Reaching for Roses: The Beginning of the Journey

July 6, 2011

My First Meet at Churchill Downs is in the Books

The Spring Meet at Churchill Downs came to a close on July 4 and it was a meet I will never forget. I accepted a job at Churchill in April, began work on May 12 and now my first meet is officially in the books.

Here are my top ten highlights from the meet (in no particular order).

1. “Shadowing” the communications and media services team during Kentucky Derby weekend and having the best seat in the house for the big race

2. Trainer Garry Simms, who has become a good friend of mine this meet, winning the Debutante with Flashy Lassie. The Debutante was also my first recap of a graded stakes race.

3. Trainer Ken McPeek winning five graded stakes races in a row (the Dogwood, the Aristides, the Mint Julep, the Matt Winn and the Regret)

4. My first story in the barn notes: exercise rider Tara Murty and her horse Cherry Included

5. The tornado that tore through the backstretch at Churchill Downs. It’s not exactly a “happy” highlight, but thankfully no people or horses were hurt and obviously it will be something that I’ll always associate with my first meet.

6. My daily conversations with trainer Tom Proctor at the clocker’s stand

7. Getting my picture taken with Brass Hat on his final day at Churchill Downs

8. My first breakfast at Wagner’s

9. The race of the meet: Keertana winning the Louisville Handicap in a three-horse photo over Bearpath and Guys Reward

10. Speaking to the connections of Wise Dan after his win in the Firecracker Handicap on closing day. Trainer Charlie Lopresti was so excited he couldn’t stand still during the interview and owner Mort Fink told me, “This is one of the greatest things to happen to me.” It was great to see that kind of pure joy following such a big win.

The team took a couple of days off to take a breath after the meet, but it’s back to work tomorrow. I’m sure before I know it my first off-season at Churchill will be in the books as well and I’ll begin my first fall meet. Time flies when you’re having fun and I’m having an amazing time.

June 8, 2011

One Month After Graduation

One month ago today, I graduated from the University of Kentucky. It really seems as though it was just yesterday. The older I get, the faster time seems to fly. It’s been a really exciting month and hopefully things continue to go well.

Working at Churchill Downs has been great. I’ve really enjoyed meeting lots of interesting people and working at one of the most historic racetracks in the world. Things have been more challenging the last couple of weeks because I am sort of out on my own now. Prior to Preakness weekend, I was accompanied by Gary Yunt while working in the press box and on the backside. Gary was loaded with information and had been writing about news on the Churchill Downs backside since before I was born. He decided to move home to Denver and “watch the deer and the antelope play” after the Preakness and since then I have had a lot more responsibility. It’s been a great experience and I’m learning more than I ever thought was possible. If you are interested in reading the Churchill Downs Barn Notes that I have been working on with John Asher and Darren Rogers, then you can click on the following link: http://www.churchilldowns.com/news/archive/barn-notes.

One of the best parts of my job is being around the stars of our sport on a daily basis. I stood just a few feet away from Animal Kingdom the day before he won the Kentucky Derby, I watched Shackleford get a bath shortly after returning to Churchill Downs following his Preakness victory, and last week I got my picture taken with the recently retired Brass Hat, a Grade I winner of more than $2 million. The picture I took with Brass Hat is below. Trainer Buff Bradley took the picture for me after handing me the shank. It was so cool!

The goal from the age of 15 was to be employed in the Thoroughbred industry because I wanted to have a job I would enjoy. I can honestly say that I love waking up for work in the morning.

Thank you to all the readers of this blog for the continued support. I apologize for the blog not being updated as often as usual. I’m sure I will have more time to update the blog at the end of the Churchill Downs Spring Meet, which is July 4. But if you’re interested in what I’ve been writing about at work then you can read the Barn Notes on the Churchill Downs website.

One last thing…

In tomorrow’s fifth race at Churchill Downs, Dullahan will make his career debut for trainer Dale Romans and owner Donegal Racing. Dullahan is a 2-year-old half-brother to Mine That Bird by Skype’s sire, Even The Score. Jerry Crawford of Donegal Racing bought the colt at last year’s Keeneland September Sale for $250,000 and Romans told me he is “definitely one to watch.” I’d love for Dullahan to do really well and get some good press for Even The Score before Skype enters the Keeneland sale this September.

