OSCAR PERFORMANCE GOES HOME AGAIN
Oscar Performance tossed his head and stepped sideways on the end of the lead shank, turning a white-rimmed eye toward the horizon, beyond the rolling hills surrounding Mill Ridge Farm. Oscar Performance’s familiar former stall in trainer Brian Lynch’s barn is less than five miles away at Keeneland – where Hal Price Headley, the father of Mill Ridge’s Alice Chandler, served as the first president.
But Oscar Performance was actually standing on familiar ground in that moment. The son of leading turf sire Kitten’s Joy was foaled at Mill Ridge on April 6, 2014, and spent his formative months there before heading off to training and the track. The colt is a homebred for John and Jerry Amerman, who became associated with Mill Ridge in the mid-1990’s and have maintained their limited broodmare band there since. That band includes their stakes-winning Theatrical mare Devine Actress, the dam of multiple Grade 1 winner Oscar Performance and multiple Grade 3 winner Oscar Nominated.
“We at Mill Ridge are so appreciative to Jerry and John Amerman for the opportunity to stand a stallion with the potential to contribute to the breed like Oscar Performance,” Mill Ridge managing partner Headley Bell said. “Since [former Mill Ridge stallions] Diesis and Gone West, we have been waiting for the special horse to carry on from their legacies and believe Oscar Performance has all the qualities to do so.”
Over the summer, Bell said that it only took about a week to syndicate Oscar Performance.
“We syndicated him in seven days on a basis of $75,000 for the shares,” Bell said. “We kept the other half, too. Rather than putting kickers on the deal, we just kept the other shares syndicated after he’s finished racing. We got a great syndicate . . . When you’re [doing business] you’ve got to think four years down the road. You’re in the moment and then the balloon goes off and you struggle. So, even in the syndicate, you got eight seasons in the first four years to make a very attractive deal. Because the bottom line is we want to give him a chance to be a stallion, and we’re willing to give a little bit up front to get something in the end.”
Oscar Performance won six graded stakes, highlighted by a quartet of Grade 1 events – the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, last year’s Belmont Derby and Secretariat Stakes, and this fall’s Woodbine Mile. His three other graded stakes scores included a virtuoso performance in the Grade 3 Poker Stakes this past June at Belmont, sizzling the mile on turf in a course-record 1:31.23. Not only did that break Elusive Quality’s course mark of 1:31.63 established in 1998, it tied the North American record for a mile on the turf established by Mandurah in 2010 at Monmouth Park.
“He is a trainer’s dream,” Lynch said. “Lasix-free, speed, stamina, and soundness.”
Mill Ridge previously stood stallions such as the late, great Gone West, the sire of champion sprinter Speightstown, Breeders’ Cup winners Da Hoss and Johar, and Belmont Stakes winner Commendable, among other standouts. Gone West continued to build a legacy to the breed via successful sons at stud, including Elusive Quality, Grand Slam, Mr. Greeley, Proud Citizen, and Speightstown.
However, Mill Ridge had just a onehorse roster in 2018. Valuable newcomer Oscar Performance joins regally bred Grade 3 winner Keep Up, whose oldest foals are 3, in the stallion complex.
Fipke homebreds enter market
Charles Fipke made his fortune as a
risk-taking geologist whose pursuit of his profession led to the groundbreaking discovery of diamond mines in Canada. Fipke has been similarly bold in his pursuit of Thoroughbred gems. In recent years, he has campaigned a homebred Eclipse Award champion in Forever Unbridled; seen her dam, Lemons Forever, honored as Broodmare of the Year; developed a number of his homebred runners into consistent sires; and has seen two runners by those sires hit the board in American classic events at long prices.
This year, Fipke continues to develop his program with two homebred stallion prospects headed to stud in Kentucky. Bee Jersey, winner of the stallion-making Metropolitan Handicap, will stand at Darby Dan Farm in Lexington, while classic-placed Tale of Verve will begin his second career at Fipke’s own C.F. Farms near Paris.
