The Western Thoroughbred History – Apollo

Apollo was an impressive racehorse that captured the attention of horseman Frank Vessels III. He went on to sire stakes winners of four breeds. His daughters are still producing top-notch racehorses and barrel horses, which has cemented his legacy as one of the greatest broodmare sires of all-time.

Apollo was foaled in California in 1988. He was bred by Eclipse Investment and Leon Rasmussen. His sire, Falstaff, was graded stakes placed in Europe and his dam, Tumble Along, was a stakes winner by Tumble Wind. His pedigree also included Lyphard, Sir Ivor and Rise ‘n Shine. He was a beautiful chestnut with a striking blaze and heavy muscling.

Apollo was undefeated in his first four starts. At two, he won the San Miguel Stakes at Santa Anita. He began his three-year-old campaign with a length and a half victory in the California Breeders’ Champion Stakes. He went on to run second in the Gr. 2 San Rafael Stakes and third in the Gr. 2 Malibu Stakes. He also equaled the world course record for 5 ½ furlongs in 1:01.50 at Hollywood Park. In 1992, Apollo shipped to France where he ran in the Gr. 3 Prix de Seine-et-Oise. He later returned to California where he ran second in the Montclair Handicap and third in the Bedside Promise Handicap before ending his racing career at age five. In total, Apollo made 23 starts, won five races, and earned $354,475 on the track.

Frank Vessels III was attracted to Apollo because of his impressive pedigree, race record and conformation. The chestnut stallion began his stud career at Vessels Stallion Farm in Bonsall, California in 1995. His first foal crop included Old Habits, a gelding out of First Femme, by First Down Dash. Old Habits won the Gr. 1 All American Derby, Gr. 1 Los Alamitos Derby and Gr.1 Governor’s Cup Futurity. He was the 1999 AQHA Racing Champion Three-Year-Old. Unfortunately, Old Habits died in 2000 from a heart attack. In total, he made 22 starts, won three races, and earned $680,491 on the track.

Heza Sand Trap, a gelding by Apollo and out of Cute Merri, by Merridoc, was named the 2001 California Hi-Point Distance Horse after winning the Gr. 3 California Breeders Marathon, Viking Anne Handicap and Fullerton Handicap. In 2002, Apollos Ten Bears, a gelding out of Dashes Paypack, by Twaynas Dash, won the Gr. 3 Oklahoma Horseman’s Association Futurity. Apollos Ten Bears later went on to win the Gr. 3 Sooner State Stakes, Gr. 3 Iowa Double Gold Derby and Gr. 3 Central Derby Challenge.

Apollo’s most successful offspring was Apollitical Time, a filly out of Half Time Attraction, by First Down Dash. At age three, Apollitical Time was named the California Hi-Point Three-Year-Old Filly and AQHA Racing Champion Three-Year-Old Filly after winning the Gr. 3 Town Policy Handicap, Gr. 1 Governor’s Cup Derby and Gr. 1 Los Alamitos Super Derby. Apollitical Time continued to win as a four-year-old, crossing the wire first in the Gr. 2 California Breeders’ Matron Stakes, Gr. 2 California Challenge Championship, Gr. 1 Mildred N Vessels Memorial Handicap and Gr. 1 Los Alamitos Invitational Championship. Her accomplishments that year earned her the titles of California Hi-Point Aged Mare, AQHA Racing Champion Aged Mare and AQHA Racing Champion Aged Horse. In 2008, Apollitical Time made her final start at age six. In total, she made 35 starts, won 14 races, and earned $904,242 on the track. She would later produce AQHA Racing World Champion Apollitical Jess and earn the 2010 Broodmare of the Year award.

Other graded stakes winners by Apollo include Giorgino, One More Habit, Metallic Lion, Apollos Favorite, Docs Apollo, Whole Lot of Karma, Ride With the King, Dash On a Mission, Shy Anns Trust, I Ought to Be First, Oh Cooper Go, Ipomea, Flying Colours and Apollo Dutch Man. He also sired Appocalypto, an Appaloosa gelding that won the Cricket Bars Futurity and Dash For Colors Stakes as well as Cat Scratch Dash, a Paint colt that won the Colors of the Alamo Paint and Appaloosa Futurity. His Thoroughbred stakes winners included Harvest Girl, Apollean, Eminent, Russian Elite, Apollotician, Whitewinsipper and I Won’t Apollogize. In addition to numerous stakes winners, Apollo also sired track record setters Dancing Iam, Apolloonamission and The Factor.

In total, Apollo sired 736 registered Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse Foals from 18 foal crops, which included 320 winners, 268 ROM earners, 18 graded stakes winners, 17 superior race award earners and six regional champions. His get earned $14,699,395 total on the track. As a broodmare sire, Apollo’s earnings are around $5 million. In addition to World Champion Apollitical Jess, Apollo is also the dam sire of stakes winners Sheza Bad Habit, Sizzlin Cartel and Louisiana Blue Dream. He is among the top fifty all-time leading broodmare sires by average earning per starter. His descendants can be found on the racetrack in the barrel pen and everywhere in between.

Apollo stood at Joneson Ranch in Shawnee, Oklahoma until he was pensioned in 2013 at the age of 25. He returned to the Vessels Stallion Farm to enjoy a well-earned retirement. Apollo passed away in 2016.

Playin Apollo, a NRCHA money earner, Top Horse Award winner and all-around using horse, is out of Apollo Ingredient, a daughter of Apollo.

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