When Big Score rallied from more than seven lengths back under jockey Flavien Prat to win a one-mile maiden race for 2-year-olds on turf at Del Mar on Sunday, I glanced down at my program to look at the colt's pedigree.
Bred in Kentucky by George Krikorian and carrying his magenta, black and silver silks to an impressive 2 ¾-length win at odds of 8-1, Big Score was sired by a stallion named Mr. Big and out of a mare by leading California stallion Unusual Heat.
Mr. Big? I had never heard of him. But Big Score, making his first career start, beat a field that included a hot favorite in Mystic Kid, a son of Lemon Drop Kid. Other runners in the race were sired by Midnight Lute, Congrats, Gio Ponti and Hat Trick.
I did some hasty online research and saw that Mr. Big was a son of the late Dynaformer who'd won two of nine starts for Krikorian, racing from ages 4 to 7. At 17.2 hands, he came by his name honestly.
A few minutes later, I ran into Dr. George Mundy, an old friend from Kentucky who advises Krikorian – a California movie theater magnate who has a horse farm in Versailles, Ky. Krikorian is also building one of his Krikorian Premiere Theatres in downtown Lexington, at the corner of South Broadway and High Street across the street from Rupp Arena. The facility will include 12 movie screens in auditoriums with fully reclining leather seats; a 200-seat sports bar and bistro with a 70-foot wide screen for events; a 16-lane bowling alley; and a full-service restaurant and gourmet food court, with coffee bar. Krikorian also bought a building in Beaumont Circle in Lexington that houses my old employer, Blood-Horse Publications, along with the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association, and a few other businesses.
But I digress.
Mundy told me a little about Mr. Big, namely that Krikorian purchased him as a weanling (for $220,000 at the 2003 Keeneland November breeding stock sale from Viking Stud) and that the horse had some problem getting to the races.
Trained at first by John Shirreffs and later by Bob Baffert, Mr. Big raced three times at 4, four times at 6 and twice at 7.
After Mr. Big was retired, Krikorian sent him to his Kentucky farm and bred him to a handful of his own mares, beginning in 2010.
“George believed in the horse,” Mundy said.
Mr. Big had two named foals of 2011, his first crop, seven in 2012, two in 2013 and three in 2014, including the aforementioned Big Score.
That's a grand total of 14 foals of racing age in four crops.
There's a reason I hadn't heard of Mr. Big.
But maybe I should have.
Seven of those foals have made it to the races and six of them won. His first runner was Big Break, who debuted for trainer Art Sherman at Santa Anita Park in a maiden claiming race for 3-year-olds in 2014, winning by 7 ¾ lengths. He was promptly claimed for $50,000 by Steve Knapp. Big Break continues to race, most recently finishing fourth in an allowance/$40,000 optional claimer, his 32nd career star.
Mr. Big's best runner, Big Book, foaled in California in 2012, won her first two races, then finished first in the Fleet Treat Stakes last summer at Del Mar. A post-race sample detected an overage of acepromazine, however, resulting in Big Book being disqualified from the win. A month later, she finished second in the Grade 3 Torrey Pines Stakes, also at Del Mar.
Big Score's win on Sunday came just one day after Big Book suffered sesamoid injuries during training hours at Del Mar and will never race again. She was one of three horses reported injured that morning. Krikorian and Tim Yakteen – who trains both Big Score and Big Book – hope to be able to save Big Book as a broodmare. (UPDATE: Daily Racing Form reported on Tuesday that Big Book was euthanized as a result of her injuries.)
Such are the highs and lows in this game.
Shortly after Big Book won her second race last summer, Krikorian struck a deal to stand Mr. Big at E.A. Ranches in Ramona, Calif. His fee is $3,500 live foal.
During his first California breeding season in 2016, the only son of Dynaformer standing in the Golden State was bred to 39 mares, with 33 of them pronounced in foal.
Krikorian, a New Hampshire native who grew up near Rockingham Park and is the son of a Thoroughbred trainer, said he bred 12 or 13 mares himself to Mr. Big, who was produced from the Fappiano mare Fashion Delight (out of Grade 1 Frizette winner Charleston Rag and a half sister to the dam of Group 1 Epsom Oaks winner Casual Look)
“This horse had a lot of potential and he's really well bred,” said Krikorian. “He stamps his foals beautifully: they're tall, with good bone, good minds.”
Needless to say, Krikorian is expecting “big” things in the future.
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