(Originally published in the January 14, 2012 issue of The
Blood-Horse magazine. Feel free to share your own thoughts and
the bottom of the column.)
Some may call it beginner’s luck that the first horse ever bred and raced by California residents Ted and Judy Nichols became a grade I winner. But when Teddy’s Promise prevailed in the Dec. 31 La Brea Stakes (gr. I) at Santa Anita Park, the couple hoped it was more than just random good fortune. Perhaps the New Year’s Eve victory was a sign of a prosperous future for the business.
“We’re on cloud nine,” said Ted Nichols after the 4-year-old homebred Salt Lake filly scored her first black-type victory by 21⁄4 lengths. “Judy was saying that about 2% of people in Thoroughbred racing win a grade I. This is just unbelievable.”
Entering the industry was something Ted Nichols had thought about since spending time around his father’s Thoroughbreds as a child, but it took him many years to make the plunge into ownership.
“I’ve always been very fond of the (Thoroughbred) breed and went to the races many times growing up, but Judy is the one that said, ‘We’re not getting any younger, so let’s get involved,’ ” said Ted, 75. “So that’s what we did.”
Outside of racing, the Nicholses own and operate Sunrun Kennels, a commercial dog boarding, training, and grooming facility in Newport Beach. Ted Nichols, who is retired from running a sales and marketing company, is also sanctioned by the American Kennel club to judge various dog shows throughout the United States and abroad.
Both Ted and Judy have owned, trained, raised, and handled several champion show dogs of various breeds over the years.
When the couple decided to expand their animal ownership to include Thoroughbreds in 2008, they bought a seven-acre avocado grove and horse farm near Oceanside, Calif.
The operation is now home to Braids and Beads, the dam of Teddy’s Promise, whom the Nicholses privately purchased from the Mabee family’s Golden Eagle Farm while she was carrying the La Brea winner. They later bought Poetry Writer, a stakes-placed daughter of Staff Writer.
“I liked (Braids and Beads’) pedigree,” said Ted Nichols. “Her father is Capote, by Seattle Slew, and I love that line. Her bottom side has Alydar (sire of Braids and Beads’ dam Alydar’s Promise), so there’s a lot of stamina there. (Braids and Beads) is a big girl—17 hands—and she’s beautiful.”
Braids and Beads has a Stormin Fever yearling named Blazing Fever, whom the Nicholses also plan to race. They have scheduled her to go to Tribal Rule this year. Poetry Writer has a yearling Stormin Fever colt named Writer Fever and will be bred to Dixie Chatter for 2013.
“We’ll see what happens with these babies—both of the Stormin Fevers are very promising,” said Ted. “We’re just going to pursue that and see where it takes us.”
The Nicholses sent Braids and Beads to Golden Eagle Farm in Ramona, Calif., to deliver Teddy’s Promise, who was an extremely large foal. In fact, it took five people to pull her from her mother’s womb.
“She’s always had beautiful conformation,” said Judy Nichols of Teddy’s Promise, whose name derives from her owner’s nickname and her second dam, Alydar’s Promise.
“She went through the gangly stage just like all of them do, and you just hope and pray they get out of that,” added Judy. “But by the time she was a yearling, we knew we had something special. We just wanted her to run as well as she was pretty, and now she’s doing that.”
After being sent to the Craig family’s Rancho Paseano for early training, Teddy’s Promise joined the barn of David Hofmans. She broke her maiden in her third try at 2 and closed that season with a victory in an allowance/optional claiming contest at Hollywood Park and a fourth in the California Breeders’ Champion Stakes at Santa Anita. The filly’s sophomore season got off to a slow start with losses in her first four outings.
Transferred to the care of trainer Ron Ellis last spring, Teddy’s Promise more than redeemed herself in her last three races, all victories on dirt at Santa Anita Park and on Hollywood Park’s synthetic surface.
“Ron has been extremely patient with Teddy’s Promise since he got her last spring,” said Judy. “Sometimes we say, ‘Let’s go, let’s go,’ and Ron says, ‘No, not yet.’ He’s been very selective as to where he’s run her and has gotten her ready, and now we’re just thrilled with the results; it was worth the wait.”