Bellamy Helping All Roads Lead to New York

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Bellamy Road’s Diversify | Sarah K. Andrew

By Chris McGrath

A lot of water has passed under the Brooklyn Bridge since the Finger Lakes upstart Fio Rito landed the Whitney in 1981, the first Grade I race ever won by a New York-bred. It ranked, and rankled, as the biggest piece of local effrontery since Mr Right beat Damascus himself in the 1968 Woodward. But if Funny Cide (Distorted Humor) has since served as flagship, in the 2003 Kentucky Derby, then the same tide now seems to be bearing a positive armada of NY-breds to open-race success (click here to read Joe Bianca’s TDN feature on “The Summer of the New York-Bred”).

After GI Florida Derby winner Audible (Into Mischief) lit up the spring, home-state runners have become a defining motif of the Saratoga summer. On the same day that Fasig-Tipton opened a state-bred yearling sale that would shatter all records, Voodoo Song (English Channel) won the GI Fourstardave H.–a race, of course, named for the backyard hero who won a race here in eight consecutive years. The other graded stakes on the card, the GII Adirondack S., meanwhile fell to Sue’s Fortune (Jump Start); while over in Chicago, Fourstar Crook (Freud) failed by just half a length in the GI Beverly D.

But perhaps the ultimate register of the boom had come the previous weekend, when Diversify (Bellamy Road) beat Mind Your Biscuits (Posse) for a New York exacta in the Whitney, thought to be unprecedented at Grade I level.

All this is gratifying testimony to the work of the New York Breeding and Development Fund, which has harnessed slots revenues to pay out $17 million annually in bonus awards and purse endowments. Breeder awards comprise 30% of prizemoney for state-sired winners (also 15% place money); and 15% (7.5% place) for NY foals by external sires.

His Whitney earnings took Mind Your Biscuits, now exploring two turns after his lucrative migrations to the desert, past $4 million as the state’s richest runner. But it was the winner, gliding clear in the slop, who set up the possibility of a new frontier this fall, as an East Coast slugger to square up to Accelerate (Lookin At Lucky) in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. In the process, moreover, Diversify showcased a sire who gives a literal quality to the gravitation of better and better stock to this neighbourhood.

For while Bellamy Road was still in Kentucky when visited by a mare named Rule One (Street Cry {Ire}), the blossoming of their son over the past year–Diversify made his Grade I breakthrough in the Jockey Club Gold Cup last autumn–has given timely focus to a radical consolidation of local sire power, just down the road from Saratoga.

Last year it was announced that Bellamy Road would be among the stallions united at Irish Hill Century Farm under the single banner of Irish Hills & Dutchess Views Stallions LLC. At a stroke this became the largest stud in the region, with Sunrise Stallions meanwhile sending Big Brown (Boundary) and the Giant’s Causeway pair of Frost Giant and Heavy Breathing onto the same roster.

Bellamy Road had only arrived at Dutchess Views near Pine Plains for the 2016 season, from WinStar in Kentucky (who retained an interest). Now 16, and standing at $6,000, he has every right to catch a tailwind from Diversify and hopefully, after a somewhat peripatetic career to this point, to become a fixture of the flourishing local industry.

Bellamy Road has always been an interesting challenge to breeders, who tend to like champions to emerge seamlessly from conventional backgrounds. But freak talents are always wholesome: they make us think about the genetic variegation that underpins all good horses.

A lot of people treat the stuff that can’t fit a catalogue page as too tenuous for attention–until, that is, they come across a horse of extraterrestrial capacity like Bellamy Road, and find that he is by Concerto (Chief’s Crown) out of a Deputed Testamony (Traffic Cop) mare. Then, of course, they go scurrying gratefully to the sires of his next several dams (Cozzene, Mr Prospector, Damascus, Buckpasser etc). But you can’t have it both ways.

At least there could be no mystery about the mechanical seat of Bellamy Road’s destructive running style. For when he launched himself on the 2005 Triple Crown trail, he did so like a great dark galleon in full sail: rigging, bridge and hull were constructed with terrific bone and range.

Having won his first two starts at two, he disappointed as favorite in his Grade I debut but then resurfaced the following spring with a runaway allowance success. In the GI Wood Memorial, he then produced one of the most jaw-dropping Kentucky Derby rehearsals in history, winning by 17 1/2 lengths and equalling a 32-year-old track record, for a 120 Beyer. At that stage he really looked one for the ages, and the hype was not diminished by the fact that he ran in the Kinsman Stable silks of George Steinbrenner, who also owned the New York Yankees and was hardly a bashful type.

Bellamy Road duly started favorite at Churchill but managed only seventh behind Giacomo, evidently returning with an injury. Though he made a decent resumption when second to Flower Alley in the Travers, that proved to be it. Nick Zito tried again at four but the horse was ultimately retired after seven starts, a torch that had burned fiercely but briefly.

