David Hanley on Improbable's Encouraging Start

Improbable at WinStar | Sarah Andrew

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WinStar will launch four new stallions with first two-year-olds in 2024: Global Campaign, Improbable, Promises Fulfilled, and Tom's d'Etat, and it's Improbable who has come out swinging first at the sales. At OBS March, four of his colts brought six figures, selling for $475,000, $400,000, $300,000, and $250,000 and a first-crop filly fetched $140,000. The $400,000 colt, out of Libby's Tail, who breezed in 9.4 for Eddie Woods-one of three Improbables to hit that mark–was purchased in partnership by David Hanley, the Senior Vice President of Bloodstock Services at WinStar Farm, which stands Improbable. We talked to Hanley about the young sire.

TDN: What has the reaction to Improbable's first two-year-olds been like at the sale this week?

DH: People have liked them. We're extremely bullish on this horse because he was such a sound, top racehorse, having won four Grade Is over three years of training. He was also second in the Arkansas Derby and in the Breeders' Cup Classic. So he was a really exceptional athlete. The thing about him was how sound and how good a mover he was on the racetrack. He ran for three years and had 85 works in between all those races, and he never came back to the farm except to be freshened on one occasion. So he was an extremely sound and tough racehorse. He wasn't the biggest horse. But once we got him under tack, his athleticism on the racetrack was incredible. And when you looked at his works, every one was a carbon copies of the previous one. He worked five furlongs in a minute, and was so consistent. So we were waiting to see if he transferred that athleticism to his two-year-olds. And we're very happy to see that out of the ones he had here, there were four or five of them really showed up as very, very athletic horses. So we're really excited about the future with them.

TDN: You bought one yourself.

DH: We gave $400,000 for one (hip 395) and we were underbidder on another one. This horse was a leggy horse with a lot of scope and his breeze was really, really exceptional. His gallop out was spectacular. I was on the backside and he went by me like he could go around again after going in :9 4/5. And that's really what impressed us. I had seen him at Eddie Woods's and I was impressed with how he breezed out there. He had that tremendous bounce off his back end, and he did his breeze with ease. He wasn't under stress to do it. So, what we felt when we saw him was that he was very, very athletic and looked like he'd go two turns.

TDN: What is Improbable like himself, and is he stamping these two-year-olds?

DH: He wasn't the biggest horse himself in being by City Zip. What is very encouraging is that he seems to be throwing progeny with leg and stretch and with his motion and his athleticism. He got a great book of first mares. On the class performance index, his first book of mares was second only to what Authentic got. So these are the two-year-olds we're seeing now. The way the stallion business is right now, people wait and see. So, at $15,000 (from an initial stud fee of $40,000), I think he's great value right now and based on what his two-year-olds are like, we're really excited about what runners he's going to have. Obviously, he's in that third year and people are just waiting to see what happens.

TDN: He won Grade Is at two and four. What does that say to you?

Improbable (#2) rearing up in the gate before the start of the Whitney | Sarah Andrew

DH: He was a very good, undefeated two-year-old, winning the Los Al Futurity, and also the Street Sense at Churchill on the Breeders' Cup undercard, as well as his maiden. And then at three, quite honestly, he lost his way a little bit. He was second in the Arkansas Derby, but he had an incident in the gate in the previous race, the Rebel. That was in the spring of his three-year-old year. He was always an uptight horse, and after that, he was a little bit tentative in the gate and I think it affected his performance. But then he matured and relaxed and really showed just how good a horse he was as a four-year-old. So I think that was kind of how his career developed. It wasn't through any unsoundness or ability. But then we really saw what he was when he overcame all of that as a four-year-old, winning the Hollywood Gold Cup, Whitney, and Awesome Again and running second in the Breeders' Cup Classic to Authentic. Bob Baffert, the incredible horseman that he is, did such a good job getting him back to his best form.

All the trainers were saying these two-year-olds were beautiful movers. But we had to wait and see if they were going to show you that speed and, and he's answered that question with these :9 4/5 breezers. So that's very encouraging.

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