Got Lucky scores emotional victory in Grade I Spinster Stakes

John Sikura is no stranger to having the efforts of his farm celebrated at the highest level on Keeneland’s grounds.

The owner of Hill ‘n’ Dale Farm has long been one of the leading consignors in the Thoroughbred marketplace, regularly sending seven-figure offerings through the ring including several products of the elite broodmare band he has cultivated over the years.

On Sunday afternoon with his sons and wife by his side, Sikura watched a regally-bred filly he bred and raised prevailed in another protracted battle. But instead of walking over to congratulate the buyer benefiting from his aptitude, he was walking towards the winner’s circle celebration in the aftermath of the Grade I, $500,000 Juddmonte Spinster Stakes, relishing the ultimate reward for staying committed to quality.

Four years ago, Sikura and partner Philip Steinberg made the decision not to offer the lovely filly by the name of Got Lucky up for public auction and instead keep her to go to the races. When the daughter of A.P. Indy unleashed a monster kick in deep stretch with dead aim on a couple brave rivals, Sikura’s plans leading up to the November breeding stock sales became wonderfully more jam packed as Got Lucky caught past champion Untapable and longshot Yahilwa by a neck at the wire to capture the 1 1/8-miles Spinster and earn herself a spot in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Distaff at Keeneland on October 30.

“The Grade Is I win are usually in the sales ring,” an emotional Sikura said. “Now I know the allure of people that buy yearlings why they do it, to have a thrill like this.”
It doesn’t get a whole lot more heart stopping that what Got Lucky pulled off in the Spinster, rating next to last in the nine-horse field for much of the test and then having the 2014 Kentucky Oaks winner and reigning Breeders’ Cup Distaff heroine as one of  the last obstacles she had to get past.


It was nothing compared to the chance Sikura and Steinberg took back in 2010 when they sent a Deputy Minister mare by the name of Malka to Lane’s End stallion A.P. Indy five times that season in an attempt to get her foal to the legendary sire who was in the waning stages of his fertility.


Of the 80 mares A.P. Indy was bred to in his final season at stud, 36 live foals were produced. One of which happened to be a dark bay filly that has now scored her first Grade I win in 16 career starts and given Sikura his first Grade I win as an owner at Keeneland.

“A lot of patience went into this filly,” Sikura said. “She’s a filly that was born and raised at the farm and we bred the dam to A.P. Indy I think five times that year. That’s how she got the name Got Lucky. My partner Phil said, ‘You think we should quit?’ and I said ‘No, we’re going to go to the end. We’ve come this far, we’ll take our chances.’

“Unfortunately the mare (Malka) died of a very rare cancer. It’s a great reward to have a filly like this. When you raise them it’s even more emotional because you’re there from the beginning.”

Though Got Lucky was sent off at odds of 7-to-2 and was coming off a good second place finish in the Grade I Personal Ensign at Saratoga on August 29, all eyes were on the two Kentucky Oaks winners in the field in this year’s victor Lovely Maria and last year’s winner, Untapable.


Breaking out of post No. 1, Lovely Maria was gunned to the front under jockey Kerwin Clark but found herself quickly pressed by 20-to-1 shot Yahilwa as the two cut through opening fractions of 23.62 and 46.89.

“We weren’t wanting to be going that fast but in the No. 1 hole we didn’t have a lot of choice except to get out there,” said trainer Larry Jones of Lovely Maria, who faded to fifth.

When Lovely Maria backed out of things coming off the final turn, Untapable was there three wide to challenge Yahilwa, who refused to yield to the reigning 3-year-old filly champion. As those two slugged it out stride for stride the length of the stretch, jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. angled Got Lucky out after advancing on an inside path and got a determined response to his right-handed urging, catching Untapable when that one finally put her head in front of Yahilwa.

“Where I was in the Grandstand — I was right at the eighth pole — I thought she had a lot to do, but I could tell she was coming,” said Todd Pletcher, trainer of Got Lucky. “I was just hoping she got there in time.”

Final time for the test was 1:49.44. And while Got Lucky is now booked for a Breeders’ Cup outing, trainer Steve Asmussen said discussion would take place before deciding if Untapable would attempt to defend her crown in the race after now suffering her fourth straight loss.

“She’s a good mare that’s not running her best races,” Asmussen said. “She ran well, but that’s not her best.”

