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Game of Silks: Tonalist named Silks Stallion of the Week

Game of Silks: Tonalist named Silks Stallion of the Week

Tonalist stands for a $10,000 stud fee in Kentucky. Credit: Lane's End

Like Rosie Perez’s character says in “White Men Can’t Jump,” sometimes when you lose, you actually win. That’s been the case the past two winters for Country Grammer, the most successful horse sired by Tonalist, who’s been named the Silks Stallion of the Week.

Last Saturday, Country Grammer finished second in the $20 million Saudi Cup, the world’s richest horse race, for the second consecutive year. Under jockey Frankie Dettori, Country Grammer unleashed a powerful, wide rally down the stretch at King Abdulaziz Racecourse in Saudi Arabia but finished three-quarters of a length behind gate-to-wire winner Panthalassa.

Country Grammer earned $3.5 million for the effort, lifting his career earnings to $14.8 million. The performance also vaulted Tonalist into first place among North American stallions with $4.18 million in progeny earnings this year. Into Mischief, the leading stallion in each of the past four years, now ranks second with $4.02 million.

Thanks to Country Grammer, Tonalist now leads all North American stallions in average earnings per starter this year at $49,154, more than $17,000 ahead of second-place Bernardini. Tonalist has had 85 starters this year and is tied for 67th among North American stallions with 15 winners.

Country Grammer was making his first start since winning the Grade 2 San Antonio Stakes at Santa Anita in December. Trainer Bob Baffert said the 6-year-old horse will target the $12 million Dubai World Cup at Meydan on March 25. Country Grammer won that race last year, and its 1 1/4-mile distance, a furlong longer than that of the Saudi Cup, favors the horse’s late-running style.

Country Grammer’s strong 2022 campaign is the main reason Tonalist ranked fourth among North American stallions with $16.8 million in progeny earnings last year. Tonalist had a decent year overall, getting 96 winners, which tied for 44th place, from 172 starters. He was North America’s leading fourth-crop sire, almost $6 million clear of second-place American Pharoah.

Tonalist, 12, stands in Kentucky for a modest $10,000 stud fee largely because Country Grammer is his only Grade 1 or Group 1 stakes winner. The stallion has sired a pair of Grade 2 winners in Tonalist’s Shape and Who’s the Star, and his second-richest runner is Betsy Blue, a three-time stakes winner with $679,510 in earnings.

Based on his pedigree and race record, bigger things were expected from Tonalist when he entered stud in 2016, but perhaps Country Grammer’s success is a harbinger. Tonalist is a son of Tapit, whose $194.4 million in lifetime progeny earnings ranks first in North American racing history. Prior to Into Mischief, Tapit was a perennial leading sire.

After losing his only start as a juvenile, Tonalist burst onto the scene at age 3, rallying with authority to win the 2014 Belmont Stakes by a head over long shot Commissioner. Tonalist also won the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup and Grade 2 Peter Pan Stakes that year. At age 4, he scored a repeat victory in the Jockey Club Gold Cup and concluded his career by winning the Grade 1 Cigar Mile.

Tonalist won seven of 16 career starts for $3.65 million. Aside from a pair of fifth-place finishes in the Breeders’ Cup Classic and his fourth-place career debut, he never finished off the board.

There are 35 juveniles sired by Tonalist in the first Game of Silks catalog, which features all the thoroughbreds born in 2021 that were entered in a public auction prior to publication. Many of those horses will begin competing this year, perhaps as early as April, when Keeneland traditionally holds the year’s first races for 2-year-olds.

About Game of Silks: It’s a next-generation fantasy sports game that tokenizes each racehorse into a digital collectible that can be bought and sold. In 2023, Silks owners will receive 1% of their horses’ real-world purse earnings, a figure that’s expected to rise steadily in subsequent years.

As a dynasty fantasy contest, Game of Silks allows players to retain ownership of their horses for the duration of their racing and breeding careers, potentially earning rewards for a decade or more. Owners also are free to sell at any time.

Launched last April, Silks already is among the top 10 sports-themed NFT platforms on the Ethereum blockchain.