By Christie DeBernardis
When longtime owner and breeder Paul Pompa, Jr., who campaigned the likes of dual Classic winner Big Brown, passed away suddenly in October of 2020, it was a big blow to many in the industry. Some 19 months after his passing, the owner of Truck-Rite Corp.'s legacy has reached new heights. In the past two months alone, four former Pompa horses have won stakes, topped by Grade I winners Regal Glory (Animal Kingdom) and Country Grammer (Tonalist).
“Mr. Pompa was a gentleman and a great sport to work for,” said Lane's End's Allaire Ryan, who supervised the sale of most of Pompa's horses. “First and foremost he cared about his horses and always made the right decisions for them. Alongside his trainers and the farms and training centers he entrusted with his stock, he built a very successful racing stable and commercial breeding operation. There was a plan for each horse from start to finish. Those plans might have had to change day to day, but Mr. Pompa was a discusser, a listener, a thinker and a decision maker through-and-through. Mr. Pompa was a student of the business, always took the time to talk about what was going on with his mares, foals and yearlings. He gave you his time because he was interested in the horses and genuinely cared about each of them. He enjoyed every conversation with him for being thorough, pragmatic, and above all caring.”
Shortly after Pompa's death, his family dispersed of all of his racing and breeding stock. Most of his stock sold in a dispersal handled by Ryan and the Lane's End team at the 2021 Keeneland January Sale. The headliner of that dispersal–and the entire sale–was 'TDN Rising Star' Regal Glory, who was purchased by Peter Brant's White Birch Farm for $925,000 and returned to her regular trainer Chad Brown.
A homebred out of Pompa's GSW Mary's Follies (More Than Ready), Regal Glory had won a trio of graded events prior to the dispersal, but her resume had one thing missing. She filled in that missing piece 10 months after selling to Brant when she captured the GI Martriarch S. in November. The chestnut has continued to honor her late owner and breeder Pompa this year with wins in the GIII Pegasus World Cup F/M Turf Invitational S. in January and another top-level score in the GI Jenny Wiley S. at Keeneland in April.
“This filly gave Mr. Pompa a lot to be proud of as she was a homebred for him,” Ryan said. “She dead-heated in the [GII] Lake Placid at Saratoga on very dark, stormy afternoon. I remember how long the stewards deliberated the race call afterwards–a frustrating moment for Mr. Pompa as an owner to share a big win in such tough conditions, but again, he was always the one to see the glass half full and be a good sport in trying situations. There was always tomorrow. He was so proud of this filly after that race.”
Ryan continued, “Mr. Pompa decided after he bred Mary's Follies to Curlin in 2020 that he would sell the mare in November at a time when her commercial value was at its highest. In turn, his plans for Regal Glory were to continue her career and retire her to his broodmare band at [Lane's End] farm. With Chad Brown, Mr. Pompa had this filly on the trajectory to improve with age and she's done exactly that. It's been incredibly satisfying to see Chad and Mr. Brant guide her to this stage in her career and keep her sound and happy at this age. We still cheer for her!”
A $450,000 OBSAPR purchase for Pompa, Country Grammer captured the GIII Peter Pan S. in July of 2020 and gathered some hype heading into that year's GI Runhappy Travers S. Unfortunately, he did not hit his best stride that day, finishing fifth behind GI Belmont S. winner Tiz the Law (Constitution). Shelved for the rest of the season, he was purchased by WinStar for just $110,000 at the KEEJAN dispersal.
Sent to Bob Baffert, Country Grammer showed he was only getting better with age, winning the GI Hollywood Gold Cup S. in his second start for his new connections last May. Benched for the remainder of the year, the bay made his seasonal bow in the desert, finishing second in the G1 Saudi Cup in February and upended heavy favorite Life is Good (Into Mischief) with a decisive score in the G1 Dubai World Cup a month later.
“Country Grammer was another nice physical when he came under our care at the sale,” Ryan said. “I never saw his as a young horse, but from photographs he looks like a quality individual for his sire Tonalist. He had been at WinStar's training center for some R&R and was back training leading up to the sale, so they [Elliott Walden, David Hanley, Destin Heath and Dr. Nieman] appreciated where he was in his career having that insider knowledge. By design after his passing, several of the Pompa dispersal's horses of racing age were prepared here leading up to the sale. Again, credit is due for the programs that have managed these dispersal graduates and brought them–back in Country Grammer's case–to competing at not only the graded stakes level, but now the highest international level of our sport. The win in Dubai was thrilling to see. He validated his status as a top older horse amongst the best talent in the world. It was one of those moments when I thought to myself, if only Mr. Pompa could see this.”
