Flay's Two Colts–A Homebred and a Pinhook–On Target for Saratoga Sale

Bobby Flay celebrates Pizza Bianca's win in the 2021 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf Fillies. At Saratoga this year, he'll sell her  half-brother by Not This Time | Breeders' Cup/Eclipse Sportswire

The last few years of the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Yearling Sale have been very profitable ones for Bobby Flay's boutique breeding operation. In 2019, he topped the sale with First Captain (Curlin) out of his homebred mare America (A.P. Indy). In 2021, his Uncle Mo–Dame Dorothy colt brought $1.6 million, the second-highest price of the week. In 2022, First Captain's full-sister was the top filly at $2,000,000, and the second-highest price overall.

And it's no wonder: Flay admitted that he targets the sale, and calls the experience “one of my favorite weeks of the year.”

“I love the environment. I love the atmosphere. It's a giant cocktail party, and selling seven-figure horses that are handpicked as the top of the crop. Some of the best eyes in the business have picked those horses out physically and from a pedigree standpoint and said, `These are the top of the crop.' You can't really bring up a horse to Saratoga that doesn't really have some serious shine to it. All the best judges in the business look at every single horse, and a handful of times, so there's nothing slipping through the cracks. If you don't have a horse that people are going to get excited about, it's probably not the right place for it to be.”

But this August will mark a big shift for Flay, whose racing and breeding program was dealt a serious blow in September with the death of his long-term advisor James Delahooke. Delahooke, an industry icon who played a key role in the creation of the Juddmonte bloodlines, was not just an advisor, but a mentor and friend to Flay.

As such, his two on offer this year with consignor Stone Farm represent a little bit of the traditional, and a little something new.

Justify–Blossomed sells as hip 6 | Thorostride photo

Hip 6, a colt by Justify-Blossomed, by Deputy Minister, was selected for him by his new bloodstock advisor Tom McGreevy out of the Keeneland November Sale for $350,000; while hip 217, a half-brother to his Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf winner Pizza Bianca (Fastnet Rock {Aus}) by Not This Time, is a homebred out of White Hot, a purchased advised by Delahooke.

Pinhooking has not been a big part of Flay's playbook up until now, and has been an aspect of the game in which he has dabbled “very minimally” with “break-even to moderate success,” he says.
But if Delahooke taught him about pedigrees and families, McGreevy's forte is physicals, and Flay is benefitting from their expertise in each realm.

“James is not replaceable,” said Flay. “He taught me so much about this business. Every time that I spent time with him, I learned something new. James saw the whole picture. When you look at Juddmonte pedigrees and you look at the third and fourth dams of some of these great horses, James picked them out as yearlings. And so having James as one of my mentors in terms of buying fillies and mares is never going to be replaced.

“Last September, I had a conversation with Tom about coming onto my team, and the thing I love about Tom is that he is focused on what he wants to do. He wants to look at every horse at every sale, and he wants to find great physicals. That's what he cares about. He loves the physicality of the horse. He doesn't have to worry about the pedigrees. I'm going to take care of that. He doesn't have to worry about matings or anything like that. He tells me who he thinks are great physicals in the sale, and then I use that information to make decisions. And so far, it's been a great year. Now that I have Tom, I would consider all kinds of things that maybe I didn't consider before, just because he is such a great judge of physical. And so having him on my team gives me a tremendous amount of confidence.”

Hip 6, the Justify colt, is just one example.

“The typical horse that I look for, especially, has that great walk along with a lot of other things the agents look for–the conformation, the balance and everything,” said McGreevy, recalling his purchase of the colt as a weanling in November. “And there are intangibles, too, that we look at is; his attitude, how he handles the pressure of the sale. And he had all those qualities, I thought.”
McGreevy said that to him, the walk trumps everything.

“I still think the toughest thing to find on a horse is a really, really good walk, and he has that,” he said. “And I don't just mean they walk correctly, but they have that great athletic walk. I believe that to be able to do that, they have to have all the parts working together. That translates on the racetrack. That's how they move and how efficient they are.”

