By Melissa Bauer-Herzog
Driving up the tree-lined drive at Timber Town Stables, it’s hard to miss the empire Mandy Pope has created with her impressive bands of broodmares.
Four of Pope’s mares are turned out in front of the office, led by champions Havre de Grace and Groupie Doll. Both visited Tapit in 2015 and foaled fillies within days of each other in mid-March.
“It was a big week,” said Cathy Sweezey–who owns and operates the Lexington farm with her husband Wayne. As an added bonus, both the mares foaled at the reasonable hour of 11:00 p.m.
“They were very kind to us to not make us get up in the middle of the night,” Cathy Sweezey said, smiling.
Of course, with champion mares like those two, waking up at any hour for a foaling is exciting. Pope’s headline-making purchases of mares like Havre de Grace and Groupie Doll have drawn much attention in the past few years with anticipation building as their foals approach their first starts.
Havre de Grace produced her second Tapit filly this year after having a War Front colt last year. Her first filly, a 2-year-old named Heavenly Grace, is currently in training at GoldMark Farm.
Wayne Sweezey sees many similarities in the sisters even though the foal is only a few months old.
“Gracie has thrown largely herself in her babies, not only in conformation but in demeanor too,” he said. “All of them are very level-headed and very intelligent animals. She’s an extremely intelligent mare. She’s passing on her finer attributes to her get and that’s what I’m seeing more than anything.”
Wayne Sweezey also sees those qualities in her yearling War Front colt, something Pope must have hoped for when she bought the mare for $10 million at the 2012 Fasig-Tipton November Sale.
“We’re not getting one kind of foal one year and another kind of foal the next,” he said. “The Tapits have been consistent. The War Front is similar in the sense that he’s correct and got great quarters, he might not be as tall but they’re pretty stamped.”
The colt is entered in the Keeneland September Yearling Sale, but according to Wayne Sweezey, Pope is currently deciding if she wants to keep him. Havre de Grace, along with Groupie Doll returned to Tapit this year.
Pope often retains fillies, although this year 2011 GI Kentucky Oaks winner Plum Pretty’s yearling War Front filly is ticketed for the Fasig-Tipton’s Saratoga Selected Yearlings Sale. Plum Pretty miscarried a sibling to that filly this year, but is currently in foal to Distorted Humor.
Another mare who has consistently made headlines for Pope is Betterbetterbetter.
A Galileo (Ire) daughter from a strong female family, Betterbetterbetter topped the 2013 Fasig-Tipton November Sale with a $5.2-million price tag. Sold in-foal to War Front she foaled a filly, later named Intisaar, in January 2014. Intisaar topped the first session of the 2015 September Yearling Sale, fetching $1.45-million from Shadwell Estate Company. This year, Betterbetterbetter delivered a Tapit colt in early February.
“Betterbetterbetter is a beautiful mare, she’s lovely, she’s wonderful to be around,” Wayne Sweezy said. “She just throws a great foal. She’s a pretty special mare and hopefully she’ll go on and throw a racehorse. Her pedigree is so deep that with any kind of luck at all, she’ll go on and throw a runner.”
Betterbetterbetter was barren in 2015 and returned to War Front this year. However, Pope won’t be without a War Front yearling at the sales next year. Aloof, another sales-topping Galileo daughter, foaled her second War Front filly in as many years on Mar. 31.
Pope drew inspiration from a premier outfit when breeding her Galileo mares.
“The Galileo/War Front cross certainly seems to be the cross and the cross Coolmore has been making so we obviously wanted to emulate that,” Wayne Sweezey said.
Aloof has also thrown a slightly different War Front than the other Galileo mares he’s seen.
“She’s a little bit more determined…and she definitely has passed that on to her babies,” he said. “But also, we have gotten more leg because that mare has more leg and she’s made a bigger, scopier foal.”
Aloof’s yearling filly is entered in the Keeneland September Yearling Sale and will soon be entering sales prep. All of Pope’s yearlings who go through sales ship directly to the Timber Town consignment on the sales grounds.
The fall is a busy time of year for Pope’s staff at Whisper Hill Farm in Citra, Fla. as Timber Town ships Pope’s foals to her after they are weaned.
“The entire group [of Pope’s foals] is generally out of here by the first of December and then they stay down there with Mandy through their yearling year and they prep [for sales] there,” Wayne Sweezey said.
It’s become a smooth-running operation and Wayne Sweezey gives much of the credit to Pope.
“She does a great job. She’s a tremendous horseman in her own right,” he said.
The perfect example of Pope’s horsemanship is shown in her devotion to Groupie Doll’s yearling colt.
Last year, the colt was sent to Rood & Riddle with a few complications soon after birth where 24-hour care helped him survive. He was sent to Pope’s Whisper Hill after he was weaned and is now thriving.
“Frankly we thought he was going to die. But Mandy made a commitment to save [him] and we did,” said Wayne Sweezey.
The colt has fully recovered from his illness and Cathy Sweezey describes him as a “rocket ship.” This year, Groupie Doll had a complication-free delivery and has shown to be a perfect mother to her filly. Wayne says that while there are comparisons to be made, the filly and the colt are built differently.
“I’d have to say I think this one is going to be bigger. A lot more height and length of leg. It’s a little different model, [the yearling] looks like a little speedster and this one looks like a little different shape,” Wayne Sweezey said.
It’s likely that buyers will have to wait for a Groupie Doll foal to sell. Wayne said Pope will most likely retain the filly and the colt will also race in the Whisper Hill silks.
“She won’t sell [him],” he said. “She’ll run that colt just because of her affection and affinity from saving his life.”