Alicia Wincze Hughes: (859) 231-1676.  Blog: Twitter: @horseracinghl.

Gomo gives O’Neill, Reddam another juvenile contender with Alcibiades victory

Doug O’Neill is typically a  jovial man, quick with a smile and friendly word whether he is meeting someone for the first time or the 20th.

It would be especially challenging given recent events to find any trainer with more reason to be in a wildly good mood these days. Be it East Coast, West Coast or – as of Friday evening – the Midwest, O’Neill’s armada of 2-year-olds owned by his top client Paul Reddam are trying their darnedest to corner the market on pre-race hype leading into the Breeders’ Cup World Championship at Keeneland this month.

With three of her stablemates already penciled in to venture to Lexington for October 30-31, the bay filly Gomo proved she can already handle top-level life in the Bluegrass just fine, thank you. The O’Neill trainee used a three-wide move on the final turn to launch herself to a 2 3/4-length victory over Dothraki Queen in Friday’s Grade I, $400,000 Darley Alcibiades on the opening day of the Keeneland Fall Meet.

The sight of Reddam’s purple and white silks hitting the wire in front of a major juvenile prep has become a reoccurring nightmare for horsemen around the nation. O’Neill and Reddam, who famously teamed up in 2012 to campaign dual classic winner I’ll Have Another, already have undefeated multiple Grade I winner Nyquist set to be the likely favorite for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile with his Grade I-winning stablemate Ralis looking to stay on that course with a good outing in Saturday’s Grade I Champagne Stakes at Belmont.

Part of the reason Gomo was sent to the Alcibiades was to keep her apart from stablemate Land Over Sea, who is likely bound for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies after running second in the Grade I Chandelier Stakes at Santa Anita Park on September 26. The two fillies are now set to be sharing gate space in the Breeders’ Cup after Gomo sat a stalk and pounce trip along the rail in the field of 10, skipping over the sloppy track like a professional to earn her second win from five career starts.

“It’s gotta be the best (group of 2-year-olds) I’ve ever had,” O’Neill said of his army of babies. “It’s pretty incredible. I think it’s just one of those lucky years so far, where we were blessed with a lot of really good clients who stepped up and if they like them and (brother and assistant) Dennis (O’Neill) likes the horses, they write the check. And this particular year everything has kind of unfolded the right way.”

Purchased by Dennis O’Neill for $75,000 at this year’s OBS March 2-year-olds in training sale, Gomo has alternated between starts on the dirt and turf and came  into the 1 1/16-miles Alcibiades off a third place run in the Del Mar Juvenile Fillies Turf Stakes on September 7.

Her steady-paced style of running suggested two turns and more distance would be her thing. After sitting in third behind pacesetter Put Da Blame On Me through fractions of 24.34 and 49.43 in the Alcibiades, the daughter of Uncle Mo angled out approaching the final turn and was responding well to jockey Mario Gutierrez en route to covering the distance in 1:45.55.

“We tried to keep her and  Land Over Sea apart but we always felt she was a dirt filly and that she wanted two turns,” said Reddam, who also owns Nyquist, Ralis and Land Over Sea. “In the turf race she showed she was even paced and long on the dirt is where you want even paced.”

The 11,601 brave souls who endured a wet, raw day at Keeneland were also treated to memorable effort by Runhappy in the Grade III Stoll Keenon Ogden Phoenix Stakes in an outing that very well could be a preview of what is to come in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint.

Facing a field that included defending race winner and reigning Breeders’ Cup Sprint hero Work All Week, James McIngvale’s Runhappy rushed up along the rail after breaking flat footed out of post position No. 1 and took command on the backstretch while  drilling fractions of 21.52 and 44.81 with Work All Week sitting second.

When Work All Week tried to make a run at his 3-year-old rival, Runhappy showed the same finishing kick he did in winning the Grade I King’s Bishop at Saratoga August 29. When the 7-to-5 favorite crossed the wire 1 3/4 lengths in front of Barbados while stopping the clock in 1:09.96, it marked his fifth win from six career starts and gave his upstart trainer Maria Borell, who is based at The Thoroughbred Center, the fifth victory of her career.

“It’s a dream come true,” Borell said. “I just won my first race this year…so it’s been a huge year for me. I’m excited but now I’m more relieved because everyone thought he was going to bounce after that race and that we had seen the best from him. People say he’s a freak. He’s so talented.”

