An eight thousand dollar ($8,000.00) check is all it took for the two top Derby horses by qualifying earnings to get to the big dance. Quite a contrast from last year's Derby winner, when blue-blooded ORB was a product of generations of breeding the best to the best by two royal families of American racing - Phipps and Janney.
Vicar's in Trouble was a small chubby yearling when the Louisiana auctioneer hammered down hip 158 at only $8,000 to Clyde Taylor in September of 2012. There were 20 horses sold in that sale for greater than 20K, and another couple dozen hips exchanged hands (mostly to pinhookers) before Clyde Taylor secured the winning $8,000 bid on hip 158. Spendthrift Farm recently created a Louisiana division and for the last few years has sent many of their young unproven mares in foal to moderately priced Kentucky stallions to cajun' country in hopes of boosting their produce earnings in the rich Louisiana restricted purse structure to be more marketable in Kentucky. I know first-hand because my stable has purchased two similar Louisiana bred colts from Spendthrift Farm in the Fasig-Tipton Texas sale. I should clarify - similar in that they were from young Kentucky sires (Henny Hughes and Notional), not that they were multiple graded stakes winners with earnings in the $1 million range! (An important clarification in case any of my stable partners are reading this.)
As any horseman who has been in the business more than a few years will tell you, when you can make a tidy profit you sell and move on to the next one. That's exactly what Clyde did when he made a 10-bagger by flipping hip 158 in the Maryland 2YO training sell in spring of 2013 to Ken and Sarah Ramsey, recently flush with cash from all their Kitten's Joy progeny earnings and stud fees. Of all the horses they purchased in the last couple of years, my guess is this guy with a Dosage index of 5.00 was the last one they would have expected to bring them to the first Saturday in May.
California Chrome is the first foal out of a Maryland bred mare who only hit the board once in 6 lifetime starts - all for a claiming tag. Love the Chase was bought for $8,000 as a broodmare prospect by two of her original partners (each owned only 5% in original syndicate) in California based Blinkers On Racing after her brief and unspectacular racing career ended at Golden Gate Park with a last place effort in an $8,000 claiming race. Steven Coburn and Perry Martin must have had a gut instinct about the mare they had raced when they bought her back to breed in California to a young sire who had shown promise getting a classic horse earlier with Rousing Sermon.
When you see the striking presence of CC, you wouldn't know he is of humble lineage. Sire Lucky Pulpit is from the immediate family of top class sire Unbridled's Song via second dam Lucky Spell. Chrome's damside includes Dance Number, who has produced top runners such as Juvenile Champion Rhythm and Get Lucky. Get Lucky further produced the dams (both by A.P. Indy) of such classic runners as Super Saver and Bluegrass Cat. So this would be the category where greatness may have skipped a generation or two.
As of today, these sophomores have earned $788,900 and $1,134,850, respectively, and are Kentucky bound. So whether it be a Maryland, Louisiana, Texas or California sale, bring along about ten grand and take a good long look at the yearlings this summer at a sale near you. Or you can wait until the Keeneland September sale and bring a quarter million or more in hopes to find your "big horse!"
Happy Derby Week!