From the saddle of a red roan mustang with a “little streak of craziness in him” to following Spiced Perfection into the winner's circle after the Grade 1 La Brea Stakes, Michael Faber just keeps daring himself to dream a little bigger.
Or in this case, maybe Faber was dreaming a little smaller, but it still had the hoped-for result: the Dare to Dream ownership group celebrated its first Grade 1 win when the diminutive Spiced Perfection scored by 1 ¼ lengths at odds of 5-1 on opening day at Santa Anita Park.
“This was her las shot against 3-year-old fillies, we almost ran at Golden Gate for $75,000 a month ago and it would've been smashing everything into her so it was worth a shot here,” said trainer Brian Koriner after the race. “In the meantime, we got an offer for her for half a million dollars and they were going to let me keep her. They made the offer before they ever looked at her and then took back the offer. It was a done deal and they backed out. So it was good to see her win after somebody said 'no we don't want her.'”
It wasn't the first time Spiced Perfection was passed over. Bred in California by Phil Lebherz's Premier Thoroughbreds, who bought and raced her sire Smiling Tiger with Alan Klein, she wasn't very big as a yearling and sold for just $6,500 at the Barretts Fall Mixed sale.
Faber, the managing partner for ownership group Dare to Dream Stable, laid eyes on the filly for the first time at Barretts' 2017 March 2-year-old sale.
“I don't remember if she went in :10 or :10 1/5, but I just loved her breeze because she was quick, and she did it so easily,” Faber said. “She galloped out really nicely too. She was small, but also well-built and compact. She also had a pretty deep pedigree, I thought, and she might even be better at two turns.”
When the hammer fell, Faber walked away owning the already-named Spiced Perfection for $50,000. With three stakes wins against state-breds on her resume and now a Grade 1 win, the six-for-14 filly with earnings of $622,405 has certainly rewarded Faber's faith in her.
Born and still based in Chicago, Faber is a licensed attorney and his brother Allen Faber, his assistant manager, is a former restaurateur. The pair has been in love with riding anything that could wear a western saddle since the age of six and spent years attending the races at Chicago mainstays Arlington Park and Hawthorne. In the mid-1990's, the brothers invested in their first Thoroughbreds via an online partnership.
Inspired by the experience, the Faber brothers assisted in founding a New York-based partnership called Castle Village Farm. They had early success with a claim on a mare named Flippy Diane; she went on to win the 1999 Maryland Million Distaff for her new connections.
In 2002, Dare to Dream Stable was officially launched with the $18,000 claim of a mare named Oval at Hawthorne Racecourse. She moved up to the $25,000 level and earned a second and third for the Fabers and their investors before she was claiming again.
“It was always a dream to own horses,” said Faber. “(The name) just seemed appropriate at the time… I guess it's endured pretty well.”
In the beginning the majority of Dare to Dream's horses were procured via claiming races, with Faber managing as many as 40 horses for different partnerships at the same time. As it did to many in the industry, the economic downturn of 2008 seriously affected Dare to Dream's participation levels.
The stable's best year was in 2006, with 28 winners from 133 starters for earnings of more than $700,000. Faber has since been focused on quality over quantity, and the 2018 statistics support the change: from 54 starts, Dare to Dream-owned horses compiled a record of 10-8-8 for earnings of $641,571.
“So many good trainers are out there, and with claiming horses it's just gotten so much harder to try to move them up,” Faber explained. “Now, we focus on the yearling and 2-year-old sales to try to get stakes-quality horses… between 80 and 90 percent of our stakes horses are from that track.”
That's not to say that Faber has forgotten how to win at the claim box. Tiznoble was a $30,000 claim in December of 2016 at the Fair Grounds. In his next start, the Tiznow colt got beaten a head in the $75,000 Woodchopper Stakes.
Chicago may be where Faber's love of horses was initiated, but Faber acknowledges that picking the best spots for his horses often takes him away from Illinois. With 15-20 horses in training at any given time, Dare to Dream has horses in New York with trainer Robert Falcone, Jr., with Michael Stidham and Chris Davis at Fair Grounds, as well as with Koriner in California.
“I believe horses need personal attention, and that they get more of that attention with trainers who don't have so many horses,” Faber said. “We actually met Koriner when another one of our trainers, Ingrid Mason in Chicago, sent a horse of ours named Stormy Adieu out West to run and kept her in his barn. He did a great job with her and she was stakes-placed, so we sent him some more Cal-breds to take advantage of the program.”
As for Spiced Perfection, she exited the La Brea in “excellent” shape and will be kept in Southern California for the foreseeable future. So far, all her stakes wins have all come sprinting on the main track, but she has also placed in stakes on the downhill turf course at Santa Anita and in a two-turn dirt contest.
If her connections can dare to dream it, Spiced Perfection looks to be able to go in any direction they choose.
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