Empire Stallions is pleased to announce the addition of the sensational pacing phenom TALL DARK STRANGER to its world class stallion roster this coming season.
A magnificent dark bay individual standing 15.3 hands, TALL DARK STRANGER (p, 2, 1:49.1; 3, 1:47.1; $2,020,195) certainly lives up to his name and is without question one of the best-bred, best-performed stallions to ever be available in the southern hemisphere.
In one of the deepest crops in recent history, TALL DARK STRANGER defeated the best of his generation on his way to accumulating 19 wins and two seconds from 22 lifetime starts while banking more than $2 million in earnings.
Destined for greatness from birth, TALL DARK STRANGER was a $330,000 yearling purchase from the Lexington Selected Sale and was considered to be the premier pacing colt offered in 2018.
TALL DARK STRANGER’s first foray into racing was in the Breakfast With The Babies trials at The Meadowlands where he roared by the field at the top of the stretch with a 26.1-second last quarter to win impressively in 1:55.2.
In his first official race start at two, TALL DARK STRANGER gave the world a glimpse of what was to come when he took the lead at the half and never looked back posting a 25.4 last quarter to win in a very slick 1:51.3.
After two Ontario Sire Stakes Gold wins, TALL DARK STRANGER was headed to the $750,000 Metro Pace at Woodbine – North America’s most prestigious two-year-old event. After winning his elimination in 1:50.1, TALL DARK STRANGER won the Metro Final the following week establishing a new stakes record of 1:49.1 (a new personal best) and increased his tally to six consecutive wins.
TALL DARK STRANGER concluded his juvenile season with two additional victories in the International Stallion Stakes and the Two-Year-Old Breeders Crown Final for a total of eight wins from nine starts and earnings of $717,514. For his efforts, he was voted Two-Year-Old Colt Pacer of the Year in both the United States and Canada.
It was a jaw-dropping performance for TALL DARK STRANGER in his three-year-old debut as he faced older foes in a high-end conditioned pace and won in 1:47.4 to equal the fastest mile in the sport that year.
After sitting in a live cover flow past the half, Yannick Gingras, TALL DARK STRANGER’s regular pilot, swung him three-wide midway through the far turn. TALL DARK STRANGER then exploded through the stretch pacing his final quarter in 25.4, lowering his previous lifetime best by one-and-one fifth seconds.
Pedigree, conformation and athleticism – TALL DARK STRANGER obviously has them all. But one thing you can’t tell from looking at a horse is whether or not he has what “it” takes to be a champion. Nowhere was TALL DARK STRANGER’s heart, grit and determination on better display than in The Meadowlands Pace – in fact, the Final has been shortlisted as one of the greatest races of all time!
Advancing gradually off the first turn, TALL DARK STRANGER cleared for the lead with five-eighths to go and controlled a 53.2 half. On the far turn, TALL DARK STRANGER faced a stout challenge from PAPI ROB HANOVER, and the pair paced side-by-side to the three-quarters in 1:20.4.
It was an epic battle to the wire with TALL DARK STRANGER proving he was toughest of them all, fighting back valiantly to win by a neck in 1:47.2.
“He’s a fast horse, but he’s not just fast,” said Gingras. “He’s a great horse. He can do anything you want, race him anyway you decide to race him. He’s strong, he’s got a great gait, he’s got all the qualities that make the difference between a fast horse and a great horse.”
TALL DARK STRANGER was the prohibitive favourite for the $273,125 Cane Pace – the first jewel of the Pacing Triple Crown. He dominated the field cutting fractions of 26.2; 53.1 and 1:21 to win convincingly by 3¼ lengths in 1:47.1 – a stakes record and new personal best time.
It was a historic triumph for TALL DARK STRANGER in the $1 Million North America Cup.
With a 1:48.4 elimination win tucked safely away in his pocket, TALL DARK STRANGER set the stage for another dazzling performance - and dazzle he did with his brilliant 1:48.2 victory!
