By Alan Carasso
In his early days in the Thoroughbred business, Hanzly Albina served the Foustok family's Buckram Oak Farm as assistant farm manager and later managed Four Roses Thoroughbreds for the same operation.
“As a young person in the business, you don't get to do a lot, but you get to study a lot,” Albina recollects.
The horseman is now applying that and other knowledge he's acquired over the years as an advisor to Maurice and Samantha Regan's Newtown Anner Stud, the breeders of 'TDN Rising Star' and GII Rachel Alexandra S. presented by Fasig-Tipton hopeful Souper Sensational (Curlin).
The broodmare band at Newtown Anner numbers around 65, split between their Versailles, Kentucky, farm on a little more than 1000 acres that once belonged to Standardbred operation Brittany Farm on Pisgah Pike. The couple also maintains a farm in Millbrook, New York, as well as a farm in Ireland.
On behalf of Newtown Anner, Albina and partner Nick Sallusto went to $167,000 for then 4-year-old Kateri (Indian Charlie), in foal to Paynter, at the 2016 Fasig-Tipton February Sale. In signing for the mare, Albina was drawing upon the lessons he gleaned from one of Thoroughbred breeding's legends.
“I am big fan of John Nerud and I try to learn about everything he did and how his thought process worked. This is a family that connects to him–Cozzene is down the page,” Albina explained, referring to the 1985 Eclipse Award-winning turf male that was campaigned by Nerud. “Now, I'm not one of these guys that is going to breed mares based on sixth and seventh generation, but the short answer is, there was a lot going on in the first dam [Sue's Good News] and it was a beautiful first dam. There was a lot of beauty in the family and I thought I could work with that. She was a beautiful Indian Charlie mare. I loved the fact that it was Indian Charlie, because it goes back to Caro (Ire),” sire of the aforementioned Cozzene.
Albina was well-acquainted with the Caro-line, as Buckram Oak raced the sire's son Siberian Express, a $320,000 purchase out of the 1984 Keeneland July Sale by Mahmoud Foustok. Siberian Express was, in turn, the sire of In Excess (Ire), who was bred and raced through part of his career by Mahmoud Foustok's brother, Ahmed.
“It's been proven time and time again that this European influence of Caro coming through, for whatever reasons, has been very good for American racing and keeps on coming up.”
Kateri foaled a colt by Paynter the day after her purchase and Albina was pleased with what he saw.
“I thought the Paynter was a pretty good horse,” he said. “I kind of gave her a pass being her first foal, she wasn't a spectacular sort of specimen. Then we went to Tiznow and that was a magnificent horse. We took it to auction and no one wanted the horse. Nick and I decided we weren't going to let this beautiful horse go, Tiznow was a little cold. So we tried to sell him again and the same thing happened, we didn't get the money we wanted. Nick took the horse down to Florida and started prepping him. He went to the sale and that's when Red Oak bought in and we raced it together.”
Bought back for $275,000 at Keeneland September in 2018, the Tiznow colt was led out unsold on a bid of $175,000 at the Fasig-Tipton October Sale. Connections' faith in the colt was rewarded when he fetched $420,000 at the OBS April Sale in early 2019.
“He was a stunning horse and the money we got from the 2-year-old sale kind of validated what we thought about the mare,” Albina said. “Since I held the Tiznow in high regard, I said, 'Now it's time to make a move with this mare' and overbreed her a touch. We made a jump to Curlin, he was a stallion we really liked at the time. He was much cheaper than he is now and physically, we loved him.
He continued, “In [Kateri's] second dam you have Easyfromthegitgo (Dehere), Deputy Minister-line, similar to Curlin on the bottom, and it had worked on the pedigree with Conquest Curlgirl [a daughter of Easyfromthegitgo's GSW half-sister Sue's Good News]. Typically I look for something a little closer, but it was close enough to where I was OK with it and the physical really worked.”
Kateri dropped her Curlin filly Mar. 28, 2018, and she was as straight-forward as could be, Albina remembers, as she grew up and as she was prepped for a date in the 2019 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Sale.
“What stood out about her was how unremarkable the process was,” he said. “She was always a very good-looking horse, always well-balanced, there were never any issues. She got to the sale and looked beautiful, took it all in stride, never any hiccups. It's not always that way. I don't remember her ever being sick, I don't remember any issue with her. She got to Saratoga and we had a very good sale. She was our highest-priced horse that year.”
The Kateri filly caught the eye of the team at Charlotte Weber's Live Oak Plantation, who were extended to $725,000.
“This was the best horse we had for Newtown Anner that year,” he said. “We thought about keeping her, but we set a line on her and if we get more than our number, we'll let her go and if not, we'll race her. That's kind of the exercise we do with all our horses.”
Albina, who consigns yearlings with Ron Blake as Blake-Albina Thoroughbred Services, also sold Peter Brant a Quality Road filly for $525,000 that year. Now named Boston Post Road, that full-sister to MSW & GSP Top Quality was a maiden winner at first asking at Gulfstream Park Feb. 7.
Albina said that the philosophy of Newtown Anner is to “breed the horses we typically don't go out and buy.”
“Then we test the market and we trade,” he explained. “For [Souper Sensational], our reserve would have been very high and if someone paid it, they could have her and if not, then she comes back and we get to keep a nice horse. We aren't going out there and buying million-dollar horses or consistently paying $500,000 and $600,000 for horses. If we can sell the ones that bring in excess of what they're worth, that's kind of the goal. The stuff we don't like, we put little to no reserve on and move them on. We just try to make good decisions and I think offering all our yearlings at auction is a mechanism by which we can keep ourselves sharp and that we're making good business decisions.”
After graduating and earning her 'Rising Star' at first asking, Souper Sensational added a facile success in the Glorious Song S. at Woodbine last October. The chestnut exits a good second when trying two turns and dirt for the first time in the Jan. 16 Silverbulletday S., and Albina believes she'll continue to improve from here.
“I think she's going to get better and better with distance,” he said. “We'll let her show us. I'm not worried about any surface with her, I think her action tells me she can be very good on the dirt. I think she got a little unlucky in her last start, but she finished well. Some people are disappointed when they finish second, but I think the races she has to win are ahead of her. I'm very pleased with everything she's done so far.”
While Souper Sensational has done her part to enhance her page, the family remains live elsewhere. Kateri's Grade I-winning half-sister Tiz Miz Sue (Tiznow) is not only the dam of the Japanese-based, UAE Group 3-placed Serein (Uncle Mo), but also of $2.5-million KEESEP graduate Tatweej (Tapit), a hugely impressive allowance winner at Aqueduct Feb. 4. Another half-sister, Tiz News (Tiznow), is the dam of 2020 Trapeze S. runner-up Tiz Splendid News (Maclean's Music), who has returned to the worktab at Keeneland for trainer Wesley Ward. Tiz News changed hands for $190,000 in foal to Curlin's champion son Good Magic at KEENOV last fall.
Albina reports that Kateri's foal of 2019, a colt by Maclean's Music, was ticketed for last year's Saratoga Sale, but was sadly put down after suffering a freak injury. The agent said that Souper Sensational's yearling full-sister “resembles her sister greatly and we're very excited about her” and will be aimed at one of the major yearling sales later this year. Kateri is currently carrying to American Pharoah on a later cover and is booked back to Curlin for this year.