Terry Finley had just put ink on the biggest sale ticket of his life, but if it made him nervous, it was hard to tell from the easy smile on his face as he leaned on a board and looked down the Sequel Bloodstock shedrow at the Ocala Breeders' Sales Co. grounds.
Moments earlier, Finley's West Point Thoroughbreds joined Robert Masiello and Siena Farm in landing Chestertown, a Tapit colt out of Grade 1 winner Artemis Agrotera for $2 million, the highest price in the history of the OBS March 2-Year-Olds in Training Sale. The group will be joined by breeders Chester and Mary Broman, who will retain a one-third interest in the colt.
Thoroughbred partnerships start up for myriad reasons, but it usually stems from the parties having something in common: a budget level, a mission statement, a longtime friendship or business partnership, or simply wanting the same horse. Finley was candid in what he and Broman shared that grew their friendship into a seven-figure racing partnership: a speech impediment.
“We both stutter,” he said. “That brought us together 20 years ago. I introduced myself and he started stuttering. I said, 'You stutter? I do too,' and we've been friends ever since.”
This was not the kind of anecdote one expects to hear from someone who just signed a $2-million sale ticket, much less someone with the military-honed steady presence of Finley, but it's a cause he has long championed, having dealt with it himself from childhood. Finley was a keynote speaker at the 2018 National Stuttering Association Conference.
“You can have a great three weeks, and then you can wake up one day and have a bad 30 minutes, and then for the next two weeks, you're struggling,” he said.
Finley spoke clearly on Tuesday, alongside his wife and West Point COO Debbie Finley, and Sequel Bloodstock's Becky Thomas, as they posed with the session-topping New York-bred outside his stall. The only time Chestertown removed his nose from the feed tub on his stall door during the photo opportunity was to turn around, leaving the Kodak moment somewhat unfulfilled. It was fine with Thomas. In fact, that was what she wanted to see.
“The eating is my favorite trait – he doesn't miss any meals,” she said. “When you start putting pressure on them, you don't need them to come out of their tub, and he just can't wait until his next meal.”
Chestertown went by a different name among the Sequel staff, given the moniker “Dennis” in reference to the comic strip troublemaker Dennis the Menace. His stall at OBS was filled with distractions, including a Jolly Ball that would often get tossed over the stall door.
Like many youngsters with energy to burn, focusing that attention can produce special results. Chestertown, or “Dennis,” proved that to be true as soon as he hit the track.
“He's really forward,” Thomas said. “I took him out of company galloping in November because I didn't want him going any faster. Some of them, you have to teach them to be more competitive, but I didn't want him being any more competitive that early in his career.”
Thomas had seen this before with Chestertown's dam, Artemis Agrotera. Having worked with the New York-based Bromans for about two decades, Thomas has seen generations of their program pass through her stalls as Sequel prepared them for the racetrack and the sale ring.
“I trained Artemis Agrotera, and her sisters and brothers, so it's really special for me,” Thomas said. “Artemis was one of the first horses that I sent out in her 2-year-old year. She was every bit of 16.3 [hands]. I was training her out in my five-eighths track, and she was just too quick. I said, 'I've got to get her out of here.' Normally with the big ones, you keep them and give them more time, but she was going.”
The strategy worked for Artemis Agrotera, who won her first two starts as a juvenile, including the Grade 1 Frizette Stakes. Later campaigns saw her take the G1 Ballerina Stakes and G2 Gallant Bloom Handicap.
West Point Thoroughbreds is no stranger to taking on partners, having been part of the sizable group that campaigned 2016 Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming. Teaming up is a new venture for the Bromans, though, who have found their greatest success with homebreds.
The change in policy on Chestertown was due in large part to a structural change in the Bromans' overall Thoroughbred holdings. As the couple prepare their estate, they are downsizing their Thoroughbred interests through the auction ring and shifting their focus to their runners. Thomas said one of the major beneficiaries of the Bromans' estate will be a charity benefitting Thoroughbreds, which is still being established.
“He's for sure reducing a big number of mares,” Thomas said. “He's got a bunch of racehorses, so he doesn't want a big mess for the estate, so he's shrinking some numbers down. He enjoys racing tremendously. His plan is to make sure that the charity is very involved in those horses.”
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