Those who were watching racing in 2006 may remember watching Bernardini fly home to win the Gr.1 Travers Stakes. His son Stay Thirsty mimicked that Travers win five years later. Alpha won the race in a dead heat the following year. That meant two Travers winners in Bernardini's first two crops (quite the feat).
Before fully delving into Bernardini’s success at stud, it is nice to take a look at his career on the racetrack. Bernardini was born on March 23, 2003. Darley had bred his dam, Cara Rafaela, to A.P. Indy. The breeding proved itself to be a successful when Bernardini started racing.
Bernardini was sent to trainer Thomas Albertrani. He was unarmed as a two-year old, not making his debut until January 7, 2006. He finished fourth and a lung infection put him out of racing for two months afterwards. When he returned to racing, it was in style. Bernardini floated home to a seven and three-fourths length victory in an Maiden Special Weight at Gulfstream Park.
With an impressive maiden win under his belt, it was time for Bernardini to begin making his way up the ladder of graded stakes races. First on the list was the Gr.3 Withers Stakes at Aqueduct in which Bernardini was hand-ridden to a three length victory. His next start would be in the Gr.1 Preakness Stakes, becoming the biggest win of his career when he smashed the field with a five length win. His victory, however, was darkened with the breaking down of that year’s Kentucky Derby winner, Barbaro, during the race.
The decision was made to not run Bernardini in the Belmont Stakes. Instead, he was entered in the Gr.2 Jim Dandy Stakes. He flew home to an easy ten length victory. One month later he was practically cantering home to a seven length win in the Gr.1 Travers Stakes. He added another win to his record in the Gr.1 Jockey Club Gold Cup that October.
It was clear what Bernardini needed to accomplish next. If he was able to take the Breeders' Cup Classic, he would finish out his three-year old season in absolutely stunning fashion. It seemed like he would succeed as he barreled down the stretch, but Invasor was able to surpass him to win by a length.
Unsurprisingly, the money to be gained if Bernardini would retire to stud made his owners do just that. He was sent home to Darley in Kentucky. He boasted a record of 8:6-1-0 and earnings of $3.06 million and was named Champion Three Year Old Male. Fitting for his achievements and pedigree, Bernardini stood for $100,000. The now sixteen year old Bernardini stands for $50,000.
Bernardini’s stud career has been doing fairly well. He is the broodmare sire of twenty-five black-type winners and eleven graded stakes winners. He directly sired horses such as Alpha, Stay Thirsty, A Z Warrior, To Honor and Serve, Cavorting, Boban, and more. In 2009, he became one of only two horses to ever be bred to two Horse of the Year earning mares. For Bernardini, these mares were Rachel Alexandra and Zenyatta. While Zenyatta’s foal from the mating (Cozmic One) was unsuccessful on the racetrack (but now successful in other disciplines), Rachel Alexandra’s Rachel's Valentina became a Gr.1 winner and is now retired at Stonestreet Farms. As of December 14, 2018, Bernardini has sired fourteen grade one winners.
Bernardini is admired for his success on the racetrack as well as for his successes in the breeding shed. With A.P. Indy now pensioned, many breeders look to horses such as Bernardini to pass down Indy’s incredible genes. Darley and Bernardini’s fans keep their hopes high to see him continue to sire winners and keep his and A.P. Indy’s legacy alive.
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