Mr. Besilu Nears Debut

It has been 991 days since a big bay colt with a smashing white blaze hauled his handler through the ring at Keeneland’s 2010 September yearling sale, hammer falling on the winning $4.2 million bid of Benjamin Leon. You could feel the electricity and then a breath of fresh air, of revitalization, through the entire pavilion. Sold in the midst of a grim downturn in the Thoroughbred market, the son of A.P. Indy brought the most of any yearling purchased in North America since 2006 as the sale saw across-the-board gains (news item here).

Mr. Besilu tops the 2010 Keeneland September yearling sale (photo: Joseph DiOrio)

They say patience is a virtue, and in the case of the sales topper now named Mr. Besilu, time will soon tell if the adage rings true. At 4, after recovering from a soft tissue injury sustained in early training, the colt is set to make his June 15 debut for Leon's Besilu Stables in a one-mile maiden special weight at Churchill Downs—the same day champion stablemate Royal Delta will defend her title in the $175,000 Fleur de Lis Handicap (gr. II). Read about Mr. Besilu's debut and Royal Delta's return.

Mr. Besilu training in Florida (photo: Cheri Prill,

First under the care of Todd Pletcher, Mr. Besilu was transferred to Leon's farm near Ocala, Fla., when Leon and Pletcher parted ways at the end of 2011. The colt is now in training with Hall of Fame horseman Bill Mott, who had Mr. Besilu at Payson Park over the winter before moving him up to New York with his Belmont string.

"He had a lot of time off, then went back into training," said Besilu Stables bloodstock manager Fabricio Buffolo. "Hopefully everything goes right for the next couple weeks leading up to the 15th. The plan is to run him then at Churchill. He's ready, he's fit, so we just need to run."

Mr. Besilu training in Florida (photo: Cheri Prill,

Leon bought Mr. Besilu when attending a Thoroughbred auction in person for the first time—and, a relative newcomer on the scene, held off not only Coolmore's John Magnier, but Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert bidding on behalf of Kaleem Shah. Later in the sale, Baffert wound up buying Fed Biz for $950,000 instead. The Giant's Causeway colt won the San Fernando Stakes (gr. II) at the beginning of this year and was recently fifth in the May 29 Met Mile (gr. I). In stark contrast to his fellow Keeneland sales grad, he has already made 12 starts with a record of 4-1-3.

Leon made a splash that night, but his most significant purchase to date would come the following year, when he obtained Royal Delta for $8.5 million at the Keeneland November sale after she had won her first edition of the Breeders' Cup Ladies Classic (gr. I). Leon, who attends all of his runners' races, will be at Churchill Downs to watch both Royal Delta and Mr. Besilu. Read more about Benjamin Leon.

Benjamin Leon (right) walks champion Royal Delta (photo: Rick Samuels)

Selling Mr. Besilu was a home run for breeders John and Jerry Amerman, who consigned the colt with Mill Ridge Farm while making their first foray into the auction scene. "We never sold a yearling (at public auction) before, but we knew he was spectacular, so we decided to try it (entering him in the September sale) and see what happened," John Amerman told The Blood-Horse after the sale. "He seemed like he was special from day one."

Mr. Besilu as a foal at Mill Ridge with his dam, Balance (photo: Joy Gilbert)

Mr. Besilu certainly has royal bloodlines. His dam Balance—a daughter of Thunder Gulch out of the Kris S. mare Vertigineux—is the older half sister of champion racemare Zenyatta. Balance herself was no slouch; a three-time grade I winner, she took the 2006 Las Virgenes Stakes (gr. I), that year's Santa Anita Oaks (gr. I), and the 2007 La Canada Stakes (gr. II) and Santa Margarita Invitational Handicap (gr. I) for Amerman Racing.

Balance wins the grade I Santa Margarita (photo: Benoit Photo)

"The Amermans are such wonderful people, and Balance was such a special mare, not to mention a half to Zenyatta, who was doing what she was doing at the time," recalled Headley Bell, managing partner at Mill Ridge Farm. "All of that contributed to him topping the sale. Him coming together for that particular sale was a significant accomplishment that was rewarding from our standpoint, but mostly we were just happy for the Amermans, who are our friends and are very deserving of any good fortune they've had."

Baby Mr. Besilu at Mill Ridge Farm (photo: Joy Gilbert)

"He was a horse who just blossomed with time, a great, big horse," Bell said, remembering him as a foal.

Mr. Besilu's late-developing relatives offer an illustration of talent well worth the wait. Zenyatta, for instance, did not start until November of her 3-year-old year en route to 19 straight victories and a runner-up finish by a nose to Blame in the Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I).

"Truly, look at Zenyatta, she certainly took her time, and John (Sherriffs) did an excellent job with her," Bell said. "In all fairness you can't quite compare with Zenyatta, but this has also been a horse horse who needs time."

Mr. Besilu in Florida (photo: Cheri Prill,

Bell recalled sitting in the Keeneland pavilion in 2010 when Mr. Besilu went through the ring.

"It was a big deal," he said. "It was the first time they'd kind of started that evening session in recent years, and we were hip number 14 so the sale was just getting kicked off. We were dealing with the climate of this depression, and it gave a boost early in the session and kind of helped the rest of the sale, so that was very, very nice. I remember it very well because he was really on the muscle, dragging the groom around. You always hope for the best. I remember sitting with Rich Santulli, who is a good friend, and saying to him, 'This colt's something else.' "

Mr. Besilu as a yearling (photo: Joseph DiOrio)

Mr. Besilu all grown up (photo: Cheri Prill,

Watch the bidding war for Mr. Besilu at the 2010 Keeneland September Sale:

[brightcove videoid="608239525001"]

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