Since 2004, we’ve shined the spotlight on over 1,500 ‘TDN Rising Stars’ worldwide, recognition given to a horse early on its career who has done something so impressive on the racetrack that our team believes they will go on to become graded stakes winners. A horse is designated as a ‘Rising Star’ by the TDN staff after a careful and comprehensive review of many factors–including the quality of the field, margin and time of victory, pedigree, sales price and more.
Over the years, it has become a badge of honor for a sire to produce a Rising Star. So which sires have been the most prolific when it comes to having one of their progeny be named a Rising Star? Below is our Top 10, which includes only sires based in North America. The list probably won’t surprise you. Good sires produce good horses.
Sire (#Rising Stars)
1) Tapit (51)
Not only is the 22-year-old Tapit one of the top sires in the history of the sport, but he has been around nearly as long as the Rising Stars have. He got his first Rising Star way back in 2010 when Trappe Shot won a maiden special weight race for 3-year-olds at Gulfstream Park. The TDN team was not wrong about Trappe Shot, who went on to win the GII True North H. in 2011. A year earlier, he won the Long Branch S. and ran second in the GI Haskell Invitational S. As a sire, Trappe Shot has had two Rising Stars.
Tapit was just getting started. Constitution was named a Rising Star in 2014 after winning a maiden special weight race at Gulfstream. He would go on to win the GI Florida Derby and the GI Donn H. Constitution turned out to be a top sire in his own right and had produced seven TDN Rising Stars. The hits kept on coming with subsequent Rising Stars by Tapit including 2014 GI Belmont S. winner Tonalist and Essential Quality, the 3-year-old champion of 2021, whose victories include wins in the Belmont, the GI Travers S., the GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and the GI Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity.
And, no, the team didn’t miss out on Flightline. Arguably the best horse Tapit has ever produced, he was named a Rising Star after he broke his maiden on April 24, 2021 at Santa Anita. You know the rest of the story.
2) Into Mischief (36)
The main thing separating Tapit and Into Mischief is how long they have been at stud as Into Mischief is four years younger than his rival stallion.
Into Mischief started churning out Rising Stars from the start. His first was Goldencents, who was named a Rising Star after he broke his maiden in 2012 at Del Mar. A top horse throughout his career, Goldencents went on to win, among other races, the GI Santa Anita Derby and two runnings in the GI Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile. As a sire, he’s had two Rising Stars. Other notable Rising Stars by Into Mischief include GI Kentucky Derby winner Mandaloun, multiple Grade I winner Life Is Good and 2020 champion female sprinter Gamine.
There are two Rising Stars by Into Mischief who are among the top candidates for this year’s Kentucky Derby in Newgate and Giant Mischief.
We did not tab 2020 Kentucky Derby winner Authentic, among the better horses Into Mischief has produced, as a Rising Star.
3) Distorted Humor (28)
Another sire who has been picking up Rising Stars for years. He got his first Rising Star way back in 2005 with Halo Humor, a maiden winner at Saratoga who was a Louisiana-bred. Halo Humor did not go on to win a graded stakes, but plenty of other Rising Stars by Distorted Humor did. The list includes such graded stakes winners as Any Given Saturday, Alternation, Cowtown Cat. There’s also Maclean’s Music, who, though he raced just once, has gone on to be a top sire.
With Momos having earned Rising Star status in 2020, Distorted Humor’s time as a producer of Rising Stars has covered a span of 15 years.
4) Medaglia d’Oro (24)
Another prolific sire who has been around for a while and has churned out two dozen Rising Stars, starting with Dashing Debby in 2009, who broke her maiden in the JJ’sdream S. at Calder.
In 2015, the team nailed it when naming Songbird a Rising Star after she broke her maiden at Del Mar. She, of course, went on to be a major star who was the champion 2-year-old filly in 2015 and the champion 3-year-old filly in 2016. She won eight Grade I races.
Elate, named a Rising Star in 2016, became another top performer for her sire and had Grade I wins in the Alabama S. and the Beldame S.
4) Unbridled’s Song (24)
His list is topped by Arrogate, named a Rising Star after he won a 2016 maiden special weight race at Santa Anita. Considered one of the best horses of this century, he had a run that won’t soon be forgotten, winning, in order, the Travers, the GI Breeders’ Cup Classic, the GI Pegasus World Cup Invitational S. and the GI Dubai World Cup. Arrogate has produced three Rising Stars so far during his brief time as a stallion.
Unbridled’s Song’s list of Rising Stars also includes Liam’s Map, the winner of the GI Woodward S. and the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile.
6) Speightstown (23)
He got off to a fast start as a Rising Stars sire as his second ever Rising Star was Munnings. Named a Rising Star in 2008, he won three Grade II races and went on to be a top stallion, who has had 10 Rising Stars. Other notable Rising Stars by Speightstown include Speighster, Echo Town, Charlatan and Nashville. Another sire who has been producing Rising Stars over the course of three decades, he had his most recent Rising Star last year when Andiamo a Firenze broke his maiden at Belmont Park.
6) Curlin (23)
Curlin picked up his first Rising Star in 2013 with Del Mar maiden winner Socialbug. That horse didn’t go on to win a graded stakes, but plenty of other Rising Stars by Curlin did. His most successful Rising Star was no doubt Malathaat, the champion 3-year-old filly of 2021 and the champion older dirt female of 2022. Her dam, Dreaming of Julia, also deserves mention as she is also the dam of Malathaat’s full sister and Rising Star Julia Shining. Julia Shining was named a Rising Star after breaking her maiden last fall at Keeneland and has since gone on to win the GII Demoiselle S. (The record for most Rising Stars for a broodmare is six, held by Delta Princess, the dam of Royal Delta). Curlin‘s most recent Rising Star is Faustin, who is a Kentucky Derby candidate after finishing second in the GII San Vicente S.
8) Malibu Moon (22)
Another sire who has been producing Rising Stars for what seems like forever. He had his first Rising Star in 2007 and his most recent came in 2021 with H P Moon, a maiden winner at Pimlico. His top Rising Star is Carina Mia, who captured the GI Acorn S.
9) Bernardini (19)
Bernardini’s list is topped by Cavorting, a three-time Grade I winner who captured the GI Test S., the GI Ogden Phipps S. and the Personal Ensign. Grade I winner Dame Dorothy is another Rising Star by Bernardini. She is the dam of Spice Is Nice, a Rising Star by Curlin.
9) Storm Cat (19)
Considering that he was retired from study duty in 2008, it’s remarkable that Storm Cat made the Top 10. Where would he be if Rising Stars went back to 1990 when his first crop appeared on the racetrack? He picked up his first Rising Star in 2005 with Where’s That Tiger, a winner at the Curragh. In the U.S., the list of Rising Stars by Storm Cat includes Grade I winners Bluegrass Cat and Life Is Sweet, the winner of the 2009 GI Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic. He had his last Rising Star in 2011 with Hoorayforhollywood, a maiden winner at Santa Anita.