Alicia Wincze Hughes: (859) 231-1676.  Blog: Twitter: @horseracinghl.

Grade I winner Rock Fall to stand at WinStar Farm upon retirement

Edited release:

Stonestreet Stables’ leading sprinter Rock Fall, winner of last Saturday’s Grade I, $400,000 Vosburgh Stakes at Belmont, will enter stud alongside his sire Speightstown at WinStar Farm upon his retirement at the conclusion of 2015.


Fresh off his seventh straight victory – and second straight in a Grade I, Rock Fall will likely be the favorite when he lines up later this month in the $2,000,000 Breeders’ Cup Sprint – a race his sire won 11 years ago en route to capturing Eclipse honors for Champion Sprinter.


“I am thrilled that our outstanding sprinter Rock Fall will enter stud alongside stablemate Carpe Diem at WinStar Farm for the 2016 season,” said Barbara Banke, owner of Stonestreet Stables. “Rock Fall offers breeders the opportunity to capture his impressive physical, raw talent, consistent speed, and pure heart in future generations. He’s a first-season horse that should make everyone’s list.”


Elliott Walden, President and CEO at WinStar, added: “Speightstown is on the verge of exploding as a sire of sires with the high-quality colts he’s had, but Rock Fall is the one we’ve been waiting for to stand alongside his sire. We love this colt, and everyone who’s been connected with Speightstown, including Todd Pletcher, has raved about how much Rock Fall reminds them of his sire. We are honored to have him, and I really believe he possesses every quality of Speightstown to replicate him as a leading sire for years to come.”


Trained by Todd Pletcher, Rock Fall  broke his maiden last season as a 3-year-old at Belmont by 9 ¼ lengths, and the speedy dark bay colt hasn’t lost since. During his seven-race win streak, he’s broken 1:10 for six furlongs on six different occasions, and broken1:09 in his last three wins – all in major graded stakes in New York.


Rock Fall captured his first graded victory in the Grade II, $250,000 True North Stakes and  followed up that performance with another win over top sprinters in the Grade I, $350,000 Vanderbilt Handicap at Saratoga.


In last Saturday’s Vosburgh, Rock Fall stopped the clock in 1:08.70 and earned a berth into the Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Keeneland, where he owns a 9-length allowance win and 109 Beyer from earlier this spring. In his body of work, Rock Fall has run Beyers of 110, 109, 106, and 104 twice, and amassed $749,180 in earnings to date for Stonestreet Stables.


“Rock Fall reminds me of his sire Speightstown quite a bit,” said Pletcher. “It’s rare for a sprinter at that level to be this consistent, but he has a lot of fight to go along with all of that natural talent.”


A $250,000 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Select yearling, Rock Fall hails from the multiple stakes-winning mare Renda, who was the first winner and first stakes winner from the debut crop of leading sire Medaglia d’Oro.

Go with the Flo: Geroux riding career-best momentum into start of Keeneland meet

The ringing in Doug Bredar’s ears hasn’t been this pronounced since his days of trying to oversee the most important week at Thoroughbred racing’s most famous track.

The former racing secretary at Churchill Downs can now barely go the length a backstretch without fielding multiple calls or heeding the ping signaling yet another text message. He may become a prime candidate for carpal tunnel syndrome when it’s all said and done – a small price to pay for the privilege of having the book of the jockey who appears magnetically drawn to the winner’s circle of late.

“I was telling someone the other day, when I was racing secretary it would really get busy Derby week and that week the phone just wouldn’t stop,” said Bredar, the longtime racing official-turned-jockey’s agent. “And that’s how my phone has been since Kentucky Downs. It’s a good feeling to know that the business is coming in, it’s awesome.”

When Bredar first met jockey Florent Geroux in 2010, they took a leap of faith that each could be what the other needed to ignite that special something on their respective career paths.

Heading into the start of Keeneland’s 17-day Fall Meet, of which Geroux will be a full-time fixture, it can be argued Bredar currently represents the hottest jockey in the nation. From flat out owning Kentucky Downs where he won 12 races during the five-day meet to being the regular pilot for Grade I winners The Pizza Man and Work All Week – both of whom will have their final Breeders’ Cup prep races the next two days – Geroux’s bright, friendly eyes and astute hands are seeing and moving as well as any top-level rider on any circuit.

