By Katie Petrunyak
Three Chimneys Farm's stallion sensation Gun Runner set a new record for progeny earnings by a first-crop sire last year, headlined by six stakes winners including champion Echo Zulu, but the striking son of Candy Ride (Arg) was just getting started in 2021. When Klaravich Stables' Early Voting captured the GI Preakness S., Gun Runner added a fifth tally to his remarkable count of Grade I winners from his first crop.
Early Voting's win at Pimlico was worth celebrating at Three Chimneys for more reasons than one. Not only did the Preakness score give Gun Runner his first American Classic winner, but Early Voting also became the first Classic victor bred by Three Chimneys under the Borges-Torrealba family banner.
“Early Voting's Preakness win was a significant achievement for the farm,” said Three Chimneys Farm's Rebecca Nicholson. “It's what we strive to do every day-to breed, raise, sell and race horses at the top level of the sport. We couldn't be more pleased with Gun Runner's performance as a sire. It's just exceptional what he's done. Mr. Torrealba always referred to him as a horse of a lifetime and he's certainly proving that.”
The mating that produced Early Voting reflects Three Chimneys Farm's efforts to rise to the top of the industry over the past decade. In the same year that the Borges-Torrealba family acquired the farm in 2013, they also purchased Early Voting's dam Amour d'Ete (Tiznow), a daughter of successful producer Silken Cat (Storm Cat), at the Keeneland September Sale for $1.75 million.
“It was a pretty hefty price tag, but she was a big, pretty filly and a half-sister to Speightstown, so she had residual value as a broodmare,” Nicholson explained. “Unfortunately she never made it to the races due to an injury, so she was integrated into our broodmare band in 2015.”
Amour d'Ete received a pedigree update soon after when her full-brother Irap became a multiple graded stakes winner. Three Chimneys did send the young mare through the auction ring in 2016, but she did not meet her reserve.
Nicholson said that when Horse of the Year Gun Runner retired to stud in 2018, sending Amour d'Ete to their new stallion had been a no-brainer.
“We thought the speed in her family would complement Gun Runner's brilliance quite well,” she said. “The hypothetical foal was going to be a four-by-three cross to Storm Cat.”
In retrospect, the mating was even more of an obvious choice. Five of Gun Runner's seven graded stakes winners, including three of his five Grade I winners, carry the Storm Cat line on their damside.
After Early Voting took the second leg of the Triple Crown, Three Chimneys broodmare manager Richard Nolen went back to find his notes on the colt's early days on the farm.
“He always received positive comments,” Nolen reflected. “No one ever had anything negative to say about him. He was correct in his legs and was a really nice foal.”
One thing Nolen does remember well about a young Early Voting was his attitude.
“He was an easy foal to work with and was teachable,” he explained. “With the good ones, they have their own independence. They're strong-willed, but not fighters.”
Early Voting had the disadvantage of going through the sales ring during an uncertain market in 2020. Selling in Book 2 of the Keeneland September Sale, he brought just over his reserve and sold to Triphammer Farm for $200,000.
“We were actually a bit disappointed with the result,” Nicholson admitted. “We had him valued a little higher, but luckily he caught the attention of Mike Ryan, who purchased him and incorporated him into Chad Brown and Klaravich Stables' program. They have done a phenomenal job with the colt. At the end of the day, we do breed to race a lot of our stock, but we're also a commercial operation that puts a lot of quality stock into the market.”
Amour d'Ete has visited Gun Runner twice more since the meeting that produced Early Voting. She has a 2-year-old Gun Runner filly that will be retained for the Three Chimneys broodmare band and she was bred to the same stallion again this year.
“It was actually a mating that we determined back in November before Early Voting had gotten any blacktype because we were seeing the pattern with Gun Runner crossing really well with Storm Cat-line mares,” Nicholson pointed out.
Amour d'Ete also has a yearling filly by Constitution in the pipeline that is pointing for the Keeneland September Sale.
Nolen said that Amour d'Ete is everything he looks for in an outstanding broodmare. He explained that while the Tiznow mare stands at over 16'2 hands, her strength and size complement her elegance and femininity.
“Amour d'Ete has a pedigree next to none, but when you walk up to her knowing that she's got that kind of pedigree, you look at her eye and she's such an elegant mare,” he noted. “She's so beautiful and she has class, just true class. [Her offspring] are all correct and look racy.”
In April this year, Amour d'Ete produced a filly from the first crop of Three Chimneys-based Grade I winner Volatile.
“This filly looks like a rocket,” Nolan said. “She looks like she could just outrun the wind. She's gorgeous, elegant and she has a beautiful head.”
Could Volatile soon become the next superstar stallion for Three Chimneys?
“We're very pleased with Volatile's first crop of foals,” Nicholson reported. “We have an exceptional group here at Three Chimneys. We bred 13 mares to him last year and we're breeding 18 mares to the stallion this year. He tends to throw a lot of size and scope, as well as strength and substance. They look like they're going to be fast horses and I'm excited for them to hit the market in November.”