With this win, TALL DARK STRANGER’s name has been added to the history books as the only horse ever to win the Metro Pace and Breeders Crown as a two-year-old and return to racing at three to capture both The Meadowlands Pace and the North America Cup.
“I rolled him to the three-quarters pretty hard but he just never quits,” said Gingras after the race. “He’s just a tremendous horse – the best pacing colt I’ve ever driven, there’s absolutely no doubt in my mind.”
Continuing his winning form, TALL DARK STRANGER scored further victories in the Bluegrass Stakes and the $239,500 Tattersalls Stakes as well as the $250,000 Kentucky Sires Stakes Final – all three contested at the famed Red Mile in Lexington, Kentucky. He finished his three-year-old season with 11 wins from 13 starts, one second and a record of 1:47.1. His earnings of $1,302,681 in 2020 led all harness horses in North America that season.
TALL DARK STRANGER was overwhelmingly voted the 2020 USA Horse of the Year, Pacer of the Year and Three-Year-Old Colt Pacer of the Year. He is only the second male pacer in 35 years to receive a Dan Patch Award at age two and return to be Horse of the Year at three. The other was Somebeachsomewhere in 2008.
TALL DARK STRANGER was trained by the 2020 USA Trainer of the Year Nancy Takter.
“He’s just the toughest horse ever,” Takter said. “I’m going to have to add smart to that, too, because he figured out what this is all about. He knew that he was supposed to be first and made sure that he was first. Where ‘heart of a champion’ is in the dictionary, TALL DARK STRANGER’s name and picture are right next to it.”
Retired from racing after his three-year-old season, TALL DARK STRANGER headed to the renowned Hanover Shoe Farms to begin his new career at stud. TALL DARK STRANGER bred a full book of 140 of what is undoubtedly the best collection of mares ever assembled for a stallion’s initial book.
His book included the 2018 3YO Pacing Filly of the Year and 2020 Pacing Mare of the Year KISSIN IN THE SAND (p, 3, 1:47.4, $1,741,094); the 2020 3YO Pacing Filly of the Year PARTY GIRL HILL (p, 1:47.2, $880,345); World Champion and Two and Three-Year-Old Pacing Filly of the Year AMERICAN JEWEL (p, 3, 1:48.2, $1,840,565); World Champion, 2YO Pacing Filly and Dan Patch, Nova and O’Brien Pacing Mare of the Year MY LITTLE DRAGON (p, 1:48.1, $2,318,623) and 3YO Pacing Filly of the Year and World Champion PUT ON A SHOW (p, 1:47.3, $2,362,878), and dozens more too numerous to mention.
TALL DARK STRANGER hails from one of harness racing’s most prolific families. He is by the remarkable sire BETTOR’s DELIGHT and his dam is the World Champion, Dan Patch & O’Brien Award winning Two-Year-Old Pacing Filly of the Year PRECOCIOUS BEAUTY (p, 2, 1:50.1, $838,004), who is a sister to SPORTSWRITER and out of a sister to SWINGING BEAUTY (p, 1:49.4, $893,268) and the grandam of DOWNBYTHESEASIDE (p, 2, 1:49; 3, 1:48.3f, $2,179,558).
“We are thrilled to include TALL DARK STRANGER in our line-up this coming season,” said David James, principal of Empire Stallions. “He is everything we search for in a stallion – looks, performance, pedigree and fertility. We are happy to continue our tradition of making the very best horses in the world available to Australasian breeders and we believe TALL DARK STRANGER will make a very big impact on the future racing scene.”
TALL DARK STRANGER is available via frozen semen and the TALL DARK STRANGER SYNDICATE has limited his book to 125 mares in Australia/New Zealand combined. Please call Donna Egan, David James or Les Joslin on 03 5796 2122 for additional details, booking applications or pedigree matches and check out his race videos at www.empirestallions.com.