January 20, 2014
There are some horses who retire to stud having left the impression we never saw their best. MORNING LINE is one such horse. That’s a remarkable thing to say, given the fact that the son of Tiznow is a Grade 1 winner of over $1.2 million who defeated no fewer than 16 Grade 1 winners on the track. But such was the innate talent of MORNING LINE, a horse bred for the Classics if ever there was one, who nonetheless was blessed with sprinter speed.
What does that mean for breeders? It means a terrific opportunity, a chance to breed to a horse with immense commercial appeal for just $10,000.
But that’s getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s start from the beginning.
Bred by Dell Ridge Farm, MORNING LINE was produced by the A.P. INDY mare Indian Snow, a daughter of the brilliant November Snow (Storm Cat), winner of the G1 Test S. at seven furlongs and, a start later, the 1 1/4-mile G1 Alabama S.
As a yearling on offer by Lane’s End at Keeneland September, MORNING LINE drew the attention of the some of the world’s best horsemen and was hammered down for $700,000—the top price paid for TIZNOW yearling that year and $300,000 more than Tiznow’s next-highest-priced yearling.
MORNING LINE was sent to trainer Nick Zito and showed early he was something different. In his route debut at three, he broke his maiden by 8 lengths, then aired by 11 lengths in a first-level allowance at Saratoga. In his very first start in stakes company, the G2 Pennsylvania Derby, MORNING LINE was hounded through six furlongs in 1:10 4/5. He lost the lead in upper stretch to G2 Jim Dandy S. winner A Little Warm, but he battled back gamely for the narrow win over the rallying First Dude in a three-horse photo.
A late-developing 3yo going up against his elders is never easy, especially when he’s doing it in the Breeders’ Cup. But that’s what MORNING LINE was asked to do in the 2010 G1 Breeders’ Cup Mile at Churchill Downs, and he put up one of the finest efforts of the weekend…and of his career.
Lured into an early speed duel through wicked :22 2/5 and :44 4/5 splits while three wide, he powered to a clear lead at the quarter pole after three quarters in 1:09 2/5. He carried a two-length lead into the final sixteenth, only to be tagged by Dakota Phone—last early and three or four paths to his outside—in the final jump. MORNING LINE was quickly back in front as they galloped out.
To put the testing fractions MORNING LINE helped set in perspective, Big Drama, winner of the G1 BC Sprint earlier on the card, led through a :44 2/5 half and won in 1:09—just two ticks faster than MORNING LINE’s splits. Behind MORNING LINE that day were the Grade 1 winners Tizway, Vineyard Haven, Mine That Bird, Here Comes Ben, etc.
Grade 1 glory wouldn’t elude MORNING LINE for long, however. Coming off a second-place effort in the G1 Donn H. at Gulfstream, he was at 2-1 in the prestigious G1 Carter H. at Aqueduct, a race won by such luminaries as Tom Fool, Bold Ruler and In Reality, as well as the Lane’s End greats like GULCH and LANGFUHR.
Always looking like the winner, MORNING LINE was kept in the clear three wide and pressed a half in :44 2/5 that announcer Tom Durkin called “scorching.” MORNING LINE was lengthening his stride as they got to eighth pole in 1:08 2/5 and swept to the front in deep stretch to win going away by 1 1/2 lengths. The final time of the race was 1:21 2/5.
Zito called it a great win for MORNING LINE. “If ever a horse deserves to win a Grade 1 race, it’s him,” said the Hall of Famer.
MORNING LINE later joined the California-based barn of John Shirreffs, but the results were the same—brilliance from MORNING LINE. Returning from a nine-month break and trying a synthetic track for the first time, MORNING LINE led every step to win the G2 Mervyn Leroy H. at Hollywood Park.
In all, MORNING LINE ran first or second in 9 of 15 starts and banked $1,251,300.
MORNING LINE’s sire Tiznow, the two-time Breeders’ Cup Classic winner, is one of the most respected sires in the nation, with 11 Grade 1 winners to his credit. He’s also emerging as a sire of sires; his sons Tiz Wonderful and Colonel John have each sired graded winners from their first crops.