Three Chimneys' Three Cheers to the Breeder: Alpha Delta Stables

Celebrating a Breeders' Cup champion | Breeders' Cup Eclipse Sportswire


When Jon Clay first got started in the Thoroughbred business, he launched Alpha Delta Stables with ambitious goals in mind.

Step one: breed a stakes winner. Step two: breed something good enough to make it to either the Kentucky Derby or the Kentucky Oaks.

Nearly two decades later, Clay has checked off every one of those goals, having bred both a Derby and an Oaks starter. Plus, his program has produced something he never could have dreamed up back when he was compiling that wish list of accomplishments. In world-class sprinter Elite Power, Clay has bred a two-time Breeders' Cup champion.

“I'd say I have exceeded what I wanted to accomplish,” said the Palm Beach, Florida-based businessman. “To breed a stakes horse is the first step and then to breed a Grade I winner is next, but I never thought I would breed a champion. To have a horse you bred win the Breeders' Cup is pretty special.”

Breeding Thoroughbreds is in Clay's blood. His cousin is Runnymede Farm's Catesby W. Clay, whose family has been involved in the breeding industry in Lexington for over 100 years. Clay fell in love with racing when he attended his first Kentucky Derby the year that the filly Genuine Risk came out victorious, but a greater passion developed soon after when he began studying the breeding side of the sport.

“I always figured that when I got to a certain stage in my life, I wanted to get into racing and breeding,” Clay explained. “I was really attracted to the breeding end because I think it's important to continue to perpetuate the breed as opposed to just owning racehorses.”

After building a successful career in sports marketing, Clay decided to take the plunge and get involved in the Thoroughbred business. He bought his first mare at the 2006 Keeneland November Sale, spending $410,000 on Litany. She was a 7-year-old winning daughter of Holy Bull and a full-sister to GISW Confessional. Litany never produced much of anything for Clay and he sold her four years later for just $7,000. It was his first lesson in how the market can oftentimes make for a rollercoaster ride for commercial breeders.

Clay decided that if he wanted to build a successful program, he was going to have to play at the top end. He began looking for mares that were accomplished on the racetrack and had plenty of depth to their pedigrees.

At the 2011 Fasig-Tipton November Sale, he paid $1.55 million for Mona de Momma (Speightstown), the winner of the 2010 GI Humana Distaff S. who hailed from the family of Mr. Greeley and Street Sense.

Flash forward eight years and Monda de Momma was responsible for GII Blue Grass S. winner and Kentucky Derby runner Vekoma (Candy Ride {Arg}). As a 4-year-old, Vekoma reeled off three straight victories including the GI Carter H. and GI Metropolitan H., making him the favorite going into the 2020 GI Breeders' Cup Sprint. But the Wednesday before the championship meet, he spiked a temperature and was forced to scratch.

Clay had gotten a taste of what it was like to have a horse he bred take on the Breeders' Cup. Luckily, he didn't have long to wait before he had another shot at producing a Breeders' Cup champion.

Two years after purchasing the dam of Vekoma, Clay spent $2.15 million on Broadway's Alibi (Vindication) at the Keeneland November Sale. The dual graded stakes-winning Robsham Stables homebred was runner-up in the 2012 GI Kentucky Oaks. While the mare's first four foals never made it to the racetrack, her fifth foal–a flashy chestnut son of Curlin–developed into a standout as a youngster at Lane's End Farm.

Elite Power as a foal with dam Broadway's Alibi | Lane's End

Elite Power was a decent size and a pretty muscular foal, but as he continued to grow he really blossomed as a yearling and had a lot more strength to him,” recalled Clay. “He was very straightforward–never one of those frisky foals–but he was very racey and muscular.”

Elite Power sold for $900,000 to Juddmonte Farms at the Keeneland September Sale, but Clay admitted that he didn't watch the pricey colt too closely early on in his career. It took the Bill Mott trainee four tries to break his maiden, but when he finally stepped up to graded stakes company in the fall of his 4-year-old year, he never looked back. After defeating reigning champion Jackie's Warrior in the 2022 Breeders' Cup Sprint at Keeneland, Elite Power picked up right where he left off last year as a 5-year-old.

Clay can remember watching Elite Power in the paddock at Santa Anita before his final career start at the Breeders' Cup.

“He walked by me and I thought, 'Boy, this horse has just a huge engine.' I had seen a couple of his races, but that was the first time I had seen him in person in a while and I was impressed with how he had really filled out.”

With a second straight Sprint victory, Elite Power joined Midnight Lute and Roy H as two-time Breeders' Cup Sprint winners and he gave Clay some of his proudest memories as a breeder.

“To breed a Breeders' Cup winner is pretty awesome, but to have a back-to-back champion is crazy,” he said. “Three Chimneys is a sponsor of the Breeders' Cup and they give a Breeders' Cup trophy to the breeders, so I've got two trophies up on my mantel.”

Clay has a lot to look forward to now, as two horses that he bred launch their careers at stud. Vekoma, who stands for $15,000 in his fourth year at Spendthrift Farm, already has six winning juveniles in his first crop. Meanwhile Elite Power is wrapping up a successful first season at Juddmonte, where the six-time graded stakes winner stands for $50,000.

Clay has supported both young sires with mares and is looking forward to their futures.

Of course, the breeding business has more than its fair share of dramatic twists. Sadly, the dams of both Vekoma and Elite Power have passed away. Mona de Momma died shortly after foaling Vekoma and Broadway's Alibi died before she could produce a foal this year.

Clay has decided to retain Broadway's Alibi's youngest foal, a full-brother to Elite Power that he named Coercive Power. The 3-year-old colt is still preparing for the racetrack, but is showing plenty of promise

“You have to have a lot of patience in this business,” said Clay. “There are a lot of ups and downs. You have to take the good with the bad and just savor the good moments. I've got a great team that I work with at Lane's End and at Mill Ridge, where Reynolds Bell helps me on the bloodstock end of it. I am very fortunate to have a really solid team that helps me along the way.”

With a broodmare band of around 20 mares split between Lane's End and Mill Ridge, Clay's initial design of gearing his program toward the commercial market is still in place, but he does retain a handful of fillies to race himself and continue the lineage of families he has bred.

Alpha Delta Stables's current flagbearer on the racetrack is Raging Sea (Curlin). The Chad Brown trainee was Clay's first homebred to make it to the Breeders' Cup in 2022, when she ran third in the Juvenile Fillies, and she has since won the 2023 GIII Comely S. and 2024 GIII Doubledogdare S. Raging Sea was fourth in her last start in the GI Ogden Phipps S., but Clay remains confident that the 4-year-old will be a competitive member of the Distaff division this year and perhaps, get a shot at returning to the Breeders' Cup.

“I think she can compete against fillies like Idiomatic (Curlin), Pretty Mischievous (Into Mischief) and Randomized (Nyquist),” said Clay. “Hopefully there are some Grade I races down the road and if we get lucky, maybe we can get to the Breeders' Cup again.”

Three Chimneys' Three Cheers to the Breeder is a series of articles profiling first-time Breeders' Cup-winning breeders.

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