First-crop sires: The Wine Steward finishes 2023 as Vino Rosso’s top earner

January 19th, 2024

Spendthrift Farm’s Vino Rosso, the 2019 winner of the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1), closed out the 2023 season ranked third among North American first-crop sires, with $2,193,544 in progeny earnings; nearly 17% of which was earned by The Wine Steward.

Fellow Spendthrift Farm stud Mitole finished first among freshman sires, with $2,624,858, followed by Maximus Mischief ($2,266,229), also standing at the Lexington breeding farm. Omaha Beach rounded out the Spendthrift-dominated top four of the first-crop sire rankings.

The Wine Steward yet to return since Breeders’ Futurity

Since scratching from the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1), The Wine Steward has yet to make his return to the track, but the Mike Maker pupil still managed to conclude 2023 with the most earnings by far of any Vino Rosso progeny — and that’s with the stallion leading all first-crop sires with 92 runners.

The Wine Steward’s total of $370,260 was more than double that of Vino Rosso’s next-most profitable earner, Cap Classique, who recorded a 4-3-1-0 record in 2023 with $148,400 in earnings. The filly’s most notable victory came in the Smart Halo S. at Laurel Park, which she followed up with a second in the Gin Talking S. at the same track on Dec. 30.

Third in progeny earnings for Vino Rosso was Wine Me Up, a Bob Baffert pupil who graduated on debut in a six-furlong maiden special weight at Del Mar, then came home second in the American Pharoah (G1) to stablemate Muth before disappointing in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Wine Me Up closed out his two-year-old season in the Los Alamitos Futurity (G2), where he was fourth to longshot Wynstock, another Baffert runner.

You can currently wager on The Wine Steward in Pool 3 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager (KDFW), along with another Vino Rosso maiden winner, Tuscan Sky (99-1), who showed a ton of promise on debut.

Tuscan Sky has Kentucky Derby potential for Vino Rosso

In our previous installment on Vino Rosso, we highlighted a handful of sophomores by the stallion with Kentucky Derby potential. In addition to Wine Me Up (should he transfer to a trainer not suspended at Churchill Downs) and The Wine Steward, Vino Rosso scored a stakes placing on the Derby trail with Dancing Groom, third in the Champagne (G1) at Belmont.

While not active during the 2023 season, Vino Rosso’s Tuscan Sky also made an impressive debut on Jan. 13 in a six-furlong maiden special weight at Aqueduct. The Todd Pletcher pupil, who’s out of a Sky Mesa mare, romped to a 5 1/4-length win against five rivals and recorded a sharp 97 Brisnet Speed figure in the process.

He could be one to watch along the Derby trail, despite getting a late start, making his debut at age three, similar to last year's Derby winner Mage.

Another colt who has appeared along the Kentucky Derby trail is Next Level, who was entered in the Jan. 20 Lecomte (G3) until he scratched the Wednesday before the race. Trained by Keith Desormeaux, the bay colt came home last of five on debut in a five-furlong maiden special weight on Santa Anita's main track, then finished second by 1 1/4 lengths to Mission Beach in a six-furlong maiden.

Next Level leveled-up to stakes company in his next start and was third to Prince of Monaco in the Del Mar Futurity (G1). He tried graded stakes company again while still a maiden in the American Pharoah (G1), a Kentucky Derby prep, and finished seventh of eighth. He then dropped in class to a maiden special weight at Fair Grounds, where he finally reached the winner's circle on Nov. 23.

In last month's Gun Runner S., Next Level went off as a 36-1 longshot and once again disappointed against stakes company, as last of seven. The sophomore will need to take a huge step forward in his next effort if connections still want to point him toward the Derby.

Notable Vino Rosso fillies

As for his sophomore fillies, Vino Rosso has a stakes-placed daughter in Vino Rouge, who was second to Shimmering Allure in the Tempted S. at Aqueduct on Nov. 5. She then finished a distant sixth to Life Talk in the Dec. 2 Demoiselle (G2) at Aqueduct.

Trainer Tony Dutrow had originally prepared to put Vino Rouge away for the season after the Tempted, but felt she came out of the race well enough to face graded stakes company in December. Vino Rouge stalked the pace through the first half-mile of the Demoiselle but dropped back while seven wide into upper stretch and had nothing left in her first attempt at 1 1/8 miles, the distance of the Kentucky Oaks.

April Vintage is another Vino Rosso filly who impressed as a two-year-old, winning at second asking, and in her first turf try, in a 5 1/2-furlong maiden special weight at Del Mar for trainer Peter Miller. The $175K two-year-old purchase proceeded to face stakes company (and males) in her third career start and was third to John Sadler trainee Slider in the five-furlong Speakeasy S. on Santa Anita's lawn. She then dropped back down to an allowance optional claimer and finished fourth to Julias Dream at Del Mar.

April Vintage closed out her two-year-old season with a sixth in the one-mile Blue Norther S., in which she set the early pace but weakened in the final sixteenth.

Vino Rossos in 2024

With 24 winners from 92 starters in 2023, Vino Rosso was incredibly productive as a first-crop sire, and he has a number of runners set to hit the track in the coming month. Steve Asmussen pupil Crafted, a three-year-old debut maiden winner out of Bodemeister mare Storm Raven, disappointed in Friday's Riley Allison Derby at Sunland Park in his second career start. The Winchell Thoroughbreds colorbearer, who went off as the 2.20-1 second choice in the one-mile event, can rebound.

Additionally, several Vino Rossos will look to break their maiden over the weekend of Jan. 20. Among those are Mark Casse trainee Cabernaydo out of a Hard Spun mare and filly Luna Love, who was sixth on debut in a Gulfstream maiden special weight.

Vino Rosso will stand in 2024 for a fee of $25,000, alongside fellow Spendthrift sires Mitole ($15,000 fee), Maximus Mischief ($25,000), and Omaha Beach ($40,000).