Cherokee Sunset – What Makes a Star Stud?

Introducing the latest super sire Cherokee Sunset


Bred by Yahudi Stables Cherokee Sunset was bought for $50.000 pre race by DJC Racing Stables after working a 34 and 3 for the three furlongs. He went on to lay down a 1.01 in his first five furlong work on the track and after his first start could still only manage a 1.12 and 2 for the six furlongs. Cherokee Sunset started his race career in a TUP juvenile Maiden where he finished second over the four and a half furlong trip. He would go on to finish second three times in a row before finally getting a win in a PRX Statebred when put onto turf for the first time. After that initial win it took him a few go’s before he got win number two when he stepped out as a three year old four races later taking an FG one win allowance. He was only to win two more races and never did better than an ungraded stakes but he did manage a second in the grade three Hill Prince.
Retired by DJC Racing Stables after one run as a four year old he was quickly sold to Team 7 Illusions for $150.000 and the rest as they say is history.

His first crop in his new stud career produced Tropics who was to become a three time grade one winner and managed third in the BC Fillies and Mares Turf. His second crop saw the enigmatic Gallivant who again showed a turf preference and by now people were beginning to sit up and notice the offspring of Cherokee Sunset.
Since then there are too many stakes winners to mention and he has risen to the top of the stallion tree by topping Charley Farley and Commanding in Earnings as well as his own sire Chai Latte.

Now as someone who knows very little about breeding i am constantly baffled by the top breeders who talk about bloodlines and conformation traits so i am probably the worst person to talk about this sire. Some facts i do know is that as the best sire in the game he has produced 120 horses at three years old or more that have won absolutely zero dollars, by my calculations thats somewhere in the region of one in four of his foals will go on to win nothing. That to me, the uninformed, sounds like a poor statistic but its actually pretty close to his next three rivals in Charley Farley, Commanding and Chai Latte. So bearing in mind that a great sire doesnt guarantee a great foal what is it that makes these sires produce more better ones than the rest.

Before i go on to talk to the owner of Cherokee Sunset who is one of the successful breeders i was talking about i will put my amateurish spin on it and then let T7 put me right.

Race Form: Well a turf bias for sure, i can see that but no form there that isnt the same as hundreds of failed sires before him. I guess the point to be taken from this is not that he was brilliant, he just wasnt bad.

Conformation: A good size and weight he had a fairly pacey set up but did well over longer trips as a racehorse. I guess thats why we see both sprinters and routers in his offspring. Again i guess the key here is nothing bad rather than anything outstanding.

Pedigree: His sire Chai Latte is fourth in the sires list and his grandsire Charley Farley is second so there are two very big plus’s on his male side but although thats a very nice start i dont think thats the key here because there are plenty of failed horses with those sorts of bloodlines at the top of their pedigree.
I feel the key to his pedigree is on the female side because mares seem to be the key, in my uneducated eyes, to his success. His dam Soliloguy was a BC winner on the turf again accentuating that turf bias and whilst half of her foals have produced zero in winnings the others have been OK. The dams sire Billy Nomates was a dual grade one winner and again proved he could run on the turf with two graded wins on that surface. The Dams dam was also a turf runner and i guess we can pretty clearly see why Cherokee Sunset produces good turf runners.

Foals: Generally he turns out one or two per crop that go on to success with earnings over the $500.000 mark numbering 18, 11 of those are male and 7 are female. Nearly all his best are turfers with one major exception being State Police but with the turf bias being so strong i do wonder what that horse could do if thrown in a decent turf race somewhere. 87 of his foals have made more than the stud fee (only counting three’s and up) which is a lot less than those who have made nothing which again for a non breeder seems a gamble i wouldnt be willing to take.

But, and here i am again stuck in that rut, i just can’t see why he has been successful over many many others with similar bloodlines. Is it that consistent turf bias that sets him apart or maybe the stamina shown through his pedigree? Would he have been so successful in a smaller yard without the sorts of mares owned by a huge breeding outfit like T7’s?
So to help me here is Team 7 Illusions who will hopefully provide some answers.

So having looked at Cherokee’s race performance and conformation i struggle to see why you spent $150.000 on him when he retired, what made you so sure he was going to be a good sire?

“I spent money on many potential sires. He was the needle in the haystack, even though he aligned with what HRP deemed “Category 1” breeder and my own personal theories. I spent more on Chai Chicken(almost identical) at the same time…. he didnt pan “

He has produced 120 complete duds from foals aged three and up. Those duds seem to have just as good bloodlines as the ones who were successful, what do you think makes one of his foals successful and another a complete donkey?

“No sire produces useable runners at a higher rate than him. In his first season, I noticed that he was outproducing my other sires while getting the bottom of the barrel mares. To be honest, I think HRP allows so much “random” that it keeps one sire from completely dominating. It also keep us spending $$. “

No great sire is great unless he gets the best mares, do you think setting his cover fee so high helps maintains the quality of the mares that are brought to him?

“Honestly I just do it to mess with the other stud owners. I never let more than 1 or 2 covers out, because I want them myself. The problem is that I sold off many of my good mares last year when I cashed out, and he hasnt been getting the best possible. He will still be on top, but it will atleast be fair.”

Many say breeding works and you could easily hold this great sire up as proof of that but what is it that you think makes breeding work. Is it simply a matter of finding a good stallion and sending 25 mares to him in the hope one of them wins big or is there more to it than that?

“Much more. You have to start with a Category 1 breeder.

1. Horse’s performance on the track.
2. Parent’s performance on the track.
3. Quality of offspring the parents have produced.
4. Quality of offspring the horse has produced.

Then you have to find as many mares that fit that mold as you can. After the foals hit the ground, you have to see what works. A horse may run a certain way(router) but throw a certain type of foal(sprinter). You have to see what works and figure out why, what doesnt work and figure out why. Also, you have to take in account the development curve of the sire and dams foals. Cherokee Sunsets foals really kick in the spring/summer of their 3yo year. On top of all that you have to account for the randomness of HRP….. thats the hard part.”


Wow thanks for that T7 its great to hear honest answers rather than some of the fluff we get.

So i guess to bring together what i have learnt in writing this piece i would have to say there seems a LOT of hit and miss in finding a sire like Cherokee Sunset. You have to be committed to trying plenty of rivers before you find the gold and its not worth dwelling on those that dont produce it.

Like Charley Farley and Commanding i am sure Cherokee Sunset will be a part of the breeding scene for a while yet both as a direct sire and on the second and third lines. His rise has been meteoric since Charley Farley became the first ‘star sire’ and then Commanding took the mantle and out of the three he looks the one that will be around a while yet.



Categories: Editorial, FEATURED STORIES

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