By Ray Paulick
With two-thirds of the Triple Crown in the books, and neither the Kentucky Derby or Preakness winner going in the Belmont Stakes, the race for the Eclipse Award as 3-year-old male champion is an absolute toss-up. Races like the Haskell Invitational and Travers for 3-year-olds, along with Grade 1 events when the sophomores take on older horses later in the year, will determine 3-year-old champion of 2010.
Meanwhile, speculation about where one-time division leader Eskendereya will stand at stud in 2011 is heating up, especially after the May 7 announcement that Jess Jackson bought a “significant” interest in the injured and retired son of Giant's Causeway from Ahmed Zayat's Zayat Stables. The New York Times reported Jackson now owns 75% of the Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth and Wood Memorial winner, but Bradley Weisbord, finance and stallion manager for Zayat Stables, would not confirm how the ownership is divided. “We are not disclosing the percentage,” Weisbord said.
It's been Jackson's modus operandi to buy controlling interest in a horse, and Zayat Stables needs to generate as much money as possible to make good on the bankruptcy plan he submitted last month. In it, he said 100% of Eskendereya would be sold by year's end. Zayat Stables filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in February after being sued by Fifth Third Bank for allegedly defaulting on $34 million in loans.
Both men, shall we say, can be “difficult.”
The sale of Eskendereya won't make Zayat “whole” with the bank. High-end estimates of the deal with Jackson put an $8 million total value on the horse, and it could be much less. Several boodstock agents told the Paulick Report, given the current market conditions, Eskendereya will stand for no more than $15,000-$20,000 in his first year at stud.
Sources said one of the frontrunners to land Eskendereya is Graham Beck's Gainesway Farm, which has done business with both Jackson and Zayat in the past. Gainesway president Antony Beck is said to be a close friend of Jackson's, and the two men put together a deal five years ago to stand Cash Is King's Preakness and Belmont Stakes winner Afleet Alex at the Lexington Farm.
But Gainesway is no slam dunk, according to one source. Curlin, the two-time Horse of the Year who raced in a partnership controlled by Jackson, was retired to Will Farish's Lane's End Farm in Versailles in 2009. Despite Eskendereya's injury, he remains a top stallion prospect from among the current crop of 3-year-olds.
Zayat retired J Be K to Gainesway in 2009, though the horse has since moved to Tommy Simon's Florida division of Vinery, which stands Zayat's 2009 Kentucky Derby runner-up Pioneerof the Nile in Kentucky. Zayat also has a relationship with John Sikura's Hill ‘n' Dale Farm, where multiple Grade 1-winning sprinter Zensational entered stud this year.
Weisbord said negotiations to stand Eskendereya would be a “joint effort between Zayat and Jackson,” adding, “As far as I know, no negotiations have started. There's no real rush, since it's only May.”
Eskendereya, retired because of a tendon injury that kept him out of the Kentucky Derby, raced just six times, winning four, including the Wood Memorial by 9 3/4 lengths and the Fountain of Youth by 8 1/2. He was produced from the Seattle Slew mare, Aldebaran Light. Zayat bought him for $250,000 from breeder Sanford Robertson as part of the Woods Edge Farm consignment at the 2008 Keeneland September yearling sale.
Copyright © 2010, Ray Paulick
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