Bloodlines: Reflecting On The Green Monkey

A week ago, the activity and interest in the 2018 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky’s two sales obscured the reporting that The Green Monkey had been euthanized earlier in the spring. The record-priced Thoroughbred sold at auction, The Green Monkey has become a footnote in racing history due to his price, and his death was noted because of his status as a marker in sales history.

The bay son of the Storm Cat stallion Forestry will remain in record price lists and sales story leads but eventually will be replaced by another extraordinary sales horse. Yet The Green Monkey was remarkable for two things.

First, The Green Monkey was an uncommonly handsome animal, a striking bay son of Forestry, who in 2006 was a notably promising young stallion by super sire Storm Cat. Not only was Storm Cat then riding the crest of his enormous success and popular sales demand, but his son Forestry appeared to be a major stallion on the horizon. The Green Monkey had the length of body and mass of muscle so frequently seen among the Storm Cat tribe, and he used his talents effectively as a sales horse.

As the evidence of the racetrack proved over time, however, Forestry was only a fairish stallion, more frequently a factor for fragility than sturdiness, despite the large books of excellent broodmares sent to the horse at his base on Taylor Made Farm.

On the racetrack, the best offspring by Forestry was 2011 Preakness Stakes winner Shackleford. The latter was a highly talented athlete who campaigned three seasons for earnings of slightly more than $3 million, plus two additional Grade 1 victories: the Metropolitan Handicap and Clark Handicap.

Interestingly, Shackleford probably exists because of The Green Monkey. The latter is out of a good-looking mare by leading sire Unbridled (by Fappiano), and The Green Monkey sold at Fasig-Tipton’s February auction of 2-year-olds in training in 2006. The Green Monkey, bred on the cross of Forestry mated to an Unbridled mare, made owners of Unbridled mares believe that great things might lie in store for those bred in similar fashion. Shackleford’s dam, the Unbridled mare Oatsee, was sent to Forestry in 2007 and foaled the future classic winner in 2008.

In addition to The Green Monkey’s good looks and effect on contemporary matings, he was also the first sales horse to work a furlong in :09 4/5.

That is much less of a distinction today when literally dozens of young horses breeze that quickly each sales season. Just this spring in Ocala, 16 juveniles at the OBS March sale and 17 juveniles at the OBS April sale each breezed a furlong in :09 4/5.

None of those sold for $16 million; so what made The Green Monkey so special? Partly, it was looks and pedigree, combined with being first on the block with a furlong faster than :10. Also, 2006 was a different time in the world economy, with seven 2-year-olds at the Fasig-Tipton sale alone that brought $1 million or more, and Godolphin, for instance, spent $2 million to purchase a juvenile son of the A.P. Indy stallion Golden Missile. Named Mercantile, he won three races and $83,160.

Godolphin, moreover, was part of the reason that The Green Monkey brought $16 million. The other part of the reason was Coolmore. With Demi O’Byrne bidding for the Irish entity, the two major international operations staged a sumo wrestling match in the sales ring, and it became a contest to see which would push the other out of the ring. Coolmore won the battle of the bucks and sent the colt they named The Green Monkey to Todd Pletcher for training.

In terms of physical looks, work time, and international competition, the purchase of The Green Monkey, and even his record price, made sense of a sort.

But to those of us on the technological side of evaluating 2-year-olds and racehorses, the sale result was dumbfounding because The Green Monkey was what my associate Jay Kilgore calls a “false positive.” The colt certainly ran fast and had a long enough stride length, but he did it all wrong.

All the way down the stretch for his work, The Green Monkey was in a rotary gallop, also known as cross-cantering or cross-firing, rather than the proper alternating gallop sequence of footfalls. As we stood in the racetrack box capturing video of the works, one knowledgeable horseman said, “He’s cross-cantering all the way” and marked him off his list of horses to inspect.

That was the immediate reaction of the people using stride and video analysis of works to select prospects.

Well I remember, however, standing in the walking ring outside the temporary bidding ring at Calder racecourse, where Fasig-Tipton held its sale at the time, holding a list of a couple dozen of the top performers. About half-way through the sale, a prominent agent that I know came up to chat with me, and he asked whether I was waiting for the sales topper?

He then proceeded to tell me about the Forestry colt, who he contended was going to outsell the two well-fancied Storm Cat colts. I didn’t believe him because I knew that the numbers were all wrong. Nobody told the major players, it seems, and they proceeded to knock each other around with enthusiasm while driving the price through the roof.

The competition and the price made good copy for the equine publications, and The Green Monkey has continued to provide people with something to talk about throughout his life, especially concerning his price. After all, it’s only money.

Frank Mitchell is author of Racehorse Breeding Theories, as well as the book Great Breeders and Their Methods: The Hancocks. In addition to writing the column “Sires and Dams” in Daily Racing Form for nearly 15 years, he has contributed articles to Thoroughbred Daily News, Thoroughbred Times, Thoroughbred Record, International Thoroughbred, and other major publications. In addition, Frank is chief of biomechanics for DataTrack International and is a hands-on caretaker of his own broodmares and foals in Central Kentucky. Check out Frank’s lively Bloodstock in the Bluegrass blog.

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