by Bill Finley
It’s hard to expect much from a regional sire who has been bred to small books of mares, but New Jersey-based Sea Wizard keeps overcoming those obvious disadvantages. He picked up another milestone in his brief stallion career when his son Ship to Shore romped to an eight-length win in the Feb. 6 Limehouse Stakes at Gulfstream. For Sea Wizard, it was the first stakes win in an open company race from one of his progeny.
“His runners can run,” said Cameron Beatty, who is an advisor to Carmine Spinella, who operates Pegasus Stud in Colts Neck, where Sea Wizard stands. “It’s not just against Jersey breds. They’re running all across the East Coast and winning.”
In this case, a little luck didn’t hurt. The race was scratched down to four after odds-on favorite Valiant Force was scratched at the gate. But as well as Ship to Shore ran, who’s to stay he wouldn’t have won had there not been so many scratches.
Sea Wizard was an unknown when he entered stud duty in 2017. Trained by the late John Mazza, the son of Uncle Mo was second in his debut in 2015, losing to Destin, who would go on to win the Tampa Bay Derby. After a 5 1/2-month layoff, he returned at Gulfstream and scored an easy win in a maiden special weight race, which would turn out to be his last start.
Mazza talked Sam Fieramosca, who then ran Colonial Farms, into giving the horse a try as a sire. (Fieramosca subsequently sold the farm to Spinella). He’d have to make do with a small book of mares. He was bred to just 21 mares in his first year. But that first crop included Great Navigator, who, as a 2-year-old, broke his maiden against open company and finished second in the GIII Sanford Stakes at Saratoga. In 2023, he won the Charles Hesse III Handicap and finished third behind leading Horse of the Year contender Cody’s Wish in the GII Vosburgh Stakes.
The second crop consisted of just 13 foals, but, again, it included some runners. In addition to Ship to Shore, Sea Streak has finished second behind open company in the Smoke Glacken Stakes and third in the Mucho Macho Man Stakes.
Breeders are starting to take notice. His stud fee is $5,000
“His first foals were pretty small,” said Beatty. “Ship to Shore, he’s the size of a toothpick. But for some reason, they can run. They are lightning-fast. Now he’s starting to get bigger mares so his foals are starting to get significantly larger. Which is good. Sea Wizard is not the biggest specimen, the biggest horse on the grounds. People breeding to him want speed and he’s been producing speed. People were saying he couldn’t produce a two-turn horse. That was put to bed when Great Navigator went two turns for the first time and won by open lengths in the Hesse. He’s getting better, bigger size mares which is helping him tremendously and he’s getting more mares.”
Beatty and Spinella are so devoted to promoting Sea Wizard that they have acquired, between the two of them, 20 broodmares, most of who will be bred to Sea Wizard. Beatty is hoping he will be bred to 40 to 45 mares this year.
“Myself and Carmine have been bringing in mares to the farm from all different states, Kentucky, New York. Florida, Beatty said. “We’ve made a commitment not only to the New Jersey breeding community but to Monmouth Park. We want to get as many Jersey breds as we can.”
Beatty admits that some of those who inquire about breeding to Sea Wizard express concerns about the Jersey-bred program. He can’t speak for any other breeder, but will tell the potential customer that Pegasus Stud is committed to the program and is going to everything possible to make it grow.
“I tell them what we’re trying to do and how we are trying to make things better,” he said. “We can do our part to help bring up the size of the foal crop. To help make that happen we went out and bought a bunch of mares on our own. We can’t control what mares people bring to us but we can control mares we bring onto the farm on our behalf.
“People are more concerned about New Jersey breeding down the road and where will it be three, four years from now when their foals hit the racetrack. I can only tell them we have leaders involved who are trying to reinforce the Jersey breeding community as much as possible. I take it from my standpoint. When I first got in the game the purse for the Jersey-bred maiden special weight race was $40,000. Over just a few years that purse is now right around $70,000. They have good programs in places like New York and Pennsylvania. But it’s all about numbers and if we can get the foal crop numbers up in New Jersey it’s only going to be positive from there.”