Bee Jersey, by Jersey Town, won all four of his starts this year, including the Grade 3 Steve Sexton Mile at Lone Star Park and then the Metropolitan, edging multiple Grade 1 winner Mind Your Biscuits. He posted a Beyer Speed Figure of 109. That turned out to be the final start of his career, as he was retired later in the year with a tendon injury.
“Bee Jersey was one of the fastest horses of the year, evidenced by the Beyer Speed Figures he ran,” said Ryan Norton, stallion director at Darby Dan. “He possessed raw speed, was an excellent miler, and put together tremendous back-to-back winning performances in the Steve Sexton Mile and the Metropolitan Handicap.”
Bee Jersey is one of two Met Mile winners entering stud this year, along with impressive 2017 victor Mor Spirit at Spendthrift Farm. The race has been won throughout its 125-year history by prominent stallions such as Tom Fool (1953), Native Dancer (1954), and Buckpasser (1967). A Grade 1 race since the North American graded stakes system began in 1973, it has been won more recently by prominent sires Tentam (1973), Cox’s Ridge (1978), Fappiano (1981), Gulch (198788), Ghostzapper (2005), and Quality Road (2010).
“The Met Mile is one of the most storied stallion-making races in our sport,” said Ned Toffey, Spendthrift’s general manager.
Darby Dan has long partnered with Fipke, and Bee Jersey will join his homebred stallions Perfect Soul and Tale of Ekati at the farm. Jersey Town, whose biggest win for Fipke came in the Grade 1 Cigar Mile in 2010, also began his stud career there before moving to Road’s End Farm in British Columbia for the 2018 season. With the success of Bee Jersey, from his first crop, the stallion will relocate to Daehling Ranch Thoroughbreds, near Elk Grove, Calif., for 2019.
Tale of Verve, a son of Tale of Ekati, is out of the Unbridled mare Verve, with whom Fipke has had success. She also is the dam of Grade 3 winner Verve’s Tale
and stakes-placed Perfect Soul. Tale of Verve, a winner who earned more than $500,000 on the track, finished second to subsequent Triple Crown winner American Pharoah in the 2015 Preakness Stakes, beaten seven lengths at 28-1.
Familiar team behind Good Magic
Classic-placed champion Good Magic will enter stud at Hill ‘n’ Dale Farm alongside his sire, Curlin, and several other former Stonestreet Farm colorbearers.
Good Magic, who was bred by Stonestreet, was sold by Hill ‘n’ Dale on behalf of his breeder at the 2016 Keeneland September yearling sale, where e Five Racing went to $1 million to acquire him. Stonestreet later bought back in, and the two entities raced him in partnership to three graded stakes victories from nine starts and earnings of more than $2.9 million.
Curlin, a two-time Horse of the Year for Stonestreet and partners, has been represented by a classic winner or classic-placed runner from each of his first six crops. The Smart Strike horse has stood at Hill ‘n’ Dale since the 2016 season after originally standing at Lane’s End. The move was made after Hill ‘n’ Dale purchased a 20 percent interest and four
annual breeding rights to Curlin in May 2015 for a total sum of about $6.2 million. The interest was offered at auction as part of the asset liquidation of former owners Shirley Cunningham Jr. and William Gallion’s Midnight Cry Stables. Stonestreet Stables owns the majority interest in Curlin.
Hill ‘n’ Dale also stands rising young Stonestreet stallion Kantharos, the sire of graded stakes winners Bucchero, Mr. Jordan, and X Y Jet. Kantharos relocated to Kentucky for the 2017 season after beginning his career in Florida. Former Stonestreet colorbearers Atreides, a current freshman sire, and Maclean’s Music, represented by Preakness Stakes winner Cloud Computing from his first crop, have stood at Hill ‘n’ Dale since launching their careers.
“Good Magic is a fantastic addition to our stallion roster,” Hill ‘n’ Dale’s John Sikura said in a press release. “It is rare indeed for a champion 2-year-old to retain his Grade 1 form at 3, which was witnessed by Good Magic’s narrow defeat by super horse Justify in the Kentucky Derby. We sold Good Magic . . . as a yearling, and he was a beautiful horse. I remember him as medium-sized, a great mover, and completely correct. Valiant, supremely talented, and by Curlin, breeders will love him.”
