Dec 3, 2008


Did you happen to notice that there was no Peb cartoon on the cover of Daily Racing Form on October 25, Breeders’ Cup day? Evidently not many people were aware of its absence for the first time in the history of Breeders’ Cup.

The Form chose to cut ties with beloved artist Pierre Bellocq, citing financial reasons, late in the Saratoga meeting. According to Peb, two DRF employees traveled to his home in Princeton, NJ to deliver the news that he was through. The 82-year-old Frenchman was offered a year’s salary as severance after five decades as the preeminent sporting artist in the world. He also was asked, he said, to sign a promise that he would not “trash” The Form in public.

Not being the type of person to trash anybody, the octogenarian is currently painting a mural at Del Mar. He has in recent years done two Derby themed murals at Churchill Downs and another at Belmont Park

Peb’s whimsical humor brought to life the unique world of Thoroughbred racing. A racing fan started the day with a smile when he picked up The Form and saw Peb’s work on the cover.

His talent was not limited to horses. He was hired by Daily Racing Form owner Walter Annenberg to draw cartoons on the editorial page of the Philadelphia Inquirer. He was once nominated for a Pulitzer prize. He also joined his son Remi, a cartoonist in his own right, in helping create an international circuit for amateur riders.

Peb’s art adorns the walls of the world’s top racetracks and numerous private collections, including one of Gallagher’s Steak House, just down W. 52nd from The Morning Telegraph. It depicts a mob of recognized celebrities partying in the famed eatery. You.won’t miss Josephine Baker.

Still, it’s a pity that Peb did not get the sendoff he deserved. His legion of fans would have filled Saratoga to say good-bye. A collector’s edition would have sold out thousands of Daily Racing Forms. T-shirts of the elfin Gallic humorist would be all the rage.

Peb has a few irons in the fire at the moment with various racing entities. He won’t need to stand in any baguette lines.

Dec 1, 2008


It will soon be the 19th anniversary of Sunny Blossom’s setting a new track record at Santa Anita in the Palos Verdes Handicap, six furlongs in 1.07.1. He flew the colors of Santa Barbara Stables, a band of racing enthusiasts rounded up by your humble scribe to try our luck with the big boys.

In the Los Angeles Times the next morning columnist Allan Malamud scoffed at that record as nothing more than a fluke on a super fast track. Basic handicapping skill said otherwise and I said so in a note to Allan. A decent claiming horse also won at six furlongs that day and needed 1.11 and change to do it. I pointed out to Allan that I had never seen such a spread over the same distance on the same day anywhere, let alone Santa Anita. Nobody else ran faster than usual that day, only Sunny Blossom.

To my delight, Allan wrote in his next column that I had persuaded him. Journalists are not readily found apologizing for the record. That no one has equaled that feat since is all the testimony needed that it was indeed an extraordinary performance.

How the landscape has changed since that golden after in 1989. Allan Malamud died much too young and the Los Angeles Times now barely acts as if racing exists.

I got to thinking the other day about track records of other horses in my care. Champion Speightstown could motor and equaled the six furlong standard of 1.08 at Saratoga.
Champion Chilukki sped a mile in 1.33.2 at Churchill Downs. Speightstown was bought at Keeneland for $2 million; Chilukki was a weanling when I bought her dam. Now that was luck!

Harmony Lodge was a great Gr. I performer who did not set any records but came close on occasion. This spring I found Broadway Hennessy and bought her because I thought she was the spitting image of Harmony Lodge, also by Hennessy. She broke the 5 ½ furlongs record at Golden Gate Fields first time out.

Sunny Blossom was found at Woodbine and there were plenty more speedy Canucks to be had at the right price. Slyly Gifted won the 11 furlongs Canadian Derby two weeks after taking the Longacres Derby at 1 3/16 miles. Both records still stand.. He was ridden by the ill-fated Ron Hansen whose body washed ashore in San Francisco Bay some years later in an unsolved murder case.

Bold Laddie was the first stallion project that I was involved in. The smallish son of Boldnesian broke down in a quest for the British Columbia Derby by the Jawl family of Vancouver Island. Bold Laddie’s progeny won over $10 million and he sired more than 30 stakes-winners, huge numbers for that part of the world’s limited opportunities.

Bold Laddie passed on stamina as well as speed. Lil Ol Gal set a world record for 3 ½ furlongs at two. I bought her for John Franks as a 4-year-old and she went on to win Woodbine stakes.

Laddie’s Prince was another versatile sort who set standards three times at two miles or longer.

Our latest speedster is Home For Harlan who broke the 6 ½ furlongs mark at Woodbine. He found the Toronto surface more congenial than his first few tries in California. He won again the other day in 1.08 and change.

After I bought him his trainer evidently was talking smack about my purchase, implying that I was either stupid or dishonest. It’s a good thing that the finish line speaks louder than jive,
He who laughs last, laughs best.

Nov 25, 2008


Jonathan Sheppard’s habit of feeding Guinness to Forever Together drew plenty of comment when she romped home in the Breeders’ Cup filly race on turf. Seasoned Cup watchers remembered a similar dietary tactic employed by Clive Brittain in winning the Breeders’ Cup Turf with the glorious runner Pebbles.

Irish jockey Pat Eddery exuded confidence about Pebbles defeating colts all week long.
“Never mind the Guinness,” he told me one chilly morning at Aqueduct. “If you’re a betting man, empty your pockets on her.”

Eddery certainly rode as if his pockets were empty, squeezing through a miniscule gap to pip a startled Strawberry Road and Steve Cauthen. Guinness by a head, you might say.

Not a very ladylike drink, that, but one that can get you safely past the winning post without worrying the authorities.

A few years later, I was in England on a tour with former Daily Racing Form columnist Wally Wood who hosted a tour to the Prix de la Arc d’Triomphe in Paris. He let me tag along, gratis, as long as I could pick a winner or two for the busload of pilgrims.

I say “pilgrims” because we decamped in Canterbury to enjoy some sport in Wally’s home country. We went off to Lingfield which offered racing on a newfangled surface called Polytrack. On a raw day we spent most of the afternoon in the bar, braving the elements just long enough to engage in a punt with the bookies.

I was off my game until the last race, a two-mile handicap. Who was in the field but a Clive Brittain runner by Jupiter Island. Brittain had trained that horse to win a Japan Cup.

Obviously, this fellow knew a little bit about training for stamina. The Brittain runner went off l8-to-1 and came home a galloping winner. I wish I could remember whether the race was on dirt or Poly but, never mind, we got the money and caroused our way through every country pub we could find.

Chaucer would have approved.

We sailed on the Dover-Calais ferry on a sunny autumn day—a Canadian World War II veteran sang “There’ll be blue birds over the white cliffs of Dover”-- as we sailed towards the Normandy coast.

We hit Paris with a replenished bankroll. Cash Asmussen let us know that he would not be beaten aboard Suave Dancer; every Englishman at Longchamp that day laid it in on Generous who looked clearly over the top.

Our gang filled their saddlebags at 6-to-l on Suave Dancer while Cash conducting a press interview in French and English, one of the coolest things I’ve seen a jockey do after a big race.

Oct 29, 2008


Autumn weanling sales take the stage in a few days. Buying young horses for resale a year later is a specialized skill. Now and then I give it a go and have a pretty good track record from small numbers.

In each of the years l998-2000 I bought only one weanling. Two of them were bought with a racing career in mind. The third was earmarked for a pinhook. The results were wildly successful, to say the least.

In l999 I purchased a filly by Cat’s Career for $38,000 at Keeneland. She was out of a mare by leading sire Storm Cat. She earned $280,000 at the races as Galatea Cat..

The next year I spent a measly $3500 to acquire Fourth Floor. I knew the family intimately, having for a brief period owned his half-sister, eventual Gr. 1 winner Lazy Slusan. Fourth Floor was a running machine who earned over $340,000 before being claimed.

Class of 2000 found us procuring a son of Langfuhr named Paradise Dancer for $l0,000.
He failed to grow and we took it on the chin when we sold for only $7,000. He has made almost $600,000 and is still campaigning in stakes company.

Still, you can hardly do better than buy three horses for $5l,500 and see them go on to earn $l.2 million.

Self interest forces me to persuade you to have me try to do the same for you. There is a huge supply to choose from and all expectations point to a buyer’s market. The climate for resale next September seems likely to be more optimistic than the current chaos in the financial markets.

Oct 28, 2008


Four Star Sales had a number of Breeders’ Cup contestants run well at Santa Anita before shipping back to Kentucky for sale at the upcoming auctions at Fasig-Tipton and Keeneland.

Curlin was the featured performer and it pained us (and millions of others) to see him falter in the final yards.
It’s unlikely that defeat did any harm to his half-sister Deputy who is selling under our banner at Fasig-Tipton on November 2 in foal to Curlin’s sire, the mighty Smart Strike.
Deputy’s 2008 colt by Fusaichi Pegasus precedes his dam into the ring.

Munnings did not reproduce his stellar early form in the Juvenile but should bounce back and become a 3-year-old to reckon with.. Another Fasig-Tipton offering is his dam, La Comete in foal to his sire, Speightstown.

City Style garnered fourth money in the Juvenile Turf. His dam Brattothecore sells at Keeneland as Hip 2970, in foal to the young Sunday Silence stallion Hat Trick.. I had the pleasure of purchasing both Brattothecore and her damsire Katahaula County. We privately purchased the pair for under $50,000.

Brattothecore was bred by Bill and Susan Stewart in the Cariboo region of British Columbia. They are among the very few breeders still active in that area and their stress on quality has produced a number of fine horses who thrived outside the province. The interior of BC is cowboy country and it takes true grit to spend the winter foaling mares.

We recall visiting the Stewarts some years back when the mercury dipped to about 30 below zero (Celsius or Fahrenheit, take your pick at that level) and the couple spent the night in the foaling barn. It snowed that night belt buckle deep to a tall cowpoke I was somewhat more comfortable in the farmhouse.

Good sense prevailed a few years later and they relocated to the charming border town of White Rock, BC.

Getting back to the matter at hand, Four Star proudly presents Honey Ryder, the leading money winner at Fasig-Tipton with some $2.8 million in earnings. She sells in foal to Giant’s Causeway.

Stablemate and fellow Grade I millionaire Panty Raid further grace our consignment. The American Oaks victress sells as a broodmare prospect.

Stakes mares Final Fling, Graeme Six, Truly Blushed, Wild Chick, Bold Passage, and Devil House round out our stellar collection.

High Fly is a 2008 half-sister to She’s All Eltish from the second crop of Florida Derby (G I) winner.

Oct 27, 2008


One would think by now that I could remember to check my ticket each time I make a bet. An alert mutual clerk once helped me locate an errant winning ducat during the Keeneland spring meet. It seems that I had neglected to pick it up from the machine and the next player had it included in his stack of new bets. It would have cost me $700 had we not recovered it.

