Rick Porter is a man of the sea: he likes to take his boat out and feel the wind; hear the waves; taste the salt. But when his latest Kentucky Derby hopeful, Holy Bull Stakes (gr. III) winner Winslow Homer, was discovered this past weekend to have a slab fracture, Porter said of the news, “It takes the wind right out of your sails.”
The Kentucky Derby (gr. I) and its famous trail that leads from all points to Louisville, Ky., for the first Saturday in May have been unkind to Porter.
Rockport Harbor missed the Derby in 2006; Hard Spun finished second in 2007; Eight Belles ran second and broke down in 2008; Friesan Fire finished 18th as the favorite in 2009.
But Porter was back on the Triple Crown trail in 2010, figuring Winslow Homer might just be the one.
Winslow Homer is a son of Unbridled’s Song purchased by Porter as a yearling for $310,000. Since 2003, Porter has purchased and raced 11 offspring of Unbridled’ Song, nine at public auction for a combined $4,215,000 and two privately in a package after they were RNAd. His strike rate is excellent, with five graded stakes winners.
But though many of his offspring show brilliance, it is no secret that Unbridled’s Song’s progeny can raise questions about their soundness. Porter knows first-hand.
“The best explanation as to why we have bought a lot of nice ones by Unbridled’s Song is that he stamps his progeny, and Tom’s eye (agent Tom McGreevey), and John’s eye (John Servis, who formerly trained for Porter), are attracted to them,” Porter said Feb. 3.
“He really stamps his progeny, much like Medaglia d’Oro. That type horse appeals to Tom, and when I see them, they appeal to me, too.
“I don’t think there is any doubt that you have to question their soundness, but it is hard not to take your chances when you are attracted to a horse, and we have had so much early success with them.”
Last year was the first year Porter did not purchase a yearling by Unbridled’s Song, but it was not for a lack of effort; he was outbid on several.
Of course Eight Belles ran second in the Derby but broke down while galloping out and was euthanized. Old Fashioned was unbeaten at 2 and had won four of six races when a slab fracture ended his racing career prior to the Derby. Rockport Harbor’s problem was not soundness. He was a top 2-year-old but was stepped on in the Remsen (gr. II) and the injury plagued him until his retirement.
Porter still owns Old Fashioned, who will stand his first season at stud this year alongside his sire at Taylor Made Stallions. He also owns three breeding rights in Rockport Harbor (and Hard Spun).
And, Porter said, he won’t rule out buying offspring of Unbridled’s Song in the future.
“Maybe I would think twice, but I wouldn’t rule it out,” Porter said, “and I hope Winslow Homer comes back and has a bright future.”
For now, however, Winslow Homer will be shipped to Kentucky to be operated on by Dr. Larry Bramlage. Accompanying him on the trip will be Song of Solomon, by Unbridled’s Song, who has won three of six starts but has an ankle chip Bramlage will remove.
It takes the wind right out of your sails.
Rick Porter’s purchases by Unbridled’s Song:
2003, Rockport Harbor, $470,000 yearling, gr. II winner, 8 starts
2004, Kennebunkport, $460,000 yearling, allowance winner, 14 starts
2005, Pemaquid Light, $150,000 yearling, allowance winner, 18 starts, claimed from Porter, did not finish last start
2005, Honest Man, bought privately, gr. III winner, 15 starts, still in training
2005, Powderhouse Road, bought privately, allowance winner, 13 starts, claimed from Porter
2006, Eight Belles, $375,000 yearling, gr. II winner, 10 starts
2006, Mighty Kennebec, $400,000 yearling, unraced
2007, Old Fashioned, $800,000 yearling, gr. II winner, 6 starts
2007, Song of Solomon, $525,000 yearling, allowance winner, 6 starts, on the shelf
2007, Christina’s World, $725,000 yearling, stakes placed, 5 starts, still in training
2008, Winslow Homer. $310,000 yearling, gr. III winner, 4 starts, on the shelf