Mr. Prospector has been a sensational sire and the strongest challenger to Northern Dancer’s crown as King of the Sires.
A king in his own right, some turf enthusiasts argue that Mr. Prospector has surpassed Northern Dancer, and in some aspects he has, even though his 15.2% stakes winners from named foals and fewer champions are lower totals. He has sired more stakes winners, one hundred and eighty-one to one hundred and forty-seven, has been a leading broodmare sire in more years (nine in total), and his progeny has earned more money. Mr. Prospector is also a great sire of sires with a very strong male line that is thriving today.
Mr. Prospector was foaled in 1970, making him a contemporary of Secretariat although they never met on a race track. He was by Raise A Native out of Gold Digger by Nashua, and bred by Leslie Coombs II in Kentucky at Spendthrift Farm. He is a direct grandson of Native Dancer and was sold as a yearling for $220,000, top price at the 1971 Keeneland sales, to Abraham (Butch) Savin and trained by Jimmy Croll.
Unraced as a two year old, Mr. Prospector would suffer from chronic front leg injuries during his racing career but still displayed blazing speed, ably demonstrated during a 1.07 4/5 for six furlongs in his third start. Savin was hoping that Croll could get the horse to the Kentucky Derby. However in his start in the Derby Trial, Mr. Prospector tired badly and finished second. An x-ray revealed bone chips in his left front ankle. Back as a four year old he captured the Whirlaway Handicap and the Gravesend Handicap. Mr. Prospector won seven of his fourteen lifetime starts in mostly sprint distances. Perhaps his best race was in the seven furlong Carter Handicap when he took the lead in the stretch only to have the mighty Forego storm past him to win by 2 ½ lengths.
Savin had purchased Mr. Prospector as a sire prospect for his Aisco Stud in Ocala, Florida. He would retire his young bay at the end of his four year old season, and in so doing he had turned down offers from breeding farms in Kentucky. Mr. Prospector stood in Florida until 1981 when Claiborne Farm became his new and permanent home. By the time of the acquisition, Mr. Prospector had established himself as the leading emerging sire in North America highlighted by his daughter It’s In The Air, from his first crop. She became the champion two year old filly in 1978. The syndicate was headed by Peter Brandt and Seth Hancock at a value of $36 million.
The list of champions and top class sires and broodmares descending from Mr. Prospector is quite simply outstanding.
Among the major stakes winning and/or stakes siring sons of Mr. Prospector are Fappiano, Conquistador Cielo, Crafty Prospector, Miswaki, Kingmambo, Eillo, Geiger Counter, Two Punch, Jade Hunter, Gone West, Seeking The Gold, Forty Niner, Woodman, Afleet, Smart Strike, Chester House, Machiavellian, Fusaichi Pegasus, E Dubai, full brothers Rhythm and Not For Love as well as the full brothers Miner’s Mark and Our Emblem. This is a very impressive list!
Fappiano, Seeking The Gold, Machiavellian, Smart Strike, Forty Niner, Gulch and Gone West have been highly successful in siring sons that have continued the line. Among Mr. Prospector’s grandsons that were sired by the above sons to make an indelible mark as sires are Unbridled, Street Cry, Curlin, Dubai Millennium, Zamindar, Cryptoclearance, Thunder Gulch, Elusive Quality, Distorted Humor and Quiet American.
These grandsons of Mr. Prospector have sired the likes of Zenyatta, Empire Maker, Grindstone, Flower Alley, Point Given, Street Sense, Real Quiet, Unbridled’s Song, Smarty Jones, Zarkava, Funny Cide, Drosselmeyer, Dubawi, Palace Malice and Blueskiesnrainbows.
Mr. Prospector has also been a very successful broodmare sire. As stated he led the North American list nine times. He is the broodmare sire of, Dayjur, Maplejinsky, Hollywood Wildcat, Pulpit, Mineshaft, Flying Spur, Silver Deputy, Sir Harry Lewis, Tale Of The Cat, Lailani, Windsor Palace, Malibu Moon, Gemologist, Storm Boot, Primal Force, and Aragorn among the many champions, successful sires and successful broodmares he has had influence through his daughters.
Miswaki alone is the broodmare sire of some of the most acclaimed sires in the past ten years of breeding, which includes Galileo, Dalakhani and Sea The Stars. The influence of Mr. Prospector, seemingly growing from generation to generation, is impacting both sides of world class pedigrees.
Mr. Prospector has been the male line progenitor of some of the top horses in the past 30 years. The American classics of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes have been dominated by his male line offspring since his first classic winner Conquistador Cielo won the 1982 Belmont. His sons have sired four Kentucky Derby winners, six Preakness winners and eight Belmont winners. His grandsons have sired winners of three Kentucky Derbies, four Preakness Stakes and six Belmont Stakes while his extended male line descendants are continuing the Mr. Prospector tradition by siring Mine That Bird (Kentucky Derby) , Summer Bird (Belmont Stakes)both by Birdstone, and I’ll Have Another (Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes) by Flower Alley. With his own son’s victories in the classics this makes a grand total thirty-eight wins in the American Triple Crown series from his direct male line.
The Breeder’s Cup events, which were inaugurated in 1984, have also been a showcase for Mr. Prospector’s descendants. The first Breeder’s Cup winner from the sire line was Mr. Prospector’s own son Eillo in the first Sprint event, and along with Street Cry’s two time winning daughter Zenyatta and the double winning Mile champion Da Hoss by Gone West, the Mr. Prospector sire line has accounted for sixty-four individual winners through 2014, which is 23% of all Breeder’s Cup winners.
Mr. Prospector was not the soundest of race horses and many of his get would inherit his iffy front legs, which the sire line he was bred from was noted to pass on. This line is also noted for siring precocious two year olds, which Mr. Prospector would also get. However many of the sons and daughters of “Mr.P” would consistently display his speed and courage, and he would also sire a great many sound thoroughbreds that could carry their speed to classic distances. His sons have carried on his name to the point where Mr. Prospector’s male line is a genuine rival to that of Northern Dancer’s male line as to the top sire lines in the world today.
Between these two great sire of sires, and the successful blending of both lines through sons and daughters, grandsons and granddaughters and further generations, the once proud lines of major sires from as recently as two generations ago are being overwhelmed by the big two. Furthermore, with the advent of shuttle sires between the north and south hemispheres, the much larger books of mares now being sent to stallions each year, and the propensity for commercial breeders to bred only for catalogue appeal worldwide, has given great rise to question if the breed is actually improving.
This is a debate that can go on for a long time without resolution, and should not take away from the fact that in Mr. Prospector, we have been privileged to witness a true phenomenon as a sire of sires and his name will go down in history as one of the true elite sires in the history of the turf. His is a legacy of speed and courage, that is and will continue to be passed down for generations. Mr. Prospector died on June 1, 1999 from colic. He was in his stall when he left us and is now buried between Secretariat and Nijinsky at Claiborne Farm in Paris, Kentucky.
(Photo courtesy of Claiborne Farm)