By Steve Sherack
The buying team at Spendthrift Farm had it down to two different 2-year-old colts from the first crop of the late Harlan's Holiday at the 2007 OBS March Sale. Did they ever pick the right one.
Into Mischief (Harlan's Holiday–Leslie's Lady, by Tricky Creek), winner of the GI CashCall Futurity and the back-to-back reigning champion general sire, got the final nod of the pair, bringing $180,000 from B. Wayne Hughes's operation following a :10 2/5 breeze.
The striking blaze-faced bay–standing the 2021 season for $225,000 at Spendthrift Farm–graces the cover of this year's OBS March catalog ahead of the two-day sale, slated for next Tuesday and Wednesday in Ocala with sessions beginning daily at 11 a.m.
“I can't remember who had the other Harlan's Holiday [13 were entered], but the last day we looked, we literally went from one to the other, just to compare them directly,” Spendthrift Yearling Manager Seth Semkin said.
“They were actually very similar looking. Harlan's Holiday stamped them quite a bit as far as how they looked. At the time, Richard Mandella was coming to the sales with us. Into Mischief was over in the knee a little bit, but those were the kinds of things that were Richard's call, and it didn't bother him. We went and looked at the videos again, and at the end of that little process, thankfully, we decided on Into Mischief.”
Five juveniles shared the :10 flat bullet–two ticks faster than Into Mischief's breeze–for an eighth of a mile over the former dirt surface at OBS. The sale was topped by $900,000 Darley Stable-purchase Forest Echoes (Forest Wildcat), one of three 2-year-olds to bring half a million or higher. The topper won four of 34 career starts and posted $106,281 in earnings.
“Into Mischief was a great value and he breezed beautifully,” Spendthrift General Manager Ned Toffey said. “I don't think any of us realized what we had when we first got him. Other than just thinking he was a nice horse.”
Hughes was the sale's leading buyer, purchasing four head for a total of $1.05 million. The quartet also included the following year's GII Robert B. Lewis winner Crown of Thorns (Repent) ($300,000 OBS March 2yo), who came within a nose of upsetting the 2009 GI Breeders' Cup Sprint. Into Mischief was the least expensive acquisition of the group.
“It was a strong work,” Semkin said of Into Mischief's breeze. “When it was still dirt there, it was very sandy and it depended on where you were in the set and what the track was like at the time you worked. It was an impressive work. He was a hard trier even when he breezed there.
“We also bought Crown of Thorns that year,” he continued. “That was the horse that we really wanted out of that sale and we ended up paying a lot more for him than we did for Into Mischief. All the credit goes to Mr. Hughes. He was game enough to do it and trusted us and allowed us the freedom to go to those sales. It goes to his desire to get racehorses and his willingness to bid the way he does.”
Into Mischief was no worse than second during his six-race career for the aforementioned Hall of Fame trainer carrying Hughes's famed orange-and-purple colors. His resume also included a win over subsequent GI Breeders' Cup Sprint upsetter Dancing in Silks (Black Minnaloushe) in the Damascus S. at three and a second-place finish in his career finale in the GI Malibu S. at Santa Anita.
Into Mischief was sidelined following a runner-up finish as the favorite in the GII San Vicente S. and was forced to sit out the spring Classics. His CashCall win over Colonel John was his lone career attempt around two turns.
“He was underrated, even as a Grade I winner,” Toffey said. “He was underappreciated as a racehorse. Richard would be forthright with you that the horse got into some foot problems that were really not what you would label as 'unsoundness.' That really kept him off the Derby trail and out of the majority of his 3-year-old year and he had a fairly abbreviated career. If you looked at his race record, you might assume he was unsound, but he absolutely was not. He was a very talented and very honest racehorse.”
Bred in Kentucky by James T. Hines, Jr., Into Mischief first brought $80,000 from the late, great bloodstock agent Buzz Chace as a Fasig-Tipton Kentucky Fall yearling. He was consigned as Hip 22 to OBS March as a pinhooking prospect by David McKathan's former nom-de-course M&H Training and Sales. Along with Jody Mihalic, McKathan currently operates under the Grassroots Training and Sales banner.
“Buzz bought him as a yearling and he was pinhooking him,” McKathan said. “That's how I came to have him. Obviously, he was a pretty nice horse. And back then, that was good money. He came to me and I broke him and we took him over to March. I was always proud of Buzz for buying the horse. He loved him. I was with Buzz when he bought him up there. The reality of it, the horse walked dead at 'ya, but he had a lot of action in his walk. I remember commenting to Buzz, 'That doesn't bother you?' He said, 'Nah, he'll move good.' Buzz had a great eye for a horse.”
McKathan added with a laugh, “I know I started to buy them when they walked like that from then on.”
Hines campaigned Into Mischief's dam Leslie's Lady (Tricky Creek), a $27,000 Keeneland September yearling purchase, to five wins from 28 starts, led by a win in the 1998 Hoosier Debutante S. and runner-up finish in the following year's Martha Washington S. at Oaklawn.
After Hines's passing in February 2006, Leslie's Lady, in foal to Orientate, realized $100,000 from Clarkland Farm at that fall's Keeneland November Sale, a year after producing Into Mischief. Hines was best known for breeding and racing champion older horse Lawyer Ron (Langfuhr).
Leslie's Lady, of course, has since gone on to also produce the brilliant four-time champion Beholder (Henny Hughes) ($180,000 yrl '11 KEESEP purchase by Spendthrift Farm) and GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf winner Mendelssohn (Scat Daddy) ($3 million yrl '16 KEESEP purchase by M.V. Magnier). She was named the 2016 Broodmare of the Year.
Her unraced American Pharoah 3-year-old filly America's Joy was a record $8.2-million purchase by Whisper Hill Farm as a Keeneland September yearling.
“I often think if Beholder had come ahead of Into Mischief, you might have had to add a zero to that $180,000 [for Into Mischief at OBS March],” Toffey said. “Ironically, Beholder was the same price, so that's been a good number for us. They are two of the least expensive horses that we've bought over the years.”
With Horse of the Year Authentic and champion female sprinter and 'TDN Rising Star' Gamine leading the way, Into Mischief established the all-time single-season record for a sire in North America with $22,506,085 in progeny earnings in 2020. He is the only stallion ever to eclipse $20 million in earnings in a year.
“Share the Upside was one of the programs we started to try to convince breeders to breed to him,” Toffey concluded. “It just shows you, as Mr. Hughes likes to say, 'Nobody really knows.' We weren't quite sure what we had until he proved it to all of us. We're glad he's on our team.”