The 29-year-old native of France has already surpassed his previous best single-season mark for earnings, currently sitting 12th in the nation with a bankroll of $6,866,268. Days after winning five races on a single card at Kentucky Downs for the second time during the micro-meet, Geroux picked up the third Grade I win of his career aboard the Larry Jones-trained filly I’m a Chatterbox in the $1 million Cotillion at Parx on September 19 and boasts a remarkable 28 percent win percentage over the last 30 days.

“I think he’s able to keep his head in his helmet right now and stay humble and work hard,” said Richard Papiese of Midwest Thoroughbreds, which owns both The Pizza Man, likely favorite for Saturday’s Grade I Shadwell Turf Mile and reigning Eclipse Award Sprint champion Work All Week, defending winner of Friday’s Grade III Phoenix Stakes. “It’s all about working. Once you feel like you’re there, you’re probably no where. But things are going so well for him.

“He’s matured. He has ice water in his veins, you don’t worry about him. I told him last year he was ready for prime time.”

The past twelve months have been dotted with career-shaping moments for Geroux: his arms raised triumphantly after guiding Work All Week to victory in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint last November, his emphatic gesturing to the Arlington Park crowd after bringing the house down when The Pizza Man became the first Illinois-bred to win the Grade I Arlington Million on August 15.

He still rides with a hint of the more upright European style, but Geroux is otherwise unrecognizable from the jockey who initially struggled to transition to the stateside way of racing when he first moved to California in 2007. He was winless in the 10 mounts he was able to book that year. Visa issues caused him to return Europe for a few months, and then there was the broken wrist and fractured vertebrae he suffered during a spill at Keeneland that October.

The thought of simply remaining in France for good couldn’t help but cross Geroux’s mind during his recuperation. What he needed was some outside belief in his ability, which is what trainer and fellow Frenchman Patrick Biancone provided when he arranged for Geroux and Bredar to meet in 2010.

“I had been racing secretary and…I just needed to try something different. Patrick said ‘Come to the barn, I’ve got someone you probably would like to meet’,” said Bredar, who was racing secretary at Churchill Downs from 2002-2006. “Patrick told Florent, ‘If this guy wants to take your book, you do it’. I shook his hand and said ‘When do we start?’

“It was incredibly challenging. It was a huge transition for both of us,” he continued. “We both learned a lot and I realized early on that he was a really sharp kid. Maybe the talent wasn’t quite there yet but I knew he was really smart so that part stuck. We had our moments. We went 1-for-57 at Gulfstream that winter. But every meet we went to things just got a little bit better.”

The lone win Geroux picked up during that Gulfstream Park meet was on Dade Babe, a filly who would later give him his first graded stakes triumph in 2010 Grade III Pucker Up Stakes.

Trainers like Wayne Catalano and Roger Brueggemann steadily began throwing their support behind Geroux’s cool-headed style. But what has helped sell Geroux most is his ability to build off of crucial openings of opportunity, things like following up on his breakout Breeders’ Cup win with the best riding of his life.

“Myself, I know I can do it, but you need to prove it to other people. People want to see results in the races,” Geroux said. “Slowly but surely I started getting on some better mounts and…those kind of horses can put you on the map.”

In December 2011,  Geroux would get on a certain Brueggemann-trained gelding named The Pizza Man for the first time. Fittingly, the pairing have mirrored one another in career progression ever since as the six-year-old bay gelding has gone from steady stakes performer to locally-loved Grade III winner to a horse who could head to the Breeders’ Cup with divisional honors a win away from being in his grasp.

“I think (The Pizza Man) is like a good wine, he’s getting better with age,” Geroux said. “He’s just a horse who has a very big desire to win, he likes to be in a fight. The break over the winter really helped him. When he came back this year, he was a different horse. He was a very good horse last year but he’s almost a better horse this year.”

Ongoing strife with the Illinois racing circuit has sadly forced some of its mainstay participants like Midwest Thoroughbreds and Brueggemann to shift their focus elsewhere. Count Geroux as part of that equation as he had sold his house in Chicago  and will be based more in Kentucky.

