The Paulick Report is once again providing comprehensive coverage of the Keeneland September sale, the world's largest Thoroughbred yearling sale.
The following segment – Keeneland September RNA Hall of Fame – is featured in the PR Special, a unique print publication available daily on the grounds at Keeneland. It is the first of a three-part series that spotlights yearlings who have not met their reserves, but gone on to become stakes winners on the racetrack.
Afleet Express had a brief, but brilliant career, winning four of seven starts and earning $835,140 for owners Gainesway Farm and Martin Cherry. Bred in Kentucky by the McMillin Brothers and James Devaney, Afleet Express made just one start as a juvenile, breaking his maiden at Aqueduct in early December. After two unsuccessful starts at Gulfstream over the winter, Afleet Express broke through for an eight-length allowance victory at Belmont Park in May. From there he quickly made the jump to graded stakes company, winning the Pegasus Stakes (gr. III) and finishing third in the Jim Dandy (gr. II). His biggest moment was yet to come, however, as he held off the desperate charge of Fly Down to win the Travers Stakes (gr. I) by a nose.
The Travers ended up being the colt's last start. Afleet Express was retired that fall due to a partial tear of a suspensory ligament in his left front leg. He entered stud in 2011 at Gainesway Farm; his first crop of foals are weanlings.
A Z Warrior (Bernardini-Carson Jen, by Carson City)
2009 Keeneland September (Hip 94). Consigned by Eaton Sales, agent. RNA price $775,000
A Z Warrior was one of the top 2-year-old fillies in the country in 2010, winning two of five starts and banking $239,600 for owner/breeder Zayat Stable. After breaking her maiden in her debut, trainer Bob Baffert moved her into stakes company, where she finished second in the Sorrento Stakes (gr. III). After a lackluster effort in the Del Mar Debutante (gr. I), she was sent east to Belmont Park. The daughter of Bernardini took an instant liking to ‘Big Sandy', rolling to an impressive victory in the Frizette Stakes (gr. I). She then went off as the favorite in the Grey Goose Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) but finished 12th.
A Z Warrior made just three starts as a 3-year-old, finishing third in the Santa Anita Oaks (gr. I) to bring her career earnings to $286,906. She later sold at the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky November sale for $1.25 million to Blandford Bloodstock Ltd.
Believe You Can made believers even out of the most cynical of race fans as she zoomed to the top of the 3-year-old filly division earlier this season. After not meeting her reserve as a yearling, Believe You Can was brought back home to race in the colors of owner/breeder Brereton C. Jones. Under the watchful eye of trainer Larry Jones, Believe You Can made five starts as a 2-year-old, winning twice at Delaware Park before going on to win the Tempted Stakes (gr. III) at Belmont Park.
Believe You Can dominated the Fair Grounds meet earlier this year, rattling off wins in the listed Silverbulletday Stakes and the Fair Grounds Oaks (gr. II). Those races put her in great shape for the spring's biggest prize, the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I), and she did not disappoint, pulling away in the stretch to win by 1 ¾ lengths. Since her third-place finish in the Mother Goose Stakes (gr. I), Believe You Can has been given some time off and is enjoying some ‘R & R' at her owner's Airdrie Stud.
Believe You Can has won six of 10 starts, and has earnings of $1,089,484.
Believe You Can has had a superb sophomore season, winning the listed Silverbulletday Stakes and Fair Grounds Oaks (gr. II) on her way to dominating victory in the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I). Believe You Can was being pointed to the Alabama Stakes (gr. I), but instead has returned to Airdrie Stud for a well-deserved vacation.
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