By Ben Massam
“Inside the Winner’s Circle, Presented by Keeneland” is a series showcasing graduates of the Keeneland September sale that have gone on to achieve success on racing’s biggest stages.
Mark Taylor always knew Roaring Lion (Kitten’s Joy) had quality as a yearling. He was sired by a top-class stallion in Kitten’s Joy, came from a successful female family with deep ties to Taylor Made and moved like poetry in motion when he opened up his stride in the fields of Taylor Made Farm. The promising colt, who was bred by Jan Vandebos Naify’s RanJan Racing and raised on a tract of land at the Taylor Made property that had yielded the likes of champions Speightstown and Ashado, seemed destined to a successful career on the racetrack.
Flash forward two years, the beautiful moving colt with a powerful stride has realized that potential–and more–on the racetrack. Acquired by the shrewd eye of bloodstock agent David Redvers on behalf of Qatar Racing for $160,000 as a Keeneland September yearling, the gray made an immediate impact as an American-bred competing on the English turf. His crowning achievement to date came last Saturday, when he uncorked a powerful stretch rally to capture the G1 Coral-Eclipse S.
As Roaring Lion engaged in his literal uphill battle in the stretch run at Sandown Park, there were understandably a number of interested viewers watching from afar back in Jessamine County, Kentucky.
“It was so exciting,” said Taylor. “He was wide and it didn’t look like he was going to get up. He’s just such a class horse. When he hit the wire, his ears were straight up, twitching back and forth. He just had this look in his eye like he knew he had won. He understands the game–he was so professional.”
In the aftermath of the race, Taylor took some time to reflect on the colt’s early days on the farm.
“He was just a beautiful mover,” Taylor said. “He was a good-looking horse standing there on the end of the shank. But when he took off moving, it was like, ‘Wow.’ He went from being okay to really sexy once he started moving. The way he would unhinge his shoulders and how fluid he was in his walk, he just had this swagger to him–you could just sit there and watch it all day… He was very straightforward. There’s no story about how he had to overcome this or that.”
Following in the footsteps in the same pastures as a number of accomplished Aaron and Marie Jones horses–most recently MGSW & MGISP Irap (Tiznow)–Roaring Lion was entered in Book 1 of the September Sale with high hopes.
Yet while the colt’s time as a yearling was decidedly straightforward, his reception on the sales grounds was a bit more complicated. Taylor observed that because Roaring Lion had a pedigree that crossed an exceptional turf stallion with a female line that enjoyed most of its success on dirt, many buyers did not know what to make of him.
Without obvious appeal to high-budget European buyers and Classic-seeking American buyers, the door was left open to an opportunistic investor with a discerning eye.
“Kitten’s Joy is a world-class stallion, but he’s definitely got more of a turf resume,” Taylor said. “Roaring Lion is out of a Street Sense mare, but had more of a dirt pedigree. Where do you put a horse like this? He ended up being in Book 1, but he was what I call a ‘tweener.’ He had turf appeal, and I think that’s why David Redvers ended up landing on him… He wasn’t incredibly expensive. I think a lot of the American buyers looked past him because they thought he would be a grass horse, and that’s not what they’re first looking for.”
Crediting Redvers for snagging the colt for a seemingly modest price, Taylor said that Roaring Lion is a testament to the depth of the catalog at Keeneland September.
“Year after year, it’s such a unique thing with the volume of quality that’s there,” Taylor said. “It gives buyers a chance to find a world-class horse at a reasonable price. If you work the sale and you know what you’re looking for–and you got to find your spot–there’s nothing like Keeneland September for buyers across the world and in America.”
A large factor in any consignor’s success, of course, is ensuring that their horses land in capable hands, and Roaring Lion’s achievement at the highest level on the racetrack helped bolster an already substantial legacy of success at Taylor Made.
“It’s a great sense of pride,” Taylor said. “He was the 99th Grade/Group 1 winner that we’ve either raised on the farm or sold for our customers, and later that same day Catholic Boy (More Than Ready) became the 100th. Grade I winners are so hard to come by, and getting to 100 is a testimonial to the quality of customer base we’ve been able to grow over the years and the stability of great team members that try to serve our customers the best we can year in and year out.”
Taylor Made’s longstanding partnership with the Naify family has yielded significant results, with Roaring Lion and Bronson (Medaglia d’Oro)–a half-brother to Roaring Lion’s dam Vionnet (Street Sense)–carrying the banner in recent years. Bronson sold for $350,000 at Keeneland September and recently finished third in the GIII Louisville H. May 19.
“The family that he’s from has been just amazingly consistent producing stakes horses over the last decade,” Taylor said. “His granddam [MGSW] Cambiocorsa has just been an amazing producer. All [of her progeny] had been bred by Jan Naify and her late husband Bob. They did a really nice job developing that family. The third dam, Ultrafleet, is by Afleet, who was one of the first stallions that Taylor Made was involved with as the co-syndicate manager with John Gaines. It’s funny, I think when I was in high school, my brother Duncan had me going out and taking Polaroid photos of every mare that was bred to Afleet that year so we could track their conformation. I think I went and took a picture of Social Conduct, the fourth dam.”
Although Taylor Made has had more than its fair share of success stories over the years, Taylor said seeing one of their horses go on to Grade/Group 1 glory never gets old–particularly when the ties to the family are so deeply embedded in the farm’s history.
“It just makes you proud to be somehow associated with developing that kind of racehorse,” Taylor concluded.