One important part of the Breeders' Cup takes place off the racecourse. Especially when the races are in Kentucky, breeders from around the country and around the world have the opportunity to engage with horses and breeders. Some of the most eminent farms and breeders in the region open their operations to visitors and take time out of their schedules to entertain and educate those who come to look and learn.
As part of this, there are shuttles and tours going on for days to help people see some of the highlights of Thoroughbred breeding in the Bluegrass. That's no small thing because the farms are sometimes a bit remote, and getting around the countryside is not the simplest thing, especially “since you're driving on the wrong side of the road,” as one British visitor exclaimed.
The joy of the program, however, is getting to see some of the finest bloodstock in the world, as well as some of the finest horse people.
From proven star stallions like Tapit and War Front to new stallion prospects for 2016 like Belmont Stakes and Metropolitan Handicap winner Palace Malice, the sire power of the farms around Lexington is impressive and informative.
Entering stud at Three Chimneys Farm in 2016, Palace Malice, for instance, exhibits the balance expected of a classic winner. He has strength and quality, allied with scope and presence. As Three Chimneys's Grant Williamson said, “One of the most important things is to get people onto the farms to look at these horses. There are things you can see that do not translate into words or photos.”
One of those is the animation and magnetic energy that some of these fine Thoroughbreds exude as they walk, pose, and move with purpose for breeders, as well as their public.
Anyone who wondered how a Belmont Stakes winner like Palace Malice could be a good 2-year-old in training would only have to see the horse in person to know the answer. There is nothing still, not to mention nothing lethargic, about the bay son of Curlin. Palace Malice is an active athlete. His feet, head, tail, even his skin, indicate an animal fully energized by his environment.
Yet on the racecourse, Palace Malice was able to translate that nervous energy, as the great breeder Federico Tesio called this positive animation, into racecourse performances of a high order. That allowed him to become the first winner for his sire, scoring in a maiden special at Saratoga, then stepping up in class time after time.
In viewing horses on the farms, class was the order of the day with some of the best horses in the breed. Good looks were abounding, and looks matter, both to breeders and to students or historians of the breed.
Into the Lexington area for the Breeders' Cup week, author Tony Byles was delighted to see the farms and the bloodstock available here. He said, “I was quite favorably impressed with the Unbridled stallion Broken Vow at Pin Oak Stud. He is such a classy horse and beautifully formed.
“In addition, I have quite a liking for our Champion Stakes winner Noble Mission, who's a full brother to Frankel. I saw them both race, and this horse [at Lane's End] is not too far behind his brother,” Byles said. “And it's easy to see why people are breeding to Scat Daddy [who stands at Ashford]. He's a very taking sort of horse.”
Byles knows something about the relationship between physique and performance because it is central to his book about the fraud in the 1844 English Derby, sometimes called the “Running Rein Derby” after the 4-year-old ringer who was entered in the race and won it. The book investigates how the perpetrators put their scam together and how they were discovered and relieved of their ill-gotten gains.
Called “In Search of Running Rein,” the book is a look into a chapter of turf history. Racing's tools and means of identification have come a long way since the days of Running Rein, and this weekend, thousands of spectators will see some of our best athletes write another chapter of excitement and glory in the history of the breed.
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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