Could he have beaten better if given another chance, or was he a one-dimensional Gulfstream monster?  By virtue of sheer sample size, we will never know.  Why was he so lightly raced, and just how bad were his injuries?  How closely linked were his injuries to his genetic characteristics, versus any external factors he experienced during his racing life?

I cannot pretend to know the answers to any of those questions.

For my part, even for the modest $6,500 stud fee that they have announced, I would not be tempted right now.  Too many questions remain.  He piled on some visually impressive wins, but so far it does not appear he beat enough tough horses to make him attractive as a stallion, especially in light of physical issues that required retirement after just five races.  I worry enough about the soundness of thoroughbreds, and find stallions who had long, sound careers more intriguing than ones who retired prematurely.  I will keep a curious eye out to see which mares breed to Atreides, especially given the publicity comments from both Stonestreet and Hill ‘N Dale that they will be sending mares his way.  I will look to see how well his progeny run, whether they dispatch with tougher stock than Atreides himself did, and whether they are able to sustain longer careers than Atreides himself could.

Unless and until I see that happen?  I will wonder about him at stud, just as I wonder about any stallion who flashes talent, but runs short on durability.

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