Halo flame burning bright

by | Sep 13, 2016

There is no disputing the fact that for the past two decades, the Hail To Reason sire line has thrived in this country primarily through his admirable son Roberto, the sire of champion stallion Al Mufti and his equally prominent son Captain Al.

Now, with the emergence of potent young sire Gimmethegreenlight, the spotlight has fallen on a lesser known son of Hail To Reason, the fiery Halo.

A half-brother to champion filly Tosmah, Halo was produced from stakes winner Cosmah, a daughter of Northern Dancer’s grandam Almahmoud. While he lacked the class of his champion half-sister, Halo proved his prowess as a turf performer and following a career-best victory in the Gr.1 United Nations Handicap, he entered stud at the Maryland division of Windfields Farms in 1974, at a live foal fee of $10,000. His first crop featured Canadian Horse of the Year and Eclipse winner Glorious Song, who of course went on to produce tip top sires Singspiel, Rahy and Rakeen.

The year 1983 proved to be a watershed for the black stallion. The success of Kentucky Derby winner Sunny’s Halo and Glorious Song’s champion full brother Devil’s Bag saw him clinch the first of two sires titles and it came as no surprise when Windfields owner E P Taylor sold his majority interest in the stallion. The deal put Halo’s value at $36-million and also saw him exchange Maryland for Arthur Hancock III’s Stone Farm, where he stood his first season in 1984 and would die at the ripe old age of 31. Remembered by many as a rogue who wore a muzzle, the nearly black stallion was described by Hancock as having had “an eye like a shark, he could see everything going on around him”.

In Kentucky, Halo carried on where he had left off and would lead the General Sires List again in 1989, when his Stone Farm-bred son Sunday Silence won the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Breeders Cup Classic, good enough for a Horse of the Year award.

Hancock’s attempt to syndicate the colt amongst his fellow breeders was met with lukewarm enthusiasm and Sunday Silence was eventually sold to Japanese breeder Zenya Yoshida for $10-million. Ironically, he was to prove the one who got away, at a time when the Halo male line looked in danger of decline in his birth country. Sunny’s Halo proved a failure as a stallion, while Devil’s Bag failed to emulate his own precocity. Ironically, it was left to Canadian-bred Saint Ballado, the own brother to Glorious Song and Devil’s Bag, to carry the torch, and he did so with aplomb, siring champions Ashado and Saint Liam. Sadly, he died far too young in 2002 aged 13 and three years later, would emulate his sire as the American champion stallion. He too, sired a Horse of the Year, Saint Liam, who would prove to be even more short-lived, dying tragically after just one season at stud.

To say that the Halo male line has enjoyed its most success outside the States, would be an understatement.

In Japan, Sunday Silence went on to be a sire of legendary proportions and led the sires list for 13 straight years. His dynasty as a sire of sires looks assured, with a plethora of sire sons headed by the phenomenal Deep Impact. Twice Japan’s Horse of the Year, his impact on the Japanese breeding industry has exceeded all expectations. He set a record for a first season sire with 35 individual two-year-old winners, led the sires list in 2012 with just two crops of runners and remains that country’s dominant stallion.

In the spring of 1983, the Northern Dancer mare Northern Sea foaled a Halo colt at Windfields whose pedigree featured a coupling of the half-sisters Cosmah and Natalma (the dam of Northern Dancer). Sent to the Keeneland Yearling Sale, he was purchased by the BBA on behalf of Stavros Niarchos for $600,000. Unplaced in two starts in Europe, the colt, now named Southern Halo, returned to the States to join the American stable of master trainer D Wayne Lukas, for whom he won five times and ran second in both the Gr.1 Swaps Stakes and the Gr.1 Super Derby.

Markedly back at the knee, upright in the pasterns and a non-stakes winner to boot, Southern Halo was always going to be a marginal stud prospect in Kentucky. However, prominent Argentine stud farm Haras La Quebrada gave recognition to his impeccable breeding and Southern Halo was despatched to a stallion career in Argentina, where he would rewrite the record books.

Widely regarded as the most successful South American sire of the modern era, “the Sadler’s Wells of Argentina” led that country’s sires list from 1994 to 2000, and again in 2004 and 2007. That success saw him return to the land of his birth in 1996, where he sired millionaire More Than Ready. Flashing precocity and a strong frontrunner, the brown colt ran his opponents off their feet in  his first five starts at two. However, a classic campaign exposed his stamina limitations and after finishing fourth in the Kentucky Derby, trainer Todd Fletcher wisely brought the colt back in distance. More Than Ready (pictured) found his niche as a sprinter-miler, gaining a sire-making Gr.1 victory in the King’s Bishop Stakes over 1400m.


Retired to Vinery Kentucky in 2001, he has tasted considerable success in his birth country, siring the likes of Gr.1 winners Verrazano, Regally Ready and Buster’s Ready. A regular shuttler to Australia, that is where he has tasted his greatest success, having twice led that country’s juvenile sires list.

Now regarded as North America’s pre-eminent representative of the Halo line, he is hitting his stride as a sire of sires and it’s worth noting that like his grandsire, success in that sphere has so far been achieved outside his birth country. In Australia, More Than Ready is represented by Golden Slipper winner Sebring, now a leading sire for Widden Stud, while his American-bred son Pluck has made a promising start to his innings at Vinery Australia.

It was only a matter of time before one of his sons would take up stallion duties in South Africa, this being the imposing Australian-bred Gimmethegreenlight. A Gr.1 winner on the track, he has made a sparkling start to his career as the country’s champion freshman sire of 2015-16. What’s most encouraging though, after just one month of the new racing season, he has already notched up a dozen winners.