Classic Hopes in Calumet's Renewal

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(By Avalyn Hunter)

 2012 has been a year of changes for historic Calumet Farm. Sold to the Calumet Investment Group Trust and officially leased to billionaire businessman Brad Kelley, the farm now is revamping its breeding operations. Stallions Ice Box and Cactus Ridge, who both stood at Calumet in 2012 while the farm was still owned by Kennelot Stables (part of the de Kwiatkowski Trust), have moved on, and in their place are two sons of Dynaformer--2010 Emirates Melbourne Cup (Aus-I) winner Americain and stakes winner Lentenor--and the multiple grade II winner Aikenite, by Yes It's True.

Calumet already owns a majority interest in English Channel, like Americain a staying turf runner but one who appears to be defying the American bias against such horses as sires. Currently third on the second-crop sire list behind Hard Spun and Scat Daddy, English Channel's runners include Optimizer, who represented Kelley in the 2012 Triple Crown races.

Optimizer finished up the track in the classics, but he may be a signal as to Kelley's intentions for his breeding program at Calumet. Another may be the acquisition of Americain, who will fall heir to a number of mares purchased specifically to be sent to his sire. These moves do not suggest someone who is looking either for profits in the sale ring or a quick return on investment at the track. What they do suggest is that Kelley is serious about breeding horses that can recapture Calumet's glory days in the mid-20th century. And that means horses with the stamina, soundness, and speed to capture Triple Crown races, the top weight-for-age races, and major handicaps.

Lentenor and Aikenite are also signals that Kelley is willing to think a bit outside the box and perhaps longer-term than most in pursuit of his breeding goals. Neither can be said to have a particularly fashionable pedigree, although Lentenor does have the cachet of being a full brother to 2006 Kentucky Derby (gr. I) winner Barbaro and Aikenite descends from the same family as 1999 dual classic winner Charismatic. But both have speed combined with pedigrees that hold some stamina elements, a good combination for use with more stamina-oriented mares than will suit Americain.

Breeding programs oriented toward the classics and other major races in the range of nine to 12 furlongs usually require serious planning and investment up front and plenty of patience before the desired results start coming in--if they ever do. Kelley appears to be making the investment; it remains to be seen if his planning is as sound as it is daring by conventional standards of wisdom. Here's hoping that his patience will be rewarded.

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