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The following post appeared earlier this week at Paulick Report.

The improving 3-year-old filly Nereid won her first Grade 1 when she dead-heated for victory in the American Oaks at Hollywood Park on Saturday. The near-black daughter of the Kris S. stallion Rock Hard Ten is from her sire’s second crop and is his first G1 winner.

An uncommonly handsome and athletic colt who stood 17 hands at 3, Rock Hard Ten was unraced at 2 but improved so much and so fast coming into his 3-year-old season that he ended up challenging the Triple Crown colts in the Preakness and Belmont Stakes. In the Preakness, Rock Hard Ten showed his best form, finishing second to Smarty Jones.
Racing for Mercedes Stable and Madeleine Paulson, Rock Hard Ten was on the sidelines for most of his 3-year-old season after the Belmont. Dennis Yokum, farm trainer for Mercedes Stable, said that conditioner “Richard Mandella got Rock Hard Ten in November 2004, and he did a fantastic job with this horse.”

Indeed he did. Under Mandella’s handling, Rock Hard Ten was unbeaten, winning the Malibu, the Strub, Santa Anita Handicap, and then the Goodwood as his prep for the Breeders’ Cup Classic before being scratched out of the big race itself.

Because he was an athlete with uncommon gifts, Rock Hard Ten was a tempting stallion prospect for several operations, eventually going to stud at Lane’s End Farm near Versailles, Ky., where he stands today for a stud fee of $25,000 live foal.

Among the young stallions whose offspring were nearing competition as bloodstock prices followed the national and international markets into the economic chasm, Rock Hard Ten has ridden out the storm with the support of breeders.

The horse’s stock from his first crop showed better form at 2 than could reasonably have been expected from a big, growthy stallion, but his best to date, G1 winner Nereid, is cast in the same mold as the sire, maturing very well at 3 and showing the class and speed to carry her up to 10 furlongs.

Unbeaten in three starts this year, Nereid was bred in Kentucky by Emler and Celeste Neuman and is the second foal out of the Belong to Me mare Dowry that Celeste Neuman selected as a weanling.

Emler Neuman said, “My wife loved the way that Dowry walked, and she was a really lovely filly. We conferred on it, and thought it was a good time to add a nice horse. So we bought her.”

Tracing to 1975 Kentucky Oaks winner Sun and Snow as her third dam, Dowry is a half-sister to two stakes winners and two stakes-placed horses. Dowry, a winner of four races from nine starts, was almost certainly as good as any of her siblings.

Neuman said, “Dowry got hurt on the farm, and the recommendation was to run her on the grass because it might be a bit easier on her. She was really good, had a lot of speed, and our only problem was that we had a terrible time finding a good stakes on the grass to run her in.”

As a result, Dowry went through her conditions but did not pick up black type before retiring to become a broodmare. The Neumans’ confidence in their young mare was rewarded with her second foal, as they sold the yearling later named Nereid for $190,000 at the Keeneland September sale to Blandford Bloodstock, agent.

Described as a “medium-sized to smallish mare with a very good depth of shoulder and a broad, square kind of hindquarter,” Dowry was given immediate opportunity to prove herself as a broodmare. Her first foal was by More Than Ready, and her second is the American Oaks winner.

In selecting Rock Hard Ten for Dowry, Neuman said that “we wanted to find a horse with substance and soundness, and Nereid was a very nice filly from the start. When we went to the sales, although the mare was unproven, we had a nice-looking filly, and she sold well. We have a full sister to Nereid in the September sale, and the mare has a very nice filly this year by Lemon Drop Kid.”

This year, the Neumans bred Dowry to Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense, and “with the way she has proven herself as a broodmare, we will be sending her to the best stallion we can afford.”