With size, scope and an unflinching ability to carry his speed, Bellamy Road found plenty of breeders prepared to take a chance on his left-field pedigree: he covered 137 mares in his first season, and 90 the next.

On the face of it, many would have been reassured that Bellamy Road bore so little resemblance to his sire, a nimble chestnut who ended up in Panama. But not, to be fair, before he also produced Rigoletta, herself a Grade I winner at two and since responsible for last year’s Kentucky Derby third and GI Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner Battle Of Midway (Smart Strike), now at WinStar.

Concerto had taken a five-win streak into the 1997 Kentucky Derby before fading into midfield, and retired to Ocala Stud as a consistent second-tier millionaire. His third book, at $3,500, included a young mare named Hurry Home Hillary. She was a daughter of Deputed Testameny, Maryland’s hometown shocker through a slop for the 1983 Preakness–and a thoroughly anonymous stallion.

But we have already noted that the bottom line, thereafter, strings together a series of contrastingly resonant sires–and not without due cause. Hurry Home Hillary’s third dam Arabian Dancer (Damascus), runner-up in the G1 Matron S., was a half-sister to multiple Grade 1 winner Versailles Treaty (Danzig); and their dam Ten Cents A Dance (Buckpasser) was a half-sister to General Assembly out of a half-sister to Exclusive Native.

In other words, Bellamy Road had a lot more in his favour than realised by those who think a pedigree falls off the edge of the world with the end of a catalogue page.

Unfortunately, by the time Bellamy Road started out–initially at Hurricane Hall, then at Pauls Mill–nearly two years had passed since from his mind-blowing exhibition in the Wood; and he would then launch his first foals into a market crash. That represented a pretty tight pincer and Bellamy Road suffered a steep slump in his third and fourth seasons, which together yielded just 63 foals.

But things meanwhile started happening quickly on the track. Bellamy Road’s first crop included Adirondack winner Position Limit; and then a very apt Grade I flagship, Toby’s Corner, bred like Bellamy Road himself by Dianne Cotter and winner of the very race in which his sire had flabbergasted the racing world, the Wood Memorial. And it seemed that Bellamy Road, reputed to be a laidback and obliging animal, was also passing on a good outlook.

So a reprieve came quickly: a move to WinStar for 2012, when he covered 140 mares (up from 46 in 2011) at a fee doubled to $20,000. The resulting crop featured GI La Brea S. winner Constellation and also Land Over Sea, runner-up in the GI Kentucky Oaks and winner of the GII Fair Grounds Oaks. And Diversify, if a rather slower burn, is himself also a graduate of this crop.

Diversify was sold at the 2014 New York sale in Saratoga for $150,000, but had only advanced his value to $210,000 when sold at Keeneland November 2016. Unraced until that July, he had easily won his first couple of starts and–restored to trainer Rick Violette Jr. by his new owners–really began to find his feet last summer. Having been largely confined to state-bred company before his breakout in the GI Jockey Club Gold Cup, Diversify resumed his progress this year in the Commentator S. at Belmont. He then romped in the GII Suburban S., and added his own name to the Whitney roll of honor (on which the NY-bred Commentator appears twice).

On the face of it, limited recent distinction in the maternal family of Diversify–actually one of the oldest native to the U.S.–would seem to speak well of his sire’s input. Fred W. Hertrich III, his co-breeder with John D. Fielding, signed for the dam Rule One for €57,000 at Keeneland November 2010, after she failed to win in half a dozen starts for owner/breeder Earle Mack. But her son has moved her up in the world and, after delivering a More Than Ready (Southern Halo) colt in February, she was bred to Tapit (Pulpit).

If anything, the family might play well on turf: the damsire Street Cry (Ire) (Machiavellian) has a ton of grass behind him, while the second dam is by El Prado, and has produced a Grade III winner on turf. And you do get a chink of quality through the next dam, as a half-sister to GII Alcibiades S. winner and GI Breeders’ Cup Fillies’ Juvenile runner-up Private Treasure (Explodent). One way or another, anyhow, the mix has worked wonders in Diversify. And if he just seems to gets better with maturity, as a gelding he doesn’t have to be in any kind of hurry.

As such, Diversify himself will not be able to extend his contribution to the New York program into a second career. But he has at least highlighted a sire who no longer needs mares to leave the state for an assignation. That’s what Diversify’s dam had to do, remember, before returning to deliver a foal eligible for a premium. Now that Bellamy Road has gone native, his foals will be rewarded at double the rate; they will also qualify for the New York Stallion Stakes Series.

At one point, not so long ago, sire and state seemed to be sharing the road to nowhere. Now both are back in the fast lane.

 

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