May 16, 2011

Update Time – Twitter Edition

Well it’s been almost two weeks since my last post and so it’s time for lots of updates. There is a lot to tell, so I’ve decided to put a sort of Twitter spin on this post. For those of you that are unfamiliar, the website Twitter allows users to post messages; however, the messages are limited to 140 characters. This ensures the messages are short and sweet. I won’t limit myself to 140 characters, but I’ll be keeping things brief.

Sky

Sky was bred to Stevie Wonderboy on April 7 and was pronounced to be in-foal on April 25. Unfortunately, Sky pulled a Zenyatta and it was discovered the she had lost the pregnancy when she was rechecked at the beginning of May. Sky is completely healthy, but these things sometimes happen. She was sent back to Stevie Wonderboy on May 6, Kentucky Oaks Day. I was working at Churchill Downs at the time and was unable to accompany Sky to the breeding shed, but I’m told everything went smoothly. She will be checked for pregnancy at the beginning of next week.

Skype

Back in January, I listed several reasons as to why Skype would not be sold at a public auction. I also wrote that plans could always change and one can never say never in this business. Well, plans did change and Skype is entered in the 2011 Keeneland September Yearling Sale. She has matured nicely over the past several months and I believe she could do well at the sale. This is a new development and I will give more details as I know them.

Faith  

I went out to see the horses on May 10 and Faith looked great. She was quite the shy filly at the beginning, but has definitely gained her independence and has no problem wandering off from her mom. Faith is happy, healthy, and growing like a weed.

Sky Above

Sky Above is the registered name of Sky’s first foal, a colt by Artie Schiller. I was able to contact the owner of Sky Above last week and found out that he is training at the Webb Carroll Training Center in South Carolina and is progressing nicely. He will want to go two-turns and could make his debut this fall.

137th Kentucky Derby

I was asked to help out in the press box during the Kentucky Derby and it was a great day. I had to run a few errands, but for the most part I just enjoyed the races. Unfortunately, I did not pick the winner of the Derby for the fourth consecutive year (Street Sense was my last winner), but my view of the race from the press box made everything okay. Even though I did not play Animal Kingdom, I was still screaming and cheering as the horses crossed the wire. Also, I was able to catch some footage of one of my favorite parts of the Derby: the singing of my “Old Kentucky Home.” Watch the video below, and please excuse my terrible singing.

First Day of Work

I started my job at Churchill Downs last Wednesday and it has been nothing short of awesome. I have already had the opportunity to meet several stars of horse racing and have also enjoyed getting to know all the people on the backside that are so important to this game. If you would like to read Churchill Downs’ barn notes that I have been co-writing then you can follow this link: http://www.churchilldowns.com/category/news-category/barn-notes. The notes titled, “Routine Day for Preakness Hopefuls,” gave me my first ever “by line.” It was pretty cool to see “By Gary Yunt and Travers Manley” on Churchill Downs’ website.

Life

My grandpa always used to tell me, “Travers, life is good.” Well, life is better than ever. I told my dad the other night about how much fun I’m having at work and he said, “That was the plan all along. To get a job that you love.”

I am so blessed to have the love and support of God and my family because without them I would not be where I am today. My mom and dad always tell me that I am responsible for my achievements and they didn’t have anything to do with it. “You went out and accomplished all this on your own,” they say. Well the truth is, I would not have achieved anything without them. I am the young man I am today because of their love and support. They will say they had nothing to do with it, but they had everything to do with it. I appreciate all of the compliments that I get on this blog, but the people you really need to congratulate are my parents. They’re the impressive ones, not me.

Well…that’s all for now. Have a great week!

May 1, 2011

Looking Forward to Firsts

Last Friday was an absolutely gorgeous day in Lexington and I was fortunate enough to spend the day at Keeneland. It was so nice to finally have good weather for a weekend day of racing. There was a wonderful crowd on hand to celebrate the closing day of the 2011 Keeneland Spring Meet. I was happy to see that there were thousands of 20-somethings in the crowd and several of my close friends were also able to make it out to the races.

The highlight of the day came when I got to speak to Mr. Ted Bassett. He was sitting outside of the Keeneland gift shop doing a book signing with Nick Nicholson and Bill Greely. I waited until the end of the signing and then walked over to the table he was at and approached him. When he saw me walking his way, he got a big smile on his face, jumped up from his chair, and greeted me. For those that do not know, I met with Mr. Bassett back in March to seek his advice about what I should do with my life when I graduate. I had not seen Mr. Bassett since then and so I went up to tell him about my new job at Churchill Downs. He was so excited for me and thought it was wonderful. He even introduced me to Mr. Greely and I spoke with him for a few minutes. Before saying goodbye, Mr. Bassett said, “Travers, I’m very proud of you.” I will remember that moment forever.