Last week I was on the chase of the $3 million Belmont Pick-6. I put in a $500 ticket using three horses in the first leg. As is my habit, I then boxed those same three horses, winning I thought, about the same $500. It’s a good way to hedge and I happily set off to collect. But it seems that the clerk had not punched the trifecta for Belmont, but rather for Keeneland. I failed to notice it because I did not check my ticket.

I offer this as a cautionary tale that might save you a bundle one day. Certain habits you just have to create like flossing, seat belt usage, checking your pari-mutuel tickets.

Oct 9, 2008


Our fingerprints were evident last weekend when some major Breeders Cup preps were contested. We supplied strategy for breeding two of them, Frizette (G 1) third place finisher Gemswick Park and the Gr 3 third Carnacks Choice.

Gemswick Park is out of Queen’s Park (Relaunch), a filly of modest talent but good enough to win black-type in Winnipeg at my recommendation. She is from one of the foremost families in the stud book and is worth a small fortune.

Carnacks Choice is a son of Ellesmere (Tabasco Cat), another average racer who was shipped off to Fort Erie to become stakes-placed. I had bought Ellesmere when she was the first yearling into the ring at Saratoga.

Gemswick Park and Carnacks Choice demonstrate the importance in assessing residual value. Not everyone is good at it. We thrive on it and have the record to prove it.

Four Star Sales marketed two-year-old star Munnings who finished second in the Champagne (G 1). His dam is included in Four Star’s stellar Fasig-Tipton consignment November 2.

Grade 1 winners Honey Ryder and Panty Raid head the parade of high class mares which also includes graded performers Final Fling and Graeme Six.


At the racetrack, believe nothing that you hear and half of what you see if you want to succeed. That goes double for business big shots and blowhards who think the game looks easy.

Oct 2, 2008


You might want to know about some other great broodmare purchases. Dams of recent stakes winners like City Style (headed to the Breeders Cup), Shilla, Ronaldino, Schooner Bay, Cherry Mix (Gr. 1) 2nd in the Arc,) Black Jack Road, Chathain (Gr. 2), Archer’s Gal,

All were bought for prices between $l2,000 and $85,000.

Less recent scores include dams of Sharp Cat, Royal Anthem, (Champion) Chillukki, Comeonmom, Sunny Blossom, Highfalutin, Ryson, Riviera Colleen, Muhib, Catahoula Parish, Native Regent, Western Trader, Slyly Gifted, Zippersup, Remember The Roar, Gold For My Gal, Sophisticated Sam, Austin’s Mom, Mountain Fling, Bright Sunny Day, Sunny Forecast, Sandia Slew, Angelica Slew, Chantilly Princess,

All were bought for prices from $7,000 to $200,000. There’s lots more. You get the picture.


John Franks was the only man to win four Eclipse Awards as leading owner. Dan Kenny
was his primary adviser during that entire period. Their collaboration was the stuff of legend. What we did for him we can do for you. It is not our usual temper to boast so much but it’s a crowded, noisy universe out there. While shameless commerce prevails where sportsmanship once reigned we march on in search of plausible investment in bloodstock. At the minimum, we can save you from the clutches of various nincompoops, petty gangsters, and people with tape measures in their pocket.

Sep 29, 2008


No sooner did I shut my mouth from bragging about Hyperbaric than he up and wins the Grade II Oak Tree Mile in 1:33.3. His earnings now surpass $400,000. You’ll recall that we bought the mare for a mere $19,000.

Another horse living it up is Arden Belle who won a Woodbine stakes recently, moving her earnings over $500,000. We bought her dam, Bow Bell’s Reef, as a March OBS juvenile. She demonstrated ability but lacked soundness. It’s athletic ability that we are looking for and she had already shown it. Bow Bell’s Reef was by Virginia Rapids and her SW daughter was by Dance Brightly. An unexpected place to find a half-million dollar earner.

Shopton Lane just won the Formal Gold S. at Monmouth to move her earnings to nearly $300,000. We bought her dam for Eugene Melnyk ( same for Bow Bell’s Reef) with similar results. She showed some ability on the track and came up with a good one in Shopton Lane. Incidentally, Shopton Lane was recently bought privately and flew the colors of Malih Al Basti for his Jersey score. Mr. Al Basti is our genial host and benefactor during recent visits to Dubai for the World Cup.

McKilts is a mare whose son PV Lightening was in the news for victory in a $100,000 stakes at Delaware. We actually bought and sold the mare twice. The first came at Keeneland November some years back when I landed her for $40,000 on behalf of Canadian client Norman McAllister. He sat inside to watch the bidding and gave me carte blanche to assemble a broodmare band. McKilts was our first purchase and I had no sooner signed the ticket than a fellow offered a $10,000 profit. I searched out Norman and told him of the offer.
While he declined, the incident helped cement the necessary trust in the agent/owner relationship.

“I didn’t know about the offer and I realize that you could have put a fast $10,000 into your pocket, and no one is the wiser,” he said. “I really appreciate what you did.”

Norman had the perfect temperament for the game and we did very well in our time together. He cut his involvement way back for business and personal reasons. I fervently hope he will be back one day.

McKilts, meanwhile, was sold to a Maryland breeder of my acquaintance after a couple of foals in the McAllister camp. I suggested Sultry Song for the mating which produced PV Lightening ($154,364).

We do this sort of thing all the time. November Sales are around the corner. It might be a good idea for you to take advantage of our four decades experience finding the right mare for the right price.

Sep 27, 2008


While we were slugging it out at the Keeneland Sale a number of our previous success stories were on display.

Hyperbaric became a stakes winner –having already placed in a Grade I-during the Del Mar meeting. We bought her dam for a measly $l9,000 while in foal to the solid sire Diesis. Owner Jack Chamblin took my suggestion and bred the mare back to Sky Classic, one of the best values in town, especially for a racing stable. “Hyperbaric is the best horse I have ever bred”, said the former University of Illinois footballer.

Again, common sense, a good memory and connections made up the winning formula.
Teasing Charm was a solid stakes-winner from the John Franks Farm family of Grade I winner Heatherten. The latter was in fact Franks’ first Grade I winner and she liked it enough to win four of them.

Heatherten’s half-brother Bull In The Heather (Ferdinand) also won the Grade I Florida Derby. With folks like that it took little courage to pony up a few grand to acquire a Halo stakes-winner who was herself out of a half-sister to Heatherten and Bull In The Heather.

Another astute acquisition on Franks’ behalf was Barkerville Belle, third dam of Garden City Stakes (Grade I) heroine Backseat Rhythm. Barkerville Belle was bought off the backstretch of Hastings Park (nee Exhibition Park) in Vancouver. She was by Ruthie’s Native, hardly a household word, but Franks gave us the green light to buy her and it was a fortuitous move. Barkerville Belle-named for a gold rush town in the Canadian hinterland-won numerous stakes for Franks and she also produced four stakes-winners.

We were engaged by Stonerside Stable a few years ago to purchase some hard-hitting stakes mares for eventual matings with Congaree. Brattothecore fit the description to a T, earning $322,000 on the Ontario circuit. Her first foal, City Style, recently won the Sunday Silence at Louisiana Downs over 1 1/16 miles of turf and is reportedly pointed to the Breeders’ Cup.

Brattothecore is by Katahaula County and therein lies a story. The phone rang one day some years ago from the late trainer Dave McLean in Toronto. Dave had trained Katahaula County for Bruce Duchossois and the horse was going to be tried as a jumper after a Grade III career on the track. But the horse could be bought right then for $20,000. He was due to leave Keeneland on a van within the hour. Ten minutes later I was handing Dave a check. I rang up my good friend Dr. Bryan Anderson and sold him the horse. I wasn’t smart enough to keep any equity in the horse, save some breeding rights, but was truly happy to see them reap the rewards of owning a top regional sire..

Katahaula County was an instant success. He benefited greatly from the deep pool of Vice Regent blood throughout Canada and the Bold Ruckus/Nearctic nick has prospered for nearly two decades. Daughters of Katahaula County are carrying the banner, too.

Golden Ratio, out of a Katahaula County mare, won a Canadian stakes over the weekend.

A stallion named Katowice is another piece of our handiwork. You see his name from time to time as the sire of some pretty decent horses. We got involved when Canadian breeders Rick and Lois Clough asked me to check out a son of Danzig as a stallion prospect for British Columbia. Owner Arthur Appleton was seeking a lease for the colt who was bred in the purple. His agent was also bred in purple…Californian Albert Yank who was notorious for his colorful garb which nearly always included a hue that reminded me of Welch’s grape jelly.

The horse was an unraced 4-year-old but Yank laid a good enough story on me that I agreed to go to Kentucky to evaluate the situation. It was a cold, snowy November afternoon when I first saw Katowice leave the barn at Summerhill Farm on Old Frankfort Pike near Lexington. It was love at first sight.

So I called trainer Bill Badgett who had the horse for Appleton. “He was cut out to be a real runner, the best 2-year-old I had that year. He worked in :59 at Saratoga but he had knee spurs that kept him sore all the time. We gave him time and he came back to work in 1:12. We got excited again but finally had to give up. But there’s no doubt he had ability, “ he said.

Physically he was gorgeous except for a toed in left foot, a common Danzig trait. Pedigree could not be better…out of a half-sister to Mr. Prospector. We took out a four year lease with some options and sent him off to Vancouver. Katowice sired a top horse in his first crop, Kid Katabatic. A product of a mating with a $2500 mare, Kid Katabatic won the Longacres Mile in track record time.We knew we were on to something then.

Things went smoothly until the lease was up for renewal. There had been three management changes in three years at that time and Katowice got caught in some legal skirmishing. A judge ruled that he be allowed to go to Florida.

Katowice cooled off after all that turmoil and he was returned to the Pacific Northwest, this time in Seattle.

It was no picnic selling four-year breedings rights when Katowice came to BC. Friends were skeptical. “Didn’t you preach never to breed to an unraced stud,” he said.

“Guilty as charged,” I answered. “But it’s like the final scene in the great poker movie, The Cincinnati Kid. Edward G. Robinson takes the pot and busts out Steve McQueen.
The Kid cannot believe how Robinson drew against the odds and beat him.”

“Sometimes,” said Robinson,” You have to be right for the wrong reason.”

Sep 13, 2008


There are few reliable shortcuts when it comes to buying yearlings. It is usually slogging through the trenches that gets the job done. But I did get lucky one day at a Florida sale by paying attention to my competition.

I had a bead on a big, strapping colt at OBS by Diablo and was confident I could get him for a client at a right price as the sire was not of fashion. It was my intention to pay about $30,000, perhaps a little more.

