Special Me, The Bargain of a Lifetime

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Special Me & her Into Mischief filly | Christie DeBernardis

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PARIS, KY.–A plain gray mare standing at 14.2 hands, Special Me (Unbridled’s Song) isn’t exactly what you picture when you think blue hen, but with three graded runners to her credit, she has certainly earned that title. Her accomplishments in the breeding shed combined with the story of how she came to be prove that Special Me has more than lived up to her name.

When breeder and consignor Carrie Brogden first noticed Special Me, she was a 2-year-old making her third start in a maiden claiming event at Laurel in December 2008.

“I’ve been obsessed with Unbridled’s Song mares for a long, long time,” Brogden said. “This was even before Unbridled’s Song completely exploded as a broodmare sire. Actually, the first time I spotted [Special Me], she was in a maiden claimer and I was actually set to claim her. The trainer I had hired to go claim her looked at her and was like, ‘Ahhh, she’s like 14.2 [hands]’. He was like, ‘She’s teeny tiny, no, no.’ So, we did not claim her. I said, ‘Well, she is not the physical,’ so we passed and she ran terrible.”

A month later, Brogden and Special Me crossed paths again at the 2009 Keeneland January Sale. The horsewoman could see for herself that her trainer was not exaggerating about the mare’s size, but Brogden could not ignore her gut feeling on the mare, so she did some more research.

“Fast forward and I see her in the Dark Hollow consignment as a broodmare prospect,” Brogden said. “She comes in the back ring and I am like, ‘What on earth?’ Here is this bid-bodied gray mare with these little, itty, bitty legs. So, I talked to David [Hayden] and he told me the whole saga of her. She was born six weeks premature. They did everything they could to save her and spent a cagillion dollars. They could not sell her and ended up naming her Special Me. Then, she could not run.”

Brogden continued, “Meanwhile, I am thinking, I have seen her family. Her half-sister was big and beautiful and [her half-brother] Our New Recruit (Alphabet Soup) was big and beautiful. I was thinking maybe this mare is genetically normal and it was just an in utero nocardioform placentitus that compromised her. So, I was like well, let’s take a shot on her.”

Brogden secured Special Me for just $6,000 and she would later prove to be the bargain of the century.

“We bought her for $6,000, my mom, Machmer Hall, [my husband] Craig and I,” Brogden said, standing outside a large field at Machmer Hall that houses Special Me and several other members of her broodmare band. “We were delighted to get her for that and she just had to prove that she wasn’t going to throw herself. She is a triple graded stakes producer now. It is just kind of amazing to think about.”

Special Me did not take long to prove Brogden’s instincts right. Her first foal was a winner and her second foal turned out to be MGSW and GISP Stonetastic (Mizzen Mast). A $77,000 KEESEP yearling purchase by Stoneway Farm, the fleet-footed gray went on to win the 2014 GII Prioress S. and the 2016 GII Inside Information S. and was second in that year’s GI Humana Distaff S. at Churchill Downs. She won a total of eight races and earned $856,062.

“She was a beautiful, beautiful filly,” Brogden said with a fond smile. “She was one of those things where she ran to her looks. She wasn’t a super big filly, but she had this monster walk and beautiful balance and she was just so fast. We enjoyed that ride so much. Mizzen Mast was a sire that was just very, very good to us. That was incredible.”

Special Me produced Stonetastic in 2011 and just two years later, she would foal another star in Gift Box (Twirling Candy), though he took a bit longer to peak than his half-sister. A $135,000 FTKNOV weanling buy for W.S. Farish, the gray started his career with Chad Brown, earning the ‘TDN Rising Star’ moniker and garnering a few black-type placings. Privately purchased by Hronis Racing and transferred to John Sadler, the 6-year-old has found California living very much to his liking, capturing the Dec. 26 GII San Antonio S. and scoring a gritty victory over McKinzie (Street Sense) in the GI Santa Anita H. Apr. 6. Runner-up in the GI Gold Cup at Santa Anita May 27, the millionaire was most recently fourth in the GII Stephen Foster H. June 15.

“I was trying to decide where else we would go [with Special Me stallion wise] and I went to Lane’s End and saw Twirling Candy,” Brogden said. “I thought he was really impressive and we bred heavily to him in his first crop. Special Me was one of [the mares we bred to him] and we got Gift Box and we sold him at Fasig-Tipton’s Night of the Stars. David Ingordo bought him and he was telling me, ‘You know, this is a perfect horse for Sadler. He trained Our New Recruit and he trained Twirling Candy, and this is a big walker.’ So, it is funny that fast forward all these years and he is now with Sadler. Obviously, Chad did a fantastic job with him too, but it all kind of came full circle.”

In 2015, two years after having Gift Box, Special Me produced her next graded runner in Special Forces (Candy Ride {Arg}). The $220,000 KEESEP buy has won four of his 15 starts and is dual graded stakes-placed, finishing second in the GIII Dominion Day S. June 30 and third in the GIII Seagram Cup S. Aug. 11. The chestnut was most recently second in the Sept. 9 Presque Isle Mile S.

“He was just an okay racehorse at first,” Brogden said. “Somebody made the astute decision to geld him and ever since he has turned into a star.”

Special Me’s now 3-year-old daughter Wamathaat (Speightstown) summoned $550,000 from Shadwell Farm at the 2017 Keeneland September Sale and was sent to Europe. The unraced filly was recently purchased by BBA Ireland for 220,000gns at the Tattersalls July Sale. Tracy Farmer purchased Special Me’s juvenile filly Special Honor (Honor Code) for $260,000 at KEESEP and she finished third on debut at Woodbine Aug. 30. The gray mare’s now-yearling filly by Medaglia d’Oro brought $500,000 from Larry Best’s OXO Equine at last year’s Fasig-Tipton November Sale.

“Medaglia d’Oro is such a great sire and obviously Larry Best has had tremendous success with him,” Brogden said. “She got into great hands and with her breeding, no matter what, she is worth close to what he paid.”

Special Me foaled an Into Mischief filly Mar. 23 of this year and is now in foal to Quality Road.

“I think we are going to hold onto her for next year,” Brogden said of the Into Mischief filly. “I just enjoy having them. I think we will keep her and see what happens. If Gift Box had won the Grade I last year, we probably would have kept the Medaglia filly, but obviously we did not know that he would become such a superstar as he got older. I mean, maybe she can be a Saratoga yearling or a Book 1 Keeneland September yearling. I think that is really appealing. Who doesn’t want a filly out of this kind of mare?”

The now-13-year-old Special Me has produced a total of 10 foals, eight of which are of racing age with four winners, two of those being multiple graded stakes winners and one with a pair of graded placings. Brogden sold her first nine foals for a total of $2.056 million and her four winners have earned a combined $2,120,17, not too shabby for a $6,000 mare with legs too short for her body and a lack of ability on the racetrack. Special Me may not be much too look at, but she is the queen of Machmer Hall and her impressive breeding record has more than rewarded Brogden’s faith in her.

“Special Me is a triple graded stakes producer, which is so funny because you look at her and she is this little mare, 14.2 hands and sweet as pie. I mean, you can see her foal is basically the same size as her. She is just a happy horse out there. She has never missed a year. She foals easily and gets right back in foal. It is so funny to me to look at her and be like, ‘Wow, if I could tell her all the amazing things her sons and daughters have done, it would be fantastic.'”

 

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