First Down Dash

First Down Dash, the AQHA running champion who has dominated the leading sire standings for the past two decades, was laid to rest at Vessels Stallion Farms on November 26. He was 26.

Bonnie Vessels, widow of Frank “Scoop” Vessels III, who died in a private plane crash last summer, said that First Down Dash was quietly eating hay in his stall, when observed by ranch manager Kevin Dickson at 1 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day. Three hours later, the night watchman saw First Down Dash take his last breath.

“The entire family is here and First Down Dash is resting with a set of Vessels Stallion Farms silks and an ample supply of sunflower seeds in the place which Scoop selected some time ago,” Vessels said. The ranch crew joined the family at the ceremony.

The AQHA running champion of 1987, First Down Dash sired the earners of nearly $74 million, through November 25, 2010. He is currently the only sire in 2010 with eight $100,000-plus earners, and the only stallion with five $200,000-plus earners.

His single best year as a sire was in 2006, when his runners included 16 stakes winners; the earners of $6,560,242; and No Secrets Here, his sixth All American Futurity winner.

First Down Dash bred a full book of mares in 2010 and was expected to do so again in 2011. But with a crop of 86 foals eligible to race as two-year-olds of 2011 and a $35 million margin as all-time leading sire over his own sire, #2-ranked Dash For Cash, First Down Dash’s status should be secure for years to come.

First Down Dash was bred by the late A.F. “Sonny” Stanley out of First Prize Rose, a granddaughter of Lady’s Bug Moon, and was purchased as a yearling by Scoop Vessels’ mother, the late Mildred Vessels.