Good Magic won his maiden in his third start, the 2017 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Del Mar, and was subsequently voted champion 2-year-old male.
This year, Good Magic won the Blue Grass Stakes in his second start of the season, then caught sloppy tracks in the first two legs of the Triple Crown. He was a hard-fought second to Justify in the Kentucky Derby and fourth in the Preakness Stakes after dueling with the eventual Triple Crown winner through the early stages.
He rebounded to win the Haskell Invitational by three lengths, but then finished a dull ninth as the favorite in the Travers Stakes on Aug. 25 in what turned out to be his final start. Blood tests taken following the race revealed that the colt had an elevated white blood cell count, and his connections responded with plans for a full veterinary examination in Kentucky and time off at Stonestreet. In September, his connections announced the champion was done for the year, and they later elected to retire him.
Hill ‘n’ Dale will bring in another
newcomer for 2019 in the unbeaten but lightly raced Grade 1 winner Army Mule.
The Pennsylvania-bred son of successful young Maryland sire Friesan Fire won his career debut by 8 1/2 lengths in April 2017 at Belmont Park, but then a knee issue kept him away from the races until January 2018, when he won an optionalclaiming event at Gulfstream by 7 1/2 lengths. Off that, he stepped up to Grade 1 company in the Carter Handicap in April, winning by 6 1/4 lengths over Awesome Slew. He posted a Beyer Speed Figure of 114 for the seven-furlong race.
Army Mule was being pointed to the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap in June at Belmont, but another issue developed and he was ultimately sent for a break on a farm in Ocala. He returned to the work tab on Sept. 1 at Saratoga and logged four breezes there before his retirement was announced.
Evans’s legacy carries on
Three Chimneys Farm has an established history with the stellar female family responsible for 2005 Horse of the Year Saint Liam and 2017 Horse of the Year Gun Runner. The farm has continued to reinvest in that family, developed by the late Edward P. Evans, as it expands its stallion roster. This year, Three Chimneys adds a pair of Grade 1 winners in Funtastic, a half-brother to Saint Liam, and Sharp Azteca, out of a daughter of the champion.
“Ned Evans was an artist at breeding Grade 1 winners and developing female families,” said Three Chimneys chief operating officer Chris Baker, who worked for Evans. “This family was his masterpiece.”
Baker managed Evans’s Spring Hill Farm in Virginia when the late ownerbreeder campaigned Grade 2 winner Quiet Giant, a daughter of his outstanding Quiet Dance, who had already produced Saint Liam and several other graded stakes performers. Benjamin Leon’s Besilu Stables bought Quiet Dance for $800,000 and Quiet Giant for $3 million at the Evans’s estate dispersal in 2011. Baker, who became part of Besilu’s advisory team, advised on Quiet Giant’s mating to Candy Ride that eventually produced Gun Runner.
Majority ownership in Three Chimneys was later sold to prominent Brazilian horseman Goncalo Borges Torrealba and his family, with Baker becoming the chief operating officer. Three Chimneys bought into Besilu’s bloodstock, including the yearling Gun Runner. Winchell Thoroughbreds later bought into the colt and campaigned him in partnership with Three Chimneys. Gun Runner won 12 of
19 starts for earnings of more than $15.9 million, with six Grade 1 victories including the Breeders’ Cup Classic and Pegasus World Cup. He entered stud this year at Three Chimneys.
“I am a big believer in top families, and with two Horses of the Year in his first two dams, one could make a case that there is no more active or relevant pedigree in the stud book today than that of Gun Runner,” Torrealba said.
Meanwhile, Funtastic, by More Than Ready and out of Quiet Dance, was racing in the colors of Three Chimneys, for which he was minor stakes-placed last year. The colt stepped up into Grade 1 company this summer to win the United Nations Stakes on the Monmouth turf.
