Pedigree Analysis: JRC Callas First

Celebrating small breeders and a world champion.

Q-Racing Journal

Savannah Lynn after a race win, with Billy Sykes at her hip.

This is one for the little guy, and for the big dreams that accompany any venture into racing.

You know the dream: breeding or finding a great horse. The dream of seeing that well-muscled, glossy creature prance up to the track, then seeing your colors flash first across the finish line. The dream of having one of the great ones. The dreams while flipping through the magazines to pick the perfect stud, while seeing a mare’s belly grow, while watching her baby grow.

Take a look at 2014’s champions, and notice they represent a wide range of dreams. Two were bred in California and two in Utah. New Mexico, Washington, Missouri, Mexico, Ontario and Brazil each offered up one industry-leading runner.

This year, Texas faced a gut check in the courts with its historical racing rollercoaster, but proved itself yet again on the track by producing three champions: world champion JRC Callas First, champion 2-year-old Kiss My Hocks (owned by the year's champion owners) and distance champion Wahoo.

The 2014 world champion represents the dreams of many people: Those that own JRC Callas First, those that bred him, and those of the generations before him. Last week, his connections accepted his award after a campaign comprising two Grade 1 victories, four more stakes wins and two other wins – eight in all from 10 starts – at distances ranging from 350 to 550 yards at five different tracks in two states, with a track record thrown in for good measure.

JRC Callas First’s co-owner and trainer Brian Stroud surely had the dream, but he probably didn’t expect what 2014 was going to throw his way.

A trainer for nearly a quarter century, Stroud grew up around racehorses, had it in his blood and had the dream. He conditioned Restricted Grade 2 winner Orions Award (whom I profiled back in July 2013) and JC My Diamond Man, and had JRC Callas First in training. The gelding didn’t race as a freshman, and didn’t show the public too much as a sophomore. The horse’s owner wanted to get rid of the horse, despite the objections of Stroud, who developed JRC Callas First into the first Grade 1 winner and first champion of his career.

“I thought this horse had a lot of talent and was going to be a nice horse in the future,” Stroud said. “It was either buy him or lose him, so rather than lose him, I purchased him for $8,500.”

It was a good idea. The horse this year earned $216,530, and achieved every horseman’s dream – to own and train a world champion.

But there are more dreams to tell within this story. JRC Callas First was bred in Texas by J.R. Cass of Gause, Texas. Cass can now claim a 100 percent strike rate in breeding world champions – this is literally the only horse Cass has bred.

JRC Callas First is by Winners Award and is the first and, to date, only foal from the Dirty Coup mare Calla Missy Jane.

Winners Award was bred by AQHA Past President Jerry Windham. Foaled in 2002, the son of Runaway Winner out of the Special Leader mare Sweet Miranda was Grade 1-placed in a career where he earned $80,148. Now owned and standing at Heste Sport Inc. at King City, Ontario, Winners Award has from five crops sired 59 starters and the earners of more than $716,408.

“Winners Award was a big colt, a big powerful thing,” said his breeder, AQHA Past President Jerry Windham. “He was a totally different horse than Runaway Winner in everything, in his body, his temperament and even his style of running. When he was running, you’d think he was lumbering down through there compared to Runaway, who was so quick and up in the air when he was running. Winners Award had a totally different style. He was so big and long-strided, sometimes you’d think, ‘my God, he’s never going to get to going’ – but he was going.”

Be sure to read more about Winners Award and his bloodlines in the upcoming February Q-Racing Journal.

Calla Missy Jane’s dam is the Master Hand (TB) mare Missy Joyce, a race winner with a career-high speed index of 93. Missy Joyce produced seven winners from eight runners, including Smooth As A Bug (by A Smooth Bug, $22,776). She is the only foal out of the Randis Joy mare Savannah Joyce, a stakes winner.

Savannah Joyce was bred by Billy Sykes of Ballinger, Texas, and her dam, Savannah Lynn, was bred in the name of Billy's daughter, Alison.

Full disclosure: I learned some of the history of the Sykes family while wielding a pitchfork after work. My horses were boarded at a self-care barn, and one of my barn friends was Steve Sykes, whose family bred and raced these horses. Billy and Alison are Steve’s uncle and first cousin, respectively. Billy died in 2008 and Steve’s dad, Bobby, passed away in March.

The Sykes brothers raised good kids and good horses. Case in point: Steve, who still rides really good horses, showed me win photos from his dad’s biggest triumph – when their homebred Talented Lady outran none other than AQHA Hall of Famer Rocket Wrangler in the 1970 Sunland Park Fall Futurity. Bobby had that trophy on his mantle the rest of his life.

Billy bred Savannah Lynn out of the Tee McCue mare Lynn McCue, who also produced stakes winner Milady Lynn and stakes runner Ida Red Raffles for the family.

Savannah Lynn would have nine foals, of which six would go on to produce foals. I will point out here that Savannah Lynn not only is the fourth dam of our current world champion, but she is also the fourth dam of 2014 stakes winner Kwik Version, whom I profiled back in June.

According to Robin Glenn Pedigrees reports, Savannah Lynn’s daughters have also produced the likes of Grade 1 winner and leading barrel sire Smoke N Sparks ($96,101), stakes winner and Grade 1 finalist Micah Beth ($53,227), the dam of Grade 3 winner Memories Formicha ($48,163); top barrel horse Dash N Sparks, who earned more than $100,000 in the rodeo arena; leading barrel racing dam Coconut Cash; and Gotta Have It, dam of American Paint Horse Association Reserve World Champion Luking Sacred (PT).

It is quite a legacy.

“He loved horses, and he loved racing horses,” Alison said of her father. “He had to get out of (racing), money-wise, but we had horses my whole life. He would’ve had so many stories to tell. He loved racing them.”

So here’s to a memorable year for Texas, small breeders, big dreams and the fastest horses on earth.

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