Joyce Robsham - By Lenny Shulman

(Originally published in the April 16, 2011 issue of The Blood-Horse magazine. Feel free to share your own thoughts and opinions at the bottom of the column.)   

 Most owners or breeders would consider it a fine year if they could deposit three stakes victories into their accounts. Imagine, then, the tremendous weekend enjoyed by Joyce Robsham April 2-3 at Gulfstream Park, where she was on hand to witness three of her homebreds register graded stakes wins. Three homebreds, three graded stakes, two days.

“I’m still in shock,” she said four days after the feat.

R Heat Lightning got the party started with an 81⁄4-length victory in the Gulfstream Oaks (gr. II), stamping her ticket to the May 6 Kentucky Oaks (gr. I). The daughter of Trippi has already banked $952,800 in her eight-race career. On the same card 4-year-old filly Awesome Maria landed the Rampart Stakes (gr. III), marking the third season in a row that the daughter of Maria’s Mon has reeled in a stakes win. She has earned $602,375. A day later, Travelin Man completed the hat trick when he took the Swale Stakes (gr. II), the second triumph in three career races for the 3-year-old son of Trippi.

“It is really special when the homebreds step up, and I definitely enjoy it more when the ones I have bred win,” noted Robsham. “Amazingly, my homebreds have always run better than the sale purchases.”

Since the turn of the century, the Robsham operation has been consistently represented as breeder and owner by a parade of stakes winners. Most famously, Discreet Cat excelled in 2006, winning the Hill ‘n’ Dale Cigar Mile Handicap (gr. I) and the Jerome Breeders’ Cup Handicap (gr. II) on the way to earning better than $1.6 million in his career. Then in 2010 half brother Discreetly Mine came along, winning the Risen Star Stakes (gr. II) and taking Robsham to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), where he ran unplaced. Discreetly Mine found his best stride at Saratoga, however, taking the King’s Bishop (gr. I) and Amsterdam stakes (gr. II) and earning nearly $800,000.

Much of the operation’s current success can be traced to 19-year-old Pretty Discreet who as, what else, a homebred for Einar Paul Robsham, Joyce’s late husband, won the 1995 Alabama Stakes (gr. I) before being retired to the broodmare band. The daughter of Private Account has produced not only Discreetly Mine (by Mineshaft) and Discreet Cat (by Forestry), but also unraced Discreetly Awesome, who is the dam of Awesome Maria. Pretty Discreet has also produced Pretty Wild, a Wild Again colt who was a multiple stakes winner of nearly $400,000, and graded stakes-placed Discreet Treasure.

“I have always been proud of Pretty Discreet, who has done nothing but bring me joy her whole life,” said Robsham. “Winning the Alabama was a great experience, and I couldn’t ask for more. Now she is going above and beyond producing babies that are able to race at the highest level. She is an amazing mare, and I love her dearly.”

Winner of the grade I Vosburgh Stakes at Belmont Park, Trippi is a stallion with whom the Robsham operation has had consistent success. When Mike O’Farrell’s Ocala Stud was in the process of purchasing the son of End Sweep for stud duty, Paul Robsham wanted in as a partner, and the Robshams bred consistently to him until he left for South Africa two years ago. Trippi’s Storm ran sixth in the 2007 NetJets Breeders’ Cup Mile (gr. IT) for the stable.

Robsham today owns 16 broodmares. Roughly half the broodmare band are homebreds and half were purchased at auction. She keeps a close eye on the breedings.

“I’ve always been interested in studying the pedigrees and have stayed involved,” Robsham noted. “The year we bred R Heat Lightning I knew Trippi was being sold, so I specifically requested that whichever mares crossed well with him were to go to him. Who knew what that crop would bring—R Heat Lightning, Travelin Man, and (Out Ruled Stakes winner) R Holiday Mood. There are still a couple from that crop that might show up yet in the stakes ranks.”

Yellow Heat, the dam of R Heat Lightning, was purchased by Paul Robsham for $145,000 out of the 2003 Ocala Breeders’ Sales Co.’s March 2-year-old sale from the consignment of Eddie Woods, agent. A year before the winning Gold Fever mare produced R Heat Lightning, she foaled a full sister, Hot Trip, who was stakes-placed before being retired to the Robsham broodmare band.

Asked what she liked best about racing, Robsham stated, “The horses. I just love the horses. On and off the track, I just want what’s best for the animal. You know a happy horse will always try harder. And if they are not competitive, then I retire them so they can go on to be trained by New Vocations (founded by the Robshams) to be a show horse. It’s not about the money for me; it’s about the horses. I enjoy them so much.”

And they seem to enjoy running for her.

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