In January of 2018, it already seemed like a foregone conclusion that Candy Ride would finish as the leading general sire of the year. Thanks to Horse of the Year Gun Runner, who took home the winner's share of $7 million for winning the world's richest race, the Pegasus World Cup, in his career finale, the Lane's End stallion had a major head start in the standings.
But improbably, as we come to New Year's Eve, Candy Ride has been surpassed atop the earnings list. The consistent Kitten's Joy, North America's reigning leading turf sire for six consecutive years, has overhauled Candy Ride stop the list, with earnings of $18,635,591 to $17,957,163 through Dec. 30. It will mark his second time atop the general earnings list, which he also led in 2013.
To be sure, Kitten's Joy, who stands at Hill 'n' Dale, also got a boost from the world's richest purses - his top earner Hawkbill won the Group 1 Dubai Sheema Classic on his way to bankrolling $3.9 million on the season. But the stallion's nine graded stakes winners also included multiple Group 1 winner Roaring Lion, honored as the Cartier Award European Horse of the Year; and Oscar Performance, winner of the Grade 1 Woodbine Mile. Unsurprisingly, Kitten's Joy's top runners are all international-caliber older horses on turf.
Likewise, Candy Ride wasn't a one-hit wonder, either. Game Winner captured his third career Grade 1 in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile and will certainly earn a divisional Eclipse Award, while Leofric and Separationofpowers were also Grade 1 winners. Leofric may start in the 2019 Pegasus, while Game Winner is gearing up for Derby prep season, indicating that Candy Ride is poised for another big year.
Both Candy Ride and Kitten's Joy finished the year with 17 black-type stakes winners.
The late Scat Daddy, who, of course, was represented by unbeaten Triple Crown winner Justify from his penultimate crop, will finish third on the earnings list, followed by Spendthrift's Into Mischief. The latter is again the nation's leading juvenile sire with graded winners such as Instagrand, Maximus Mischief, and Sombeyay. But more than that, those juveniles have begun to train on to greater success, as indicated by Audible's Florida Derby win and third-place Kentucky Derby finish, the best classic placing yet for the sire, and indicating a bright future as the quality of his mares continues to improve.
Gainesway's Tapit checked in fifth on the earnings list. Remarkably, even though Tapit's three-year run atop the list was derailed largely due to the advent of the Pegasus, his single-season earnings record of $19,245,198 has not been surpassed.
Curlin, who also stands at Hill 'n' Dale, continued his remarkable streak of producing classic winners or classic-placed runners from each of his crops to date, with Good Magic and Tenfold helping him finish sixth. Lane's End's Quality Road, sire of Grade 1 winners Abel Tasman, Bellafina, and City of Light, was next.
Rounding out the top 10 were WinStar's More Than Ready, whose Roy H repeated in the Breeders' Cup Sprint; Claiborne's Flatter; and Ashford's Lookin At Lucky, represented by Breeders' Cup Classic winner Accelerate.