On a quick side note…On March 31, Mr. Bassett came to speak at the University of Kentucky as part of the Equine Initiative’s Distinguished Lecture Series. He spoke for over an hour about his early days in Kentucky, college life at Yale, time in the Marine Corps, and experiences in the Thoroughbred industry. If you have some extra time, I strongly encourage you watch the video of Mr. Bassett’s speech. You can watch it at http://video.ca.uky.edu/videos/video/136/.

Moving on…

After speaking with Mr. Bassett, I had to get a few notes for Keeneland. I spoke with Ken Ramsey about winning the owner’s title, Ken McPeek about winning the trainer’s title, and Rosie Napravnik after the G2 Elkhorn. Getting quotes from these people was my final task as a Keeneland employee. I began working for Keeneland in August of 2009 and have steadily worked as a member of the Keeneland team since then. It has been an amazing experience working for such a wonderful company. My experiences were so great that Keeneland was recently awarded the “Most Influential Internship Site” by the University of Kentucky’s Equine Initiative Program. The award is well deserved and I will forever be grateful to Keeneland and, more specifically, Julie Balog (Director of Communications) for teaching me so much.

As I just stated, Friday was my last day as a Keeneland employee. Friday was also my last day of classes in college. On Wednesday, I will take my last final exam and Saturday will be my last day as an undergrad. Senior year has been an amazing year and by far the best year that I have had in college. Unfortunately, senior year is full of “lasts.”

I am now ready for some “firsts.” I am ready for my first (and only) college graduation. I am ready for my first Kentucky Derby as a Churchill Downs’ employee. I am ready for my first “real” day of work at Churchill Downs on May 12th. I am looking forward to seeing Skype and Faith run in a race for the first time. I am looking forward to Skype and Faith’s first wins. There are countless other things I am looking forward to in the next few years, so that is only a few.

The point is that I have had a good share of lasts this year and, rather than being sad about these “lasts,” I will choose to look forward to the firsts.

April 21, 2011

The Job Search is Over

At the end of January, I received a Facebook message from a friend that heard there may be a potential job opening at Churchill Downs in the Media/Communications Department. She told me that I should contact Darren Rogers, who is the Senior Director of Communications & Media Services at Churchill Downs. I immediately sent Mr. Rogers an e-mail with some information about myself and to inform him that I would be very interested in any job openings in his department. He informed me that there may be a job opening soon, but that currently there were no available positions. I assumed that I had struck out.

Over the next several months, I spent a large majority of my time trying to find a job. I e-mailed a dozen Thoroughbred farms in Lexington, applied for positions at various racetracks around the country, and searched daily for “horse jobs” on websites like Monster.com. I didn’t have any luck.

My job search continued into the month of March and frustration was beginning to set in. I can recall lying in my bed on the night of March 8th and thinking, “I graduate in two months and have no idea what I’m going to do.” Needless to say, I didn’t get very much sleep that night. In fact, I wasn’t sleeping very much on any night.

A few days later it was suggested to me that I should try to meet with Mr. Ted Bassett to get some guidance. Julie Balog, the Keeneland Director of Communications, my former boss, and dear friend, was able to set up a meeting with me and Mr. Bassett. I met him at the cottage on Keeneland’s property and I can remember trying to steady my hand enough to turn the handle and open the door. If I knew how the conversation was going to go then I never would have been so nervous. Mr. Bassett is a wonderful person; a true gentleman. We talked for hours, but the one thing that I took away from our meeting was that I needed to market myself better. I needed to begin telling possible employers what I would bring to their company that they don’t already have and also what sets me apart from other people applying for the job. Before leaving his office, he gave me a short “pep talk” of sorts. The last thing he said to me was, “Travers, you have found something that you are passionate about. If you want to be in this business, then nothing is going to hold you back as long as you don’t give up. Promise me you won’t quit.” I promised him, we shook hands, and I was out the door.

The next day I had a meeting with Keith Kleine of the American Association of Equine Practitioners. The graduate advisor of my fraternity works for the AAEP and recommended that I speak with Mr. Kleine for some additional guidance. I had a great talk with Mr. Kleine and found out that he knew Darren Rogers from Churchill Downs. I told Mr. Kleine that there were no openings at Churchill Downs, but he encouraged me to contact Mr. Rogers again to see if the situation had changed and if there were any positions available.

