This year’s Triple Crown series is certainly one that will be talked about for years to come, considering the contested outcome of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1) and that the entire sport of Thoroughbred racing has been called into question with the mounting number of equine fatalities at Santa Anita Park throughout the first six months of the year.
The handy way War of Will won the Preakness Stakes (G1) showed industry insiders the temerity of Gary Barber’s son of War Front and the skill of trainer Mark Casse to wheel the colt back in two weeks, but to the general public the race might be best remembered for the loose Bodexpress and the plumbing issues at the aging Pimlico Race Course.
The June 8 Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets (G1) results proved once again that a “fresh” horse is capable of wrapping up the series with a victory, and that the New York Racing Association is the only racing team in the country, save the Breeders’ Cup, that can present eight grade 1 races on one afternoon.
Looking a little more closely at the Triple Crown results points to the success in 2019 of homebred operations.
At the Derby, Maximum Security finished first as the 9-2 second choice but was later disqualified and placed 17th behind Long Range Toddy. The final outcome of the race might wind up in the courts as Gary and Mary West have contested the rulings of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, but the fact is Maximum Security is a homebred son by the Wests-raced New Year’s Day.
The official winner of the Derby—Country House—was bred by the late Joseph V. Shields Jr.; and his wife, Maury, nephew Guinness McFadden, and partners LNJ Foxwoods enjoyed the spoils. Country House is a third-generation homebred for the Shields operation. His third dam, the stakes-winning Ayanka, was bred and raced by the late Allen Paulson.
The Derby runner-up was William S. Farish’s homebred Code of Honor, who is out of the Farish-bred and -owned Reunited. A grade 3-winning daughter of Dixie Union, who stood at Farish’s Lane’s End Farm near Versailles, Ky., Reunited is out of the Paulson-bred Tivli. And the Derby third-place finisher was Juddmonte Farms’ homebred Tacitus. The fourth generation homebred is out of Juddmonte’s champion Close Hatches.
The Preakness result was a favorite of the sale companies as the first three across the line—War of Will, Calumet Farm’s Everfast, and Rupp Racing’s Owendale—had all sold at public auction. The winner had been in the ring twice: at the 2017 Keeneland September yearling sale, where he was an RNA, and eight months later at the Arqana May sale in France. He is a third-generation bred by the Niarchos family’s Flaxman Holdings operation.
The Belmont belonged to Tracy Farmer’s homebred Sir Winston. The Kentucky horseman picked up the classic winner’s second dam, Affirmed Dancer, by 1978 Triple Crown winner Affirmed, as a weanling for $150,000 at the 1999 Keeneland November sale. While Farmer offered Sir Winston at the 2017 Keeneland September yearling sale, he held on to him, turning him over to Casse. Tacitus filled out the Belmont exacta as the favorite.
The wave in ownership toward multiple owners sharing a horse for diversification and sharing expenses isn’t going away any time soon—it is where the business is heading these days. But the 2019 classic season was one for the home team.