By Jessica Martini
Trainer Bob Baffert unveiled another promising sophomore Sunday when Joe and Scott Ford’s Westrock Stables’ Ike (Paynter) scored a gritty debut win at Santa Anita.
Asked for his expectations going into Sunday’s race, Scott Ford laughed, “We don’t have expectations anymore–we just hope. We were hopeful that he would show himself well. There were a couple of really nice horses in that race, so you never know. And it was 6 1/2 furlongs and he wasn’t in race shape, per se. Bob has just been trying to get him there. He called after and he said, ‘Now, he’s ready.’ Before that, he had said, ‘6 1/2 is a little far.’ But it worked out.”
Joe Ford founded Alltel and Scott was C.EO. of the telecommunications company until it was sold in 2009. The father/son team are co-founders of the investment firm Westrock Group.
Based in Little Rock, Arkansas, the Fords were initially involved in Quarter Horse racing before transitioning to Thoroughbreds in the mid-2000s. One of their earliest purchases was Ike’s dam Dreamcaster (GB) (Bernardini), who they purchased for $250,000 at the 2009 Keeneland November sale.
Also trained by Baffert, Dreamcaster was a debut winner at Del Mar in 2011, but was injured after a start in that year’s GI Del Mar Debutante.
“She ran twice and got hurt,” Ford said. “We were really, really excited about her.”
He added with a rueful chuckle, “She’s one of the reasons we no longer have any expectations. We just hope.”
The Westrock broodmare band has been cut back in recent years, but still includes Dreamcaster and graded stakes placed Heykittykittykitty (Tactical Cat).
“At one point a couple of years ago, we’d gotten up to about 12 or 14 [broodmares] and I think at this juncture we have three or four. Sometimes we breed them commercially and sometimes we breed them and keep them to race.”
One that looked destined for the sales ring was Ike, who worked a bullet quarter-mile in :21 2/5 at the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Sale in May.
“My father and I were battling back and forth,” Ford said. “We kept him because you don’t get too many chances with a horse like him. We don’t have expectations, but you don’t get too many along the way that at least have the potential to be a really fun horse. You get a lot of really nice horses, but every now and then you get one special. And he’s been special since he was a baby. We couldn’t part with him at the end of the day.”
Westrock Stables has campaigned graded stakes winners Secret Compass, Sky Kingdom, Den’s Legacy, Be Fair and Decelerator, as well as 2010 GI Kentucky Oaks third-place finisher Tidal Pool. In addition to Ike, the stable currently has three horses in training with Ron Moquett at Oaklawn Park and about eight 2-year-olds in Ocala with Ciaran Dunne.
All early signs are positive after Ike’s debut success Sunday.
“I have heard that he came back clean and all looks well,” Ford reported.