(Originally published in the May 21, 2011 issue of The
Blood-Horse magazine. Feel free to share your own thoughts and
the bottom of the column.)
Owner/breeder Mary Sullivan is still floating on the cloud she’s occupied since April 15 when her 5-year-old stakes winner Get Stormy became her third homebred grade I winner.
But more excitement was coming after the big win in the Maker’s Mark Mile (gr. IT) at Keeneland. The son of Stormy Atlantic, out of Sullivan’s homebred Foolish Gal, would three weeks later wire the field in the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic Stakes (gr. IT) May 7 at Churchill Downs.
“Those three weeks were pretty heady,” said the resident of Vero Beach, Fla., who
divides her time between Florida and
Vermont. “I didn’t have the courage to think we could win it. I didn’t think we could win two in a row, but it unfolded perfectly for him on the front end. He did the last three furlongs in :35 and something. Ramon did a great job saving that for the finish.”
Ramon Dominguez rode Get Stormy, who is the first horse New York’s Tom Bush ever trained for Sullivan’s Sullimar Stable.
The horse arrived at the Bush barn as a light-bodied, immature 2-year-old. Over the past few years, Bush said the horse has grown and matured dramatically. He has earned the barn nickname “Clyde” because he looks like a smaller version of a Clydesdale without the white feathering on the fetlocks.
“He changed from 3 to 4 and changed again from 4 to 5. It is very unusual,” said Bush.
Who Get Stormy has become is particularly rewarding to Sullivan because the horse’s broodmare sire is Kiri’s Clown, another homebred grade I winner she raced with long-time partner Gardner “Joe” Landon, the owner of Cobble View Stable. Sullivan also raced Flower Bowl Handicap (gr. I) winner Far Out Beast, who was co-bred by Sullivan and Landon.
“Breeding and watching the young horses grow is absolutely what I love best,” said Sullivan, who sends all her young horses to Webster Training Center near Ocala, Fla.
“They change so dramatically. When we go back to Ocala in the fall and they have been broken, they are so different. I enjoy that so much more than the racing end. But I’ll tell you, after the last few weeks I might change that. I am still up on a cloud.”
Sullivan has been a horse lover since her early days growing up on a New Jersey dairy operation known as Forsgate Farm near New Brunswick. Sullivan rode saddle horses and also hunters with the Moore County Hounds in Southern Pines, N.C. In 1983 she and her husband, Bob, were planning their retirement, and she coaxed him toward horse racing. She began with partners Morton Rosenthal and close friends James Tafel and Landon.
Because the currency exchange rate was favorable, the partners bought three 3-year-olds in Great Britain in 1984 to race in the United States. Among them was Lucky Scott, a group III-placed son of Crimson Beau out of Soft Pedal who would go on to win the Camden Handicap at Garden State Park and place third in the Knickerbocker Handicap (gr. III) at Aqueduct.
The following year Sullivan, encouraged and guided by trainer P.G. Johnson, was back in Great Britain, where she bought a couple of broodmares including a Kris daughter named Kiri. The mare would produce Kiri’s Clown for Sullivan and Landon, who remained together the longest of the four original partners. Kiri’s Clown, trained by Johnson, raced from 2 to 7 and earned just over $1 million. He won four graded stakes including the 1995 Sword Dancer Invitational Handicap (gr. IT) at Saratoga. Kiri’s Clown is now a resident at the Old Friends retirement facility for Thoroughbred racehorses near Georgetown, Ky. During Kiri’s Clown’s brief stud career, Sullivan bred him to Galaxy North, a filly she bought at the Fasig-Tipton February 2-year-olds in training sale who never made it to the races. Galaxy North has produced 15 runners from 16 foals including Foolish Gal.
Sullivan has had extraordinary success considering she has only five broodmares, four of which she keeps at Parrish Hill Farm near Versailles, Ky., and the other with Dr. Jean White, a veterinarian in the Ocala area. Tom Roach, owner of Parrish Hill Farm, makes most of Sullivan’s mating recommendations and had suggested breeding Foolish Gal to Hill ‘n’ Dale Farms’ Stormy Atlantic.
“We wanted to try the Storm Cat line, and he is such a very attractive horse,” Sullivan said.
So what is Sullivan’s secret in producing graded stakes winners from such a small band of mares?
“We go to good stallions, I have good trainers, and I’m lucky,” she said.