Double Takes - by Eric Mitchell

(Originally published in the March 2, 2013 issue of The Blood-Horse magazine. Feel free to share your own thoughts and opinions at the bottom of the column.)

By Eric Mitchell - @BH_EMitchell on Twitter

By Eric Mitchell The Feb. 23-24 racing weekend was rich with the start of the Road to the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) championship series and some deep fields contesting the Besilu Stables Fountain of Youth Stakes and the Risen Star Stakes (both grade II).

Action was doubly good for owner/breeder Stuart Janney III and breeder and former Kentucky governor Brereton C. Jones, who each watched a couple of horses they bred capture graded stakes.

Because he was in New Zealand, Janney didn’t get to witness in person his rare treat of back-to-back graded stakes victories Feb. 23 at Gulfstream Park. The good times began in race 10 when Data Link ran down pacesetter Joes Blazing Aaron in deep stretch to take the Canadian Turf Stakes (gr. IIIT). The one-mile contest was the season-opener for the 5-year-old son of War Front—Database, by Known Fact, who had won three graded stakes last year including the Maker’s 46 Mile Stakes (gr. IT) at Keeneland. Data Link started the 2012 season finishing third in the Canadian Turf Stakes.

In the following race, another late stretch drive by Orb in the Fountain of Youth turned the day from great to exceptional. Janney’s sophomore by Malibu Moon—Lady Liberty, by Unbridled, chased down favorite Violence to win by a half-length. Orb is the result of five generations of breeding by Janney and his parents. Stuart Janney and Phipps Stable, owned by his cousin Ogden Mills “Dinny” Phipps, co-bred Orb and his dam, Lady Liberty. Janney also bred Orb’s second dam Mesabi Maiden with Ogden Phipps. Janney’s parents bred Orb’s third, fourth, and fifth dams: Steel Maiden, Laughter, and Shenanigans, who is the dam of their great Ruffian.

Janney was reached a couple days after the race still basking in the glow of the victories.

"When you have two such wonderful victories, you reflect on how lucky you are and how many people were integral to the success," Janney said. Besides McGaughey's team, he gave credit to Claiborne Farm, where he boards his mares, and to Niall Brennan, who handles the breaking and training of Janney's yearlings. "It's really satisfying to have bred Data Link and Orb and watch them progress at every stage."

Jones, who owns Airdrie Stud near Midway, Ky., got his own breeding double over the weekend at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots.

Homebred Mark Valeski got things rolling by winning the grade III Mineshaft Handicap, the second graded stakes victory of his career. The bay colt is a son of Airdrie’s Proud Citizen out of the Fortunate Prospect mare Pocho’s Dream Girl, a grade I-placed runner that Jones acquired at the 2000 Keeneland January mixed sale for $375,000.

Two races later a longshot named Ive Struck a Nerve electrified Fair Grounds spectators by winning the Risen Star at odds of 135-1, the largest win payout in the track’s history. Jones doesn’t race Ive Struck a Nerve, having sold the colt by Yankee Gentleman—Runaway, by Cryptoclearance, as a weanling for $1,700 at the 2010 Keeneland November breeding stock sale.
Still the pride is evident in Jones’ voice as he talks about the mating decisions behind both colts.

“We try to focus on brilliance, produce horses that have speed and are precocious but possess enough stamina to go two turns,” he said. These characteristics are what attracted Jones to Proud Citizen, who won at 2 and went on to finish second in the 2002 Kentucky Derby (gr. I) and third in the Preakness Stakes (gr. I).

Overall it was a big weekend for homebreds. Out of 23 stakes run, nine were won by homebreds. They were: Optimizer (breeder Brad Kelley’s Bluegrass Hall; owner Calumet Farm, leased by Kelley) in the Fair Grounds Handicap (gr. IIIT); Ain’t No Other (owner/breeder Tommy Town Thoroughbreds) in the Sensational Star Stakes; Countess Curlin (owner/breeder Stonestreet Stables) in the Island Fashion Stakes; Skip a Smile (owner/breeder Rose Mary Chandler) in the Jersey Village Stakes; Sunbean (owner/breeder Brittlyn Stable) in the Gentilly Stakes; and All About Allie (owner Sanders Brothers, bred by Roy Gene Sanders) in the Downthedustyroad Breeders’ Stakes.

“You know a lot of this is experimentation,” Jones said about breeding theory. “You don’t know. It is a mystery and that is what makes this such a great sport. I just crave it.”

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