If the weanling and his page looked good last November, they look even better now. A half-brother to Grade I Spinaway winner Sippican Harbor (Orb) and the graded stakes placed Bodacious Babe (Mineshaft), the colt has received a timely update on his page with his full-sister, Awesome Result, now two-for-two in Japan since the November catalogue. And there's not a hotter sire than Justify, who has sired graded stakes winners in Europe and Australia in 2023, along with two Grade I winners in America-Arabian Lion and Aspen Grove.

Justify is doing so well,” said McGreevy. “He's really on fire not only in the United States but in Australia and England, France. So (hip 6) has a lot of encouraging things about him, not only as an individual, but he has a lot of star power going for him and the pedigree on the bottom side, as well.”

Said Flay, “Listen, this is why somebody like Tom McGreevy is so important to a program like this, because he sees things that I'm not going to ever see. It's like cooking. You need to know your limitations. Just because you can cook Italian food doesn't mean you can cook Chinese food. I really rely on him to pick out physicals that are developing. Obviously, these horses are young. You're trying to predict the future. Obviously, no one can do that 100% of the time, but I like his batting average a lot.”

Hip 217, Not This Time–White Hot colt | Thorostride photo

Like with all his mares, Flay planned the mating for hip 217.

“I became interested in Not This Time pretty early in his success,” he said. “You could see that something good was happening early on.” At the time he planned the mating, early in 2021, Pizza Bianca hadn't yet made her first start.

“I took a calculated risk with Not This Time, and then Pizza Bianca became Pizza Bianca, won the Breeders' Cup, and then at the same time, Not This Time has developed into one of the most important young stallions we have.”

Flay has retained both White Hot and Pizza Bianca, and both are at Stone Farm, in foal to Into Mischief.

There's no telling what buyers might find (hip 217) appealing, said Flay. “It's Saratoga. It's a hot, now somewhat-proven stallion, a young, exciting stallion. It's the physical, and it's the pedigree. And it's also now the race record under the first dam. So, up close, but also in terms of history, going back four dams, five dams, six dams, it's tough to beat this pedigree. Even if you didn't have Pizza Bianca in there, it's one of the best pedigrees in the world.”

It's a pedigree that could appeal to a broad cross-section of the yearling-buying market.

“If it were five years ago, I would say to you it's going to be somebody from Japan or it's going to be somebody from Europe. But now that grass racing is so incredibly important in this country and getting more and more important, it could be anybody. Not This Time can certainly get a dirt horse, and just because it's a Galileo mare doesn't mean they can't run on dirt at some point. I would just say don't try to figure out before the horse is running where the horse is going to run. The horse will tell you where it's going to run. But this is one of the world's great pedigrees, and if I'm buying a yearling, this is the pedigree that I'm looking at, for sure.”

This week, Songbird will be elected into the Hall of Fame, and Flay will be on hand to support the man who picked her out as a yearling at this sale nine years ago for owner Rick Porter-his new advisor, McGreevy.

“Songbird was one of my favorite fillies of all time,” said Flay. “Just the fact that I get to work with the guy that picked out the horse and the horse is now being inducted into the Hall of Fame, I feel really lucky. Losing James, as I said, is never going to be something I'm going to be able to replace, from a business standpoint and also as a friend standpoint. The guy was amazing, but I'm lucky that this new chapter is with Tom.”

Not a subscriber? Click here to sign up for the daily PDF or alerts.

Copy Article Link

Liked this article? Read more like this.

  1. Temperence Hill or Isaac Murphy Up 'Next' for Streaking Marathon Man After 45-60 Days Off
  2. Justify's Valentine Candy Dominates Oaklawn's Advent
  3. Keeneland Supplements 58 Horses To 2024 January Horses Of All Ages Sale
  4. The Week in Review: Takeaways from Justify-Scopolamine Verdict, and Other Thoughts
  5. Dec. 2 Insights: $1M Son of City of Light Looks to Shine in Big Apple

Never miss another story from the TDN

Click Here to sign up for a free subscription.