With I’m a Chatterbox already bound for the Breeders’ Cup Distaff and Work All Week and The Pizza Man likely for the Sprint and Turf, respectively, Bredar’s phone will likely keep being a sound track of success now that his jockey has the full attention of the racing community.

“Plenty of jockeys have made it to the top and then go down quick, so you have to make sure you keep humble, keep your head on your shoulders,” Geroux said. “Keep working hard, and anything can happen.”

Alicia Wincze Hughes: (859) 231-1676.  Blog: Twitter: @horseracinghl.

Take Charge Brandi among the 4,476 cataloged for Keeneland November sale

Edited release:

Recently retired champion Take Charge Brandi and Grade I winner Don’t Tell Sophia, in foal to Medaglia d’Oro, are among the 4,476 horses Keeneland has cataloged for its 2015 November Breeding Stock Sale to be held Nov. 2-13.


The total is up from the 4,026 that were cataloged for the 2014 auction, which produced gains in total gross and average as well as a record-tying median.


At the 2014 November sale, a North American record price for a weanling sold at public auction was established when Serena’s Harmony, filly by leading sire Tapit and a half-sister to Grade I winner Honor Code and Grade II winner Noble Tune brought a $3 million bid from Bridlewood Farm. Racing Hall of Fame member Serena’s Song is the third dam of the filly, who was consigned by Hill ‘n’ Dale Sales Agency, agent.


“The sale of the record-priced filly last year has encouraged other breeders to offer outstanding weanlings in the 2015 November Sale, giving buyers the rare opportunity to acquire one-of-a-kind individuals from exclusive families,” Keeneland Director of Sales Geoffrey Russell said.


Horses cataloged for the 2015 sale include 2,610 broodmares and broodmare prospects, 1,719 weanlings, 130 horses of racing age, and 17 stallions and stallion prospects.


Horses of racing age will be offered on Monday, Nov. 9, and Tuesday, Nov. 10, and include the annual consignment from WinStar Racing, agent.


Among the horses of racing age sold at the November Sale are Grade I winners Hard Not to Like and Slumber; Grade II winners Dramedy and Race Day; and Grade III winner Barbados.


The sale’s first two sessions, which are included in Book 1, will begin at 11 a.m. ET.  The remaining sessions start at 10 a.m.


The entire sale will be streamed live at


The 2015 November Sale includes the dispersals of Nat Rea’s Regis Farms, LP and the late Jerre Paxton’s Northwest Farms.


Consigned by Three Chimneys Farm, the Regis Farms dispersal comprises 41 horses, including 15 broodmares, six weanlings and 20 horses of racing age, all to be offered without reserve. Highlighting the dispersal are 2015 Kentucky Oaks runner-up Shook Up, by Tapit out of Grade I winner Sugar Shake; Canadian Horse of the Year, multiple champion and Canadian Filly Triple Crown winner Sealy Hill, in foal to Medaglia d’Oro; and Bijou, a half-sister to two Grade 1-winning juvenile fillies in Certify and Cry and Catch Me.


Also featured in the dispersal are 2015 Santa Ynez  winner Seduire; Zindaya, graded stakes-placed and winner of the 2015 Intercontinental Stakes at Belmont; the impressive stakes winner and graded stakes-placed colt Donworth; and the Tapit filly Tapas, in foal to Distorted Humor.


Bruce Gibbs’ Greenfield Farm is agent for the Northwest Farms dispersal of 42 horses.


Tepin back in her comfort zone in Grade I First Lady Stakes

A nose and a head.

It was bad enough the margins that kept Grade I winner Tepin out of the winner’s circle during the Saratoga meet were annoyingly minuscule. Add to that the fact her two brutal beats came in near identical, Groundhog Day fashion and bitter could understandably qualify as the default emotion her summer campaign would invoke.

What kept trainer Mark Casse and his son, Norman, from sinking into full on pity parties after agonizing runner-up finishes in the Grade I Diana Stakes and Grade II Ballston Spa was some perspective handed down by Tepin herself. Running at distances just beyond her scope on a Saratoga turf course that worked against her early speed, the 4-year-old daughter of Bernstein was still only inches away from leaving Spa City as the leading turf female in the country.

“At the moment when you get beat, when you get nailed at the wire, you’re really disgusted,” said Norman Casse, his father’s top assistant. “But then you’re walking back with her and you realize she’s laying it all on the line for you.”