Well past $30,000 I noticed that bids were coming from Clyde Rice who was sitting a few rows ahead of me. To my mind Clyde was the foremost judge of a yearling anywhere. But I also knew that he did not have a habit of paying much for his stock.

That fact kept running through my mind as the bidding duel came down to just us two. When the bidding passed $40,000 I figured I had him but he proceeded to bid on. “Clyde must really like this horse,” I said to myself. “Better keep going”.

At $50,000 I was well past the price I was authorized to pay. But I bid again, as did Clyde at $55,000. With a feeble nod I was in at $57,000 and, lo and behold, Clyde threw in the towel.

Copying Clyde’s homework paid off as the colt went off to California and won some $400,000 for Canadian Peter Redekop. Along the way he ran six furlongs in 1.07.4 for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer.

Incidentally, we have purchased at least three others who could shade 1.08 in good company. Sunny Blossom still holds the standard of 1.07.1 at Santa Anita while Tricky Trevor and Van Patten were other stout sprinters.

Speed is not always obvious in a young prospect. We once bought a Cozzene filly at a 2-year-old sale that won first out at 3 ½ furlongs and later won stakes at Del Mar beyond a mile. We found a Sultry Song who won first out at five furlongs in :57.2 and later won stakes going long.

It takes more than a big butt and looking for straight knees to uncover these pearls at modest prices. What’s my secret? That’s for me to know and for you to find out. Sign me up and I’ll go find you one.

Sep 9, 2008


Four Star Sales sold a $l.2 million colt by Giant’s Causeway-Debit Account, by Mr. Prospector at Keeneland’s September Yearling Sale on Tuesday. The smoothly built youngster was sold to Padua Stable on behalf of WinStar Farm. The seven-figure sale was a highlight of a successful opening to the sale.

Four Star Sales will have on offer another l50 yearling over the next fortnight. We invite your inspection of our horses at each of the remaining sessions through September 22.
There’s a horse for every budget at Four Star Sales. We are advancing up the leader board every year since our maiden voyage in 2002.

Our thanks to WinStar Farm for the opportunity to market a colt of such quality. It is no exaggeration to imagine him running for the Derby in the days ahead.

Padua Stable boss Satish Sanan discerned the inherent quality of the Giant’s Causeway colt and backed him to the hilt, fending off Coolmore honcho John Magnier in a spirited duel. We wish Padua the greatest success with their new acquisition.

Sep 4, 2008


My mother and father were invited to attend the l980 Kentucky Derby as guests of Mr. and Mrs. Harry Oak who owned the favorite, Rockhill Native. My father and Harry Oak were golf and martini buddies living in retirement in Pompano Beach, Florida.

The smallish gelding that was Rockhill Native went favorite off a win in the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland and the fact that his trainer was the ultimate hardboot Herb Stevens.

Local rider Johnny Oldham got what he could out of his mount but he was history by the time Rockhill Native reached the quarter pole. A pall of disappointment fell over the box.

But not for long as my mother began to root demonstrably for the filly Genuine Risk.She chortled all the way to the cash window with a fistful of tickets to win on Genuine Risk at a stout l3-to-1. She was unabashed by the fact that no one else seemed to share her enthusiasm at the result.

My mother raised seven children and demonstrated her talent in countless ways to bring her brood to adulthood. She was smart, beautiful, hard-working, charitable, loving and full of life. But she just could not quite get the hang of pari-mutuel etiquette.

Five years after Genuine Risk I had a pretty decent 3-year-old named Fortinbras who had a longshot’s chance in the Hollywood Derby. My folks happened to be visiting me in California at the time and we all went down to Hollywood.

Frank Brothers trained the horse for my Santa Barbara Stable and partner John Franks.
Frank said the horse was doing well after a groom had mistakenly rubbed the horse with a caustic substance rather than his regular linament. He thought we had a chance off our best stuff.

No one else thought so. The board read 99-to-1.

Mom slipped away to get her bets down. When she returned I asked her how she had bet my horse. “I didn’t bet your horse because I don’t think he’s going to win,” she said.

My nerves were already a bit frayed from the pressure of the situation and I blurted out that she could not sit in my box and root for another horse. She was banished.

Dad arched an empathetic eyebrow but said nothing. Fortinbras ran a heck of a race and came home fifth, beaten only a couple of lengths.

Her horse didn’t win either.

Aug 27, 2008


David Mullins
(by Sean Clancy, Saratoga Special, August 20, 2008)

I ran into David Mullins at the Cheltenham Festival, 2002. He gave me a burly handshake and we hustled to the parade to see a Mullins horse run in the hurdle finale. I kept thinking, “Does he have me mixed up with somebody else?” He talked to me like he knew me his whole life. I couldn’t place him or our friendship or when we met or why he was introducing me to his family like I was a brother. We ordered pints of Guinness in the Turf Club, then downed them in one quick elbow bender as he grabbed me by the arm again and said, “Let’s go soak it all up. We won’t be back for a while.” We bolted to the Great Lawn to see the winner come home in the fading light, and feel the buzz of Cheltenham one last time before we went home. I think the Mullins’ horse finished second. I’m still not sure which Mullins it was; cousin, uncle, grandfather or brother. There are a lot of Mullinses out there. All from County Kilkenny, Ireland. Sadly, there’s one less today. David Mullins died Monday.

Mullins, 5l, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in April. In four short months, our friend, the horseman, the man who rallied for every cause, the dedicated father, the gregarious Irishman who never missed a laugh was gone. It turns out I didn’t know him that well before Cheltenham; he knew me from riding a few races at High Hope and writing a paper about a sport he loved. That was good enough for him-we were friends. That was David Mullins’ world-everyone included.

I called him around Derby week, when it was setting in (for both of us) that he had cancer. I had put off calling him, then stumbled in conversation. “Look, Sean, I’d have hated to have gotten hit by a truck and never felt all this love and support. All my friends, my family, the community have shown me what life’s about. They’re having a 24-hour church service, all my friends are going to church…can you imagine, my friends in church? It’s OK. If a positive attitude means anything, I’m going to beat it.” That was Mullins, still positive while the odds stacked against him.

He almost cancelled his annual Belmont Party, but his friends helped and made sure it happened. Over a hundred friends and family joined him at his house in Lexington, KY. He had a big time. He described it in an e-mail sent to all his friends in late June: A number of friends, knowing how important the tradition of the Mullins Belmont Party was to our family, took it upon themselves to organize the greatest party ever. Most important, they even tidied up.

In and out of hospitals, Mullins studied the Racing Form, looking for mares to claim and sell at Keeneland and Fasig-Tipton’s fall and winter sales. He knew horses. And the value of horses. His Doninga Farm topped the 2001 Keeneland November breeding stock sale in average, when selling Saoirse for $2.2 million. Doninga consigned Platinum Heights, the highest-priced yearling filly in North America in 2002.

He was sharp; I had sent him e-mails since that Cheltenham trip, “David, what do you think this mare is worth?” I sent him one about a Thunder Gulch filly, out of the Fourstardave family. I was wound up and said we need to get some money in an account and claim her. He wrote back, “You’re right, the breeding is excellent, but unless you know something I don’t known, she’s a he and I don’t think even us can fix that.” I got an e-mail this morning about a mare for sale. Based in Europe, she’s related to Cool Coal Man, they asked me what I thought she was worth. I hit forward on my e-mail screen and typed, then stopped, remembering the phone message from my friend Davant Latham. He said he was glad he reached my voice mail because he probably couldn’t talk, told me. David had died and he told how much David talked about the trip he made to Saratoga a couple of summers ago.

Mullins and his runningmate Gerry O’Meara needed a place to crash at Saratoga so they flopped down on two couches at my carriage house across the street from the Reading Room. They brought their own pillows and blankets. I didn’t see them much, I was writing papers and they were living large in Saratoga. Every time I came home, they offered me a drink and begged me to stay awhile.

“We’re in good shape,” Mullins said the day after a Siro’s night, “for the shape we’re in.” Again that was mullins. Hung over, but never hung up. He even tidied up.

Aug 2, 2008


A horse named Play Melancholy Baby ran at Monmouth Park the other day. It made me think about the story oldtimers would resurrect each year with the opening of Del Mar.

The tale involved Del Mar founder Bing Crosby and a vaudeville comedian named Joe Frisco. Daily Racing Form columnist Oscar Otis liked to dust it off each year when the Turf Meets the Surf at Del Mar.

It seems that Frisco was almost always tapped out and Crosby was his line of credit and rarely repaid. One day, however, Frisco gets lucky and finds a few winners.
He is soon wining and dining friends in the Turf Club when he spies Crosby headed his way. His body language says “pay me”.

Frisco, who speaks with a stutter, quickly takes out a $20 dollar bill and hands it to Crosby.

“H, h, h, here, k, k, kid, sing Melancholy Baby for us,” he commanded.

Shecky Greene was another comedian who liked the races and he was a daily Arlington Park visitor when working the clubs in Chicago. My handicapping mentor Buddy Abadie
was a real pro and he brooked no interruptions when the races were on. He would share a box with national HBPA president Jack DeFee or maybe Ed McCaskey, son-in-law of Chicago Bears owner George Halas. Anyone else was invited to sit elsewhere.

Greene was friends with owner Joe Kellman (who later raced an eponymous champion sprinter for his pal) and asked him to intercede with Buddy. One day Buddy relents but tells Joe that the guy must mind his manners. There’s a sizeable bet down on a race and Buddy’s horse stumbles at the break, hurries along the rail to catch up, swings out for the drive and comes up a nose short at 8-l to the odds-on favorite.

Shecky taps Buddy on the shoulder and says, “If I don’t see you I bet the winner.”

They say it took four strong men to pry Buddy’s fingers from the comic’s neck.


Eddie “Bundle Boy” Meloncon was Buddy’s sidekick on the Chicago-New Orleans circuit. Bundle Boy was a halfway decent trainer but his disposition was such that he’d rather hustle a buck than earn two.

Buddy kept him around as an information source and general court jester. Bundles stretched the friendship from time to time, touting other gamblers after learning Buddy’s figures. If Buddy found out Bundles was killing his odds he would send him into exile.

For a week or two Bundles would hang around hoping that his probation would soon end.
Just for fun, Buddy told the others in the box one day
to jump up and cheer the first time a horse came in a better than l0-to-1.

When a 20-to-1 bomb rolled in the guys arose as one to cheer home the bogus betting coup. Bundles could take no more. He beseeched Buddy to let him rejoin the flock.

Buddy figured he had suffered enough and, besides, he might be useful one day when they shipped back to their hometown New Orleans Fair Grounds.