After meeting with Mr. Kleine, I got really busy with school and it seemed like I had a test or paper due every day. Eventually, things calmed down and I had the time to send Mr. Rogers an e-mail to check in on the situation at Churchill Downs. He responded to my e-mail rather quickly and asked if I could meet with him. We worked out a date and time and I went to meet with him on April 3rd.

We talked for a couple of hours about all sorts of things. I talked a lot about myself, obviously, but we also talked a lot about horse racing in general. It was a good discussion and, before I left his office, Mr. Rogers informed me that a position in the Media/Communications Department was available. He told me that he would speak with John Asher, Vice President of Racing Communications, and then contact me in a few days about whether or not I would be invited back for a second interview.

About a week and a half later, I received an e-mail from Mr. Rogers asking if I could come meet with him and Mr. Asher on April 17th. Of course, I said that I could meet with them. I traveled back to Churchill Downs and my meeting with Mr. Asher and Mr. Rogers was very similar to my meeting with Mr. Rogers a couple of weeks earlier. Basically, I talked a lot about myself: how I got interested in horse racing, my educational background, work history, etc. We also talked about some Kentucky Derby history and the Triple Crown trail.

During the meeting last Sunday, Mr. Rogers casually mentioned that he would like to hire me. Unfortunately, before any specifics could be discussed, he had a personal matter to attend to and our meeting was cut short. I had a dentist appointment scheduled in Louisville on Tuesday and so we arranged for our meeting to be continued on Tuesday afternoon after my appointment. When I arrived at Mr. Rogers’ office, he was on his way out to the backstretch to watch the arrival of a couple of horses pointing towards the Kentucky Derby. He invited me to join him and said we could discuss the job specifics along the way.

On our journey to the Churchill Downs’ backstretch, Mr. Rogers offered me a job as a Media Coordinator and Staff Writer. I would be working closely with him on Media and Communications’ matters, as well as doing a lot of writing of feature stories, stakes wrap-ups, and barn notes.

And…

I accepted the position! I graduate on May 8th and I am scheduled to work my first day on May 12th. I am so excited to have a job when I graduate and relieved that the job search is over. I am thrilled to begin this next chapter of my life and look forward to being a member of the Churchill Downs team.

A very special thank you to all that helped me during my job search; especially, my family, Julie Balog and the rest of the Keeneland team, Dr. Bob Coleman, Dr. Mary Rossano, Meg Levy, Keith Kleine, Ted Bassett, and Alicia Wincze Hughes. I also want to thank God for continuing to bless me so much. He has blessed me with a great opportunity and I am so thankful. I wouldn’t be where I am today without His love and guidance.

Moving on…

To conclude today’s post, I have included a few pictures that I took on Tuesday. I hope you enjoy them and that everyone has a fantastic Easter weekend!

Multiple Graded Stakes winner, The Factor, arriving at Churchill Downs

Nehro on his way to his stall upon arrival at Churchill Downs

The view from my future office in the Joe Hirsch Media Center

April 12, 2011

Sky, Keeneland, and the 2YO Sale

Sky Bred Last Thursday

Sky was scheduled to be bred last Monday on April 4th; however, I was informed by my veterinarian the night before that she would not be ready. So I woke up extra early the next day and called Airdrie to cancel Sky’s appointment. I rescheduled for Thursday afternoon and was told on Wednesday that she would be ready to go.

After my morning classes on Thursday, I headed out to Airdrie to be there for the 2 o’clock breeding. At about 1:50 I got a call that the van with Sky was running a little late. Sky is incredibly protective of her foals, which is usually a good thing until you try to get her on a van and leave Faith behind. Needless to say, Sky was not the easiest horse in the world to load and so the van ran a little behind schedule. While I waited on the van to arrive, I took a couple of pictures with my phone. One of Stevie Wonderboy and one of the big man on campus at Airdrie, Indian Charlie.

The van made it to Airdrie around 2:15 and Sky was bred just a few minutes after that. Stevie was a professional and everything went smoothly. Sky then got back on the trailer without a problem and headed back to her home at The Croft, where she was happily reunited with Faith.

