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Behind Trio of Six-Figure Yearlings, Protonico on Rise

As sire of Medina Spirit, Protonico has seen more interest at Keeneland September

Anne M. Eberhardt

The belief owner/breeder Oussama Aboughazale has displayed in Protonico , first as a racehorse and then as a stallion, is starting to pay off for the 10-year-old son of Giant's Causeway.

The sire's first three yearlings through the ring at this year's Keeneland September Yearling Sale all reached six figures—not bad for a sire that saw his yearlings sell for an average price of $5,000 in 2020. Aboughazale, through his International Equities Holding, is the breeder of all three yearlings.

Calumet Farm went to $120,000 to land the first Protonico offered at the sale (Hip 1164), a filly out of the unraced Medaglia d'Oro  filly Matryoshka Doll. Consigned by Taylor Made Sales Agency, the dam is a half sister to Curlin's Voyage, a champion filly in Canada at age 2 and 3. 

At the Sept. 20 session, the seventh overall and first of Book 4, Protonico saw his next two yearlings offered also reach six figures.

Full Circle Bloodstock went to $100,000 to land a filly out of winning Mecke mare An Annika Moment, dam of grade 2 winner Madame Cactus, by Cactus Ridge. The filly (Hip 2191) was consigned by Gainesway.

Hip 2191 filly bby Protonico out of An Annika Moment at Gainesway Keeneland September yearling sales on Sept. 20, 2021.
Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt
The Protonico filly consigned as Hip 2191 in the ring at the Keeneland September Sale

Then later in the day, Charles Bloodstock also went to $100,000 to acquire a colt out of the winning Unbridled's Song mare Dragonberry. That colt (Hip 2273), consigned by Taylor Made, is from the family of grade 1 winner Paynter .

Protonico's foal crop of 2020 was just 16 horses and nine of them are being offered at Keeneland September. Of that group of nine, seven are consigned by Taylor Made, where Protonico stood his first season; and two are consigned by Gainesway. Mark Taylor credits Aboughazale with Protonico's success.

"He has always had a lot of faith in him," Taylor said. "The horse was a really good racehorse."

Of course a big reason for the bump in interest in Protonico, who stood the 2021 season for $5,000 at Castleton Lyons, is Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1) winner Medina Spirit—from Protonico's first crop. Of course it's an odd situation as that signature victory could be taken away because Medina Spirit failed a post-race drug test for the corticosteroid betamethasone.

Still, Taylor said the takeaway for breeders is that Protonico can throw a big horse. He noted that Medina Spirit also has stakes wins before and after the Derby and placed in the Runhappy Santa Anita Derby (G1) before the Kentucky Derby, and in the Preakness Stakes (G1) after the Kentucky Derby.

As a short yearling Medina Spirit sold for $1,000. At 2 he would sell for $35,000 to Zedan Racing Stables out of the Whitman Sales consignment at the 2020 Ocala Breeders' Sales July Sale of 2-Year-Olds and Horses of Racing Age.

With the small sizes of Protonico's crops, Taylor Made sometimes has to provide some reminders for potential buyers.

"Even though Protonico has the Derby winner this year, I still think with certain pockets of people, there's not a lot of name recognition. I think that's because you don't see Protonicos out running every day at the tracks because he had a relatively small crop in the first crop," Taylor said. "So there's a little bit of education involved.

"I think the horse has been underestimated, and he's going to get more mares now. He's probably going to get some higher quality mares, and I think he's going to show what he can do."

A homebred campaigned by Aboughazale's Sumaya U.S. Stables, Protonico showed precocity and durability in his racing career. He won at 2. He won the 2014 Smarty Jones Stakes and Discovery Handicap (both G3) at 3. At 4 he secured the 2015 Alysheba (G2) and Bel Ali (G3) stakes—in the latter setting a track record at Keeneland for 1 1/8 miles in 1:48.79. At 5, Protonico finished third in the 2016 Jockey Club Gold Cup Stakes (G1).

After his racing career, Aboughazale supported Protonico as a sire in his initial years.

"I think he gets a nice horse physically. There's just a lot of class about them," Taylor said. "I mean, he was such a tough sound horse. I think the market is responding pretty favorably."

Of the remaining Protonico yearlings cataloged in the sale, two are out. The other three are: Hip 3422, a filly out of stakes-placed Addibel Lightning by Colonel John; Hip 3429, a colt out of unraced Amadeus Wolf mare Amadeus Melody; and Hip 3654, a colt out of winning Rock Hard Ten mare Rockhard Lady. All three are consigned by Taylor Made.