Back in New Orleans and Bundles invites me to go fishing with him along with my friend Matt Koldys. Matt was the program line maker and calculator in the money room. He was a scratch handicap in golf, a good handicapper and a terrific friend. Like me, he was a once-a-year fisherman at best.

I took one look at Bundles’ boat, a skiff maybe l2 feet long that had seen many a nautical mile. We drove a few hours to the town of Empire, Louisiana, a hot spot for fishing because of the offshore oil rigs.

Catching red fish required no skill and we had loaded the boat to its limit. The clouds began to roll in and Bundle Boy said it was time to go. He fired up the outboard motor but we were not moving. Bundles pulled up the motor and cursed. The propeller had sheared off.

We were in trouble. Big trouble. The seas began to roil, the sky continued to darken and rain began to come down in sheets. We set our sights on an oil rig about a mile away.
Our only means of locomotion was a wooden paddle maybe four feet long and a golf size umbrella which Matt had the foresight to bring along.

Bundles sat in the back of the boat, popping nitro pills for his heart and saying more Hail Marys than the Pope, begging divine forgiveness for his lapses from grace.

I paddled and Matt converted the umbrella into a sail. Luckily, the wind and current were blowing toward the rig. We could see our path to deliverance if we could manage to keep the boat on an even keel. I was a lousy swimmer and, for the only time in my life, I had serious doubts that I would survive.

It was not our hour, I guess, because we did make it, looking like the Owl and the Pussycat who went to sea in a pea green boat. When we were rescued by the Louisiana roughnecks they had quite a laugh at our expense. They also had hot coffee and dry clothes and a crew boat on the way.

Later on I wondered why we hadn’t thrown the fish overboard to lighten our load.


Once again Four Star Sales brings a select consignment to Saratoga. Come inspect the high class quartet from Glencrest Farm at Barn 4 North..

Hip 27…Malibu Moon colt. First foal of stakes-mare by Saint Ballado.

Hip 61…Forest Wildcat colt. Half-brother to three solid runners, Mr. Prospector dam.

Hip 112…Forest Danger colt. Bred on same pattern as My Trusty Cat (Gr. 1)

Hip 183…Songandaprayer filly. Half-sister to Adieu (Gr. 1), also sold at Saratoga by Four Star Sales.

Aug 1, 2008


Broadway Hennessey has paid immediate dividends in her first three starts since we bought her for Jerry Holldendorfer at the Fasig-Tipton 2-year-olds in training sale at Calder.

The Hennessey filly overpowered her rivals while setting a new track record in her Golden Gate debut. Bet down to l-to-5 in her next start, the Juan Gonzales Memorial, she was the victim of a rare poorly judged race by Russell Baze at Pleasanton.

Baze learned his lesson, as all good riders do, and Broadway Hennessey sat behind the pace in the Wine Country Stakes at Santa Rosa, roaring by the pacesetters with two furlongs to go.

The Hennessey filly caught our eye with a smooth quarter-mile work at Calder. We also noted her similarity to another great Hennessey filly, Harmony Lodge (Gr. 1) who we had plucked out of the same sale a decade ago.

Broadway Hennessey failed to meet her $l50,000 reserve at the Calder sales. We were able to buy her at a discount . She was the only juvenile we bought in Miami this season. We expect you will hear big things from this filly as the weeks and months unfold. She looks the real thing.


Broadway Hennessey has paid immediate dividends in her first three starts since we bought her for Jerry Holldendorfer at the Fasig-Tipton 2-year-olds in training sale at Calder.

The Hennessey filly overpowered her rivals while setting a new track record in her Golden Gate debut. Bet down to l-to-5 in her next start, the Juan Gonzales Memorial, she was the victim of a rare poorly judged race by Russell Baze at Pleasanton.

Baze learned his lesson, as all good riders do, and Broadway Hennessey sat behind the pace in the Wine Country Stakes at Santa Rosa, roaring by the pacesetters with two furlongs to go.

The Hennessey filly caught our eye with a smooth quarter-mile work at Calder. We also noted her similarity to another great Hennessey filly, Harmony Lodge (Gr. 1) who we had plucked out of the same sale a decade ago.

Broadway Hennessey failed to meet her $l50,000 reserve at the Calder sales. We were able to buy her at a discount . She was the only juvenile we bought in Miami this season. We expect you will hear big things from this filly as the weeks and months unfold. She looks the real thing.

Jul 30, 2008


A couple of years ago I met a New York documentary producer who was video taping horse players. He wanted to know one thing—what was your most memorable “tough beat”?

After 40 years of steady play it seemed nigh impossible to choose only one. I’d had an elephant sit on my bankroll too many times over the years. Then it dawned on me that my toughest beat wasn’t a beating at all. Worse still was knowing I had suffered a player’s worst nightmare…I didn’t get down!

Gulfstream Park was the scene of the crime in February 2001 and the horse in question was none other than Speightstown, a future champion sprinter for owner Eugene Melnyk..
He had shelled out $2 million to purchase the horse at my suggestion at the l999 Keeneland July Sale.

Speightstown was shipped to trainer Todd Pletcher who was under some pressure to run the horse at Saratoga where the owner had taken a house for the season. Speightstown was trounced in his only start at the spa and came out of it a bit worse for wear.

Melnyk and his trainer had a spat over the winter with the result that some of his horses were shifted to the barn of Phil England in Ocala. Phil patiently worked on Speightstown and had him ready at Gulfstream.

The race in question was run on a Saturday during the 2-year-old sales at Calder. I purchased a plane ticket that would leave Lexington in plenty of time to take in the race.

There was a slight delay at the airport so I sped down Interstate 95 just to make sure. When I turned off I-95 at Hallandale Beach Blvd. I about fainted. Right in front of me was a freight train. And it wasn’t moving.

Precious minutes ticked away and I even considered leaving the car with my friend Diane and running the half-mile or so to the track. Just then the train began to move. We zoomed around the corner and into valet parking.

The first person I spotted was Pletcher who was heading out of the track.

“Did Speightstown win?”I asked.

“By six,” he replied.

Speightstown was 5-l on the program. I was almost afraid to ask the next question.

“What did he pay,” I wondered, knowing I should shut up and leave the man to deal with his pain.

“$29.00”, said Todd in his best monotone.

“You’ve got to be kidding,” I said.

“Do I sound like I’m kidding?, he said.

Now I wanted him to just go away and let me deal with my own pain. All I could think of was Nick The Greek’s famous creed that “the next best thing to playing and winning is playing and losing”. I never even had the chance to play.

Todd eventually got Speightstown back in his barn and turned him into a champion. And all I got was another gambling story…a guy has inside info on a $2 million maiden and gets shut out. It was raining pennies from heaven and I’m standing there holding a pitchfork.

Come to think of it, there was a worse day and it also took place at Gulfstream. That’ll have to be one for another day. Enough sorrow for now.

Jul 23, 2008


In August of l969 I am off to Saratoga for the first time. I take some vacation time from the New Orleans States-Item sports pages to discuss more gainful employment with the Morning Telegraph/Daily Racing Form.

My sister Mary wonders if I am going to the big rock concert. “What concert?”, I ask, too absorbed with Thoroughbred fantasies of the spa to consider what else might be going down.

“It’s up in Woodstock, not far from Saratoga. You ought to check it out.”

My wife and I head for Manhattan for an interview with Saul Rosen, editor in chief of Triangle Publications. We meet for a couple of hours at Triangle offices on West 52nd St.
It goes well.
“I’ll be back in touch” says Saul. He then sends us off to dinner at Broadway Joe’s and tickets to my first Broadway musical experience-Purlie, starring Melba Moore.

The next morning we head North to Saratoga. Radio reports of the Woodstock Festival provide a little temptation. After all, we’re talking Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Richie Havens, The Who, Crosby, Wills, Nash and Young, and on and on.

We briefly consider a detour for at least a “look see” at Woodstock but the pouring rain decides the issue and we are back on Robert Frost’s Road Not Taken, fully aware that Saratoga would have its share of rich folks who might indeed Pave Paradise and Put Up a Parking lot.

Class warfare aside, Saragota is too good to be true. We took a place on Lake George and waited for the rain to stop. It never did. No matter, we were in Saratoga on Travers day in a good seat arranged by the fatherly Mr. Rosen. He even instructed Joe Hirsch to treat us to dinner at the Wishing Well.

Arts and Letters is the heavy Travers favorite and we parlay our meager winnings on his nose at even money or so. Braulio Baeza brings him home in track record time in a sea of slop. The jockey has the most elegant posture on a horse that I have seen then or since. Owner-breeder Paul Mellon looks like he’s having fun. We’ll meet again in 1992 in the Belmont Park winner’s circle after Sea Hero wins the Champagne on his way to a Kentucky Derby win. I spent 25 years as a television commentator and that brief moment with Mellon and trainer Mack Miller was the pinnacle.

Saul did get back in touch, five months later, and he sent me off to Vancouver. In those days it seemed like one adventure after another. There are more stories for another day.

Jul 22, 2008

Curlin: Gone from the lawn?

Curlin’s foray into turf racing was inconclusive to a number of observers. To me it was obvious that he is not nearly the presence on grass that he is on a standard dirt track.

Missing in his turf trial was the keen turn of foot found in virtually all grass champions.
The Curlin modus operandi is to stalk and wear down his opponents with his marvelous action and will to win.

His knockout punch did not materialize in the Man O’ War. It’s not likely that he could take on Europe’s best in the Arc and prevail. The nature of Longchamp militates against Curlin’s chances.

First of all, there are usually l5 to 20 horses in the Arc and Curlin’s burly conformation, so intimidating on the main track, may not serve him well in the clinches. Right handed turns are a challenge. So is the deep, wet ground generally prevalent in Paris in October.
Throw in the false straightaway which puzzles many a foreign jockey and shipping to Europe and you have a task too hard. Even for Curlin.

Jul 17, 2008


Back in the mid-seventies I came down from Vancouver to Keeneland to see what I could learn from the July sale. One early morning I came across Woody Stephens and had the temerity to ask him if I might join him as he made his rounds. Only later did I discover that Woody loved an audience I was grateful for the opportunity to see him in action.

One thing I remember him saying was to take time to peer in the stall when shopping for a yearling. “You want to see if he’s a stall walker. If so, the bedding will be disturbed all over the stall,” he warned.

When Woody inspected a yearling he would lift up the tail and drop it from shoulder height.
“A horse has to have some snap to his tail,” he said. “Otherwise there may be some weakness in his spine. A horse has to have a strong spine. Stay away from them if they don’t . I do like coon-tailed horses though. They’re runners.”

Not long after I returned to Canada I was asked to go to a sale at Hollywood Park and try to buy a 3-year-old by Ack Ack. Charlie Whittingham trained the horse for a man who had died. When I arrived in LA I noticed that the colt had virtually no tail, perhaps several inches of stubble where the tail was missing.