Back in her old Kentucky home, Tepin will be back in her distance wheelhouse with designs on making a divisional statement this Saturday when she headlines a field of 11 fillies and mares entered for the Grade I, $400,000 First Lady Stakes at Keeneland going one mile on the turf.

The First Lady is part of a blockbuster Keeneland card that features five graded stakes including the Grade I Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity and Grade I, $1 million Shadwell Turf Mile. Arlington Million winner The Pizza Man will break from post No. 10 in a field of 13 entered in the Shadwell while a dozen juveniles are set to go to post in the 1 1/16-miles Breeders’ Futurity.

Keeneland’s opening weekend teases of what is to come later this month when it hosts the Breeders’ Cup for the first time on October 30-31. With a winning effort in the First Lady, Robert Masterson’s Tepin would likely take a swing at male rivals in the Breeders’ Cup Mile rather than trying to stretch out to 1  3/16-miles in the Filly & Mare Turf.

“A mile and an eighth is probably about her max,” Norman Casse said. “(The Filly & Mare Turf), that’s too far for her. So realistically if we’re going to run her in a Breeders’ Cup  race, it’s going to have to be against the boys at a Mile. That’s a race that  has been won by girls so it’s not a crazy idea. But we’ll get over this race first and then we’ll see what we do.”

In a female turf division without a clear cut leader, Tepin has simply willed her way into that picture.

Though she won the Grade III Delta Princess on dirt as a 2-year-old, she was nagged by  minor issues and didn’t fully get on herself track until she opened her 2015 campaign with an allowance win over the Gulfstream Park turf on March 21.

Tepin could double as the barn pet most days, yet Casse says she gets downright vicious on the racetrack. There was certainly no hint of kindness when she captured the Grade II Churchill Distaff Turf Mile Stakes in gate to wire fashion on May 2 and, on the undercard of this year’s historic Belmont Stakes, the bay filly got obstinate when it counted, holding off Filimbi by half a length to take the Grade I Just a Game going one mile on June 6.

“I don’t know if we’ve ever had a horse run ultra consistent like she has at a high, high level,” Norman Casse said. “Every race she’s had she’s brought it.”

In both the 1 1/8-miles Diana in July and 1 1/16-miles Ballston Spa, Tepin looked like she had the winning move. In each race, she sat just off Kitten’s Queen through the early fractions before surging up in the final furlong. Hard Not to Like first ruined her day by nailing her at the wire in the Diana and it was Dacita inflicting some deja vu when she caught Tepin on the line in the Ballston Spa.

Among those in Tepin’s path in the First Lady are a trio of European runners including Aidan O’Brien trainee Outstanding, who finished third behind Lady Eli in the Grade I Belmont Oaks in July.

Breaking from the far outside in post No. 11, Tepin will have to be artfully guided in early going by Julien Leparoux, though she did handle breaking from post No. 9 in the Just a Game.

“They’re going to have to beat her,” Norman Casse said. “She put in two big efforts at Saratoga on a racetrack that seems to play more in favor to closers running at distances she didn’t like as much. So she probably gained more respect getting beat in those races than she did winning her races at Churchill and Belmont.”

Alicia Wincze Hughes: (859) 231-1676.  Blog: Twitter: @horseracinghl.

Grade I winner Eskendereya purchased by JBBA

The Japan Bloodhorse Breeders’ Association (JBBA) has purchased Grade I winner Eskendereya from Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings, and the 8-year-old son of Giant’s Causeway will be sent to Japan to stand for 2016.


Eskendereya has stood at Taylor Made Farm in Nicholasville since beginning his stud career in 2011. He commanded an advertised fee of $17,500 this year and counts stakes winners Isabella Sings and Conquest Pacemaker among this top progeny.


“Mrs. Banke and Stonestreet have done a tremendous job of supporting Eskendereya from Day 1, and I don’t believe they ever intended to sell him,” Ben Taylor of Taylor Made Stallions said in a statement. “But the Japanese have always been very interested and came to see him every year. They recently submitted an offer that was accepted by Stonestreet.”


The JBBA recently completed a deal to sell leading stallion Empire Maker, grandsire of Triple Crown winner American Pharoah,  to Don Alberto and Gainesway in a move that will see the son of Unbridled return to the states and stand at Gainesway for 2016.


