By Jon Green
The NFL Draft is one of my favorite non-sporting events of the year. Since I was a little kid, I pored over NCAA guides, NFL magazines and mock drafts. It is probably one of the primary reasons why I wanted to be a sportscaster/writer when I was growing up. I always marveled at professionals who could consistently and accurately predict if a college player was going to be a professional athlete.
So, one day before the Kentucky Derby, I took a page out of that book and went to Lexington to look at our mares, foals and yearlings. My primary goals were to take conformation notes on our horses, discuss which ones would be entered into the upcoming yearling sales and get an idea of how our current group of mares were doing physically.
It also provided the perfect distraction for me. A day out in the sun and fresh air would keep my mind away from the excitement and anxiety that will surely befall me this evening.
My wife Michelle and I met with our equine manager, Jeff Hayslett of Taylor Made Farm. Jeff has been working with us for almost 25 years and has been extremely influential with our breeding program. I consider him our most valuable advisor when it comes to our mares and matings; rarely do we make a major decision on that front without seeking his advice.
We looked at newborn foals by Bernardini, Hard Spun, Distorted Humor, More Than Ready, Medaglia d'Oro, and Kitten's Joy and mares carrying Street Sense, Uncle Mo, Constitution, Nyquist, War of Will and Medaglia d'Oro foals. I was reminded of how much our breeding program has developed over the years. We used to own mares in-foal to O.K. By You, Rare Performer, Young Bob, Big Burn, Cannonade, Rare Brick, etc. Not that we are pedigree snobs by any means. In fact, we have been very lucky buying prospects by less-proven stallions (our Champion filly Jaywalk is a daughter of Cross Traffic, Helium is by Ironicus, and Do It With Style was by Pancho Villa). But now we focus on mating to more commercial stallions in our breeding program and buying athletes with less popular pedigrees for our racing operation.
This weekend I will review my notes and Jeff's insight with my parents and sketch out a game plan for the upcoming yearling sales. The majority of our foal crop will be entered into one of the upcoming sales and we handicap which sale will be the best venue for each. Some foals will require extra time due to a late foaling date. They will be pointed to the October Sale, as are some of the less commercially pedigreed ones. We will also discuss which of our top prospects will be entered into the Fasig-Tipton select sales and which ones will be pointed for the Keeneland September Sale. But all the yearlings are discussed and graded with our full intention on trying to maximize their sales price.
So just like the NFL scouts, we too are attempting to project and pre-determine which of our athletes have the best attributes for future success.
On our drive back to Louisville my phone started to explode with the report that King Fury was scratched out of tomorrow's Kentucky Derby. That news shook me to the core and reminded me that although we are one day away from running, we are still a long way from watching our horse compete in the Derby. The racing gods are a cruel and fickle crew.
Jon Green is the General Manager for DJ Stable, and is chronicling his Kentucky Derby experience with Helium in the 2021 Derby.