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.