Running off through the stretch of the Grade 1 Alabama Stakes at Saratoga to win by 6 ½ lengths, Eskimo Kisses (by To Honor and Serve) looked ever so much like her famous grandmother, Hall of Fame member and classic winner Winning Colors (Caro).
In the spring of 1988, Winning Colors set West Coast racing alight with long-margin victories in the G1 Santa Anita Oaks and Santa Anita Derby. In both races, the gray daughter of Caro led from start to finish and won by 8 lengths in the first, 7 ½ in the second. Her time of 1:47 4/5 in the Santa Anita Derby led to Winning Colors being one of the much-fancied entries four weeks later in the Kentucky Derby. Leading by 3 lengths or more for much of the race, Winning Colors prevailed by a neck in a dramatic finish with the previous year's champion juvenile colt, Forty Niner (Mr. Prospector).
Later purchased and retired to stud at Gainesway, Winning Colors spent the rest of her life at the famed stallion station and farm on Paris Pike north of Lexington.
Bred in Kentucky by Gainesway Thoroughbreds Ltd., Eskimo Kisses is a tall, scopy chestnut much in the mold of the 1988 Kentucky Derby winner. The Alabama Stakes winner is out of the non-winner Silver Colors, a daughter of leading sire and broodmare sire Mr. Greeley (Gone West), who stood at Gainesway, and Eskimo Kisses is the second stakes horse out of the dam, along with the stakes-placed Silver Ride (Candy Ride).
The gelding Silver Ride is the first foal from Silver Colors, and Eskimo Kisses is the fourth. In between them are a filly (Tapping Colors) and colt (Tapit High) by Gainesway's premier sire Tapit; the latter was the sire's most expensive yearling of 2015 ($2.1 million at the Saratoga select sale). Silver Colors had no foal in 2016.
Silver Colors foaled a filly by Union Rags (Dixie Union) earlier this year and has a yearling colt by Belmont Stakes winner Empire Maker (Unbridled) consigned to the 2018 Keeneland September yearling sale as Hip 406. With his half-sister now being a G1 winner, he will have one of the salient updates of the entire catalog. Silver Colors is back in foal to Tapit for 2019.
Two years ago, Eskimo Kisses was a forward and promising yearling from the second crop by multiple G1 winner To Honor and Serve. At the sale, however, Gainesway's owner, Antony Beck, said that Eskimo Kisses “was not vetted; there was no interest in her, despite the fact that she's a very attractive and quality individual. So we withdrew her.”
Then, Beck was approached by trainer Kenny McPeek, acting for himself and a group of owners. Beck said, “When a judge of horseflesh as astute as Kenny McPeek asked if he could buy her and whether I would stay in, I was absolutely delighted to do so.”
McPeek said, “I thought she was one of the best fillies in the sale, and I was very happy to be able to purchase an interest in her for my client Harold Lerner” and others. The kink in the filly's appeal to other buyers, McPeek said, was that “she was too big to be a real 2-year-old sales prospect, and she had a little activity in her knees called 'lipping,' that put off some people, I'm sure.
“What I really liked,” McPeek said, “was that I saw a lot of Deputy Minister about her. And to make sure her knees stay quiet and all, I train her like a distance horse, working and racing her slow and steady, and it really works for her.”
Andrew Rosen joined the partnership just before the Kentucky Oaks, and now the partners have a G1 winner who is clearly at her best performing at 9 to 10 furlongs, whether the surface is wet or dry. And Eskimo Kisses is a valuable broodmare prospect for the future due to her athletic ability and distinguished ancestry.
Beck said, “Winning the Alabama with this filly very meaningful to me because my father loved Winning Colors. She was a lovely mare, and physically, Eskimo Kisses takes after her.” Both are sizable, with scope and bone equal to many colts, but with quality to balance their size.
The Alabama Stakes winner is the third generation of this family owned by Gainesway, after Graham Beck acquired the 1988 classic winner and champion 3-year-old filly at auction from the 1989 dispersal of Gene Klein for $4.1 million. Gainesway initially bred sales yearlings from the big, impressive mare, and they sold $5.5 million in sales yearlings from the mare before Winning Colors hit on hard times.
Like many mares will do as they age, the grand old gray began to have trouble with her pregnancies, and from 2000 to 2005, Winning Colors did not have a foal. She was, however, a most distinguished member of the stud, and when she rewarded Gainesway with a pair of fillies by farm stallions Orientate (Ocean Colors) in 2006 and Mr. Greeley (Silver Colors) in 2007, those fillies were retained by the farm for racing and breeding.
By keeping the final two fillies out of the great daughter of Caro, Beck has a first-rate performer who has given him a trophy to pair with the Travers won by Afleet Express (Afleet Alex), so that Gainesway has raced the winners of the two biggest races for 3-year-olds at Saratoga.
Frank Mitchell is author of Racehorse Breeding Theories, as well as the book Great Breeders and Their Methods: The Hancocks. In addition to writing the column “Sires and Dams” in Daily Racing Form for nearly 15 years, he has contributed articles to Thoroughbred Daily News, Thoroughbred Times, Thoroughbred Record, International Thoroughbred, and other major publications. In addition, Frank is chief of biomechanics for DataTrack International and is a hands-on caretaker of his own broodmares and foals in Central Kentucky. Check out Frank's lively Bloodstock in the Bluegrass blog.
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