Campaigned by Zayat Stables and trained by Todd Pletcher, Eskendereya won four of six career starts including the 2010 Grade I Wood Memorial by 9 3/4 lengths. He was expected to be the favorite for that year’s Kentucky Derby but was scratched a week out from the race and subsequently retired due to a soft tissue injury.

Stonestreet bought into Eskendereya upon his retirement.

Exaggerator seeks to become latest star for Desormeaux stable

For the people who work within its confines, a trainer’s shedrow can be a revolving door of hope.

There are the highs that spike the spirits of everyone when a breakout horse emerges. But given the inherently fleeting nature of the Thoroughbred business, there must also be constant faith that another runner is in the wings waiting to fill the inevitable void that will come when a stable star steps aside.

Two weeks ago, trainer Keith Desormeaux had to send Texas Red, winner of the 2014 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, to the sidelines for the remainder of this season due to a cannon bone bruise.

Nothing fixes a horseman’s mood quite like a good 2-year-old in the barn. And Exaggerator with his boundless energy could very well drag the Desormeaux crew back on the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile path again this season should his maturation process take another swing forward during his expected run in Saturday’s Grade I, $500,000 Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland.

The opening weekend of the 17-day Keeneland Fall Meet has a tangible feel of added importance this season as the boutique track prepares to host the Breeders’ Cup World Championships for the first time in its history on October 30-31.

With nine graded stakes, including five Grade I contests, set to be contested the first three days of the meet, those who prevail will automatically merit serious discussion of what they could achieve weeks later. Hence, Exaggerator’s caretakers are loving the fact the winner of the Grade II Saratoga Special last time out keeps showing zero signs of getting weary as the weight of expectations increase.

“This horse is just never tired. Every day he is a bundle of energy,” Julie Clark, assistant to Desormeaux, said from Churchill Downs shortly after Exaggerator worked five furlongs in 1:01 this past Saturday. “He’s a workout, I always say I get my core exercise with that horse. Texas Red, he just was different mentally (as a 2-year-old). He was more focused where this horse is all over the map, he’s still a baby.

“But when he’s on the track, it’s night and day from in the barn. On the track he turns into a little different horse. Out there, he’s the boss.”

Exaggerator was one of the main reasons Desormeaux took a string of horses to Saratoga for the first time this summer. While Texas Red delivered his own highlight in taking the Grade II Jim Dandy Stakes for the barn, his young stablemate showed grit beyond his years in winning the 6 1/2 furlongs Saratoga Special on August 16 in his third career start.

Seemingly faced with no racing room behind horses at the head of the lane, Exaggerator bulled his way between rivals and collared race favorite Saratoga Mischief with a surge up the inside to prevail by three quarters of a length.

That effort came less than a month after the son of Curlin broke his maiden second time out going six furlongs at Del Mar on July 25. Though he spiked a mild fever shortly following his outing at the Spa, Exaggerator’s initial demeanor the day after was that of a horse wanting more.

“I liked that last race,” Clark said. “He was at the back of the pack in the early stages then moved up and didn’t get rattled sitting behind those horses. Finally I think he got a little impatient with (jockey) Junior (Alvarado) and said ‘Hey we’re going’. So he did show a lot of maturity. And the next day you walk him and you think, ‘This thing needs to run again’.”

Saturday’s 1 1/16-miles Breeders’ Futurity will be Exaggerator’s first attempt around two turns. It is the same distance his stablemate Decked Out will be trying for the second time when she faces a field of 10 challengers in Friday’s Grade I, $400,000 Darley Alcibiades.

Magdalena Racing’s undefeated Dothraki Queen, winner of the Grade II Pocahontas at Churchill Downs in her most recent start, heads the field of 11 2-year-old fillies entered Tuesday for the Alcibiades.

Joining the Alcibiades on Friday’s opening-day card is an outstanding edition of the Grade III, $250,000 Phoenix Stakes featuring reigning Breeders’ Cup Sprint hero and divisional champion Work All Week as well as Grade I winner Runhappy, who drew post positions No. 12 and 1, respectively.

“If we’re inside we’ll go, if we’re outside we’ll stalk. But this horse does have a dimension,” said Richard Papiese of Midwest Thoroughbreds, owner of Work All Week. “He’s going to get out of the gate and you’re going to have to come and hang out with him or try and run him down. It’s tough to eyeball him if you want to eyeball him.”

