By Christie DeBernardis
When Hal and Patti Earnhardt homebred Ax Man (Misremembered) won his career bow at Santa Anita by 9 1/2 lengths on New Year’s Day (video), it was extra satisfying for his trainer Bob Baffert, who bred, trained and owns the colt’s Grade I-winning sire. The Hall of Famer also conditioned the sophomore’s stakes-winning dam and most of her offspring, including two-time champion Indian Blessing (Indian Charlie).
“We knew he was pretty talented,” Baffert said. “He had been working pretty well. The work right before [his debut] he worked with [undefeated GISW and “TDN Rising Star”] McKinzie (Street Sense) and they worked heads up together [five furlongs in :59.20 Dec. 27 at Santa Anita], so that was really encouraging. At Hill ‘n’ Dale growing up, he was always a standout as a foal. He was a nice looking horse and is probably the best one Shameful has had since Indian Blessing.”
The conditioner continued, “He exploded out of there and handled it pretty well. It didn’t take a lot out of him and he came back well. You could tell after the race that he wasn’t tired. That is a good sign. It means he will be able to stretch out. The [GII] San Vicente [S. Feb. 10] is the most logical spot right now because I can’t see an allowance race coming between now and then.”
Ax Man’s dam Shameful has proven to be a blue hen producer for the Earnhardts with eight winners from eight foals to race. Two-time Eclipse winner Indian Blessing was just her second foal and she also produced graded stakes winner Roman Threat (Roman Ruler).
“That mare Shameful is golden,” Baffert said. “Everything we breed her to, she has gotten a winner. She has been amazing. We are going to breed her to Tapit this year.”
With a future booking to Tapit and previous matings to the likes of Candy Ride (Arg), Empire Maker and Midnight Lute, it was a bit unconventional to breed a mare of Shameful’s caliber to Misremembered, whose oldest foals are now 5-year-olds with the best being MGSP Dazzling Gem.
“Hal did it as a favor to me because I own the stallion,” explained Baffert, who has been training for the Earnhardts since 1983. “One thing I learned in the stallion business is it is really hard to stand one. John [Sikura] did me a favor and stood him at Hill ‘n’ Dale. I asked Hal and Patti to give me some help and gave them some shares in the horse. I was talking to John Sikura and I said, ‘I see that Indian Blessing and Shameful are going to Misremembered.’ He said, ‘Man, these are the most loyal customers.’ I said, ‘Well, you know they are like family to me.'”
Baffert bought Misremembered’s dam Beyond Perfection (Quack), who won the 1990 GII Del Mar Debutante, for just $7,000 at the 2005 Keeneland January sale in partnership with his friend George Jacobs.
“I wanted a good mare to own and I remember watching Beyond Perfection run when I first got in the business,” the conditioner recalled. “The Franks [who owned Beyond Perfection] had a dispersal and the mare was 17 and open. I was looking for a mare to breed to Point Given at the time. I studied and studied the book and I thought, ‘I’m going to buy this mare. This is probably the only way I am going to own this kind of mare, just wait until she doesn’t have any teeth and is old.’ (laughs)”
Instead of breeding Beyond Perfection to Point Given, Sikura convinced Baffert to send the mare to Candy Ride, who was standing his first year at stud at Hill ‘n’ Dale in 2005.
“I was going to breed her to Point Given, but John Sikura had just gotten Candy Ride to stand at Hill ‘n’ Dale and he said, ‘Breed her to Candy Ride,'” Baffert said. “I said, ‘Yeah, but she has an F nick with Candy Ride.’ He said, ‘Just do it. You know how good Candy Ride is.’ I had seen Candy Ride run and he was a pretty freaky horse so I said alright. We bred to Candy Ride and we got Misremembered.”
Unlike Ax Man, Misremembered was not a standout from the start, at least not in Baffert’s eyes.
“He was a tall, lanky kind of horse, totally different looking than most Candy Rides,” Baffert said. “The guy who broke him for me in Arizona really liked him a lot. I sent him three to break and he was the one I liked the least. Every time I called him I’d go, ‘How’s the filly doing?’ and he would go ‘She’s okay.’ I’d say, ‘And how about the other one?’ He’d say, ‘She’s okay, but I really like that colt.’ I thought if he likes the colt, the other two are useless.”
Baffert even forgot about Misremembered for a while when he had to be laid up, which is how the stallion got his name.
“He had a high suspensory that was bothering him and he needed 60 days off, so I sent him out to a friend’s farm in Temecula,” Baffert explained. “He was out there for a long time and finally George [Jacobs] called me and said, ‘How about our horse?’ I said, ‘Oh yeah I forgot he is still out there.’ He had been out there for about four months. When we were driving out there, he said, ‘Did you misremember him or something?'”
Misremembered soon proved to be worth remembering, winning the 2009 GII Swaps S. and GII Indiana Derby and 2010 GI Santa Anita H. The chestnut also finished second to champion Blame (Arch) in the 2009 GII Clark H. and completed the exacta in that year’s GI Malibu S.
“It was a lot of fun winning the Swaps with him,” Baffert said. “I ran him in the Clark and he ran a great race. He looked like he was going to beat Blame, but Blame came and got him in the last jump or so.”
The Arizona native continued, “It is exciting to be able to say I bred a Grade I winner, especially a Big Cap winner. It is exciting when you breed the horse and it works out because 90% of the time it doesn’t work out.”
Baffert retired Misremembered in 2011 after he was injured when running second in the GII Oaklawn H. and he stood his first year at Hill ‘n’ Dale in 2012. The Hall of Famer moved the now 13-year-old stallion to California last year, standing him at BG Thoroughbreds, and transferred him to Barton Thoroughbreds in Santa Ynez this year.
“I thought we would bring him here because people in California know Misremembered. They watched him win the Big Cap,” Baffert explained. “I moved him to the Santa Ynez Valley this year because I think there are more mares in that area. The thing about California is they are spread out all over. It’s not like Kentucky where you can ship your mare 10 minutes, breed her and take her back. In California, you have to ship four or five hours to breed your horse. We stand Coil up there too”
In addition to Shameful and Indian Blessing, Misremembered bred another top mare in Hall of Famer Silverbulletday, who Baffert trained for longtime client Mike Pegram. The California-based conditioner hopes if Ax Man lives up to his early promise, it will also lead to big things for his sire, like more mares of that caliber.
“Ax Man can be any kind,” Baffert said. “That was pretty impressive the other day. [His half-sister] Indian Blessing was built for speed, but Misremembered has put that extra distance on him. I don’t think he will have a problem stretching out. You can tell by the way they come back after a race. He came back like it was nothing. He handled it really well and really professionally too. I see a lot of Candy Ride in him.”
He continued, “Misremembered has taught me a lot about the mare and stallion business. You need the good mares. We gave him a chance and I was happy about that. Candy Ride has made such an impact on the sport and can throw a freaky, brilliant horse. Now that Misremembered is in California, maybe we can kick start him here. The best advertisement is when you see one freak on the racetrack the way Ax Man did.”