Haskin's Preakness Report: Family Plot

History, it is said, repeats itself, and it will do just that in the 138th Preakness Stakes. It was 25 years ago that Claiborne Farm’s Forty Niner defeated Ogden Phipps’ Seeking the Gold by a nose in a gut-wrenching stretch duel in the Haskell Invitational Handicap, run in near-100-degree temperature. Finishing fourth in the five-horse field was Private Terms, owned by Stuart Janney Jr.’s Locust Hill Farm, who missed third by only a half-length. Forty Niner was the 4-5 favorite, and Seeking the Gold and Private Terms both were 5-2 co-second choices.

Of course, we all are aware that these three powerhouse stables, which have been strongly linked for more than five generations as both partners and adversaries, are the dominant figures in the upcoming Preakness Stakes.

Many feel if Kentucky Derby winner Orb, owned in partnership by the Phipps family and Stuart Janney III, is going to be beaten at Pimlico, it will be Departing, owned by Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider, that will perpetrate the dastardly deed.

We also are aware that Claiborne Farm has been the birthplace of the Phipps and Janney horses for many generations, and all the great Phipps family champions are buried there.

Just as Orb and Departing grew up together at Claiborne Farm, so did Forty Niner , Seeking the Gold (both sons of Mr. Prospector), and Private Terms.

As a side note regarding that 1988 Haskell, the fourth-place finisher who prevented a Claiborne-Phipps-Janney sweep was Primal, who was owned and bred by Tartan Stable, the breeder of Orb’s broodmare sire Unbridled.

Also, Private Terms is by the Phipps stallion Private Account (by Damascus), out of Laughter (a three-quarter sister to Ruffian), making him a three-quarter brother to Orb’s third dam, Steel Maiden. And finally, Seeking the Gold’s broodmare sire, Buckpasser, can be found in both Orb’s male and female families.

Now, it is just a question of whether history will repeat itself in regard to the finish of the Preakness. But instead of Claiborne defeating Phipps and Janney horses, it will attempt to defeat a single horse owned by both.

As you can see, this year’s Preakness represents the history of Thoroughbred racing and the great equine and human families that built its foundation so many years ago. What we’re seeing this year is a rare glimpse into the past. The fabric of the sport has changed dramatically as all the founding families have died out and are now nothing more than mere names from a bygone era. But through it all, the Phipps dynasty lives on, and it was only a matter of time before a throwback like Orb came along to remind a new generation of horsemen and racing fans what was so special about this sport back in the so-called golden age of racing.

So, whether it is Phipps and Janney who continue on their Triple Crown quest or whether it is Claiborne Farm that ends it in Baltimore, racing will be all the better for it. After all, even if we don’t have a Triple Crown attempt this year, which would disappoint a lot of people, a rubber match between Orb and Departing and their legendary connections in the “Test of the Champion” is not such a bad alternative.

The Doll and her Hat

Speaking of paddock mates, in an unrelated item, one of the highlights of this year’s Derby experience was driving the 45 or so miles to Fred and Buff Bradley’s Indian Ridge Farm near Frankfort, Ky. to visit racing’s most beloved Odd Couple, 5-year-old Eclipse Award winner Groupie Doll and her paddock buddy, the 12-year-old gelding Brass Hat.

The latter, a grade I winner of over $2.1 million, despite suffering two fractures in his career, not only has become close friends and constant companion to Groupie Doll while last year’s Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint winner and champion Filly and Mare Sprinter gets her annual winter and spring freshening on the farm, he also serves as babysitter for the weanlings and yearlings, sharing their paddock, playing with them, and making sure they don’t get into any trouble.

After putting together a brilliant five-race winning streak in 2012, during which she captured three grade I stakes and two grade 2 stakes by an average margin of five lengths, Groupie Doll was beaten a nose by 2011 Travers winner Stay Thirsty in the grade I Cigar Mile, a defeat that cost her any consideration for Horse of the Year.

While Buff heads to at Churchill Downs every morning to train the horses, his wife Kim runs the farm. Kim said she knew Brass Hat would make a good companion and baby sitter by the way he gets along so well with the farm’s miniature pony Buddy.

On this particular day, Groupie Doll and Brass Hat had just finished taking turns rolling in the paddock, but Kim decided not to have them cleaned off, feeling they looked like “horses” covered in dirt. I couldn’t have agreed more.

As you can see from the photos that follow, Brass Hat and Groupie Doll are as close as two horses can be.

All photos are by Steve Haskin, please ask before taking.

Groupie Doll (left) seems in total bliss, enjoying Brass Hat's affections

You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours

Friends forever

Groupie Doll and Brass Hat enjoy attention

Grazing side by side

Buddy interacting with one of the foals

Kim Bradley also likes to interact with the foals

Who knows what Groupie Doll and Brass Hat talk about?

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