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Sparkman: City Zip might have his Derby horse in Improbable

Monday, December 10th, 2018

Barbara D. Livingston
Improbable remains unbeaten in three starts with this victory in the Los Alamitos CashCall Futurity on Saturday.

When Ghostzapper retired to stud at Adena Springs in 2006 there was never any question that he would be well patronized by breeders even at a $200,000 fee that proved unsustainable, since his nine wins in 11 starts included the 2004 Breeders’ Cup Classic, which earned him Horse of the Year honors. Despite Ghostzapper having the highest stud fee ever for a freshman sire, his first crop comprised 80 foals, including nine black-type winners led by Canadian champion Hunters Bay and Grade 1 winner Stately Victor.

Four years earlier, Ghostzapper’s older half-brother City Zip had received significantly less patronage when he retired to Gus Schoenborn’s Contemporary Stallions in New York, despite a much lower initial $7,500 fee and being very much a big fish in a small pond. City Zip’s first crop of 60 named foals included five stakes winners, led by Grade 2 winner With a City (out of With a Princess, by With Approval). Ghostzapper’s brilliant 4-year-old campaign motivated City Zip’s relocation to Lane’s End in Kentucky, where he stood the remainder of his distinguished career. City Zip was euthanized at 19 in July 2017 because of chronic foot problems.

The one thing missing from City Zip’s sire resume is a Kentucky Derby winner, but he has a genuine candidate in Grade 1 Los Alamitos Futurity winner Improbable.

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Bred in Kentucky by Frank Stronach’s Adena Springs, City Zip was sold for only $9,000 to Carl Bowling’s Straight Away Farm as a yearling at the 1999 Keeneland January sale, primarily because he toed out rather drastically in both front legs. He failed to meet his reserve at $80,000 at the following year’s OBS March sale of selected 2-year-olds, and raced in the name of Bowling, Becky Thomas, Lewis Lakin, and Charles Thompson.

His crooked forelegs certainly did not slow him down any, and, after winning his second start and placing in a couple of stakes, he became the only horse to sweep all four of Saratoga’s graded stakes for 2-year-old colts, culminating in a neck victory over Yonaguska in the Grade 1 Hopeful. In the mile Futurity, however, he visibly ran out of stamina in the final furlong, bumped second finisher Burning Roma, and was disqualified to second. Attempts to rate him farther off the pace in the Champagne and the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile proved fruitless, and City Zip never won over farther than seven furlongs.

Trainer Linda Rice persisted in trying to stretch him out through a 20-length defeat in the Florida Derby, before reverting to sprints for the rest of his career. He rewarded his connections with victories in the Grade 2 Amsterdam and Grade 3 Jersey Shore, before retiring with a record of nine wins in 23 starts, and earnings of $818,225.

By the time his first Kentucky-bred crop raced in 2008, City Zip had already confirmed the wisdom of his move to that state, with Grade 1 winner Bustin Stones (Shesasurething, by Prospectors Gamble) in his second New York-bred crop, and he went from strength to strength with the better mares he earned in Kentucky. He has sired 79 black-type winners from 1,126 foals age 3 and up, a 7.9% strike rate that stands up well against Ghostzapper’s 67 black-type winners and 9.1%.

City Zip has sired nine Grade 1 winners, led by Breeders’ Cup winners Dayatthespa (M’Lady Doc, by Doc’s Leader), the champion grass mare of 2014; Work All Week (Danzig Matilda, by Reprized), champion sprinter of 2014; Finest City (Be Envied, by Lemon Drop Kid), champion female sprinter of 2015; Catch a Glimpse (Halo River, by Irish River), Canada’s 2015 Horse of the Year; and Bulletin (Sue’s Good News, by Woodman).

Improbable was bred in Kentucky by G. Watts Humphrey and St. George Farm, and sold as a weanling at 2016 Keeneland November sale for $110,000 to Taylor Made Sales Agency, agent. Maverick Racing and China Horse Club purchased him for $200,000 at the 2017 Keeneland September yearling sale, and he races for WinStar Farm, China Horse Club, and Starlight Racing and is trained by Bob Baffert.

Improbable is the first foal to live out of the A.P. Indy mare Rare Event, who won four of 14 starts and $114,159 after being purchased as a yearling by Humphrey and St. George for $400,000. She has since produced a Quality Road filly purchased by WinStar for $180,000 at the 2018 Keeneland September sale, a 2018 colt by Oxbow, and was bred back to Cross Traffic. Rare Event was sold for $150,000 to Calumet Farm at the 2016 Keeneland November sale.

Rare Event’s dam, Our Rite of Spring, by Stravinsky, did not produce a black-type winner, but won the Exogenous Stakes, and is half-sister to the top-class racehorse and good sire Hard Spun, by Danzig. Their dam, stakes winner Turkish Tryst, by Turkoman, was out of a half-sister to dual classic winner and champion 3-year-old male Little Current, by Sea-Bird, and Grade 1 winner Prayers ‘n’ Promises, by Foolish Pleasure, out of a half-sister to champions Chateaugay and Primonetta.



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