(Originally published in the April 30, 2011 issue of The
Blood-Horse magazine. Feel free to share your own thoughts and
the bottom of the column.)
Some sports feats are nearly impossible to attain, such as pitching a no-hitter, sinking a hole in one, or breaking Wilt Chamberlain’s 1960 record 100 points in a single professional basketball game. Count winning the Triple Crown among these. But breeding and owning a graded stakes winner who is bound for the first leg of the “Triple Crown” for fillies from only one mare may be just as rare.
Yet that’s what William Dobozi, a 64-year-old retired Chicago orthopedic surgeon, has done.
Dobozi is headed to the May 6 Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) at Churchill Downs with his homebred Kathmanblu, a 3-year-old Bluegrass Cat filly, who most recently finished third in the Central Bank Ashland Stakes (gr. I) at Keeneland. She was bred by and races in the name of family-owned Five-D Thoroughbreds, which includes Dobozi and his wife, Sandra; their sons, Brian and Todd, and Brian’s wife, Shay. Evan Trommer, of Wind River Stables, owns 25% of Kathmanblu.
“It’s the craziest thing for this to happen,” Dobozi said.
“We’ve had so much fun the past nine months. You couldn’t put a price on what she’s provided for us. Being in the horse business for so many years with mediocre horses and to get one like this that’s going to the Oaks is incredible.”
The journey began in 2000 when Dobozi bought a Devil’s Bag filly at the Ocala Breeders’ Sales March 2-year-olds in training sale for $35,000 and named her Abba Gold, after the Abba Gold compact disc he listened to at work in the Loyola University Hospital operating room.
“I played it ad nauseam to my poor residents,” he said, with a chuckle.
When Dobozi retired as vice-chairman of the department of orthopedic surgery and chief of Loyola’s Orthopedic Trauma Center in 2003, he found himself Kentucky-bound with a retired stakes-placed winner of almost $180,000. He and his wife built a home on 10 acres north of Lexington to be close to their son, Brian, a Louisville gastroenterologist, and his family.
Dobozi, who initially raced harness horses in 1975 and later a few claiming horses, admits he didn’t know the first thing about breeding or Thoroughbreds at the time. He got his education through a 2003 pinhooking partnership with bloodstock agent David Ingordo.
Dobozi sold Abba Gold’s first foal, a colt by Forest Wildcat. After her second foal died, Dobozi became disenchanted and tried to sell the mare—carrying Kathmanblu—at the 2007 Keeneland November breeding stock sale. She failed to reach her reserve and Dobozi bought her back for $240,000.
Reluctant to enter racing, Dobozi tried selling Kathmanblu in the 2009 Keeneland September yearling sale but wound up buying her back for $57,000. Now he owned a racehorse. Soon after, Trommer (his neighbor) offered to trade part of a Flatter colt he owned named Adulare for 25% of the filly.
“We figured that was a fair price, and we wanted to have a little fun,” Dobozi said. “We get together at the end of the year and he gives me all his bills and I give him his profit.”
Kathmanblu, trained by Kenny McPeek, is a versatile runner, with five wins (three on the grass), a second and two thirds from nine starts and earnings of $510,731. At 2, she won the Golden Rod Stakes (gr. II) at Churchill Downs and finished third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (gr. IIT). This year she has victories in the Sweetest Chant Stakes, on the turf at Gulfstream, and the Rachel Alexandra Stakes (gr. III) at Fair Grounds. McPeek feels Kathmanblu may be better on the dirt and likes her chances in the Kentucky Oaks.
“I believe in that old saying, ‘Good things happen to good people.’ He’s waited a long time for a good horse. I know how much he and his family love it,” McPeek said.
Abba Gold currently resides at Highcroft Farm, a 120-acre Lexington farm owned by Dr. Norman Umphenour and his wife, Roxie Martin. Abba Gold has a 2-year-old colt by Pulpit named Platform, who was sold for $150,000 as a yearling in the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky July sale, and foaled a City Zip filly March 22, who will be named Ziptomylu. She will be bred back to Bluegrass Cat.
“We are so grateful to be doing this,” said Dobozi. “We’ve been able to travel. That was always my dream to travel once a month all over the country and see them run. It’s the fulfillment of my dream that all of us in the family wanted to do.”