Party On - By Evan Hammonds

The Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday weekend offers us the opportunity to extend birthday wishes to a pair of pioneers and congratulations to a pair of new trailblazers in the Thoroughbred industry.

Celebrating birthdays Jan. 15 were Alice Chandler and Josephine Abercrombie, strong women who have left a indelible marks on the industry by doing things their own way.

Chandler might well be called the "first" lady of Mill Ridge Farm, the operation she started in 1962. The daughter of Keeneland co-founder Hal Price Headley had, by 1968, become the first woman to breed an Epsom Derby winner with Sir Ivor's 1968 victory.

Chandler celebrated at the farm with a candle in her morning muffin.

"We didn't do too much," said son Headley Bell. "She has a limited schedule these days. We treat every day like it is your birthday; we try to live like that.

"Both mom and Josephine are kindred spirits; they both know who they are and what they are," Bell continued. "They never considered it a disadvantage being a woman. They just marched along and led the way."

A few miles from Mill Ridge is Abercrombie's Pin Oak Stud. Abercrombie and her father purchased some land in Woodford County in 1952, and she's been going strong ever since, breeding top runners such as Elocutionist, Touching Wood, Peaks and Valleys, and Broken Vow.

"She's always looking forward; she never looks back," said Pin Oak manager Clifford Barry, who has worked for Abercrombie since 1988. "She went over to her good friend Chris Speckert's house Sunday (Jan. 14) night with a small group to celebrate with a piece of chocolate cake and a glass of white wine-what's not to enjoy?"

The evening was sweetened by the victory of Higher Power, her homebred 3-year-old filly by Medaglia d'Oro-Alternate, by Seattle Slew, in an allowance optional claiming race at Oaklawn Park Jan. 13.

Barry notes Abercrombie is "as active as you'd ever want her to be," and continues to go racing-she has some 25 in training-and make matings for the 35 broodmares that call Pin Oak home.

As for the duo doubling up on the Jan. 15 birthday, Barry said: "It's really great because they are good friends; both have the same interests in life and are still swinging."

The birthdays came just days following the Jan. 8-11 Keeneland January sale (see page 26) where BloodHorse's Ron Mitchell quoted Ashview Farm's Bryan Lyster: "There are fewer buyers every year and they are stricter on vet work and they are stricter on physicals."

One of the story lines of 2017 was the emergence of a handful of new buyers that were playing at the high-wire end of the Thoroughbred market. Both were rewarded over the weekend.

Larry Best's OXO Equine spent more money on sale 2-year-olds than anyone else in North America in 2017, purchasing four for $4,750,000 (he was also the eighth highest-spending buyer of all Thoroughbreds last year, shelling out $11,630,000 for 12 head).

Among his purchases was Instilled Regard, a colt by Arch bred in Kentucky by KatieRich Farms. The dark bay made a big step toward justifying his $1.05 million purchase price at last year's Ocala Breeders' Sales' March sale by cruising to a 33⁄4-length win in the Lecomte Stakes (G3) at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots (see page 55). The Jerry Hollendorfer-trained runner will help Best get the Triple Crown trail juices flowing.

Kerri Radcliffe made quite a splash at the yearling and 2-year-old sales last year as the third-leading buyer of yearlings with an outlay of  $8,450,000 for 11 lots and was third on the juvenile sale list with five purchases for $4,475,000.

For the Phoenix Thoroughbred III outfit, she spent $625,000 for the WinStar Farm-bred Mourinho, a son of Super Saver-Sandi's Ready, by More Than Ready. Already grade 3-placed, Mourinho took a big step on the Triple Crown trail with a 31⁄4-length romp at 3-5 in Oaklawn's one-mile Smarty Jones Stakes for trainer Bob Baffert.

Tried and true, or someone "new," there appears to be something for everyone so early in the new year.

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