A Legacy Continues
Chapter Seven picks up where his sire left off
story by Melissa Keith
In 2004, Windsong’s Legacy became the seventh Trotting Triple Crown champion, and looked ready to live up to his name at stud. But the son of Conway Hall was just 7 years old when he died while breeding a mare. He sired 255 foals during a stud career that ended abruptly in March 2008. Whatever legacy he would leave was now up to his sons and daughters.
Chapter Seven 4,1:50.1 ($1,954,966) not only picked up where his sire left off—he has done so from the word “go.” Other sons of Windsong’s Legacy have gone to stud, but none have approached Chapter Seven’s record. At press time, his 2-year-olds had amassed $1,900,983 in 2018, second only to Muscle Hill freshmen in seasonal earnings—all this despite his having 33 starters from just 49 foals of 2016, less than half the number of starters and 2-year-olds sired by Muscle Hill.
As a newly retired racehorse, Chapter Seven wasn’t an instant hit with broodmare owners. Blue Chip Farms owner Tom Grossman was watching the stallion race throughout 2012, gaining interest with every impressive mile.
“He was everything I look for in a stallion: tough, excellent gait, overcame a lot of bad trips, could take a lot of air,” he said. “He showed intestinal fortitude. Speed and gait are increasingly becoming a [common] commodity in this sport, but he could still keep going when he had difficult circumstances.”
While Southwind Farms and Richard Gutnick owned (and still own) a substantial percentage of the horse, Blue Chip Farms also wanted in.
“We were negotiating through the 4-year-old season and completed syndication very shortly after his last race,” Grossman said.
Other partners have since bought shares of Chapter Seven; Blue Chip Farms added to its 20-percent interest in him this year.
A winner of 20 races in 28 lifetime pari-mutuel starts, Chapter Seven retired after a final season that saw him become the second racehorse in history to trot to more than one sub-1:51 victory.
The $42,000 2009 Standardbred Horse Sale purchase was named 2012 Dan Patch Trotter of the Year and Horse of the Year, based on a campaign marked by wins in the Nat Ray, Breeders Crown Open Trot, Titan Cup, American-National Stakes, Maxie Lee Memorial Invitational and Allerage Open Trot.
His primary owner, Gutnick; trainer Linda Toscano; regular driver Tim Tetrick; and dam, La Riviera Lindy, all received 2012 Dan Patch Awards.
The toughness of Chapter Seven was demonstrated in his fighting back from pneumonia, plus his rapid adjustment to the up-per-echelon older trotting ranks at age 4.
“By toughness, I don’t mean he’s tough to be around—he’s actually not,” Grossman said.
He described Chapter Seven as an all-business horse who is buddies with stallion manager Alejandro Avila.
Chapter Seven had a slow start in the breeding shed, through no fault of his own.
“He did not have the full attention of breeders in his first years at stud,” Grossman said. “He’s a really game, brave, well-gaited stallion, but he had to do it the hard way, with lower-quality mares at the start.”
Syndicate members, including Southwind Farms and Blue Chip Farms, supported Chapter Seven in the beginning, but he didn’t instantly capture broader interest. The stallion bred 112 mares in 2013, and early Chapter Seven colts and fillies were undervalued in the sales ring.
“He didn’t start getting the big, big Grand Circuit shoppers until , when he got a different class of buyers,” Grossman said.
His 64 first-crop yearlings sold at public auction averaged $46,734.
When the inaugural crop of Chapter Sevens debuted on the track, the 54 starters earned a collective $1,592,829 for the year (2016). That figure was good enough for third among all North American sires of 2-year-old trotters. Chapter Seven’s first crop was led by Breeders Crown winner and Dan Patch 2-year-old male trotter of the year Walner 3,1:50.2 ($567,652). A suspensory injury, plus his value as an outcross sire, convinced owner Ken Jacobs he should syndicate and retire the colt in 2017. Walner bred 136 mares in his first season standing at Southwind Farms, following an abbreviated, if eye-catching, career.
In 2015, Chapter Seven’s second crop yielded even more talent, led by 2018 Hambletonian winner Atlanta and colt Fourth Dimen-sion 2,1:52.4 ($409,195). The latter was named top 2-year-old male trotter of 2017, then retired to stud at Sweden’s Menhammar Stuteri after a knee fracture during his sophomore season. A $200,000 yearling, he becomes the first Chapter Seven son to stand in Europe, where he will provide exclusive access to the newly popular male line. Chapter Seven is unavailable to breeders seeking frozen semen.