Saint Liam only stood one season at stud before he broke his leg rearing while being led to his paddock at Lane’s End Farm. The injury proved fatal. His lone crop of 98 foals included 10 stakes winners and another eight stakes-placed runners, led by 2011 Horse of the Year Havre de Grace and graded stakes winners Buddy’s Saint, Liam’s Dream, and Upgrade.
“At the end of the day, it’s about breeding Saturday afternoon racehorses,” Torrealba said. “If you consider that Horse of the Year Saint Liam sired Horse
of the Year Havre de Grace, one of only a handful of mares to earn that title, in his only crop, there is clearly a concentration of dominant traits that pervades multiple generations of this important pedigree.”
Saint Liam also made the most of limited opportunities as a broodmare sire, with his daughters producing Grade 1 winner Sharp Azteca, Grade 2 winner Ahh Chocolate, and Group 3 winner California One.
Sharp Azteca, by leading New York sire Freud, won 8 of 17 career starts and earned more than $2.4 million. Highlights of his career include winning the Grade 1 Cigar Mile by 5 1/4 lengths over Mind Your Biscuits last December at Aqueduct, establishing a track record in last year’s Grade 3 Monmouth Cup, and posting additional graded stakes victories in the Grade 2 Kelso Handicap in 2017 and the Grade 3 Pat Day Mile in 2016. He finished second by a half-length to Battle of Midway in the 2017 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, second to Mor Spirit in the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap earlier that year, and second by a half-length to Mind Your Biscuits in the Grade 1 Malibu Stakes in 2016.
“Sharp Azteca was brilliantly fast, and when you watch his races, you will see speed, toughness, and tenacity, all three of which are elements we like in a stallion prospect,” Torrealba said. “We believe that Sharp Azteca can be another offshoot branch of the Storm Cat line through Giant Causeway’s full brother Freud, similar to what Harlan, Harlan’s Holiday, and Into Mischief did.”
Bolt d’Oro a throwback for Spendthrift
Spendthrift Farm struck early to secure Bolt d’Oro for its stallion roster, completing a deal for his breeding rights in the fall of his 2-year-old season, but its relationship with the multiple Grade 1 winner goes back much further than that. Bolt d’Oro’s 10th dam is Hall of Fame filly Myrtlewood, a foundation mare for Spendthrift.
“Much of the breeding success of Spendthrift Farm can be credited to Myrtlewood and her daughters,” Brownell Combs, who bred and raced Myrtlewood, said in “Great Breeders and Their Methods: Leslie Combs II and Spendthrift Farm,” by Mary Marshall. “We had Myrtlewood daughters everywhere. Even if they couldn’t run, you could guarantee that they would throw something that could. They were great broodmares and the absolute essence of our breeding program.
The Myrtlewood daughters were like gold – everybody wanted one.”
Myrtlewood, who set or equaled multiple track records and was honored as both the champion sprinter and champion older female of 1936, produced 1942 Kentucky Oaks winner Miss Dogwood and champion Durazna. Her daughters and granddaughters continued to produce top-quality runners, with the female family responsible for 1971 Kentucky Oaks winner Silent Beauty, Canadian Horse of the Year Chief Bearhart, and champions Myrtle Charm, Typecast, and Tudor Queen.
Myrtlewood’s female descendants also were responsible for a number of leading sires, ensuring her influence would live on. Through her first foal, Crepe Myrtle, Myrtlewood was the fifth dam of 1977 Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew, whose champions included 1992 Horse of the Year A.P. Indy, who went on to become an influential stallion, with offshoots including record-setting grandson Tapit. Miss Dogwood was the great-granddam of Mr. Prospector, multiple times a leading sire and broodmare sire.
That family history bodes well for Bolt d’Oro, who traces to Myrtlewood through Durazna’s descendants. The son of Medaglia d’Oro joins 2017 Preakness Stakes winner Cloud Computing and fellow Grade 1-winning newcomers Free Drop Billy and Mor Spirit at Spendthrift, which popularizes its young stallions through creative breeding incentive programs and regional outreach. Spendthrift programs include Share the Upside, which ultimately results in a lifetime breeding right for those who support a young stallion early, and Breed Secure, which delays stud-fee payment until and only if the resulting foal is sold at a profit.
