By Jessica Martini
Mike Ryan is busy scouting yearlings in Kentucky ahead of the upcoming fall sales and won’t be at Saratoga this Saturday, but the bloodstock agent will still be well-represented on the upstate New York track’s super card. Ryan scored a memorable double in this year’s Triple Crown, having co-bred GI Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming (Bodemeister) and having purchased GI Preakness S. winner Cloud Computing (Maclean’s Music) on behalf of Seth Klarman’s Klaravich Stables and Bill Lawrence. Both Classic winners face off in the day’s main event, the GI Travers S.
“Winning the Derby was the achievement of my lifetime in the horse business,” Ryan said Wednesday. “It was so gratifying to do it with a horse I bred with Gerry Dilger and we still have the mare. It was a pretty phenomenal feeling and it doesn’t go away. We are still loving it.”
Ryan got a chance to see Always Dreaming train when he was in Saratoga for the sales last week and he thinks the colt is ready to move forward from his third-place finish in the July 29 GII Jim Dandy S.
“I was in Saratoga until Wednesday of last week and it looked like he was doing really well,” Ryan said. “I didn’t see him breeze Friday, but I saw him train earlier in the week on Oklahoma with Todd [Pletcher] and the horse looked like he was doing great. He was training very well and we’re keeping our fingers crossed that he can perform really well on Saturday.”
Cloud Computing, who won the Preakness in just his fourth career start, will be looking to improve on a fifth-place effort in the Jim Dandy. Ryan purchased the colt for $200,000 at the 2015 Keeneland September Yearling Sale.
“We are also really proud of Cloud Computing,” Ryan said. “I think he’s a very special horse, too. He is a magnificent-looking physical specimen. I think the Travers is going to be a great race and I think it will go a long ways to seeing who is the top 3-year-old in the country.”
Ryan also purchased Practical Joke (Into Mischief) on behalf of Klaravich Stables and Lawrence, paying $240,000 at the 2015 Keeneland September Sale. The sophomore will look to add a third Grade I to his resume in Saturday’s GI H. Allen Jerkens Memorial S. as he cuts back to seven furlongs off a third-place finish in the nine-furlong GI Haskell Invitational last time out July 30.
“Practical Joke has done everybody proud,” Ryan said. “He’s a really top horse and he’s undefeated going one turn. We’ll see what happens Saturday, but he’s a very legitimate horse.”
Practical Joke won last year’s GI Champagne S. and GI Hopeful S. and, after a fifth-place finish in the Kentucky Derby, won the July 8 GIII Dwyer S.
Ryan will be represented as an owner himself at Saratoga Saturday when Hunter O’Riley (Tiz Wonderful) goes postward in the GI Sword Dancer S. The 4-year-old, co-owned by Ryan and Sean Shay, was a $120,000 purchase at the 2014 Keeneland September sale and brought $50,000 at the 2015 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic sale. He is already a graded stakes winner at the Saratoga meeting having won the GII Bowling Green S.
“We bought him as a yearling,” Ryan said of Hunter O’Riley. “He went to the 2-year-old sales and myself and Sean Shay bought out the other partners. We’ve raced him since he was a 2-year-old.”
While his participation in the industry runs the gamut, Ryan admitted watching his colors cross the wire first was a special experience.
“I love every aspect of this business,” he said. “Breeding a Derby winner was just off the charts, but owning a good horse, selecting a good horse and having the confidence in him to go on with him and win a Grade II at Saratoga, it doesn’t get much better than that. We participate in every part of the business, as an owner, a breeder, we sell yearlings that we’ve bred, we buy to race, we buy to re-sell. But it’s particularly rewarding running one that you own and having the thrill of winning a race like the Bowling Green at Saratoga. It’s pretty damn special. It’s a wonderful feeling.”
Ryan, whose 2017 successes also include e Five Racing’s GI Belmont Oaks winner New Money Honey (Medaglia d’Oro) and Klaravich and Lawrence’s unbeaten GII National Museum of Racing Hall of Fame S. winner Bricks And Mortar (Giant’s Causeway), was making the rounds at various farms to inspect yearlings Wednesday afternoon, looking for his next great acquisition.
“That’s what they pay me to do,” he laughed. And the Irishman already has his Saturday planned out.
“I am going to work on Saturday morning, until lunchtime, 1 p.m., and then I’m going to go home and watch it all on T.V. There is too much work to do–I’m trying to see as many yearlings as I can before the sales.”
Despite the frenetic schedule, Ryan is clearly a man enjoying what he is doing.
“It’s a passion,” he said. “I am motivated to be better and to do better every year. It’s very stimulating and very challenging and extremely rewarding. When the whole thing culminates into success for the owners you’re working for, it’s very gratifying and very rewarding.”