At what point does a hobby become a passion? How often does that passion become a career?
According to Maryland-based breeder Sabrina Moore, the odds of turning her passion for horses into a career were almost as high as those of her three-strong broodmare band producing a Grade 1 winner: about 70-1.
When Knicks Go powered across the Keeneland finish line first in the G1 Breeders' Futurity last Saturday, the 26-year-old Moore was simultaneously shocked and elated.
“I never thought I'd be a part of anything like this,” she said. “For someone who breeds Thoroughbreds on such a small scale, the chances were basically nothing that I would breed a Grade 1 winner. I mean, I'm happy just to win a $5,000 claiming race at Laurel Park! And yet, here I am, just six years after I started, watching this colt I raised go and do that.”
Sabrina (@SabrinnaMoore) October
In the same way that the science of Thoroughbred genetics focuses on traits that are passed from parents to offspring, Moore's passion for the racing game was passed down to her by her mother, Angie Moore.
Angie Moore rode horses through high school but gave up the hobby when she graduated. Later in life when her 7-year-old daughter expressed interest in going trail riding, Moore jumped back in to the horse world head first. She and her daughter bonded over barrel racing horses and competitions, and it was one of her daughter's riding coaches who first introduced Moore to the world of Thoroughbred ownership.
While that partnership didn't end well, Angie Moore's dream and vision had been firmly implanted. The suburban neighborhood in which they lived was becoming ever more urban, so Moore moved her four children out to a 20-acre farm nestled in the Maryland countryside. She started with two horses.
The only one of the four children to show an interest in the breeding operation was Sabrina, and it wasn't long before she took over the day-to-day operations on the farm. Her mother, whom Sabrina Moore calls a “dreamer,” needed someone with a tougher outer shell to make the difficult business decisions.
“They were all her babies,” Moore said. “She couldn't bear to drop them in (for a claiming tag) where they belonged.”
In 2012, at just 20 years of age, Sabrina Moore made the decision to pursue a commercial Thoroughbred breeding operation full time.
“I had to buckle down and choose between parties and the foaling barn,” she said, laughing. “I'm sure I missed out on a few things there, but that may be for the best!”
Six years later, Moore and her mother have built the business to 100 acres and approximately 50 horses, the majority of which are owned by clients. The Moores own just three broodmares themselves.
One of the first mares they purchased was named Kosmo's Buddy. When owner/breeder Arnold Smolen dropped the multiple stakes-winning mare in for a claiming tag of $40,000 in 2010, the Moores were quick to snag the daughter of Outflanker. She ran for them once more, beaten by the up-and-coming Ben's Cat in the Maryland Million Turf Sprint before officially retiring to the farm. She has now produced three winners from four starters.
“Kosmo” was scheduled to be mated with freshman sire Paynter on the advice of Moore's bloodstock advisor Bill Reightler. Fertility issues with Kosmo prevented the match in his first season, but in 2015 Kosmo was successfully bred to Paynter. Moore ended up consigning her to the Keeneland November sale with the Paynter in utero, but bidding stopped at $37,000 and she decided she would prefer to keep the mare for that price and brought her back home to Maryland.
Kosmo's resulting 2016 gray colt was opinionated from the start and had a fiery attitude to match his good looks.
“My gosh, he was a brute,” Moore said. “Not bad, just tough. I remember when we were giving them their first baths as weanlings, and my boyfriend had him because he was just so tough. The colt just started walking away from the wash rack, and I remember laughing and going back to the horse I was working on. The next thing I know, I heard hoofbeats and looked up to see the colt galloping away with my boyfriend still attached to his lead rope and running next to him!”
The colt was sent through the Keeneland November sale as a weanling and brought a final bid of $40,000 from Northface Bloodstock. Pinhooked back through the Keeneland September sale, the Korea Racing Authority purchased him for $87,000.
Moore was originally disappointed, thinking the colt would be sent to Korea and she wouldn't be able to follow his racing career. Little did she know, the KRA was looking to build its stallion roster by racing colts in the United States, so “Knicks Go” was sent into training in Ocala. He was actually consigned to the OBS April sale, and breezed a pretty 10 2/5 only to be withdrawn. It seems the KRA decided to keep the promising young colt.
Knicks Go was impressive in his winning debut in July, but bounced with a wide trip in the G3 Sanford Stakes at Saratoga to finish fifth. An experiment with synthetic surfaces in the listed Arlington Washington Futurity resulted in a third-place finish, but his latest effort, a front-running 5 ½-length domination of the G1 Breeders' Futurity, has the KRA thinking Breeders' Cup with their budding young star.
“It's funny how things work out,” said Sabrina Moore. “I love that mare, but I actually sold her earlier this summer right after Knicks Go made his first start. I hate to think about it now, but the cash flow was tight then and it made sense to sell her. I'm trying to remember that I believe everything happens for a reason, even if I'm not sure what that reason is just yet.”
Another of Kosmo's foals, a 2013 Not For Love mare named Pinkprint, could just be that reason. After stifle issues proved too much to overcome on the track, Moore gave Pinkprint away as a free broodmare prospect. Just recently, Moore was contacted to take the “crazy” and “difficult to breed” mare back.
Now, Pinkprint is having no trouble staying in foal (Great Notion) back at her home base, the Moore's GreenMount Farm, and just might be a way to keep a part of the Kosmo family.
“I remember when I started out doing this, and how many people I asked for help and how many were willing to answer what seemed like hundreds of questions,” said Moore. “I'm just so grateful to have met the right people who have helped me to figure it out and find my little niche in Maryland.
“Who knows? Maybe I'll even make it out to the Breeders' Cup to cheer on our first Grade 1 winner!”
The odds of that might be a lot better than 70-1.
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