aqueduct racetrack, bellamy road, ben walden, churchill downs, dianne cotter, george steinbrenner, homebred racehorses, kentucky, kentucky derby preps, liberation farm, pauls mill, Rob Whiteley, sales of 2yos in training, Seattle Slew, silver charm, stallion management, stallion success, stallion syndication, toby's corner, wood memorial, woodford county
The following article was posted earlier this week at Paulick Report.
In a telephone interview with owner-breeder Dianne Cotter after her colt Toby’s Corner won the Grade 1 Wood Memorial on Saturday, the breeder said “luck is often better than skillful planning.”
That is important for breeders, as well as punters, to remember in this joyous season of the Triple Crown. Luck can certainly change your life.
For Cotter, the luck has shown up several times. Specifically with Toby’s Corner, Cotter bred both the Wood Memorial winner and his sire, Bellamy Road, who won the race in 2005 by 17 ½ lengths and equaled the Aqueduct track record with a clocking of 1:47.16 for nine furlongs in one of the most impressive Kentucky Derby preps ever.
The previous spring, Cotter had sold Bellamy Road as a 2-year-old in training to George Steinbrenner, and the colt started as the favorite for the classic at Churchill Downs but finished seventh. There was a reason. Bellamy Road injured a suspensory that kept him on the sidelines till Saratoga, when he returned to run second in the Travers and had a recurrence of the suspensory issue.
The premature termination of the horse’s racing career eventually proved a benefit for stallion manager Ben Walden, who syndicated and stood Bellamy Road at stud.
Walden stands the stallion at Pauls Mill in Woodford County south of Versailles, Ky., and said that “Bellamy Road was the apple of my eye the year he was on the Derby trail. His victory in the Wood was such a head-turning effort, but I never imagined I would get Bellamy Road.”
The farms looking to acquire the near-black son of Concerto dwindled after the Travers, however. Walden said, “Mr. Steinbrenner kept Bellamy Road in training after he repulled the suspensory in the Travers and took him to the farm, where the suspensory was pinfired. Those pinholes became infected after the horse went into swimming therapy, and then I heard he was on the market as a stallion.
“So John Stuart and I went to meet Mr. Steinbrenner at the Yankees spring training camp, and to our surprise, the horse was quite affordable. We put together a syndicate to purchase Bellamy, and he became the first stallion at Hurricane Hall.
“After the ownership at Hurricane Hall went different ways to pursue our dreams, we brought Bellamy Road to Pauls Mill, where I built only four stallion stalls to invoke restraint on myself.”
The change of location made no difference to Bellamy Road, who has continued to be supported by a loyal following of breeders since his retirement. In the wake of the stallion’s sterling successes with his freshman racers last year, the demand for Bellamy Road’s stud services increased to the point that his book was closed early on at a stud fee of
$15,000 live foal.
Walden said, “We have a very good syndicate behind the horse,” and among those with substantial interests in the horse are the Steinbrenner family, which owns 10 shares (20 percent of the syndicate), and the Liberation Farm of Rob Whiteley, who bred the first stakes winner by the stallion.
One of the things that’s made Bellamy Road successful is his natural athletic brilliance, and Walden noted that “horses with brilliance have been good to me, and that is the quality this horse had in spades.”
A big, rangy horse who had great speed, Bellamy Road carried his speed at least 10 furlongs, and Walden emphasized how important that consideration is to racing and to breeding horses at a high level. “We need to be able to breed to horses with the dream of going to the Kentucky Derby,” he said, because that is the greatest two minutes in sports.
Cotter bred one horse who had the talent to make the race in Bellamy Road, and now she has the chance to go to the Kentucky Derby herself as the owner and breeder of the stallion’s first Grade 1-winning colt.
And her connection to this Wood Memorial winner goes back generations.
“We bought the third dam of Toby’s Corner (the Poker mare Bumble) at the OBS January sale because my husband liked Poker and wanted a Poker mare,” Cotter recalled.
As the broodmare sire of Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew and of Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Silver Charm, Poker enjoyed a reputation for siring broodmares with potential. Bumble did little as a producer but did foal two winners, including Mrs. Bumble, the second dam of Toby’s Corner.
Mrs. Bumble produced three winners, including Brandon’s Ride, who was named for family, like many of the Cotter-bred stock. Brandon’s Ride was a winner from six starts but became something notably better as a producer. Four of her first five foals have won, and two are stakes winners.
By far, the most important is Toby’s Corner. The chestnut colt was born May 4, 2008, and Cotter said that “he’s still really immature,” but clearly quite talented nonetheless.
Following the birth of Toby’s Corner, “his dam was not bred for two years,” Cotter said, “because you couldn’t sell them. So we bred only Bellamy Road’s half-sister, Miss Tullamore Dew,” in 2009 and 2010.
Just last week, however, Brandon’s Ride made the journey to Kentucky, where she will be bred to Bellamy Road.