Saturday, June 6, 2009

Yet to own a winner, but ...

If somebody else's horse winning a race is this exciting, I can't wait until one of my own does.

I'm new to the breeding business, with two foals expected this year, one any day now as the foaling season winds down. (Many Fugue readers have already "met" my first foal as a co-breeder, Oracle at Delphi.)

The dam of the pending foal is named Lady's Wager (pictured). She was sired by a pretty good racehorse in Valid Wager and out of a winning mare named Lear's Lady (Lear Fan-Idiomatic, by Verbatim) who was half to an Aqueduct stakes winner. So when "Lady" became available inexpensively late last spring, I took a chance both on her and on a booking to unproven stallion Inner Harbour (Capote-Blue Sky Princess, by Conquistador Cielo), who stands at O'Sullivan Farms near Charles Town, W.Va.

I'll admit that Lady's pedigree was a head-scratcher for me. Her dam, Lear's Lady, was a turf runner (won on both surfaces, better on grass) who was by a Grade 1 European turf horse, and out of a female line stemming from 1950s French-born turf stakes winner Sylvanaise. Valid Wager, her sire and not a turf horse, doesn't particularly strike me as a good match.

Nevertheless, she was a plucky racehorse, and though she never advanced to stakes company, she managed to win 10 of 36 lifetime starts for $71,519. She broke maiden for a $20K tag at Calder and eventually won her 10 races at eight different tracks, including Suffolk and Rockingham allowances and claiming races at Laurel, Pimlico, Tampa, Charles Town and Penn National. All were on the main track; she had but one turf start, her first try after breaking maiden and her first try at a route. (Bumped at the gate, she finished poorly and none of her connections ever tried grass again; probably not a fair gauge of her turf ability.)

She was also 3-for-3 lifetime over a wet strip -- the Valid Appeal sireline is sometimes noted for its mudders -- and so it might be no coincidence that her first foal, West Appeal, broke his maiden Friday in the slop at Charles Town.

Yes, it's just a $5,000 maiden-claimer at CT. But he's getting better for breeders Dale and Patricia Shockey. (Dale is also his trainer.)

After missing the break something awful in his first start last year at 3, he flipped his palate in his second effort, underwent surgery for it, and was on the shelf all winter. He's returned to finish fourth, second and now first by a drawing-off 5 3/4 lengths, in command throughout despite hitting the gate and getting bumped by inside horses at the start. (He was the 9).

So maybe he can move up in the claiming ranks, or even try WV-bred allowance horses someday. ... Even if not, it's nice to see that Lady's Wager can produce a winner. It's something her female-family has done quite a bit of, especially when mated to Bold Ruler- and Seattle Slew-line horses; hence my choice of Inner Harbour. (Nine Bold Ruler-line stakes winners including Slewpy-G1, Croeso-G1 and Super May-G2, trace to Lady's fourth dam, Forest Song.)

The Shockeys tell me they're high on his younger half-sister, Lady's Bopette (by Bop), a 2-year-old who will go back to the training track when her knees close up in a couple of months. Obviously I wish the Shockeys the best with her, for the good of the mare's page, as she's now mine.

So, yes, I was in a celebratory mood Friday night, probably more so than you'll ever see from somebody who didn't breed nor own the winning horse. Nor, for that matter -- living in wagerless North Carolina -- did I have a nickel bet on him.

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