I called my client and discussed the situation, mindful of Woody Stephens’ dictum on the matter.It also seemed odd to me that the horse would not have been already sold inside the Whittingham barn. I advised the client to pass. He said try to buy him.

I bought the horse for $45,000 and shipped him to Exhibition Park where he raced soon after arrival. The gates opened and he took off down the track from an outside post position. He ran scarcely 100 yards before he broke down behind with a fractured pelvis.

Coincidence? Perhaps. But I couldn’t help but think of Woody’s tutelage about healthy spines.

A couple of decades passed and I met Woody once again in the Woodbine turf club. He was having lunch with his former top assistant Phil Gleaves. We were all in Toronto for the Molson Million .A raging storm had emptied the place and we had it to ourselves.

Woody wanted to bet every race and relied on my handicapping. We made a few dollars but the real payoff was listening to his stories. He could be a little redundant about his five straight Belmont victories, noting that “I had the exacta in all five”. It left you wondering which meant the most to him, the Belmonts or his betting prowess.


Jeff Siegel and Joanne Jones were chatting on HRTV the other day about Herat. They recalled the diminutive son of Northern Dancer who was sold to John Franks and left the Woody Stephens barn to join Jack Van Berg’s California outfit. As usual, that reminds me of a story.

Van Berg persuaded Franks that Herat deserved a shot at the upcoming Santa Anita Handicap with its million dollar purse. Those types of races were scarce two decades ago.

Franks rarely left his Louisiana home and he did not like California at all. But this time he flew the Franks Petroleum jet to Santa Anita. I joined him there. John was not a betting man, as a rule, and $20 across the board was his standard play.

I was surprised then to have him hand me three hundred dollar bills and instructions to bet across the board on Herat. I told him that I thought Greinton couldn’t lose but he wanted some action so off I went.

On the way to the windows the thought did occur to me that booking the bet was an option. I mulled it over until I glanced at the tote board. Heart was 99-to-1 on the board but started closer to 200-to-1.

Crowds of 80,000 were not unusual on Big Cap day and I suddenly realized that this would be a risky time to become a bookmaker. I got a little panicky as the minutes ticked away and the horses were on the track. Greinton was the cynosure of all eyes while Herat pranced onto the track looking more like Bambi than a horse with a chance in the Big Cap.

In the nick of time I got the bet down and made my own play on Greinton. Passing the sixteenth pole Herat was still in front by a length and looking for the upset of the century.

Laffit Pincay muscled Greinton up to the 14 hands Herat and gradually pulled away to win in the final strides.

Herat proved to be a sagacious purchase. He won the New Orleans Handicap and began to attract the attention of Kentucky breeders. Allan Paulson bought into the horse and backed him with some good mares as did Franks. Herat unfortunately developed fertility problems and could not handle a large book of mares..

Jul 16, 2008


We all lost a friend with the sudden death of Luke Kruytbosch. What a high-spirited, gregarious, thoughtful soul was Luke. We first met while doing racing telecasts in Western Canada and the friendship grew when we both migrated to the Kentucky mainstream of racing and breeding.

Luke had the two best attributes a racecaller needed. He was accurate and enthusiastic whether it was the Kentucky Derby or a bottoms maiden claimer. Luke was unafraid to pump a little life into a mundane card, like the time he informed us that Bubba Gum was sticking to the rail.

One day I alerted him to the fact that a maiden I had bred was thought by trainer Bobby Barnett to have a chance in the nightcap at Churchill Downs. Luke got a bet down and gave us a masterpiece call of a maiden claimer circling from the “back of the pack” to win in the last stride at 20-to-1.

He was a consummate professional in his work and a loyal friend. What else is there to say?

Jul 11, 2008

Johnny Jones, David Greathouse, consignor Smoot Fahlgren, Kerry Cauthen, Dan Kenny
The Four Star Sales team awaits your inspection at Fasig-Tipton Kentucky, Saratoga, and Keeneland September.


Last Christmas I received a note from Keeneland’s Director of Sales Geoffrey Russell informing me that I had sold the sales graduate of the week.

“Congratulations on pinhooking such a nice horse. Sorry it wasn’t profitable!”, he wrote, taking damning with faint praise to a new level. The steed in question is Paradise Dancer who has gone on to earn some $600,000 after being purchased by me as a weanling for $l0,000. I felt like Jesse James robbing a train after finding a Langfuhr offspring for such a paltry sum.

I sold half to a partner and we entered the colt in Keeneland’s September yearling sale, anticipating a healthy resale profit, particularly after he aced his veterinary exams. It soon became apparent, however, that my enthusiasm for Langfuhr was unmatched by the Keeneland audience. By now this camp included my partner who said he wanted out. Sell him without reserve he said.

To my eye the only sin committed by the Langfuhr colt was he didn’t grow much since we bought him. We let him go for a ridiculous price of $7,000 to a buyer from Florida.

A cheerier bit of news showed up yesterday in the current Blood Horse. It seems that we landed in exalted company, ranked fourth among consignors selling graded stakes winners from 200l-05 under the Dan Kenny Bloodstock banner. Since we blended DKI into Four Star Sales in 2002, our finish was based on the 2001 season. Must have been a good year. But it doesn’t necessarily mean we made any money. It is entirely possible to breed and raise a good horse and still lose money.

That’s why we need to constantly press the case for broodmare awards. It can keep a horse farmer afloat who produced a good horse for the market yet made no direct profit.

Jul 10, 2008


Last weekend produced some of the usual good results. Christmas Ship won an allowance at Pleasanton. She is a stakes-placed half-sister to Tricky Trevor, a winner of over $700,000 which we bought as well for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer and partners. Christmas Ship’s earnings are nearing $l00,000. We bought the siblings for a total of $l47,000 and they have grossed $800,000. Each was purchased at OBS March from the consignment of Mike O’Farrell’s Ocala Stud. If everyone did business with the clarity that Mike brings to the job our lives would be easier.

Hollywood Park was the scene of another good Hollendorfer winner in Ransom Captive.
We purchased her dam a couple years ago (Cap Rouge) for a modest price in foal to Woodman. Hollendorfer feels that Ransom Captive is on a path to stakes status and will race next at Del Mar.

We bought the 2yo filly Broadway Hennessy in Florida this winter and she broke Golden Gate’s track record first time out. She was then l-to-5 favorite to win the Juan Gonzales Memorial at Pleasanton but she had to settle for second after a spirited dual on the lead.

Archer’s Gal won again at Woodbine and has surpassed $400,000 in lifetime earnings. We bought her dam, Dance A Go Go for $l2,500.

Juvee Hall finished second in the Supernatural Stakes at Hastings. We bought her sire (Arkansas Derby winner Graeme Hall) and dam (Feel The Pride). There is a great feeling of accomplishment when you can purchase a major stakes-winner for $200,000 and a mare for $20,000 that generate seven figure profits for the client you represent.


I first met Bob Costigan on the backstretch of Hastings Park. He had a 3-year-old filly in training there and sought my opinion about sending her to Woodbine to see if she would prefer turf racing to the Hastings five furlongs dirt oval.

Since she was by Regal Classic out of a mare by Assert it was an easy to confirm his judgment that Inish Glora might fancy the lawn. I was thinking $50,000 claimer while Bob had higher aspirations.

Under the tutelage of old school trainer Mac Benson Inish Glora flourished immediately.
From modest beginnings in Vancouver she eventually reached the summit and was crowned Canada’s champion turf mare two years straight.

While all this was going on Bob asked me if I could find a telephone number for trainer David Carroll, a fellow Irishman who was stabled at Churchill Downs. It seems the pair had been school chums back in Ireland at Gormanston College. They had not spoken in 25 years.

Good fortune smiled on both of them after that reunion. Bob had added an Arch filly named Arravale to his small band of runners and she became not only champion filly in Canada but also Horse of the Year. Imagine two champions in a stable with no more than a handful of runners!

Carroll meanwhile showed that he’s no slouch with his deft handling of Denis of Cork to finish third in the Kentucky Derby and second in the Belmont.

“Bob was the smart one,” said David. “I’d be reading nothing but the Irish Field instead of my school books. It was grand to see him again after all those years.”

Jul 7, 2008


Harry Aleo died with his boots on a few days ago. My first encounter with Harry took place at a yearling sale conducted at Seattle’s now defunct Longacres. He owned a good horse named Minutes Away who had won the Bay Meadows Derby the year before.
A half-brother to Minutes Away was catalogued to sell at Longacres.

I was on a similar mission to try to buy the horse for Louisiana oilman John Franks. We were really rolling at the time, winning stakes on a regular basis with horses bought who had already begun a career or at the yearling and juvenile sales.

The horse we were both after was by first-year sire Night Mover. He had been a brilliant sprinter/miler in California for trainer Bobby Frankel. Franks was prepared to go to $40,000 for the horse and I thought that was ample until Harry showed up with trainer Greg Gilchrist in tow. This now figured to be a little tougher assignment.

For one thing, the Night Mover colt was a physical marvel, as good a looker as you’d find at Keeneland let alone a regional sale in Washington state.

Harry and I were the only serious bidders and he bid $40,000. In the heat of battle I answered with $45,000. He countered at $47,000. Sensing weakness, I hit it again and got the horse for $50,000.

There was just one more detail. Franks firmly reminded me that he had only authorized bidding up to $40,000. He declined to buy the horse.

I was undaunted because I really loved this colt. My Santa Barbara Stable partners were happy to have the horse. We named him Ricehart, an election year pun. Donna Rice and Gary Hart were an item that summer, as befits a colt by Night Mover out of Happy Vixen.

Ricehart made the partners even happier when he won his second start at Santa Anita in l.09. That prompted a $200,000 offer to buy the colt. This time I outsmarted myself by looking in the condition book where I spotted a non-winners of two on the turf at a flat mile.

“Let’s not sell yet,” I counseled. “ He’ll win that turf race and we will get more money.” Said I.

It was a great plan up to the moment when Ricehard bowed a tendon. A couple of months later we took him to a mixed sale at Del Mar. Word spread of the colt’s extreme good looks and every teenage girl in San Diego County wanted to buy him for a show horse.

A cowboy from Oklahoma bought him for $23,000, huge money for a bowed horse, and took him back to Remington Park. A little bit late, perhaps, but he vindicated my faith in him by reeling off win after win. He had set several track records on the turf and won 10 races before he bowed again. Then he won seven more races.

Jul 3, 2008


Yearling sales get underway soon. Here’s a few tales that illustrate some hits and misses I have experienced in the auction ring.

My first venture to Keeneland came in l976 with $l0,000 in credit to buy a man a filly to race. I was still pretty new at this and tended to mark down pedigrees of horses that I knew and admired from the race track.