On Friday, I received word that Sky ovulated after the breeding. Now the waiting  begins. Sky will be checked 15 days post-cover for pregnancy. I should know if she is in foal by Easter weekend. Everyone keep their fingers crossed!

My Final College Scholarship Day

Last Friday was my last college scholarship day at Keeneland. College scholarship days are held once every meet and I attended all eight that were held during my time at UK. Unfortunately, while I went 8 for 8 in attendance, I went 0 for 8 in winning a scholarship. Although I didn’t win a scholarship, I still had a great time as always. I began my final college scholarship day by handing out flyers for TVG’s “The Late Double” show that will be filmed at Keeneland this Friday. Some people hate handing out flyers, but I had fun with it and distributed about 1,000 flyers in three hours.

After I finished working for TVG, I teamed up with the Keeneland “notes team” to get quotes from the connections after the Transylvania Stakes. My job was to interview the jockey of the 2nd place finisher, which happened to be Julien Leparoux. I always interview the connections of the losers, while Mike Battaglia interviews the winning connections. I actually joked with Julien the day before that he should hope that he doesn’t have to talk to me much this meet. It was very funny that my first interview of the meet was with Julien. He was not thrilled to see me, but he laughed it off.

Keeneland’s April 2YO in Training Sale

This afternoon I decided to head out to Keeneland for the April 2YO in training sale. I always enjoy the excitement of Thoroughbred auctions and I was also curious to take a look at the lone horse by Stevie Wonderboy in the sale, hip #48. The dark bay or brown filly out of Quanah County was consigned by Kirkwood Stables, agent, and sold for $70,000 to Side Management Ltd. Hopefully she turns out to be a nice runner and I wish all of her new connections the best of luck with her.

I stuck around for another couple of hours after the Stevie Wonderboy filly sold and wandered around the sales pavilion. It was a lot of fun to simply enjoy the excitement of the sale. I also got to speak with some of my friends in the industry that I do not get to see very often. After socializing a bit, I went to the dining area to eat a chicken salad sandwich from Turf Catering. I decided after eating the sandwich in about five minutes that Turf Catering will be catering my wedding. To my future wife: this is non-negotiable.

While trying to decide if I could eat another whole sandwich, I noticed trainer Mike Stidham sitting a few tables away. I needed to get some information from him about Willcox Inn for the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes post position draw on Wednesday, and so I approached him. Mr. Stidham was one of the trainers that I wrote a short biography on for the Breeders’ Cup website and so we had spoken many times before. I got the information that I needed and then we began talking about other things. He was curious about how I got involved in horse racing, how crazy my parents are for naming me after a horse race, and what I wanted to do with my life. We even talked about the future of horse racing, breeder awards programs, and race day medications.

He probably had a lot more important things to attend to; however, he took some time to talk with me and I really appreciate it. I have had to talk to a lot of people in the Thoroughbred business over the last two years through working on the Breeders’ Cup Bio Book team and the Keeneland notes team. Very few, if any, have been as enjoyable to talk to as Mike Stidham. He’s never treated me with anything but great respect and kindness and has always made time to answer all of my questions. Cheers to you, Mike Stidham.

 

April 4, 2011

It’s Time for Keeneland

Friday is opening day of Keeneland’s 2011 Spring Meet and also College Scholarship Day. Keeneland holds a College Scholarship Day every year during the fall and spring meets. After attending the races this Friday, I will have attended all eight Keeneland College Scholarship Days that have been held during my time at UK. If you are unfamiliar with Keeneland’s College Scholarship Day, or you’re just interested in my cinematography skills, you may watch the video below. I produced and filmed the video for Keeneland’s YouTube page to give fans a glimpse of the event.

I will no longer be making videos for Keeneland (at least I don’t think); however, I will still be highly involved during this meet. On Friday, I will be handing out information for TVG to college students, and this weekend I will help organize the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes post-position draw event. Also, every Friday and Saturday of the meet I will be tracking down owners, trainers, and jockeys to get their thoughts and opinions following stakes races. This can be a very interesting and exciting job; however, it’s not always great fun to interview the connections of a beaten-favorite in a stakes race. I’ve been chewed out a couple of times, but it’s part of the job.

I will be at Keeneland just about every day that there is live racing. If you are planning on making a trip to Keeneland, let me know and perhaps we can meet up. There will be beautiful horses, beautiful women, beautiful scenery, great racing, and hopefully fantastic weather. It’s not something you want to miss!

