(Originally published in the February 18, 2012 issue of The
Blood-Horse magazine. Feel free to share your own thoughts and
the bottom of the column.)
Pat Klussman, breeder of Algorithms, had a decision to make. She could accept co-owner Jack Wolf’s invitation to travel from California to Florida to watch the colt tackle juvenile male champion Hansen in the Jan. 29 Holy Bull Stakes (gr. III), or she could stay home and watch her 16-year-old granddaughter, Leina King, take hunters and jumpers over fences at a major horse show.
Her role as proud grandmother won out over that of Thoroughbred breeder—this time. But if Algorithms, who upset Hansen by five lengths in the Holy Bull, makes it to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), no horse show in the world will be able to keep Klussman, King, or any other family members away from Churchill Downs.
The Klussmans’ love affair with horses began when Pat grew up in Iowa “crazy about horses” and her future husband, Bill, hailed from a ranch in South Dakota. The couple met in California, attended college at San Jose State, and moved to the Los Angeles area so Bill could take a job as a CPA.
Because horses were a luxury they could not afford, Bill and Pat fed their equine enthusiasm by attending the races whenever they could. They raised three daughters, and when Bill’s switch to the home-building business took the family to the San Fernando Valley just north of Los Angeles, they acquired enough acreage for the girls to have riding horses.
“One day Bill suggested that if we were going to do this, we should maybe buy a couple of broodmares,” said Pat.
They began breeding a few Thoroughbreds in California, calling their operation Oakbrook Farm, and eventually bought the property best known for having produced California-bred millionaire Native Diver.
“We loved living on the farm,” said Pat. “We had chickens, raised turkeys for our friends to have at Thanksgiving, and even had a couple head of cattle.”
Pat also raised Irish Setters, and bred a dog that twice competed at shows in Madison Square Garden.
In the early 1970s Bill and Pat visited a Keeneland sale during a trip to investigate possible farms to board broodmares that they wished to breed in Kentucky. They discovered a young woman named Catherine Parke.
“We were really taken with the way she presented her horses,” said Pat. “We saw the farm she was leasing at the time and sent her one or two mares. She’s a really hard worker, and she takes care of everybody’s horse just like it was her own.”
That partnership has thrived over the decades, resulting in a small broodmare band for the Klussmans that has produced a string of stakes winners. With Parke’s help the Klussmans began by buying Ava Romance as a broodmare.
“She was hickory strong, ran her little heart out, and won more than $200,000,” said Pat. “She wasn’t a very tall, elegant-looking mare, and she needed some leg on her.”
Bill and Pat investigated stallion prospects for Ava Romance by traveling to various Kentucky farms. When they saw Cryptoclearance, “I just flipped over him,” Pat said. “I thought this horse could give Ava Romance’s foals some leg, and I’m really into pedigree and soundness in stallions.”
The match produced Ava Knowsthecode, who placed in the 1997 Senorita Stakes (gr. III) at Hollywood Park and earned $156,596 for the Klussmans. But she has turned into an even better broodmare.
“She has just been a diamond for us,” said Pat. “The bad part for me is that Bill passed away before he ever had a chance to see what was coming our way.”
Bill died two days after watching the 2003 Kentucky Derby on television. Ava Knowsthecode had only had two foals to the races at that time. In quick succession the mare turned out stakes winners Alex’s Allure, Keyed Entry, Successful Mission, and Justin Phillip before Pat decided to gamble on a more expensive stud fee and bred her to Bernardini.
The move paid off when Ava Knowsthecode produced Algorithms. Wolf and Donald Lucarelli had earlier luck with Keyed Entry, a graded stakes-winning sprinter who competed in the 2006 Derby, and with the help of Frank Brothers, they bought Algorithms for $170,000 at the 2010 Keeneland September yearling sale. Klussman said they had also bid on Algorithms’ full brother, now a 2-year-old named Encode, who sold for $625,000 at the 2011 sale to John Ferguson.
Klussman sells the colts and often keeps the fillies to replenish her small broodmare band, though she hasn’t raced many since Bill’s death. Pat keeps her horses at Parke’s Valkyre Stud in Georgetown, including pensioners Mignon and Ava Romance until the mare’s recent death at age 31. In foal to Tapit, Ava Knowsthecode is headed back to Bernardini this year, and if Algorithms keeps progressing, he may send Pat and her family to Louisville for the first Saturday in May.