The following post appeared earlier this week at Paulick Report.
The Congaree filly Killer Graces reversed her order of finish with Sharp Cat Stakes winner Charm the Maker (Empire Maker) in the Grade 1 Hollywood Starlet. That makes Killer Graces the first G1 winner for her sire, who won five G1s himself.
One of the most versatile and consistent racers in the opening years of the new century, Congaree won a dozen races, including the Carter, Cigar Mile (twice), and Hollywood Gold Cup; was second in the G1 Santa Anita Handicap; and finished third in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness.
A truly outstanding racehorse and the best runner sired by champion juvenile Arazi (Blushing Groom), Congaree went to stud with a glittering race record but with a serious mark against him in the form of his sire. Arazi was a mediocre stallion, despite considerable opportunity and stints at stud in Europe, the States, and Japan.
When Congaree went to stud, there were few who doubted the horse’s talent, tenacity, speed, or soundness, but virtually everyone had reservations about the impact that Arazi might have in allowing Congaree to become an important sire.
One of the breeders who really liked Congaree was Brian Kahn, the breeder of Killer Graces. He said, “I thought Congaree was a great-looking horse and had a great shot to hit (as a commercial stallion). I liked him from seeing him run in California and was extremely impressed with him.”
Those most firmly behind the potential of Congaree were his owner-breeders, Bob and Janice McNair, who raced the horse with great success, then stood him at Frank Stronach’s Adena Springs Farm in Kentucky through the 2009 breeding season. Near the end of 2008, the McNairs left the breeding business and sold nearly all their stock.
As part of that dissolution of assets, nearly everything the McNairs owned went in a package deal to Darley, including subsequent champion juvenile colt Midshipman, but Congaree remained the property of the McNairs. The stallion had covered his fourth book of mares earlier in 2008, including Heatherdoesntbluff, the dam of Killer Graces.
Congaree stood one further season in Kentucky, and in 2010, he went to stand in New York at the Highcliff Farm of Suzie and Lynwood O’Cain. Congaree will stand there for the 2012 season for a fee of $7,500 live foal and is one of the most successful stallions in the New York program.
But by the time that Kahn’s filly was a yearling, the commercial verdict was in on Congaree, and it was thumbs down. The stallion’s yearlings averaged $17,727 in 2010, and Kahn chose to retain the filly and put her in training.
“At the time I sent the mare to Congaree, I was taking a shot that he was going to succeed and be commercially viable [with a fourth-crop yearling], which didn’t work out,” said Kahn. “I have a real good trainer out here in California and decided to take a shot racing the filly. My trainer, Rafael DeLeon, and I owned her together, and after her début, we sold her privately to Jerry’s group,” that includes trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, Daniel Borislow, Gillian Campbell, and Steve Mellen.
Kahn said the filly sold for a “fair price” to the Hollendorfer partnership, and Killer Graces is the second black-type winner out of his mare from two foals. That is the way for a nice young mare to start off, and Kahn has the commercial market coming his way now.
Including the Hollywood Starlet, Killer Graces has won three stakes, and Kahn stills owns the filly’s dam. “We sold the Candy Ride yearling colt out of Heatherdoesntbluff in September for $260,000 to Mark Casse, agent, and the mare is going to foal a Tiz Wonderful early in 2012,” he said. “She was open the year before because she was getting late (in foaling), and I left her open for an early cover.”
Living in L.A., Kahn boards Heatherdoesntbluff with Neal Clarke and Connor Doyle at Atlas Farm near Nicholasville, Ky. Kahn also owns the dam of Heatherdoesntbluff, the Skywalker mare Michigan Bluff, who is a G3 stakes winner and is also at Atlas.