Celebrating 10 Years in U.S., Don Alberto Sends Star-Studded Lineup to Keeneland

Unique Bella's Into Mischief colt will sell as Hip 382 late in the second session of Keeneland September Sara Gordon

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It's a summer of firsts for Don Alberto.

In June, the international operation owned by Liliana Solari and her son Carlos Heller celebrated the first Grade I winner in the United States bred by their American base when Arcangelo (Arrogate) scored in a historic edition of the GI Belmont S. Now, they are preparing to send 50 homebreds to the Keeneland September Sale. The contingent is led by an Into Mischief colt out of champion racemare Unique Bella (Tapit) who will be the first of their prized mare's progeny to sell at auction.

Ten years ago, Don Alberto expanded from its successful breeding and racing base in Chile when they purchased the former Vinery Farm in Kentucky and then went on a shopping spree at the fall breeding stock sales, grossing $10.64 million in purchases at the Keeneland November Sale alone. Since then, the operation has emerged in the headlines from a different perspective as a commercial breeder. Recent highlights include their sale of the highest-priced yearling sold in North America in 2021–a $2.6 million Into Mischief colt out of GI Test S. winner Paola Queen (Flatter).

Next week at Keeneland, the farm will offer nine yearlings in Book 1. With six fillies and three colts in the lineup, each member of the assembly hails from a dam that claimed blacktype on the racetrack and four are out of Grade I winners.

“I would say this is as strong as we've ever been coming into Keeneland Book 1,” said Reed Ringler, the COO of Don Alberto's U.S. operation. “Just an incredible depth, great sire power and out of fantastic mares that we've been procuring for the last ten years here in Kentucky.”

Selling with Taylor Made Sales, Unique Bella's colt may share the same flashy coloring as his dam, but the eye-catching gray seems to have inherited the physical of his sire.

“I think this horse is more like Into Mischief,” Ringler explained. “He's got some stretch to him and he is medium-sized, a very well-balanced colt. He has a big walk on him. He's a May foal, so there is a lot of room for growth. We're very excited about him and we have high hopes for this horse on the big night.”

Unique Bella was the first horse to claim a Grade I on American soil for Don Alberto's racing stable back in 2017. She would go on to earn Eclipse honors for top female sprinter that year and was then named champion older dirt female the following season.

The mare's first two foals were retained by the farm. Her 3-year-old unraced daughter Una Bella d'Oro (Medaglia d'Oro) is now carrying her first foal by Mandaloun and her 2-year-old colt Ultra Power (Curlin) is in training with Bob Baffert. The juvenile ran sixth at Del Mar on debut on Aug. 25, but Ringler said the colt is expected to thrive later this season going two turns.

Salty's Tapit filly at the Gainesway consignment | Sara Gordon

Ringler also noted that their team believes they have found the right match for Unique Bella in Into Mischief, explaining that the mare's foal of this year by the Spendthrift supersire is just as impressive as her older brother.

“Unique Bella is a big, strong mare and I think what we found with Into Mischief is that we really hit the bull's-eye as we were looking for that racey athlete,” he said.

Ringler added that because the operation now has a colt and a filly from their star mare, they believed this was the right time to offer one of her progeny to the market. Selling as Hip 382, the yearling will be one of the final hips to go through the ring during the second session of Book 1.

Earlier in the second day of the sale, another high-profile Don Alberto mare will be represented by her first foal to go to auction. Salty (Quality Road), who claimed the GI La Troienne S. in 2018, was purchased by Don Alberto later that year for $3 million. Her first foal Safiri, an unraced filly by Tapit, was retained by Don Alberto and bred to Mandaloun this year. Salty's second daughter by Tapit will sell as Hip 301 with Gainesway.

Hip 220, by Candy Ride (Arg), is the first foal out of Grade III winner Magic Star and sells with Denali Stud | Sara Gordon

“She looks a lot like her daddy,” Ringler noted. “She's going to turn a lot of heads when she walks out. She's a beautiful, early type and out of a Grade I-winning mare, so we're very hopeful and very blessed.”

Don Alberto's legion of Book 1-bound fillies also includes Hip 19–an Into Mischief half-sister to MGISW American Gal (Concord Point), Hip 20–a daughter of Uncle Mo out of GI Chandelier S. winner Angela Renee (Bernardini), Hip 69–a Quality Road filly out of GI La Brea S. victress Constellation (Bellamy Road), Hip 217–another Tapit whose dam Luminance (Tale of the Cat) was second in the GI Santa Anita Oaks, and finally Hip 297–an American Pharoah half-sister to stakes winner Rubilinda (Frankel).

With a majority of fillies coming out of this year's crop of yearlings, Ringler said the decision regarding which youngsters would go to auction was not an easy one.

“This year is exceptionally hard with the fillies coming out of these pedigrees,” he admitted. “Carlos [Heller Solari] and I just had a meeting about how hard this game is and it gets harder the bigger the decisions get. We are commercial and we do bring most of our horses to market, but when we identify horses that are maybe undervalued, we're going to keep them and race them. We're strong judges, but Carlos knows it's a business. We were filly heavy this crop and we thought it was the right thing to bring them to market to let other people see what we're building at Don Alberto.”

Don Alberto's Book 1 group is rounded out by two additional colts. Hip 220, a Candy Ride (Arg) colt consigned with Denali Stud, is the first foal out of Grade III victress Magic Star (Scat Daddy). Hip 377 by Curlin is a son of Grade III winner Touching Beauty (Tapit) and will sell with Hill 'n' Dale at Xalapa.

Hip 19, a half-sister to GISW American Gal, by Into Mischief | Sara Gordon

Don Alberto will be represented well on past Book 1, but the breeding operation has proven that they can produce a top-level horse in the later books.

Dual Grade I winner Arcangelo (Arrogate) slipped through the September Sale in 2021 when he sold for just $35,000 to Jon Ebbert in Book 3. His dam Modeling (Tapit), who hails from influential Broodmare of the Year Better Than Honour, was a $2.85 million purchase for Don Alberto in 2014, but Arcangelo's immaturity and smaller stature as a May foal kept him off most lists.

“The great thing about Keeneland is that there is value everywhere,” Ringler explained. “You never know where you're going to find an Arcangelo and that's why you come here to shop. The dam of Arcangelo was one of our foundation mares so to get our first Classic winner with a horse that is this special for his connections, it's just been a wonderful year.”

While health issues have prevented Modeling from producing another foal since Arcangelo, Don Alberto does have his half-sister Madison Square (Medaglia d'Oro) in their broodmare band.

With just over 100 mares on their farm in Lexington, the Don Alberto product may continue to evolve, but their philosophy stays the same.

“When Ms. Liliana and Carlos came here, their passion for racing and pedigrees was already globally known,” said Ringler. “They came here with a plan. We've adapted a bit to American commercial appeal and I think we're seeing that on the racetrack now. Carlos has big goals. He wants to win the Kentucky Derby. He wants to compete in all the big Classics. But I think more importantly, we want to further the breed, be a good steward of the industry and continue to develop relationships.”

“Ms. Liliana lights up around all of her horses,” he continued. “You can see her love and passion for all of her horses and it really flows through to our entire staff. You can see the love they give to every horse and I hope that when the world sees our horses at Keeneland, they see that love and that care coming through with all of our yearlings.”

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