Jim Weigel is the role model for every owner whose stable begins and ends with a $16,000 claimer and every breeder with two mares and a prayer.
Weigel, 69, a former sonar engineer who worked with navies from Australia to Europe, bred and raced millionaire and grade I winner Dream of Summer out of a $7,000 mare he bought at auction. And now he has seen Dream of Summer produce grade I winner and top California 2-year-old Creative Cause, also bred by Weigel.
The resident of Valencia, just north of Los Angeles, began in racing some 40 years ago in a limited partnership of 37 folks involved in one gelding that never finished better than fourth. As expenses mounted and more money was needed, the partnership grew much more limited until only a handful remained. Weigel, undeterred, kept owning one or two cheap claimers at a time, then decided to purchase a mare on his own and get into the breeding business.
He bought Mary’s Dream, an unraced daughter of Skywalker, for $7,000 at Barrett’s 1996 January mixed sale. Mary’s Dream four years earlier had been entered in a Barrett’s 2-year-old sale but was hurt during a showcase and bred right away. Weigel bought her when she was in foal for the fourth time and moved her to his friend Marianne Millard’s Here Tis Ranch near San Jacinto.
“I looked at Siberian Summer, who had won the Strub Stakes (gr. I), and he looked pretty good for a California stud, so I sent Mary’s Dream to him,” Weigel said.
Weigel breeds to sell, so he took the resultant yearling to Barrett’s. Millard told Weigel she liked the young filly, and urged him “not to let her go cheap.” Since Mary’s Dream hadn’t produced any runner that had earned more than $36,000, Weigel felt a $10,000 reserve was fair. The live bidding stopped at $7,000, and the yearling was sent back to the farm.
Beset by a series of minor injuries, the filly, whom Weigel named Dream of Summer, didn’t start until June of her 4-year-old season, when she won at first asking at Hollywood Park. The following year she went undefeated in four starts, including the A Gleam Invitational Handicap (gr. II), Rancho Bernardo Handicap (gr. III), and California Cup Matron Handicap. At 6, Dream of Summer won the Apple Blossom Handicap (gr. I) at Oaklawn Park and two other added-money events. On her way to defend her Apple Blossom crown in 2006 at the age of 7, Dream of Summer was found to have wear and tear in her sesa-moids, and Weigel decided to retire her rather than take any chances. She won 10 of her 20 races, including six stakes and $1,191,150.
“In those first stakes races,” said Weigel, “I would go down the steps to the winner’s circle and turn around to the grandstand and say, ‘Hey, so you wouldn’t give me $10,000 for her, huh?’ ”
Weigel sent Dream of Summer to Taylor Made Farm in Kentucky, where she still resides. After breeding her to Giant’s Causeway, Weigel sold the resulting colt for $135,000 at last year’s Keeneland September yearling sale. The colt, Creative Cause, now owned by Heinz Steinmann of Swiss Yodeler fame, won the Best Pal Stakes (gr. II) in August and the Norfolk Stakes (gr. I) Oct. 1.
“It’s a big thrill seeing him run,” said Weigel, who was in the winner’s circle after the Norfolk. “Now the phone is ringing with offers to bring Dream of Summer to certain sires and also to buy her for seven figures. I’ve told those people she’s not for sale at any price. There is an emotional attachment. I go out to Kentucky at least twice a year to give her a kiss on the nose and rub her neck and hug her, and you can’t put a price tag on that.
“A guy like me, a little owner/breeder, this is something you try an entire lifetime for, and most people never get it—a grade I winner and successful broodmare. And here I got her—the very first horse I raced on my own. I had to go out and get my own silks for her, and it turns out she wins over a million dollars.”
Dream of Summer has a weanling filly by Tiznow and has been bred to Eskendereya. Weigel has a couple of broodmares back home in California at Here Tis: stakes winner Wingless Flight and Dream of Summer’s full sister Marry by Summer. Any runners they produce will be icing on the cake.
Jim Weigel’s dream has already come true.