Bold Who had been a betting favorite of mine at Fair Grounds. He was a tough, impetuous horse who had plenty of speed and learned to carry it two turns. In short, he gave you all he had and won l8 races. Young Joey Dorignac trained Bold Who for his father who owned a giant grocery store in the New Orleans suburb of Metairie.

Late in the sale I discovered a half-sister to Bold Who. Physically, they could not have been more different-Bold Who was dark, almost black and loaded with muscle and bone-and his sis was a smallish sort who was feminine and light boned. She was by Grenfall, a son of Graustark and champion Primonetta. I knew enough about pedigrees by then to think there was enough blood to take a chance on.

I bid my $l0,000 but surrendered when another bidder went $ll,000. The successful buyer turned out to be Dr. Jack Woolsey, a veterinarian from Santa Rosa, CA. We met and became friends and I thought little of it until the filly, now named Grenzen, began burning up the track in California. She won numerous graded stakes, was second in the Kentucky Oaks and the Ashland and was sold for a huge figure to Walter Haefner’s Moyglare Stud. Grenzen’s first foal was $2 million earner Twilight Agenda. She and her daughters went on to produce one of the most abundant families in the stud book.

Naturally my client, when Grenzen began to run, said why didn’t I bid more. Now you tell me.

Every cloud has its silver lining. Dr. Woolsey later introduced me to Bob and Barbara Walter who hired me to help market their Vine Hill Ranch stock from time to time.
We sold a daughter of their home stallion Slewvescent for more than $l million and she won the Grade I Queen Elizabeth S. at Keeneland. Her name was Tout Charmant.

Fast forward two decades and you can tell that I had learned how to buy a good yearling for the right price.

A flamboyant fellow appeared on the scene and we contracted with him to purchase running and breeding stock at the highest levels. One day at Keeneland, after purchasing a number of horses the man was ready to go back to his hotel for Happy Hour. He’d had a few cocktails already and resisted my idea of buying one more horse, a filly by Thunder Gulch. This time I insisted and we stood in the back of the pavilion to bidTwit. We stood next to Mack Miller and Smiser West who bred the filly.

Evidently their reserve price was $l00,000 because that was our winning bid. Mr. West turned to Mr. Miller with a disconsolate look on his face. “Gee, I thought we’d get more than that, didn’t you,” said Mr. West to Mr. Miller who agreed.

“You mean you kept me here for another hour to buy a cheap horse”, my guy said. He had other advisors bending his ear and I began to suspect that our selections were being badmouthed.

Be that as it may, the filly began doing business as Tweedside and she went on to become a Grade I winner of some $600,000. Her 3-year-old colt by Storm Cat debuted on the weekend and finished second at Belmont as if he has a future. Name is Mosaic.

What tipped me off on this one, you may ask? Elementary, my dear reader. I had dealt with this family about l0 years earlier. A different client sent me to Kentucky to try to purchase a mare by Roberto. We had topped the inaugural Barretts Sale with a Roberto colt and he was looking to parlay.

I found him Twitchet who had out a couple of modest stakes-placed runners up till then.

She had another foal who had just picked up black type as a 4-year-old. The mare was empty and had a Forty Niner colt by her side. Hidaway Farm wanted $250,000 or maybe $300,000 for the package, I can’t recall. What I can recall is that Twitchet’s foals tended to be late developers and equally adept on dirt or turf.

For some reason my client decided to pass on Twitchet. Too bad. Her then 4-year-old was Evanescent who won three graded stakes as a 6-year-old and finished second in the Grade I Arlington Million. He earned almost $l million

The Forty Niner colt was stakes-winner Tactical Advantage. Now you can see why I wouldn’t let Tweedside get away. Persistence paid off.

A few years earlier I was part of a four man delegation to purchase well-bred fillies to race in Western Canada and eventually become broodmares there.

My was to analyze pedigrees and share racing knowledge gleaned from my experiences at US tracks since the others rarely left their British Columbia outpost.

I worked winters at Fair Grounds in those days and became enamored with a filly named Pink Platinum, a robust grey Quadrangle filly trained by Jere Smith. She raced for Archie Lofton on the New Orleans, Hot Springs, Louisville, Chicago circuit. Pink Platinum loved to race on the lead and was a wire-to-wire stakes winner. She won l8 races.

On my advice, we bought a half-sister to Pink Platinum for $30,000 which was our limit.
As was the case with Grenzen, the siblings in no way resembled each other. Our filly was from the first crop of speedster Torsion, a Never Bend horse standing at brand new Airdrie Stud. She was small and dark and looked fast. Named Never Wood, she won her first three starts, including three stakes. As a broodmare she producted Ohio Derby winner Private School who made $770,000.

If you love betting on races and know what you’re watching; if you love reading pedigrees and can making sense of the connective tissue in active families you can buy a good horse. Better yet, let me buy it for you.

Jun 30, 2008


Royal Ascot races last week evoked memories of our visit a decade ago. Chief among them was the smashing victory by Dubai Millenium in the G 1 Prince of Wales stakes.
The betting opened on the Darley at 4-6 early in the week but the herd mentality of many racegoers took a turn that was almost comical in its stupidity. By post time the wagering had taken a huge shift with the Aga Khan’s Sinndar moved into favoritism in the four horse field, with Dubai Millenium downgraded to 6-4 second choice.

The reason? Jerry Bailey had been named to ride Dubai Millenium and thousands of punters, swayed by the racing press, got the curious impression that presence of the American champion was somehow less than a good thing.

Bailey put the brilliant son of Seeking The Gold on an easy lead almost from the start and came home as if out for a canter in Hyde Park.

One sensed that he was in the presence of greatness in Dubai Millenium. His early demise was a heartbreaking loss for the Maktoum family.

Also memorable that week was our chat up with the Queen Mother who was celebrating her 99th birthday if I recall. A member of our party asked a Lady In Waiting if we could speak with the Queen Mother as she entered the walking ring. I was sure that security would round us up but, lo and behold, the Queen Mum tooled over in her golf cart and granted an audience that must have lasted l0 minutes. She chatted about her trips to Woodbine and touted us on the winner of the next race.

My English friends doubt the veracity of my tale but there were witnesses.

The trip ended on a more somber note. We had been cashing bets all week and there was no more room left in my pants pockets to put the Dubai Millenium loot. So I began to deposit pounds in the jacket of my morning suit.

That suit was returned to its Bond Street rental office at 7 a.m. on our way to Gatwick and a flight home. A champagne hangover led to fuzzy thinking and we were already at Gatwick when I noticed that some 2000 pounds was missing.

I called the rental company at once, explaining that I had left some of my profits in the jacket of the suit. “Backed some winners, did you,” he said, sounding like Col. Pickering to my Henry Higgins. “You’d be one of the few.”

Right then I knew I could kiss my bankroll goodbye. All the way home I felt like a “bloomin’ arse”.


They used to say in Las Vegas casinos that, if you wanted to gamble, they would send a cab to pick you up. If you wanted to play with a system, they would send a limo.

Breeding Thoroughbreds is the greatest gambling device played outdoors. Systems abound. Me, I’m sticking with trial and error, betting real money (including some of mine) and keenly following results on the racetrack. Diligence can point the way to intuition and common sense. All that and some luck can then help you succeed

We had a hand in shaping the pedigree of last week’s Tremont at Belmont, won by Dagnabit (Freud-Cool Ghoul, by Silver Ghost). A decade ago I purchased the G 1 winner Single Blade. We could hardly contain our glee at finding a top racemare with the best conformation you could desire for $50,000. Soon thereafter her son Comeonmom won the Remsen.

Comeonmom was by Jolie’s Halo so we thought that might be a place to start looking for her next mating. Silver Ghost was going well in those days and, as a son of Mr. Prospector and a Halo mare, he fit the bill on two counts. He stood for a $l5,000 fee which fit our price range. And he was a bit on the small side and figured to benefit from the leg and bone Single Blade brought to the mating in abundance.

The resultant Silver Ghost filly brought $l35,000 at Keeneland September. She was a modest racemare but Cool Ghoul showed immediate dividends when sent to Freud for her first mating. She foaled a New York-bred stakes placed horse and followed up with Dagnabit who was aided in the Tremont when odds-on Mr. Mistoffelles had a devil of a time at the break.

By now it should be obvious that Halo interacted well with this tribe. We bred Single Blade back to Southern Halo and she produced a powerful colt who took after the dam’s robust conformation. Unfortunately he also inherited Halo’s willful temperament which prevented him from fulfilling his potential. That’s the polite version. His handlers found him often dangerous to train with his obstreperous demeanor.

Freud also carries Halo through his illustrious daughter Glorious Song. You can imagine our distress at the results of sending Single Blade twice to Street Cry on a complimentary season open to G 1 winners. She foaled a beautiful colt who happened to be riddled with OCD lesions and yet to race. Single Blade died of colic while in foal to Street Cry.

Street Cry’s sire Machiavellian was bred on the same pattern as Silver Ghost (Mr. Prospector out of a mare by Halo). Oh, what might have been!

No genius was necessary to produce such results. But we like to think that keen observation of the facts at hand were enough to produce the desired results in this family.

A footnote on Single Blade: she produced ll consecutive January foals on one cover. Surely that’s a record.

Jun 27, 2008

Ted Turfman and Friends

We recently received word of the death of Mr. Ed Fricke, retired chairman of the Journalism Depart at Loyola U. in New Orleans. Fricke had an inordinate influence on the careers of myself and two confreres at Loyola. That’s because he had a second job as publicity director for Fair Grounds Racetrack. Fricke was known to host a class or two at the track when his schedule got tight.

A 3-year-old named On The Virg was considered Derby material earlier this year and that got me thinking. Wasn’t that the name of a weekly column written by none other than Eclipse Award winner Ron Virgets? He livened up the pages of Daily Racing Form and has since gone on to become a beloved denizen of the Crescent City. Ron had to swim for his life when Hurricane Katrina hit.

Mac McBride inherited the sports editor position from Virgets and then passed it on to yours truly when he graduated. He spent some years at Daily Racing Form also before landing the cushiest job in racing, humming along with Bing Crosby every day where the Turf Meets The Surf at Del Mar. He also heads up the publicity staff there

Fricke called me with a job offer after graduation to cover racing, golf, boxing, ABA basketball and whatever else might come along. All this and $l00 a week! Where do I sign up? The Fair Grounds press box was the major attraction. In those days I could drink $l00 a week in free beer and sandwiches at the track, all the while in the best seat in the house atop the ancient and revered grandstand.

The daily that I wrote for dubbed me with the nom de plume Ted Turfman for my graded handicap at the track. My initiation was a little rough. The guys in the racing office liked to announce that some poor soul was found drowned in nearby Bayou St. John. His pockets were empty except for a copy of my selections. That sort of stuff and a lot more toughened my hide enough to learn the ropes.