March 27, 2011

A Closer Look at Stevie Wonderboy. Part 3

Part three of the “Closer Look at Stevie Wonderboy” series is going to be pretty short because his stallion career has only just begun. Hopefully some of you will still find some of the provided statistics interesting.

On June 28, 2007, after being unable to recover from an injury, it was announced that Stevie Wonderboy would be retired from racing for stallion duty at Airdrie Stud. His initial stud fee was $17,500; however, his fee would drop to $15,000 in 2009 and $10,000 for the 2010 and 2011 seasons. He would stand his first season in 2008, covering 107 mares that would result in 73 live foals. The following year, Stevie Wonderboy covered 53 mares that resulted in 38 live foals of 2010. This past year he covered 59 mares. Obviously the number of live foals of 2011 by Stevie Wonderboy is not yet known. Based on his prior live foal percentages, one can expect around 40 live foals to be born this year. I honestly do not know how large his book is this year, but I would assume that it will once again be in the 50-60 range.

Although he has yet to have starters (his first foals are two-year-olds of 2011 and will race this year), Stevie Wonderboy’s progeny have had some decent success in the sales ring. Below are the sales statistics for Stevie Wonderboy for 2009, 2010, and 2011. All information was provided by The Blood-Horse‘s Stallion Register.

2009

Weanlings – 8 offered, 4 sold; $53,000 average, including a filly out of Road to the Ball that sold for $72,000 at the Keeneland November Sale.

2010

Weanlings – 2 offered, 1 sold for $35,000
Yearlings – 65 offered, 40 sold; $28,845 average, including a $170,000 colt out of Harlan Honey and a $90,000 colt out of Beloved by All. Both horses were sold at the Keeneland September Sale.

2011

Yearlings – 2 offered, 1 sold for $34,000
Two-year-olds – 7 offered, 3 sold; $20,000 average.

The sales numbers are decent for a horse whose foals have yet to hit the track, but there is definitely room for improvement. Buyers are willing to pay more for horses by a stallion that has a proven record of producing high-class performers on the racetrack. Hopefully, dozens of two-year-olds from Stevie Wonderboy’s first crop will break their maidens in 2011 and a handful will be stakes performers and stakes winners.

I know one thing for sure is that I’ll be rooting for every Stevie Wonderboy as if it were my own; just like I cheer for every Even the Score and just like I’ll someday cheer for every foal by Parading.

Go Stevie Wonderboy! Go Parading! Go Even the Score!

And of course…

Go Kentucky Wildcats!

March 19, 2011

A Closer Look at Stevie Wonderboy. Part 2

A couple of days ago I gave some detailed information about the pedigree of Stevie Wonderboy. Today, I’ll take a look at his short, yet very successful racing career.

Stevie Wonderboy, who was bred by John Gunther, Tony Holmes, and Walter Zent, was born on March 27, 2003 in Kentucky. After failing to meet his reserve at the 2004 Keeneland September Yearling Sale, Stevie Wonderboy would be sold for $100,000 at the 2005 Fasig-Tipton Calder selected two-year-olds in training sale.

Trained by Doug O’Neill and racing under the colors of Merv Griffin, Stevie Wonderboy made his career debut in a Maiden Special Weight at Hollywood Park on June 18, 2005. He steadied at the half-mile pole and ran hard to secure a second place finish to eventual multiple graded-stakes winner, What a Song. It would be the first of two times Stevie Wonderboy would be beaten by What a Song.

Stevie Wonderboy flashed enough talent in his debut that Doug O’Neill confidently entered him into the G3 Hollywood Juvenile Championship S. for his second start. He was a bit slow into stride, but ran well at the end to finish third behind What a Song and Bashert at odds of 4.20 to 1.

After running a decent third in a G3, Stevie Wonderboy was given a class break and entered into a Maiden Special Weight at Del Mar on August 6, 2005. He stalked the pace, took the lead nearing the stretch, and never looked back; cruising to a four-length victory as the 2/5 favorite.

Coming off a convincing victory in his last start, Stevie Wonderboy was favored in his next race: the G2 Del Mar Futurity. He did not disappoint and galloped home to a five-length victory for his first graded-stakes win. The race would serve as his final prep for the G1 Bessemer Trust Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.