Alicia Wincze Hughes: (859) 231-1676.  Blog: Twitter: @horseracinghl.

Empire Maker returning to United States, will stand at Gainesway

Edited release:


Multiple Grade I winner Empire Maker, grandsire of Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, will be repatriated to the United States from Japan to stand at Gainesway Farm as the property of an equal partnership consisting of Don Alberto Corporation and Gainesway Farm.



Empire Maker was originally sold to Japan  Bloodhorse Breeders Association in November 2010 after beginning his stud career at Juddmonte, which bred and campaigned the son of Unbridled. The 15-year-old stallion has continued to have his offspring become a success on this side of the ocean, however.



In 2012, Empire Maker had more than $10 million in progeny earnings on the North American General Sire list, represented with 13 stakes winners, 3 of them Grade I winners including millionaire Bodemeister, the leading freshman sales sire in 2015.



“We are building an international organization whose goal is to be truly world class. What better way to expand our base than to partner with Gainesway on three time Grade I winner Empire Maker who was the leading North American Sire in 2012 by worldwide earnings,” said Don Alberto Corporation’s principal, Carlos Heller.


Liliana Solari, honorary President of Bethia, the parent company of Don Alberto Corporation, added “this move clearly carries forward the vision of my father, the founding horseman of the family, who always encouraged us to seek out the best of everything.”


Empire Maker hails from one of Juddmonte’s elite female families. He is out of the late blue hen mare Toussaud, who produced four individual Grade I winners and was named Broodmare of the Year in 2002.


“Empire Maker’s pedigree is clearly one of the best in the world and his influence as a sire is enormous. This horse is especially meaningful as we launched the career of his sire, Unbridled, here at Gainesway,” said Antony Beck, president of Gainesway, which also stands North America’s leading sire, Tapit.


Empire Maker retired to stud in 2004, and sired five graded winners among his 10 stakes winners, including four Grade I winners, in his first crop of 93 foals. His second crop in 2008 produced Grade I-winning millionaire Pioneerof the Nile, sire of Triple Crown winner American Pharoah.


The Leading third crop sire in 2009, Empire Maker counts three-time Eclipse Award winner Royal Delta among his top progeny along with Grade I winners Mushka, Acoma, Emollient and Grace Hall.

Champion Take Charge Brandi retired

Edited release:

Willis Horton’s Take Charge Brandi, the reigning champion two-year-old filly, has been retired from racing and will take up residence at John Sikura’s Hill ‘n’ Dale Farms near Lexington. It has yet to be determined whether Take Charge Brandi will be offered for sale at the Keeneland November, or if Horton will retain her as a broodmare.

Trained by Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas, Take Charge Brandi pulled off a 61-to-1 upset of the 2014 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies last November 1 and went on to annex the Grade III Delta Downs Princess  and Grade I Starlet, securing divisional honors.

The daughter of Giant’s Causeway captured her seasonal bow in the January 31 Martha Washington before being sidelined with a non-displaced bone chip in her right knee.

The chestnut filly struggled in her attempted comeback, finishing tenth in the Grade I Test Stakes at Saratoga on August 8 and being eased in the Grade I Cotillion at Parx on September 19.

“You hate to see a champion retire but it was the right thing to do,” Lukas said. “This family has been so good to me and Willis Horton. Take Charge Brandi was supremely talented and determined. I almost ran her in the Grade I Los Alamitos Futurity the week after the Starlet and think she would have been very tough to beat.

“She reminds me of (champion) Serena’s Song in her determination and natural ability,” Lukas continued. “She is the complete package and has everything you look for in a great broodmare prospect.”

Take Charge Brandi is out of Charming, a half-sister to Horton’s champion Will Take Charge as well as Grade I winner Take Charge Indy. Her second dam is multiple Grade I winner and Broodmare of the Year, Take Charge Lady.

Take Charge Brandi retires with five wins from 11 starts and $1,692,126 in earnings.

“She was a great champion and we just ran out of time making the Breeders’ Cup again,” Horton said. “She owns the best pedigree in the stud book and loved to win races. The family has been great to me owning champion Will Take Charge, and we are very high on her half-sister.”

That half-sister is Take Charge Tressa, a War Front filly who topped the 2014 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga sale at $1.25 million.

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