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Prominent California Sire Mr. Big Dies at 21

The top five California sire of 2023 sired grade 1 winner Ceiling Crusher.

Mr. Big at Legacy Ranch

Mr. Big at Legacy Ranch

Courtesy Legacy Ranch/Ron Mesaros Photo

George Krikorian's prominent California stallion Mr. Big  was euthanized Feb. 27 due to complications from laminitis, according to the owner/breeder. The son of Dynaformer was 21.

"I'm heartbroken—Mr. Big was a very special horse," Krikorian said.

Mr. Big had stood the past two seasons at Pete and Evelyn Parrella's Legacy Ranch near Clements, Calif. He was a top five sire in California by progeny earnings in 2023 and only one of two Golden State sires with a grade 1 winner last year. His standout runner of 2023 was Ceiling Crusher, who won the Cotillion Stakes (G1) and Torrey Pines Stakes (G3).

Ceiling Crusher won six of seven starts, earning $938,400, before selling last fall to Japanese interests. Katsumi Yoshida bought her from the Taylor Made consignment to The November Sale at Fasig-Tipton for $750,000.

The filly was recently voted the 2023 champion California-bred 3-year-old female by the California Thoroughbred Breeders Association.

"Myself, Evelyn, and the entire staff at Legacy Ranch are devastated by this sudden turn of events," Pete Parrella said. "Mr. Big has become a major influence in the breeding industry in California. His loss is not just our loss but a big loss for the entire state. We are honored that Mr. Krikorian had the confidence in Legacy Ranch to have Mr. Big stand here. He's going to be sorely missed."

Krikorian bought Mr. Big as a weanling from Viking Stud for $220,000 at the 2003 Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale. At the time, Krikorian was campaigning multiple grade 1 winner Starrer, a daughter of Dynaformer. The weanling colt was also attractive because he was out of the grade 2-placed stakes winner Fashion Delight, a daughter of Fappiano whose first four foals were all winners.

From a racing career limited to nine starts due to injury, Mr. Big won twice at Hollywood Park. He was originally trained by John Shirreffs and later by Bob Baffert. Under Baffert's tutelage, Mr. Big captured a 1 1/16-mile allowance event with Mike Smith aboard, crushing his competition by 8 3/4 lengths. In the spring of 2010, Krikorian sent the horse to his Starwood Farm near Versailles, Ky.

"Toward the end of the breeding season, I had two or three mares that needed to be bred, and we had not picked out stallions for them. I told the team, 'Mr. Big is sitting here, and he is a beautiful horse, well bred, so let's give him a shot,'" Krikorian told BloodHorse last year.

Mr. Big had two foals in his first crop. One of them was Big Break, a filly out of the Maria's Mon mare Revealing. Big Break would win her debut at Santa Anita Park by 7 3/4 lengths. She made her debut in a maiden claiming race and Krikorian lost Mr. Big's first winner to trainer Steve Knapp, who claimed her for Michael Miller. Krikorian said three claims had been put in for the filly.

Mr. Big got his first graded winner when Kentucky-bred Big Score won the 2017 Transylvania Stakes (G3T) at Keeneland, beating a field that included 2016 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf (G1T) winner Oscar Performance . Big Score earned $702,792, won the 2016 Zuma Beach Stakes, and hit the board in seven other stakes, including the 2017 Hollywood Derby (G1T).

With that early success, Krikorian moved the stallion to California.

"I brought Mr. Big out to California because I thought he'd have a better chance as a stallion," Krikorian said. "And that's what happened."

Krikorian-bred Big Fish won the 2020 Del Mar Juvenile Turf Stakes and was named co-champion California-bred 2-year-old male of 2020. Other stakes winners soon followed, including Big Switch (who has earned $369,924), Big Sweep ($367,958), Big Summer ($367,160), and Chancery Way ($345,770).

Mr. Big has sired 97 winners from 152 starters, with his 12 black-type winners representing 5% of his foals of racing age. He has sired an additional eight stakes-placed performers. His progeny have earned an average of $75,216 per runner. So far this year, he's been represented by stakes winners Big City Lights in the Feb. 10 Palos Verdes Stakes (G3) and Big Pond capturing the Feb. 18 Spring Fever Stakes, both at Santa Anita. The latter was also a close second in the La Brea Stakes (G1) in late 2023.

"We have a lot of horses coming up by Mr. Big that have shown good potential," Krikorian said. "Mr. Big was the special gift that kept on giving."