Bolt d’Oro last started when finishing 11th in the Metropolitan Handicap in June for owner and trainer Mick Ruis. He subsequently was moved to trainer Steve Asmussen and freshened, with a long-range goal of starting in the Grade 1 Clark Handicap in November at Churchill Downs as a possible career finale. Bolt d’Oro had been working steadily at Churchill, but emerged from his final published work, on Oct. 17, slightly sore,
and the decision was made to retire him to Spendthrift.
“He’s settling in really well,” Spendthrift general manager Ned Toffey said. “We gave him about a week on the farm to settle in and acclimate before we started showing him, but he’s such a good-minded horse. I think the first time we laid eyes on him, we could appreciate that about him . . . He’s a really intelligent horse, and I think that was something that was a good part of his success and is helping him settle in really well.”
Bolt d’Oro won the first three starts of his career, including the Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity and Grade 1 FrontRunner Stakes, before finishing third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Del Mar. He returned to win the Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes via the disqualification of McKinzie in March, then finished second to eventual Triple Crown winner Justify in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby. He was 12th on the sloppy track in the Kentucky Derby before starting in the Met Mile five weeks later.
As new stallions have been announced through the fall, much of the attention has focused on the horse WinStar Farm isn’t
standing – Triple Crown winner Justify, whom it co-campaigned and who will begin his career at Coolmore’s Ashford Stud.
But WinStar will have two incoming stallions, by current or former WinStar sires, from lines it has long invested in. Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming, from the first crop of Bodemeister, and the versatile Grade 2 winner Good Samaritan, by the late Harlan’s Holiday, both begin their new careers in 2019.
Always Dreaming won the 2017 Florida Derby in his fifth start, completing the 1 1/8 miles in 1:47.47, the fastest time in that race since Alydar won it in 1978. He subsequently won the Kentucky Derby by 2 3/4 lengths on a sealed track. It turned out to be the final victory of his career, in which he made five more starts.
“He was brilliantly fast, and he has everything you want in a stallion – looks, pedigree, and performance,” Elliott Walden, president, CEO, and racing manager of WinStar Farm, said. “We dream about the Kentucky Derby every day, but the race I really liked was the Florida Derby. When I saw the teletimer, I was amazed. We are excited to add a potentially breed-shaping stallion from the Unbridled line, which has proven to be today’s preeminent classic sire line.”
The Unbridled line has been responsible, in recent years, for the likes of Triple Crown winner American Pharoah and champions Arrogate and Will Take Charge. American Pharoah is by WinStar stallion Pioneerof the Nile. Pioneerof the Nile leads the WinStar stud roster with an advertised fee of $110,000. Like Bodemeister, Pioneerof the Nile is by Unbridled’s son Empire Maker.
Good Samaritan won Grade 2 races at ages 2, 3, and 4. The millionaire captured the Summer Stakes on turf at Woodbine as a juvenile and later in his career successfully ran on dirt, taking the Jim Dandy in his debut on the surface and the New Orleans Handicap in his 2018 debut.
“He is the last great son of Harlan’s Holiday, one of the most dominant American sire lines we have currently, and he was ultra-consistent,” said Sean Tugel, WinStar’s director of bloodstock services and assistant racing manager. “In this day and age of retiring horses with limited starts, he started 15 times over three years, including 14 straight graded stakes contests.”
Good Samaritan, who was bred by WinStar and raced for the farm in partnership, is from the family of successful stallions Bernstein and Sky Mesa.
Oscar Performance will stand at Mill Ridge Farm – where he was foaled in 2014.
The Charles Fipke homebred Bee Jersey wins the Metropolitan Handicap in June. He will stand at Darby Dan Farm in Kentucky.
Three Chimneys Farm adds a pair of Grade 1 winners to its stallion lineup for 2018 – Sharp Azteca (left) and Funtastic.
Bolt d’Oro’s family goes way back at Spendthrift Farm, where he will stand next year. His 10th dam is Hall of Famer Myrtlewood, a Spendthrift foundation mare.