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Grass is Greener for Klaravich

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Newspaperofrecord | Breeders’ Cup/Eclipse Sportswire

By Kelsey Riley

When ‘TDN Rising Star’ Newspaperofrecord (Ire) (Lope de Vega {Ire}) stormed to her third successive dominant win in the Nov. 2 GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies’ Turf, she ensured that her connections’ experiment to import yearlings purchased at Tattersalls to race in the U.S. would go down as a resounding success.

That part of the story has been well-documented. It is also worth reflecting on what this experiment means as a microcosm for the undeniable growth of grass racing in America.

Owner Seth Klarman and trainer Chad Brown didn’t need to go to Europe to find good racehorses. Klarman, under his Klaravich Stables moniker, has raced Grade I winners like Cloud Computing (Maclean’s Music) and Practical Joke (Into Mischief), both trained by Brown. Brown is, of course, one of the preeminent trainers in the U.S. and the dominant top-level turf trainer. Brown’s best horses have included both American-breds and European imports sent to him with form.

But these are both men who see opportunity and grab it; they didn’t reach the top of their respective professions by resting in their comfort zones.

There is nothing new about importing European horses to America (and vice versa) and winning races. But during a time when high quality turf racing in the U.S. is growing sharply, the fact that a pair of dyed-in-the-wool Americans considered it worthwhile to put the time, effort and expense into selecting and shipping a handful of yearlings from Newmarket to the U.S. when they were having plenty of success otherwise should be considered significant.

Brown said minutes after Newspaperofrecord’s Breeders’ Cup win, “We decided to go over [to Tattersalls] and try a new market because we’re always looking to change our model a little bit, and studying the races over here-yes, I’ve had success in this race before with the American-bred horses, but I also have a division of my stable where I get a lot of imported horses that we try to buy or owners just send to me from Europe.”

“Just thinking forwardly, I said to Seth, ‘would you be open to buying some yearlings [in Europe]?’ If we want to have some of these European-bred horses that I feel on the average just have better blood for running on turf courses-like this today and at a high level all over the world-then we’re going to have to go in and buy some unraced ones. He said, ‘sure, we’ll go over there and try it.'”

Another of the vital cogs in the experiment was bloodstock agent Mike Ryan, who helped Klaravich Stables pick out six yearlings at Tattersalls last year and 10 this year. The Irish-born Ryan has been living in America for the better part of 40 years.

“It began through Chad,” Ryan said. “Chad and I have been friends for seven or eight years now and we began to work together five or six years ago. I had some horses with him and I sent him some owners like Bill Warren and Bob Edwards. Our relationship has grown over the years and we have a great mutual respect. I think he’s an incredible trainer, and he sought out my help to help him pick yearlings at the sales and it’s worked very well.”

“Seth [Klarman] likes to have a balanced stable,” Ryan continued. “He loves racing, period, and he particularly loves Saratoga; he races primarily in New York. Having Chad as his trainer, Chad is equally adept at dirt and grass horses and the grass program is fantastic in the States and it’s getting better and better. Almost half of our Breeders’ Cup races are grass races. It was a natural progression for Seth and when Chad brought up the idea of going to Newmarket, Seth was fully on board with it and very supportive of the concept.”

Ryan has laid his eyes on enough good horses to know one when he sees one-he even worked at Windfields Farm in Canada during the Northern Dancer glory days-and he said when selecting European yearlings to race in the U.S. he looks for a leaner horse with the potential for a strong finishing kick.

“Personally I don’t like horses that are too heavy,” he said. “I think the best grass horses are a bit on the leaner side. They have to have a good turn of foot. Turf racing is a bit different to dirt; dirt is fast from the gate to the wire but with turf racing a lot of horses cruise around there then kick on from the quarter pole to the wire and finish the last quarter in :22 and change. I like leaner horses, not heavy horses and ones that can use themselves very well and are agile and not cumbersome. In this country we have good to firm turf most of the year so we’re looking for horses that can handle fast ground.”

During a time when speed is king in Europe, Ryan noted that the Klaravich team is looking specifically for two-turn horses to take advantage of good purses in that realm on the grass in the U.S. They have also done all their shopping at Tattersalls in the middle market; Newspaperofrecord’s group averaged 219,167gns, while this year’s haul averaged 213,500gns.

“We’re not particularly looking at sprinters; we’re looking at horses that can go anywhere from a mile to a mile and a quarter because there is huge purse money in the longer races here,” Ryan explained. “It’s very difficult to compete on the very high end against the Middle East money, the Maktoum family and Coolmore. Although we did buy a Dubawi in 2017, the Dubawis and the Galileos we kind of leave alone and look underneath that. We’re looking for the next best quality, sires like Lope de Vega, Sea the Stars and Kingman.”

“They have the best turf horses in the world in England and Ireland, and the Newmarket sales are a melting pot of the best of England, Ireland and France, so you have great quality of stallions and the broodmares are very strong. It’s a terrific catalogue and we work it very hard; we look at 350, 400 horses and try to be smart about knowing where we can buy and where we can’t buy.”

While Newspaperofrecord is the lone horse of the Klaravich Tattersalls experiment to yet start, Ryan said others have given them reason to believe there will be more headlines made in 2019 and beyond.

“There were others that were ready to run and they came up with little issues that have cost us time, but there will be a strong group of 3-year-olds next year and a strong oncoming group of 2-year-olds,” he said.

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