Migration to the DRF followed with triple the salary and a chance to travel to exotic places and cover racing exclusively.

That Loyola school paper only had about a half dozen male students. What were the odds that 40 years later we three would still be playing the ponies?

Charlie Hatton, the best writer the Form ever had, said it best. “You get stuck on the flypaper of turf journalism.”

Jun 26, 2008

Time, Time, Time Is On My Side

Two of our recent recruits recently broke track records. We found Broadway Hennessy at the February Calder sale. All I can say is that the chestnut Hennessy filly reminded me a great deal of another standout chestnut filly, Harmony Lodge who went on to Grade I status after being plucked from the same sale for $l.65 million.

Broadway Hennessy really looked like Harmony Lodge when she shattered the track record at Golden Gate Fields in her first start. She won by 6 l/2 lengths for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer.

Home For Harlan won by l0 lengths when he set a new 6 l/2 furlongs mark at Woodbine.
The handsome 3-year-old is another crack runner from the first crop of Harlan’s Holiday

Track records are nothing new for our outfit. The most meaningful came in the l989 Palos Verdes at Santa Anita when Sunny Blossom vanquished arch-rival Olympic Prospect in l.07.l Gary Stevens never uncocked his stick that day and his eyes light up when he recalls the event two decades later.

Our best piece of horse trading was probably Slyly Gifted, bought for $35,000 after his first start. He won the Longacres Derby and the Canadian Derby, both in record time.

Long ago we bought a filly named Lil Ol’ Gal who set the world record for 3 l/2 furlongs
at Northlands Park in Canada. We bought her again later for John Franks and she won a big stakes at Woodbine.

There are a few more over the years but you get the picture. We may be wearing bifocals but the eye for a good horse functions well as ever.

Jun 24, 2008

Dam, …I’m Good

They say it’s not bragging if you can actually do it. And what we do very well indeed at Dan Kenny Bloodstock is purchase and manage broodmares for our clients.

You know all about Broodmare of the Year In Neon by now. Those are one-of-a-kind.
Let’s talk about a few more good ones that have come our way. What’s most interesting is how common sense played a role in our selections. It helps to have a good memory.

Three good examples occurred in April, the dams of Sterwins, Shilla, and Bonanza.
Each had Canadian connections which I recognized from my time in the Great White North.

Sterwins is a stakes-winner of some $600,000 after a win in the Gr. 3 Ben Ali at Keeneland. She is making amends for her lack of racing ability. Todd Pletcher and I bought Sweet Vale (Wild Again) for $l00,000 at Keeneland September. We also had our eye on another Wild Again filly and thought we’d bid on Sweet Vale first as we appraised the pair about equally. Early in the day we were able to buy the Sweet Vale filly. The second went for over $l m and turns out she can’t run either.

Shilla’s dam is an Apalachee filly who was trained by Pletcher for Dogwood Farm. We bought her for a Calgary rancher for $l5,000. She had been a good allowance winner, might have been stakes material until a broken cannon bone required a steeel plate to keep her paddock sound. She produced a good winner of over $l00,000 before being sold to an Ontario breeder who bred her to Marquetry and got Shilla who is a SW of about $400,000 at Woodbine. Todd said she could run, I liked the look of her and the price was right.

A few years later we sold her stakes-winning kin Mulrainy for $270,000 as a broodmare prospect.

Explore The Gold raced in Western Canada and I was able to acquire her for a modest price when her racing days were through. I resold her for a nice profit and she has produced four stakes horses, among them Bonanza who won the Wando Stakes at Woodbine

Nabatina is another good advertisement for local knowledge. I bought her for a measly $l3,500 specifically to be bred to Archers Bay. She was out of a half-sister to mighty Benburb who had recorded two monumental upsets, one over A P Indy in the Molson Million (he went on to win the Breeders Cup Classic that year) and the other over l-20 Alydeed in the Prince of Wales at Fort Erie. I had a close up look at each as a member of the NBC and CBC commentary teams..

Nabatina brought the Vice Regent/Deputy Minister nick to the fore and she produced SW Schooner Bay who has won over $300,000.

For $2l,000 I acquired a Nearctic line mare who was ideal for Archers Bay. She was from a family that had some speedy stakes-horses that would suit a horse capable of l0 furlongs like Archers Bay. She was in-foal to Lucky Lionel, a real speedster that Bobby Frankel trained. He set a track record for 6.5 furlongs at Santa Anita. The Lucky Lionel
foal went on to be a stakes-winner in Chicago of $270,000.

Hawk Cliff comes from a family that I know very well. She herself ground out more than $2l6,000 racing at Woodbine and had a pair of “boxing gloves” for ankles. She reminded me of a mare named Sophisticated Sam that I bought from Frank Stronach. She had big ankles from a long career…and her first foal for us made $500,000. Never forget that heart and courage are what we are breeding for. Hawk Cliff had a sister named Quest Master who could sprint in l:08 and change and tough enough to win l3 races and $250,000 while racing until she was nine.

Hawk Cliff had another sibling in Pegwell, a colt by Kentucky Derby winner Lil E Tee.
I had bought Pegwell at Woodbine for $l35,000 and retained a quarter interest for myself as I thought he was a leading contender for the Queen’s Plate. Pegwell won off by many lengths in his second start and was considered second choice for the Plate. Alas, he became a wobbler almost overnight and was put to sleep. Pegwell flooded my memory when Hawk Cliff came into the Keeneland ring.

I bought him for newcomer Dan Sutherland from British Columbia for $l0,000. The
Stormin Fever colt she was carrying brought $50,000 as a yearling, topping the local Canadian sale in Vancouver. In the meantime, the first foal out of the mare suddently produced a New York stakes-winner. Hawk Cliff has a beautiful colt by Northern Afleet that will be much like Afleet Alex genetically. That’s a good thing. Luck and a good memory can go a long way to success in this game.

We could ramble on but trust that these examples barely scratch the surface of our successful history. Now you know there is “method in my madness” when we represent you at the sales.

Jun 23, 2008

Our First Classic

Four Star Sales notched its first classic winner when Da’ Tara posted a 38-l upset in the Belmont Stakes. Four Star had sold the winner on behalf of WinStar Farm for $l00,000 at the Keeneland January sale in 2006. It is highly appropriate that the WinStar team be first to give us the honor of selling a future classic colt. They have been loyal backers of Four Star since our first sale in 2002. May there be many more victories to celebrate.

Another milestone for Four Star was Trifecta King who captured the Cinderella Stakes at Hollywood Park. She (yes it’s a she) entered the race a maiden and came away the initial juvenile winner for her sire Peace Rules.

The defeat of Big Brown was bittersweet to one of our clients who had purchased a half-sister to Big Brown in last year’s Keeneland September Sale. She is currently in training with Henry Cecil in Newmarket and early reports are encouraging.

The Long and Short of It

When the Boston Celtics won the NBA championship it put a smile on Massachusetts native Chris McCarron. Chris may be retired as a Hall of Fame jockey but he is no less busy in the industry, sending out first graduates from his riding school. He’s also done some good commentary on televised races.

The Celtics’ revival brings to mind a funny story he tells. It seems that Chris had been invited to play in a sports celebrity golf tournament. When he stepped on the practice tee he noticed Celtic great Bill Russell.

Chris knew the reputation Russell had as a grumpy, aloof sort of guy. Russell hated to sign autographs, for one thing. Undaunted, Chris approached Russell and said, “I want you to know that you were my idol when I was a kid growing up”.

Whereupon the 6’ 9” Russell peered down at the jockey and said, “Looks to me like you didn’t do much of that”. And then he walked away.


The Triple Crown quest by Big Brown also sparked a memory concerning McCarron.
He won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness aboard Alysheba and was heavily favored to take the Belmont. There was a $5 million bonus to a Triple Crown winner in those days so Chris and trainer Jack Van Berg each figured to walk away with a cool half mil if they took the last leg.

When Van Berg walked into the clubhouse some of his pals wished him well. One said that he would need the bonus to cover his wife’s Fifth Avenue shopping jaunts.

“I wanted Alysheba to be right up on the pace so that Bet Twice would not have the pace too slow,” said Van Berg some years later. “And I had told Chris all week long not to get too far away from Bet Twice.

“When he walked into the paddock he had a kind of funny look on his face. He wasn’t listening to me, I don’t think, when I said to stay right with Bet Twice. Looking back, I probably should have given him a little smack to remind him of what I had just said. But I could feel that he had already made up his mind to take back.”

Sure enough, Craig Perret put Bet Twice on the lead and took the field wire to wire.

That day marked the zenith of Van Berg’s colorful career. In time the wife was gone, some real estate investments went sour, and Jack currently trains in relative obscurity in California.

May 28, 2008

Studly Do-rights

Studly Do-Rights

Speightstown and Chapel Royal are my choices for leading freshman sire. That’s not a real original thought since each horse brought $2 million in the marketplace.

Speightstown was not sound but his bravery was something to behold. He laid his body down every time he set foot on the track. Chapel Royal is gigolo handsome with talent to match.

Finding first-crop stallions can provide good value when you get it right. A few years back we couldn’t help noticing Carson City’s foals had an awful lot of “try” to them during the early 2-year-old sales. At $7500 he looked a good bet and I so notified by customers. They were pretty uniform in type, heavily muscles, mid-sized to small and a tad short in the leg. There was a big one, out of a mare by Herbager, and the way he moved over the ground at Calder belied his size. That was Flying Chevron, later a Grade One winner.

Maria’s Mon was another who looked promising at $7500 and those who patronized that champion were usually glad they did. Mizzen Mast paid handsome dividends more recently.

We were commissioned to find suitable mates for the Canadian stallion Archers Bay a few years back. Rounded up were an inexpensive lot of mares carrying Bold Ruckus blood. Bold Ruckus and Deputy Minister clicked like ham and eggs and Archers Bay followed suit when his first runners appeared. He stood only two years before a colic attack claimed his life, an enormous loss for Windfields and Canadian breeding. There are no stallions of his like there today.

Getting back to Carson City, we noticed that Sam Lord’s Castle had his first winner up at Canterbury. We’ve clocked 2-year-old sales for three decades and saw something so extraordinary in Sam Lord’s Castle that we just had to buy him.

The Carson City colt worked his eighth mile at Keeneland in :l0.2 which was good enough but he galloped out in :l0.2, a truly astonishing example of what I like to call “natural gas”. I bought him for a client at $l00,000 and promised him that this horse would win his first start. That remark unsettled the trainer who I had recommended to train him. She was frightened by stories she’d heard about wind and unsoundness.

The colt was sent up to Woodbine and won his first four starts, including a couple of stakes. When the newsweeklies came out I noticed that she told the reporter that Sam was her top pick of the sale.

