By Christie DeBernardis
Three yearlings in the Keeneland September Sale catalogue received big updates over the weekend when their year-older siblings captured Grade Is at two of America's premiere race meets over the holiday weekend. GI Runhappy Del Mar Futurity S. winner Pinehurst's (Twirling Candy) yearling half-brother by Cairo Prince sold prior to the juvenile's breakout score, bringing $120,000 from pinhooker Randy Bradshaw at Fasig-Tipton's New York-Bred Yearling Sale in mid-August. However, the winners of the GI TVG Del Mar Debutante S., GI Spinaway S. and GI Hopeful S. will be represented by half or full siblings next week at Keeneland.
Pinehurst's stablemate Grace Adler (Curlin) threw her hat in the ring for top juvenile filly honors with an ultra-impressive score in the GI Del Mar Debutante Sunday (video). Campaigned by Michael Lund Petersen and Willow Grace Farm, the $700,000 FTKSEL buy won her debut for Bob Baffert at the seaside oval July 31. Given a 4-1 chance in the Debutante, the chestnut unleashed a powerful late rally, sling-shotting to the lead and storming clear for an 11 1/4-length score.
“It was amazing,” said Adam Corndorf, President and General Manager of Blue Heaven Farm, breeder of Grace Adler. “When she started breezing several months ago, we started dreaming about what could be. Looking at the schedule for Del Mar, we thought how amazing it would be if she could run in that race and hit the board. You think about how many 2-year-olds there are every year and how many win that race and the odds are astronomical. It was incredible and a dream come true for us.”
Blue Heaven Farm consigns an Into Mischief half-brother to Grace Adler as Hip 99 in Book 1 of KEESEP. He RNA'd for $350,000 as a weanling at last year's Keeneland November Sale. Bonnie Baskin's operation went to $600,000 to acquire their dam, GSW Our Khrysty (Newfoundland), a half-sister too GISW Bullsbay (Tiznow), in foal to Tiznow at the 2011 FTKNOV sale. Her GSP daughter Virginia Key (Distorted Humor) remains in their care.
“He has a different body type [than his sister],” Corndorf said. “He is a little bigger, a little leggier, but similar in terms of his competitive spirit. The thing that is most impressive to us is that you just can't get to the bottom of him. As we have been prepping him for the sale, he has shown limitless energy. He can go all day long and never loses focus. He likes the work and is a pleasure to be around. Even when we walk the yearlings together, he wants to be out in front. Everything is a race to him.”
Meanwhile, across the country, it was the Gun Runner show at Saratoga over Labor Day weekend with members of his first crop taking both of the venue's banner juvenile events. First up was Echo Zulu, who was a decisive winner of the GI Spinaway S. Sunday at the Spa (video). The $300,000 KEESEP buy is trained by her sire's conditioner Steve Asmussen and co-owned by one of his owners Winchell Thoroughbreds in partnership with L and N Racing LLC.
Echo Zulu was tabbed a 'TDN Rising Star' after graduating by 5 1/2 lengths in her career bow on opening day of the Saratoga meet July 15. Heavily favored to repeat in the Spinaway, the bay was pressed through quick early fractions and drew away in the lane for a good-looking score.
Bill Betz, who was part of the group who bred Echo Zulu, offers her American Pharoah half-sister as Hip 43 in his Betz Thoroughbreds consignment. Their Grade II-winning dam Letgomyecho (Menifee) also produced L and N Racing's Asmussen-trained GI Runhappy Allen Jerkens S. winner Echo Town (Speightstown); GSW J Boys Echo (Mineshaft); GSP Unbridled Outlaw (Unbridled's Song); and MSP Dragic (Broken Vow).
“She is a lovely filly,” Betz said. “She has strength, balance, good movement and temperament. She also has pedigree. Obviously the mother was a graded stakes winner and produced graded stakes horses, including Echo Town, who won the Jerkens last year at Saratoga. So, now with Echo Zulu, it's a pretty nice package.”
The horseman continued, “Anytime you get something current happening in the pedigree it is a pretty big plus. In her case, it is icing on the cake because you already had all that to begin with. To have a half-sister as exciting as Echo Zulu just solidifies her place as an elite filly.”
Betz's KEESEP consignment got another big update at Saratoga the week prior when Yaupon (Uncle Mo) fended off an aggressive attack from Firenze Fire (Friesan Fire) to win the GI Forego S. Aug. 28 (video). Betz–who bred Yaupon in another partnership– offers a Good Magic half-brother to that future Spendthrift stallion as Hip 73. Out of GISP Modification (Vindication), the dark bay colt is also a half-brother to MGSP Sawyer's Hill (Spring At Last).
“Good timing is everything,” Betz said. “In Yaupon's case, it was his first Grade I win. He was an established sprinter in the past, but the fact he has progressed from three to four and beat five Grade I winners in the Forego is a great accomplishment for him. Hopefully it will propel him right into the Breeders' Cup. You can never really plan on something like that happening, but when it does, you just enjoy it.”
As for how the Good Magic colt compares to Yaupon, Betz said, “They are the same color, have the same balance and great movement. He is very correct with an excellent scope and X-rays. He is a May foal, but you'd never know it looking at him. He has grown up well and has good muscle. He is a very nice individual, so we have our fingers crossed there as well.”
The day after Echo Zulu gave her leading freshman sire his first Grade I winner, her barnmate Gunite (Gun Runner) became his second with an 11-1 upset in Saratoga's GI Hopeful S. on closing day of the meet (video). Bred by Winchell Thoroughbreds, the dark bay earned his diploma at third asking at Churchill Downs June 26 and was second to 'TDN Rising Star' High Oak (Gormley) next out in the GII Saratoga Special S. Aug. 14. Battling for the lead early in the Hopeful, Gunite shook free of his foes in the lane and rolled clear for a dominant score over 3-5 favorite Wit (Practical Joke).
“That's just the way we planned it,” David Fiske, longtime Winchell advisor, quipped. “It's just dumb luck, but we will take it! Echo Zulu was a purchase and Gunite was a homebred. It was just a big weekend over all.”
Winchell offers a full-sister to Gunite as Hip 539 in the Gainesway consignment. The dark bay is out of fellow Winchell homebred stakes winner Simple Surprise (Cowboy Cal), who in turn is a daughter of SW & GSP Simplify (Pulpit).
“He was always pretty and she has always been pretty,” Fiske said. “They kind of look like their mother to some extent. She is also a dark bay. That's not a bad thing because she is a pretty attractive mare.”
Fiske added, “I think if anyone has a Gun Runner in the sale they are in pretty good shape.”
The Keeneland September Sale kicks off Monday, Sept. 13.