Breeders' Cup International Scouting Report: Siskin

December 15th, 2021

An unbeaten 2-year-old who progressed into a classic winner, Juddmonte homebred Siskin has outstanding credentials in this career finale. The only drawbacks to his Breeders' Cup Mile credentials could be red herrings, but worth noting – a chance of his having a fit in the gate, and the fact that his fall program has been dictated more by his impending stud career in Japan than by trainer Ger Lyons.

Siskin is closely related to fellow Juddmonte celebrity Close Hatches, champion older female of 2014 and dam of current Classic (G1) contender Tacitus. Both Siskin and Close Hatches are by First Defence, and their dams are half-sisters. Siskin is out of the Oasis Dream mare Bird Flown, who is also a half to Group 2-placed stakes scorer Barsanti, from the superb Best in Show tribe.

Debuting over 6 furlongs at Naas, Siskin tracked the pace before drawing clear, and he worked out a similar trip when dominating the Curragh’s Marble Hill. That could have sent him to Royal Ascot 2019. Indeed, his four beaten foes all went, mostly to no effect, except for Marble Hill trailer Southern Hills who won the Windsor Castle.

But Lyons preferred to keep him in Ireland at that stage, a decision fully backed by the Juddmonte brain trust. So Siskin returned to the Curragh for the Railway (G2), and demolished them in an even more taking performance. Traveling just behind the dueling leaders, the 4-6 favorite was going so easily that he struck the front as they began to wilt. Jockey Colin Keane then let him go on with it, and Siskin lorded it over O’Brien’s duo of Monarch of Egypt and Fort Myers (who wasn’t beaten far in seventh in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf).

Siskin’s first close call came in the Phoenix (G1), where soft going at the Curragh blunted his kick, yet the odds- on favorite still managed to pounce effectively. Monarch of Egypt, who was eligible to improve second off a break anyway, threw down a more serious challenge to cause a scare. Siskin fought him off by three-quarters of a length, with Ballydoyle’s July (G2) winner Royal Lytham in third.

Now Siskin was ready for the acid test of the Middle Park (G1). Having beaten up on lesser lights, he’d face a better grade of rivals led by Godolphin’s Earthlight. But the long-awaited showdown never happened after Siskin had a meltdown in the gate, in a scary scene that saw him rear up, go down, and have to be extricated.

It remains a mystery why Siskin flipped out at Newmarket. Thankfully he escaped with just “superficial cuts and bruises,” though “a bit stiff and sore,” according to Lyons, who obviously put him away for the season after that debacle.

Thus when Siskin resurfaced for the June 12 Irish 2000 Guineas (G1), he was the 2-1 favorite as the class of the field, but with a question about how he’d act in the gate – and handle the mile. Siskin answered both decisively, displaying a forceful will to bull himself out of traffic trouble. While he was still mired on the inside, Lope Y Fernandez quickened to the front. Siskin had the turbo to catch and pass him once finally clear, extending his record to 5-for-5.

If not for Covid, Siskin would have matched wits with Kameko et al in Newmarket’s Guineas first. But the revised calendar prompted Lyons to pursue the Irish classic, skip Royal Ascot, and tackle the big guns at Glorious Goodwood.

Although Siskin suffered his first loss in the July 29 Sussex (G1), against the strongest field he’d ever faced, his close third versus elders established him as a miler of the highest order. Anchored at the rear on the inside, he was able to angle outside in the stretch as Kameko was bottled. Siskin produced a strong run to close on front-running Circus Maximus, but he couldn’t get past him, and both in turn were sacked by the flying Mohaather. Yet Siskin fared best of the sophomores, with the Newmarket top two, Kameko and Wichita, behind him.

Then Lyons had Siskin’s future taken out of his hands after his private sale to Japanese interests for stud duty. His long-held plan was to prepare him for the Breeders’ Cup – but at the end of his 4-year-old campaign in 2021, not now.

Nor was it the trainer’s idea to go to Longchamp for the Sept. 6 Prix du Moulin (G1), and it ended up being a disappointment all around. Siskin lost it in the gate, reared at the start, recovered to secure position in third, but uncharacteristically weakened to fourth. While Circus Maximus was only a length ahead of him in third, neither ran his best race.

Viewed strictly on his merits, Siskin is a major threat in the Mile, especially if the favorable forecast holds and he gets a quicker surface. Unlike Kameko, whose big wins have all come down straightaways, Siskin has been effective around a turn, albeit right-handed. And Lyons believes that he’ll be fine at the gate; his Moulin fiasco happened only once they tried to put a hood on him, so avoiding that can ensure a smooth experience at Keeneland.

Siskin had “Breeders’ Cup written all over him,” Lyons said after the Sussex, and just last week, he told Aly Vance how well the colt is training in the build-up. The question is whether Siskin can fulfill his plan a year earlier than envisioned, or if his trainer’s initial instinct is correct about the timing. Lyons freely admitted on Nick Luck’s podcast that it was “demoralizing” to have Siskin retire rather than stick around for another season.