Stevie Wonderboy broke from post 12 and had lots of trouble in the BC Juvenile. The Equibase chart of the race notes that he “checked at the start, clipped heels and stumbled along the backstretch, and raced far back for a half.” Once he settled down a bit, he quickly got back into the race and circled four wide entering the stretch. Stevie Wonderboy then finished very strong and the chart says he “charged to the front inside the sixteenth pole, then edged clear through the final fifty yards.” It was the biggest victory of Stevie Wonderboy’s career as he defeated a tough field that included Henny Hughes, First Samurai, and Brother Derek. The win gave Stevie Wonderboy a Grade 1 victory and secured his 2005 juvenile championship. Stevie Wonderboy’s exciting win in the 2005 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (along with a post-race interview with the connections) may be viewed in the video below.

Following his victory in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, Stevie Wonderboy was given the rest of 2005 off. He returned to racing on January 14, 2006 in the G2 San Rafael S. at Santa Anita. He ran a decent race, but was unable to catch Brother Derek and finished second as the 3/5 favorite. The San Rafael would be Stevie Wonderboy’s final start.

Unfortunately, Stevie Wonderboy suffered an injury to his right front ankle while training in February of 2006. He was able to eventually return to training after several months off; however, he was soon put back on the shelf with a chip in the same ankle. The connections were hopeful that he would someday return to racing, but he would never make it back to the track and was retired in June of 2007.

Stevie Wonderboy finished with a record of 3 wins, 2 seconds, and 1 third from 6 starts and career earnings of $1,058,940. I’m sure many were very disappointed that the juvenile champion was only able to make one more career start; however, Stevie Wonderboy retired as a champion, G1-winning millionaire. I’ll take a barn full of those!

March 17, 2011

A Closer Look at Stevie Wonderboy. Part 1

Last week I made the announcement that Sky will be bred to Stevie Wonderboy in 2011. This week I’ll take a closer look at Stevie Wonderboy in three posts: one about his pedigree, one on his racing career, and the final one on the beginning of his stud career.

I’ll start with his pedigree.

Stevie Wonderboy has a fantastic pedigree. Steve Haskin of the Blood-Horse said of his pedigree, “His pedigree is nearly flawless…in his first four generations are two triple crown winners and five American classic winners, as well as an Epsom Derby winner and a Coaching Club American Oaks Winner.”

Stevie Wonderboy is by Grade 1 winner Stephen Got Even, a son of the mighty A.P. Indy. Stephen Got Even has had many stakes winners, but Stevie Wonderboy is his only Eclipse Award winner.

The champion Stevie Wonderboy is out of a Summer Squall mare named Heat Lightning. Heat Lightning is the dam of 10 foals and, other than Stevie Wonderboy, has produced Group 3 winner and Group 1 placed Theyskens’ Theory and stakes-placed winner Queen Joanne. Summer Squall is a half-brother to A.P. Indy and therefore, Stevie Wonderboy is inbred 3×3 to Weekend Surprise.

His second dam is Schuylerville S. (G3) winner Mystical Mood. Mystical Mood (Roberto) was a Grade 1 performer on the track (placing in the G1 Frizette and G1 Matron) and continued her success as a broodmare by producing graded-stakes winner Fair Judgement and stakes-winner Linda Coqueta. Mystical Mood is also the granddam of six stakes winners: Stevie Wonderboy, Theyskens’ Theory, Gigi’s Magic, Clever Tish, Dake, and Wood Sprite.

Stevie Wonderboy’s third dam is also a stakes winner and placed in the G1 Frizette. Her name is Mystery Mood (Night Invader) and she produced 15 foals; including stakes winners Mystical Mood, Maximilian, and Mythical Hunter.

The fourth dam, Moaning Low (Loser Weeper), won four races; including a stakes race at 2. She went on to produce two stakes winners: Natural Sound, who won three stakes at 2, and Hurluberlu, who won the Mohawk S. at Greenwood in 1970.

So…let’s review.

I wanted to breed Sky to a stallion that would have the potential of producing something precocious. Well, Stevie Wonderboy definitely comes from a very precocious family. His first dam is the producer of a juvenile champion and a two-year old G3 stakes winner. His second dam won a graded stakes at 2 and placed in multiple G1 stakes at 2. His third dam won a stakes race at 2 and placed in two other graded-stakes at 2. His fourth dam won a stakes race at 2 and produced a multiple stakes winner at 2 in Natural Sound.

See a trend here? I do. Lots of two-year old stakes performers! Let’s hope the Stevie Wonderboy – Sky foal will be just as precocious and successful as many of its relatives.

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