Stallion Spotlight offers stud farm representatives a chance to address breeders and answer questions as they plan their future matings.
In this edition, Chris Bernhard of Hidden Lake Farm in Stillwater, N.Y., discusses Fog of War, a Grade 1-winning son of War Front whose first foals will arrive in 2022.
Fog of War
B. h., 2016, War Front x Say, by Galileo
Race Record: 7-2-1-0; $204,250
Advertised Fee: $7,000
Question: What makes Fog of War an attractive stallion for potential breeders?
Chris Bernhard, Hidden Lake Farm: I felt like the fact that he was a maiden special weight winner in Saratoga that went on to win in his second start, and he beat good horses. That’s what really drew me to him. War Front has established himself as a sire of sires, and he’s got War of Will and Omaha Beach with significant followings. I’m a big fan of the female family, and I’ve always been a believer that horse that are going to be good sires come back to big female families. I think it’s kind of rare to see a sire that has a lackluster pedigree that turned out to be something meaningful. Starting off with precocity, and speed, and depth of female family was appealing.
If I’ve got a mare that needs help physically, what can Fog of War best contribute to the equation?
Bernhard: He looks fast, so I would say if you’re looking to put speed into a mare, he looks like a fast horse. He’s got a big butt. He’s a very proportionate, balanced horse with a really nice hip. He’s got Dynaformer as one of the broodmare sires within his pedigree, so we’ve come back and in-bred back a little bit with Dynaformer on a few of our mares, because Dynaformer himself was longer, bigger, scopier, but not as much of a hip. The hope was that we would try to put a little more speed and a hind end on them.
What would a breeder looking to tap into the War Front sire line find familiar in Fog of War?
Bernhard: That fast look. War Front himself was a fast horse back in the day. He’s got a great shoulder, and a great head and neck. He’s not like a lot of the Danzig lines that turn in, or are offset. He’s a correct horse. Mr. [Peter] Brant bought him in Book 1 of the Keeneland September sale, and they’re very specific about what they put in that section of the catalog, and he sold like he should.
Fog of War is a full-sibling to two stakes winners. How much does having additional black type, especially some so closely related, help a young stallion’s stock?
Bernhard: For me, Galileo has been a stellar cross with War Front. All of Say’s offspring of racing age are stakes horses, and I believe she’s got more War Fronts in the pipeline, so if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Turf sprinting has grown quite a bit in recent years, especially for younger horses, with the addition of races like the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint. How much of a boon can it be for a young stallion to come in at the right time when a segment of the market opens up like that?
Bernhard: There was always a bit of a negative connotation with grass horses, but I think when you come back with a grass horse that has precocity and speed, and then you start looking at a lot of the races that we have here in New York, there are plenty of dirt horses that throw grass horses, and there are plenty of grass horses that throw dirt horses. There’s no reason in my mind to think if Fog of War were given a shot to go on the dirt, he wouldn’t have been alright. There’s such wonderful opportunities in New York with grass sprints, and grass racing in general.
For Mr. [Chris] Larsen [of Three C Stables, co-owner of Fog of War], who is strictly breeding New York-breds, he’s going to take a lot of these horses to the races, and I’d say Mr. [Peter] Brant will probably be taking a lot of these horses to the races. The mares that he sent to me were all pregnant to Demarchelier, so they fit the program, and I think we’ll see the same again this coming season. He’s trying to make Demarchelier, who’s got foals of 2021, so the fact that Mr. Brant predominantly races here in New York and Chad Brown is training for him, it gives this horse a real opportunity. Mr. Brant’s program is proven, and I think between him and Mr. Larsen, they’ll commercially give this horse every chance they could possibly give him.
Though his own form and that under his first two dams is heavily turf, Fog of War has a deep family with success on the dirt, including Horse of the Year Havre de Grace, Belmont Stakes winner Tonalist, and champion sprinter Plugged Nickle. Do you have any expectations that Fog of War might be able to get a dirt runner?
Bernhard: If you look at Fog of War, I wouldn’t necessarily say you would just rule him as a grass horse. Obviously, he’s by War Front, and he’s been predominantly a grass sire, though Omaha Beach wasn’t, and you could argue War of Will’s best race was the Preakness on dirt. Obviously, Galileo on the dam’s side is grass, but there are several very good horses that could get a route of ground, and a lot of them could go dirt and turf. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to see the horse be able to throw both.
Why do you think Fog of War will be a good fit for the New York program?
Bernhard: I think there’s a lot of opportunity here for early horses. We have so many 2-year-old races here, open and restricted, on the turf and on the dirt, and we’re running for such huge purses. In New York, you’ve got to start off with something that’s got some precocity or a family that’s early. If you don’t, and you don’t have the support mechanism that’s in place for Fog of War, you can’t go. We tried to set this horse up with breeding rights, to incentivize people to come back in years two and three. You’ve got to come in here with meaningful numbers the first three years, you’ve got to raise them properly, and give them the opportunity to thrive. The rest of it is up to the racing gods.
What makes Fog of War a value in his price bracket?
Bernhard: When you look at him, Omaha Beach was a Grade 1 horse. Fog of War defeated War of Will as a 2-year-old, and he’s standing for $25,000. As a Grade 1-winning War Front from a big family, we just tried to price him conservatively, and offered a variety of breeding rights angles for people if they wanted to participate on some scale. If you don’t have a mechanism in place for repeat support, you can get in trouble very easily.
What else should breeders know before picking up the phone?
Bernhard: He’s a much prettier, taller, and stretchier horse than you would expect. When I think about War Front, he wasn’t a super-big horse, and the Danzig line tends to be big. Being out of a Galileo, that tends to be more European. He’s a bigger, stretchier horse that has a lot of substance to him, and when you pull him out of the stall, you don’t realize quite how big he is. He’s 16.2 hands, which for those two sire lines, I wouldn’t have expected to have have that much length and scope to him.