Holiday Cheer - By Evan Hammonds

It’s amazing what a little grade 1 cheer can bring to a Thoroughbred breeding operation…especially during a year such as 2020. Such was the case out on Ironworks Pike north of Lexington at Mulholland Springs Farm. Martha Jane Mulholland bred Bodexpress, winner of the Nov. 27 Clark Stakes Presented by Norton Healthcare (G1) at Churchill Downs.

“It’s a rare occasion…it’s to be celebrated,” said John Henry Mulholland, Martha Jane’s son.

Bodexpress, who races for Lucas Noriega’s Top Racing, Rafael Celis’ Global Thoroughbreds, and trainer Gustavo Delgado’s GDS Racing Stable is best known for dumping John Velazquez in front of a national audience just after the break of last year’s Preakness Stakes (G1). He’s obviously gotten his act together at 4, proving age and maturity do have its privileges.

Bodexpress, who RNA’d twice, is by Bodemeister, who was shipped off to Turkey last October. The Mulhollands sold Bodexpress’ dam, Pied a Terre, in foal to Gemologist to the Korean group K.O.I.D. for $17,000 at the 2017 Keeneland November sale. The industry maintains its global reach.

“I liked the mare. It seemed like her foals took a little longer to come around,” Mulholland said. “When we sold Bodexpress, everybody was cool on Bodemeister. And we had to take a chip out of a stifle only a month or so before the sale. When we sold the mare, we had bred her to Gemologist, and by then, everybody had cooled on Gemologist. The plans didn’t come together for us, but I liked her foals…they just took a little bit too long to mature.

“It just didn’t quite come together, but that happens. It won’t be the first time that one got away from us, but as long as we’re keeping more of the good ones and not letting all of them get away, then we’ll be OK.”

In a difficult year such as 2020, “OK” might put someone in high cotton. Mulholland Springs hasn’t been without its challenges during the pandemic but has had a better year than most in the sales ring.

“Not a whole lot has changed,” Mulholland said of a COVID-19 2020. “We did have some that were under the weather after the September sale and after the November sale. I simply had to send them home.

“Our farm manager, Jesus Pinales, has been with us since he was a teenager, and he’s been the farm manager for close to 20 years. We have 16-17 guys—he had constantly been getting them tested; not every week, but every other week, leading up to the September and November sales. We have been trying to mingle as little as possible, but life has to go on.

“You have to feed and care for the horses; breed the horses; foal the mare; and prep for the sale…it’s just the way it goes.”

Mulholland pointed to this year’s sale leaders list. The farm ranks 36th among all consignors by gross for 2020, with 73 horses sold (from 100 offered) for $4,820,400. They sold 23 yearlings at the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky October yearling sale for $634,700.

“We went down to the ring for the October sale with a horse that had been looked at a lot but not a lot of real vetting at the barn, and we were still getting $40,000-$50,000,” Mulholland said. “I thought that was resilient. We sold some at September…a few we had to take some losses on, and that’s just the way it goes. All in all, we were prepared for the worst, and I don’t feel it was the worst.

“I know some people had some horrible sales and some disasters, but people in this industry are resilient. There was a lot anxiety-ridden weeks leading up to the sales, but the sales companies did all they possibly could.

“I think a lot of people wouldn’t know what else to do. I know I don’t have a whole lot of other skills. I don’t have a lot to fall back on.”

Like everyone else in the business, Mulholland has concerns beyond COVID-19…one in particular that needs to be addressed.

“We do need more end-users,” he said. “That is my biggest concern above all else, including the issues of the trainers that cheat, Lasix, or any other stuff people want to talk about. We need more people that want to buy a racehorse and run it. I feel too many of the people want to go on and do something with a horse at another sale. They want to resell it somehow, you know. We have more sellers than buyers.”

If we can solve that, we’ll have plenty to cheer about in 2021.

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