“She's a Special One,” George and Karen Russell on Superstar Broodmare Pappascat

Boppy O gets the win in the GIII With Anticipation S. Sarah Andrew

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Boppy O (Bolt d'Oro) was greeted by an ecstatic winner's circle as he circled back to the Saratoga grandstand after his 23-1 upset in the GIII With Anticipation S., but he had another cheering squad celebrating from his birthplace in Reddick, Florida. His breeders George and Karen Russell of Rustlewood Farm were out with friends as the juvenile colt made his turf debut, but they didn't hesitate to huddle around their phone at the dinner table so they could watch the race live.

“We were thinking it would sure be good if he hit the board,” George Russell said the day after the big win. “Then when he won we were obviously really excited. He's still young and a little green, but hopefully he'll do good in his next start and go on to the Breeders' Cup. If he does, we'll be there.”

If Boppy O does make an appearance on Future Stars Friday, it would not be the Russells' first representation at the championship meet. Boppy O is the half-brother to last year's GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile runner-up Pappacap (Gun Runner). While both colts are trained by Mark Casse, Grade II winner and three-time Grade I-placed Pappacap was retained by his breeder and is campaigned by Rustlewood Farm.

The Russells purchased Pappascat (Scat Daddy), the dam of these two impressive performers, in 2015 after she RNA'd for $110,000 at the Keeneland November Sale. Pappascat is one of just over a dozen mares at Rustlewood Farm.

“She's a lovely mare, a big pretty mare,” Karen explained. “She's easy to be around. She doesn't crib, she doesn't have to wear shoes and she's not a drama queen.”

“She seems to be consistent with what she is producing,” George added. “They all have a lot of desire and they're good on themselves.”

While Karen was the one who suggested sending Pappascat to Gun Runner after watching the future red-hot sire capture the 2018 GI Pegasus World Cup Invitational S., George enlisted the help of friend and advisor Francis Vanlangendonck of Summerfield Sales to plan the mating to Bolt d'Oro that produced Boppy O.

Boppy  O as a youngster at Rustlewood Farm | Shelley Bunning

Shelley Bunning, the farm manager at Rustlewood, offered insight on the Florida-bred colt's early days and explained that Boppy O had a much different personality than his older brother.

“Pappacap was more settled with the concept of working than Boppy O was,” she said with a chuckle. “Everything you asked, Pappacap did with enthusiasm and he wanted to do it right whereas Boppy O was more along the lines of, 'I can do it but I just might not want to do it today.'  He was very capable, but sometimes stubborn.”

Bunning noted that as the colt matured, he grew a bit more laid-back.

“Once we started yearling prep with him, he grasped the situation and what we wanted him to do, but whether he was going to do it that day was up to him,” she said. “He did work hard and apply himself, and he grew up and filled out nicely.”

Pappacap was retained by the Russells when he was unable to sell at what they believed was his true worth as a yearling in 2020, but Boppy O followed the farm's usual protocol of going through a sale as a yearling. The colt sold for $190,000 to John Oxley and Breeze Easy LLC. He went on to break his maiden at first asking at Gulfstream in May and then finished a disappointing 10th in the GIII Sandford S. before bouncing back impressively in his With Anticipation score, where he was the first graded stakes winner for his freshman sire.

Bunning was quick to credit her employers for their positive outlook in the face of selling a future graded winner.

“A lot of times in the industry people gripe about how, 'Oh we shouldn't have sold that horse,'” Bunning said. “But they're not mad about it; they think it's brilliant. They're just happy that everyone's enjoying it.”

“We always wish the best for the people that buy them,” George said. “It's exciting and it makes it worthwhile. We've learned that you generally have the one or the two that pay for the others. To get something like this and have a mare like Pappascat, it makes it so much more enjoyable to have something to look forward to.”

While the Russells have experienced the highs of the game with Pappascat and her offspring, they've also endured the lowest of lows. Just three weeks ago, Pappascat's yearling by Omaha Beach died tragically. It's a loss that could never be replaced for the couple no matter the success of the mare's other offspring.

Grade II winner Pappacap | Sarah Andrew

“He was a special individual,” George said. “We were really devastated and it's still hard to believe. We've never had an experience like that where we lost a horse that was doing fine and then was gone within hours. He had a fever in the morning and he was immediately loaded up and headed to the clinic. We were never worried about what eventually happened.”

“The lows are the lows, but this week we have Boppy O lifting us back up,” Karen said.

While the loss still weighs heavy, the Russells were grateful to find cause for celebration in Boppy O's victory and they have also found solace in two other sons of Pappascat thriving at their farm.

Following a fourth-place finish in the GII Amsterdam S. in July, Pappacap has returned to Rustlewood this month for a bit of 'R and R' and a diet that includes plenty of peppermints.

“He's in one of the paddocks right by our house,” George shared. “Karen goes out there and takes care of him. He's been pretty consistent for us and he's sound as could be, so we figured it was a well-deserved break and he will tell us when he's ready to go back.”

This year, Pappascat produced a colt by War of Will. The Russells reported that the May-foaled youngster could be something special.

“He's just about the nicest thing we've seen,” Karen said. “We think he's the best one so far. Plus, Pappascat is back in foal to Candy Ride.”

Asked if Pappacap–or maybe even Boppy O–would go down as an all-time favorite bred at Rustlewood, the Russells could not give a definitive answer as they listed off additional stars in Grade II victor Mach Ride (Pentelicus), Grade III winner Prudhoe Bay (Songandaprayer) and SW Consider Thesource (Notebook).

“They mean the world to us,” Karen said “I can't talk about them without crying. They're all really special.”

“They're all treated the same and my wife loves them all,” said George. “How Pappascat has produced for us, mares like her are few and far between. It just adds a little something extra to it. She's a special one.”

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