Atlanta 3,1:50.3s ($1,140,689) was a four-time winner at 2, and in 2018 became the first filly since Continentalvictory (1996) to win the Hambletonian. A $60,000 Standardbred Horse Sale yearling, Atlanta is her sire’s top-earning offspring; trainer Rick Zeron has indicated she will resume racing in 2019.
Two Chapter Seven sons—Alarm Detector and Fourth Dimension—were widely touted as early 2018 Hambletonian favorites; then a Chapter Seven daughter gave the stallion his first Hambletonian winner.
The third crop by Chapter Seven surpassed his first two, courtesy of an improbable statistic: the stallion, at the age of 10, sired 2018’s top 2-year-old male and female trotters, both Breeders Crown champions and Dan Patch Award winners who posted undefeated seasons. Gimpanzee 2,1:54.3s ($591,358) dominated his male rivals throughout nine seasonal starts, while Dan Patch Award winner Woodside Charm 2,1:53f ($521,658) captured seven straight wins.
What sets the Chapter Sevens apart? The fact that he is an outcross sire for many mares by the top two active stallions (Muscle Hill and Cantab Hall) certainly helps, although each of Chapter Seven’s top 10 money-winners has a different broodmare sire.
“He got a lot of Muscles Yankee, Muscle Hill mares this year, and also a lot of Valley Victory, Yankee Glide,” Grossman said.
Windsong’s Legacy is by Conway Hall, whose top line goes back to Volomite through Victory Song and Noble Victory.
Chapter Seven’s physical type seems to complement his consorts’ conformation.
“One thing I liked about him is he isn’t a very big horse,” Grossman said. “He put a little more Thoroughbredness and refinement into those big mares. I think people want large trotters, but not too heavy and coarse. Some small Standardbreds fare better on small tracks, yet this formula hasn’t held true for Chapter Seven’s offspring.
“Many get better with the big track than the half—it allows that toughness to come through. His offspring come first-over more than most and do well.”
Then there’s another tendency identified early in his foals.
“They all trot very naturally, very fluidly—he’s a very smart breed of horse,” Grossman said. “When we start putting them under stress [e.g., weaning, handling], they take care of themselves. They have a sensibility about them that allows them to focus on their work. We see that so consistently.”
Chapter Seven distinctively stamps his foals, and the industry has noticed. “To some degree, we can help make the horse,” Grossman said.
This can be accomplished by providing established producers and well-bred young mares for a new stallion explained the New York breeder, but this doesn’t guarantee success at stud. A stallion must ultimately make his own luck.
Chapter Seven’s syndicate members agreed to cap his first two books at 120 mares. The fertile horse didn’t breed that number in his first two seasons, but his popularity has since skyrocketed.
“We didn’t get around to advertising, but we had applications before Harrisburg, and we had to turn mares away,” Grossman said. “It means we can’t take any more mares. We booked 120 for this coming year; we have 15 on a waiting list. We could have had 30, 50 or 70 on the waiting list. We could have bred 300 mares at $20,000 each this year.”
While many endorse the theory that every stallion succeeds or fails as an individual, Blue Chip Farms instead looks for stallion prospects with maternal depth to their pedigree.
Chapter Seven descends from a female line important to his home farm: his dam, La Riviera Lindy, is the granddaughter of pacing mare Vanessa Hill p,3,2:00.4f ($112,584). When bred to Speedy Crown, Vanessa Hill produced Sir Taurus 2,1:56.3 ($484,810), a New York Sire Stakes champion who went on to a long, successful life as a Blue Chip Farms stallion.
“Sir Taurus was very special to me and Blue Chip,” Grossman said. “He produced a lot of really, really good horses through lean times. He came to Blue Chip straight from the track. He died at Blue Chip on Dec. 17, 2017, just short of his 34th birthday. It is the first anniversary of his passing, and it still seems strange not to see him in the barn where he was chairman emeritus for a very long time.”
Chapter Seven’s 2019 book is full, closed and then some. An exception was made for one late booking—Ariana G.
Finally commanding the quality and number of mares his 2012 Horse of the Year season always seemed to warrant, Chapter Seven is anything but bankrupt as a sire. The young stallion’s fertility has only improved over time, said Grossman, adding that the New York Sire Stakes program has helped his offspring develop at a less-demanding rate than some other state programs.
“It makes me believe the best is yet to come,” he said.
The next chapter looks promising for the genetic legacy of Windsong’s Legacy. HB
Melissa Keith is a freelance writer living in Nova Scotia. To comment on this story, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.