The most recent former Pompa horse to achieve black-type is his homebred colt Ethereal Road (Quality Road), who rallied to a good-looking victory in the Sir Barton S. last weekend. Out of Pompa's War Front mare Sustained, who is also responsible for GSW Turned Aside (American Pharoah), the bay colt brought $90,000 from Dr. Aaron Sones at the 2020 Keeneland September just one month before Pompa's passing and was turned over to D. Wayne Lukas.
A second in the GII Rebel S. in February and fourth in the GIII Stonestreet Lexington S. in April earned Ethereal Road enough points for a spot in the GI Kentucky Derby starting gate. However, the day before the race, Lukas decided his colt needed more time and scratched, opening the door for upset winner Rich Strike (Keen Ice). The Hall of Fame conditioner still won a big prize that weekend thanks to GI Kentucky Oaks victress Secret Oath (Arrogate) and initially considered both sophomores for the GI Preakness S. Instead he sent the filly to the Classic and placed Ethereal Road in an easier spot on the undercard, which he won with ease.
“Ethereal Road was a big, physically forward yearling that we raised on the farm,” Ryan said. “From day one he was that way. I remember distinctly the order in which we showed yearlings at the farm in our September sale previews to potential buyers. He was the final yearling of each show because he completely filled your eye. Turned Aside had just come off his win in the [GIII] Quick Call S. at Saratoga, so for us at the farm, it was a very exciting time to showcase a yearling colt by Quality Road out of a young, successful producer. While he would keep the odd homebred each year to race, Mr. Pompa's plan was always to take this horse to the sale.”
Pompa's name could still be connected to the winner of a Triple Crown race this year in GI Belmont S. contender We the People (Constitution). Pete Bradley purchased the colt for $220,000 at the 2020 KEESEP sale on Pompa's behalf and he was turned over to Eddie Woods, who did the early conditioning on most of the businessman's horses. Instead of selling in the KEEJAN dispersal, We the People was sent through last year's Fasig-Tipton Gulfstream Sale, bringing $230,000 from WinStar Farm, who partnered with Siena Farm and CMNWLTH.
Opening his account with a pair of wins at Oaklawn this winter, the 'TDN Rising Star' found the waters a bit too deep in the GI Arkansas Derby Apr. 2, finishing seventh. But, the bay showed he just needed time, coming back to romp in Belmont's GIII Peter Pan S. May 14 and is now headed for the Test of a Champion June 11.
“He was always a nice horse,” Woods said. “He is by a good stallion. He is a tough, hardy horse like all the Constitutions are. He was a bit disappointing in the Arkansas Derby, but I think it was just too soon for him. He showed how good he is the other day and he is a really nice horse going forward.”
Woods said he was not surprised to see Pompa's continued effect on the industry.
“He had quite an impact because he paid both ends,” the Ocala-based horseman said. “He was a good breeder and a buyer. He bought at every level. He bought yearlings and 2-year-olds. He usually spent plenty of money. He was really easy to work for and deal with. He took bad news as well as he took good news. He was a very straight forward person. You just had to be honest with him all the time. That's all he asked of you. It is ironic now to see all these horses he was involved in winning graded stakes because he would have loved it. He was so into it. It showed he had the right stock.”
Ryan echoed similar sentiments, saying, “It was a tragedy that he passed at a time when he was prepared to retire and focus solely on his racing and breeding. He enjoyed every day of it, but as we've seen since the dispersal, there was so much more coming in the pipeline that he didn't get to experience. It's been so gratifying to see the Pompa graduates compete successfully at the top levels of our sport, but it's definitely bittersweet knowing how much enjoyment Mr. Pompa would be having if they were still in his colors. I can only imagine how proud he would be!”
With the likes of Regal Glory, Country Grammer, Ethereal Road and We the People competing at the top of the game this year and even more in the pipeline, Pompa's legacy will not only grow, but leave an even bigger impact than he could have ever imagined.