When Better Than Honour sold for a broodmare world-record $14 million Nov. 2 at the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky November sale, it evoked memories of Nov. 10, 1984, when another world record was set on the day of the first Breeders’ Cup.
“You and I must have been the only ones thinking of that day,” a laughing Jeff Morris said the morning after Better Than Honour went through the ring. “It was a crazy day. For me, it was a cosmic event.”
Twenty-four years ago, Morris consigned Priceless Fame to the FTK sale for Joe Morrissey. In foal to Seattle Slew, the daughter of Irish Castle brought a world-record $6 million.
Priceless Fame was purchased by a relative newcomer to the business at the time: Sheikh Mohammed.
For Morrissey and Morris, a perfect series of events led to the price for Priceless Fame, much the same as happened with Better Than Honour.
“Everything really fell into play. It was like it was scripted,” Morris said.
Priceless Fame was bred and owned by Lee Eaton in partnership with Marvin Waldman and Samuel Lyon, who called their operation Red Bull Stable. Sheikh Mohammed had purchased the mare’s first foal, group I winner Dunbeath (by Grey Dawn II), and raced him until his retirement.
Morrissey purchased Priceless Fame, in foal to Alydar, for $3.2 million at the 1983 Keeneland November sale. The next year, her third foal, Saratoga Six (by Alydar), was the top juvenile in California, his wins including the Del Mar Futurity (gr. I).
In 1985, Morrissey and Morris sold a full sister to Saratoga Six to Mike Rutherford for $2.7 million. Named Milliardaire, she won both her starts and was a successful broodmare. Rutherford sold a Danzig colt out of her for $800,000, an A.P. Indy colt for $1.5 million, and a Seattle Slew filly he bought back turned out to be Lakeway, who went on to win four grade I races. Out of Lakeway, five yearlings have been sold at public auction for $6,515,000.
“Yeah, every time I see Mike Rutherford, he says, ‘Please sell me another one like that,’ ” Morris said.
Sometimes, though it seems rarely, things just work out perfectly in this game.
“Looking back, we had a small group of horses and had great success,” Morris said. “I thought it would be that way forever,” he continued, again chuckling. “It was a remarkable spin. The stars were aligned. Saratoga Six hit, we had a full sibling, and the market was at its height. Joe got in just in front of the peak, and he was a trader. When the opportunity came along, he pushed the mares back in the market and capitalized.”
As for Better Than Honour, it seems everyone who has touched her has also made money.
She was sold as a yearling by her breeder, Carl Icahn’s Foxfield, for $750,000 to trainer John Kimmel for Robert Waxman. John Sikura, owner of Hill ‘n’ Dale Farms, bought her privately and bred her first foal, a Storm Cat filly he sold as a weanling for $1.5 million. Sikura then sold her privately to Stanley Gumberg’s Skara Glen Stables, which bred and sold three foals out of her for $3,550,000. Two of those foals turned out to be 2006 and 2007 Belmont Stakes (gr. I) winners Jazil (by Seeking the Gold) and Rags to Riches (by A.P. Indy), respectively.
In foal to Mineshaft, she was sold by Skara Glen at the 2004 Keeneland November sale by Lane’s End. She was purchased by Coolmore, through the British Bloodstock Agency Ireland, for $2 million. That foal is graded stakes winner Casino Drive.
Following Jazil’s win, Sikura and Mike Moreno’s Southern Equine Stables bought Better Than Honour privately while she was in foal to Giant’s Causeway, by whom she had colts in 2006 and ’07. She did not produce a foal this year and is not in foal.
On Nov. 2, Moreno, who owned 70% of Better Than Honour, bought out his partner, with Coolmore as the underbidder.
Again, as Morris would say, the stars aligned.