“Nothing dries faster than tears of gratitude”, acthe late, great Canadian insurance man John Carlton used to say. Needless to say we have other trainers to promote.

And you folks up in Minnesota, pay attention. You may be hearing a lot more from Sam Lord’s Castle.

May 27, 2008

Hirsch Jacobs


When a track names a stakes race in honor of a trainer from days gone by it might be enlightening to the new generation to learn what feats made the man so worthy. At the Preakness, Pimlico offers up the Hirsch Jacobs stakes annually. It was televised as part of the undercard but a video witness would still be in the dark when it comes to Mr. Jacobs.

In the second half of the 20th century he ranked alongside John Nerud as the most versatile and successful horsemen in the nation. Each man could have merited Hall of Fame status singly as an owner, a trainer, or a breeder.

Jacobs name will be forever linked with Hail To Reason, as Nerud with Dr. Fager.
The current debate about our less hardy contemporary stock often invokes Hail To Reason as Exhibit A.

Hail To Reason merely won nine of his l8 starts in a juvenile campaign which began in January-at three furlongs around a turn at Santa Anita-and culminated in lopsided tallies in the Hopeful at Saratoga and the rich World’s Playground Stakes at Atlantic City.

That arduous assignment found him still sound for more in September when it was said that he broke sesamoids when stepping on a racing plate lost by another horse at Aqueduct. In any event, Jacobs was known to say, “when they’re good, run em”, as chronicled by Daily Racing Form ace Joe Hirsch.

At stud, Hail To Reason’s reputation went up and down. Breeders tended to downplay the son of Turn-to as suspect in the soundness department.

History became his judge after son Roberto won the Epsom Derby and great-grandson Barbaro took the Kentucky Derby. Hail To Reason sported an Average Earnings Index of outlandish proportions, 4.47.

Prior to his heyday with Hail To Reason, Jacobs generally raced all the stock bred in Maryland with partner Isidore Bieber. But it was a famous claim of a horse named Stymie that was big news in the l950s. Stymie was haltered for $l500 and went on to win numerous stakes and more than $900,000.

And therein lies another tale, although one much less savory. My first encounter with Stymie came in l964 at the old Jefferson Downs in suburban New Orleans. I liked to play the ponies a bit in those days in hopes of landing some walking around money. As a varsity member of the Loyola University golf team I hung out in the athletic department which was full of more seasoned turf enthusiasts.

They let me tag along to “JD, as it was known, while we waited expectantly for major league racing to return at Fair Grounds on Thanksgiving
One of my brethren, a baseball player named Tiger Brupbacher, breathlessly told us one day about a caper about to unfold at JD, involving a son of Stymie named Putting Fool.
Tiger’s eavesdropping got the word out that Putting Fool was going to race three times at JD and he would be ridden by jockey Roberto D. Gonzales in each of the no-go preps for the betting coup to come.

Sure enough, we would venture out to the track and watch Putting Fool and Gonzales canter around the bullring that was Jefferson. Finally, round four arrived and the regulars surely felt something odd was brewing when a dozen or so really big college athletes arrived, beers in hand, to root home Putting Fool.

Putting Fool’s 20-1 morning line melted to 6-l by post time. The horse hadn’t been within l0 lengths of the lead in over a month. That night the starting gate opened and Gonzales and Putting Fool were gone! They cruised around the two-lap course with nary a care in the world and the payoff was $l5.00. The crazed college kids headed for the French Quarter.

May 20, 2008

Riders on the Storm

Handicapping skills can be profitable for more than betting races. Some of my most memorable acquisitions in the bloodstock world were a result of simply applying common sense principles. One involved the almighty Storm Cat, a memory freshened by the news this week that he would breed no more.

I had just arrived in Kentucky (from California) back in 1993 in time for the Keeneland November Sale. Several clients had give me orders to buy mares. One NOT on my list was In Neon because I expected her to sell much higher than my modest budget would allow.

Imagine my surprise when stakes-winning In Neon, in foal to Storm Cat, went unsold at $l60,000, well below her reserve price of $200,000. A handful of agents were buzzing around the owner of In Neon, making low-ball bids. She insisted on full price so I sprinted to the pay phones to call my only client who might play at that level.

John Franks was a taskmaster who demanded a rational reason for whatever we did.
Paying a 25% premium over an RNA was not his idea of good business.

“Let me get this straight,” he said. “All the smart and rich players are in the sales pavilion and nobody is willing to pay even $l50,000. Why in heaven should I pay $200,000?”

I had to think fast as more agents hovered around her owner. She might not be on the market very long. You see, In Neon was a hard-hitting stakes-winner who was a Midwest stakes-winner for trainer Jack Van Berg.

In Neon’s first foal Star Recruit was by Al Nasr, a complete failure at stud. Yet Star Recruit won nearly $l million and just missed winning the Santa Anita Handicap. He won all that while racing with a club foot. Bear with me as I digress to tell you that the previous year another client, a Canadian named Peter Redekop told me to buy him the fastest horse in the May sale of 2-year-olds at Barretts. The fastest horse clearly was the colt by Al Nasr-In Neon. But nobody wanted him either and he went unsold at $40,000.
Redekop had changed his mind when informed about the foot.

“You should buy the mare because I had a chance to buy her first foal,” I replied. “And it still bugs me how I let that one get away. If this mare can get a graded stakes winner by Al Nasr, imagine what she might do with Storm Cat.”

“Go ahead and buy her then,” said Franks.

Her Storm Cat foal turned out to be Sharp Cat, winner of seven Grade I races and over $2 million.

I recommended that In Neon go to Theatrical, standing then for $20,000, and the result was another top notcher in Royal Anthem.

The reason that there were no other takers for In Neon, in my opinion, was that she was about as homely looking as a mare could be. I have never doubted that if Franks had been present at Keeneland that he would have passed on her, too.

Peter Redekop and I had another brush with fame and fortune when he sent me to Saratoga to try to find a well-bred filly for a reasonable price.

I gravitated over to a one horse consignment in a distant corner of the sale grounds.
There stood a tiny little filly who represented the entire consignment of Dr. Jacques Levasseur from Quebec. The filly was small but she was the right type to race over the bullring at Exhibition Park in Redekop’s home city of Vancouver.

On a budget of $75,000 I knew it was a longshot to try and buy a Storm Cat filly for that kind of money. I stepped in to try in any event and my heart fluttered when I had the bid at $75,000. I should have been finished but went a couple more bids, confident that my client would not disapprove. We tossed in the towel at $90,000 and trainer Jim Day signed the ticket that evening for Canadian powerhouse Sam-Son Farm.

I consoled my self with the knowledge that the deep pockets Sam-Son operation would have bid what it took to secure the filly they named Silken Cat. Silken Cat won all three of her starts and was named Canada’s champion two-year-old filly.

Four years later, Silken Cat came into my life again. I had been hired by another wealthy Canadian, Eugene Melnyk to scout for the very best yearlings that Keeneland had to offer. He was new to the game and liked to ask Todd Pletcher and I what horses did he “have to have”.

Right from the start I nominated the Gone West colt out of Silken Cat. He wouldn’t be cheap, I observed, but he was the one you had to have.

“Don’t worry,” I recall saying. “You’ll get even by the end of Saratoga.”

Todd was not so sure. The horse had to please him because all the weight of a $2 million yearling would be on his shoulders just as he was beginning his career.

Luckily, I talked him into it and Melnyk had his first Eclipse Award in Speightstown.

As for my prediction, he got even all right, at the end of his SIX year old season. Todd and I crossed paths at Lone Star soon after Speightstown won the Breeders’ Cup Sprint. .He shook my hand and acknowledged that my persistence had enabled him to train a champion. Todd is a class act and richly deserves all the accolades that have come his way in the years since.

A Storm Cat descendant of more recent vintage is Home For Harlan, a 3-year-old by Harlan’s Holiday, who set a new track record at Woodbine. The colt, racing in blinkers for the first time, covered 6 l/2 furlongs in l:l4.8l. He is a great grandson of Storm Cat.

We picked him out of the July Fasig-Tipton Sale for $82,000 from the first crop of his sire on behalf of Jim and Susan Hill of Calgary. The Hills are putting together a well-bred stable in their native land

May 16, 2008

Don't Boo a Dead Horse

More jumping to conclusions, a common form of exercise in the world of Thoroughbred horses. Racetrackers have a saying, “Believe none of what you hear and only half of what you see” in order to survive.

Somebody started a rumor the week of the Kentucky Derby that the troubles that beset the sport could be laid at the feet of Native Dancer. The first superstar horse of the television age evidently was found guilty of siring the undefeated Raise A Native who in turn sired the prepotent Mr. Prospector. That Native Dancer also sired the dam of the almighty Northern Dancer was more proof that he had somehow contaminated the breed. Your reporter seemed to support that view.

Descendents of Native Dancer performed wonders on the racetrack and in the breeding shed. Taken together, the male strain via Raise A Native and the female strain through Natalma (dam of Northern Dancer) began to produce a uniquely American runner who could carry their abundant speed l0 furlongs. Danehill and Sadler’s Wells combined to sire 600 stakes-winners world wide and US based Danzig and Mr. Prospector were good for almost 400 more.

If these horses were so successful, why the carping now? Soundness issues say the critics.
As a small breeder myself, I would take my chances with a Northern Dancer/Mr. P stallion rather than patronize lines which have been pummeled by this pair for decades.

What observers often miss is that, in addition to speed and soundness, a stallion needs courage to pass on to his progeny. Courage, often expressed as “heart” can only be detected by observing it in performance. The canny breeder who can recognize a horse like Distorted Humor, who began his career with a $l2,500 fee and now stands for $300,000, may reap huge rewards.

Horses behave much like human athletes. Some have a high pain tolerance while others are finicky and prone to chuck it in when things don’t go their way

Just a few years ago South American breeders began to acquire US stallions to inject more speed into their own stock. Speedballs like Salt Lake, Bernstein, Honour and Glory, and Southern Halo were given an enthusiastic welcome.

Pedigrees have become global, too. A good example is champion Invasor. He is a South American whose American sire (Candy Stripes) raced in France as did his own sire (Blushing Groom) who stood in France before migrating to Kentucky. Red God, the sire of Blushing Groom, was American-bred but raced in France. He was a son of the great Nasrullah who came to American shortly after World War II and sired seven-time champion sire Bold Ruler.

Invasor himself was found in Uruguay and purchased by the Maktoum family of Dubai. Invasor is now at stud in Kentucky.
There is going to be a need eventually for other strains to develop as more popular ones saturate the breed. Dissing Native Dancer and his clans will do nothing to ameliorate the situation, however. How about a shout out for Native Dancer instead!.