WHY FIRST DEFENCE?

By Ercel Ellis

On April 6th in New York, the Gr.2 $250,000 Gazelle Stakes was won by Close Hatches, a 3 year old filly from the first crop by FIRST DEFENCE.  Close Hatches led throughout the 9 furlongs of the Gazelle, drawing away through the last furlong to win by 3 1/4 lengths at the direct expense of the Todd Pletcher trained filly Princess of Sylmar, who went into the Gazelle off consecutive wins by 7 and 7 1/2 lengths respectively in the Busher and Busanda Stakes, both at Aqueduct. 

Close Hatches is undefeated in 3 starts, trained by Bill Mott and racing in the Juddmonte colors, she won her debut at Gulfstream by 7 lengths, earning a "rising star" label from the Thoroughbred Daily News, then won her second start under a hand ride, also at Gulfstream.

FIRST DEFENCE is also the sire of Dundonnell, a colt based in Great Britain where he won the Gr.3 Acomb Stakes and was second in the Gr.2 Champagne Stakes after breaking his Maiden by an impressive 12 lengths, shattering a long standing course record.  Sent to Santa Anita to compete in the Gr.1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf, he gave a good account of himself, finishing a strong fourth of 14, beaten less than 3 lengths, over one mile in 1:33 and 3.  Dundonnell was bred and is owned by Juddmonte and much is expected of him this year including a view toward Classic efforts.

On the same day of Close Hatches's victory in the Gr.2 Gazelle, another filly bred by Juddmonte won the Gr.1 Ashland Stakes at Keeneland.  Much like Close Hatches in the Gazelle, Emollient went to the lead immediately and led from start to finish to win by an impressive 9 lengths.  Emollient, is sired by Empire Maker, a half-brother to the dam of FIRST DEFENCE, the Gr.1 stakes winner Honest Lady, by Seattle Slew.  Emollient's dam Soothing Touch has a smashing foal by FIRST DEFENCE and will return to him again in 2013.  FIRST DEFENCE is a son of Unbridled's Song, by Unbridled (sire of Empire Maker).  Close Hatches and Emollient are leading candidates from the Gr.1 Kentucky Oaks.

FIRST DEFENCE has now sired, in his first crop, a Graded stakes winner on dirt and a Group stakes winner on grass.  This versatility was to be expected as  FIRST DEFENCE was a brilliant sprinter, winning a Gr.1 stakes at 7 furlongs, but his pedigree abounds with Gr.1 stamina.  Empire Maker won the Gr.1 Belmont Stakes, Unbridled the Gr.1 Kentucky Derby, Seattle Slew, the Triple Crown, and his second dam, Broodmare of the Year Toussaud was a Gr.1 stakes winner,  and produced 4 Gr.1 winners, among them 2 successful sires, Empire Maker and Chester House.  FIRST DEFENCE is yet another genetic masterpiece from the Toussaud dynasty.

FIRST DEFENCE continues to benefit from the strong support of Juddmonte Farms.  In addition to the aforementioned Soothing Touch (dam of recent Gr.1 winner Emollient), Flute (winner of the Gr.1 Kentucky Oaks and of over $1,000,000), Gr.1 winner Announce, Gr.1 winner Yashmak, Gr.1 winner Price Tag, and Gr.1 producer Willstar  are all booked to him for 2013.

Date: 12 April 2013