The following post appeared earlier this week at Paulick Report. Today, trainer Doug O’Neill announced that I’ll Have Another will not race in the Belmont Stakes due to a tendon problem.
The odds are long against breeding a horse who wins the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, then gets to race for the Triple Crown. But Harvey Clarke has bucked the odds. He bred the talented chestnut colt I’ll Have Another, who will take the Test of the Champion on Saturday in an attempt to become the first Triple Crown winner since 1978.
As the flags in the Belmont Park infield pop in the wind, as the O’Neill brothers’ hearts bang in their chests with excitement, and as jockey Mario Gutierrez listens to his horse among the thundering multitudes when I’ll Have Another heads down the stretch of the Belmont Stakes, their chance of a lifetime might never have existed if Clarke and others had made different decisions at any point along the process in producing the classic winner.
Like many other Thoroughbred breeders, Clarke is a successful businessman, and he uses seasoned advisers to help direct his horse breeding and racing stable. Clarke has Steve Shahinian to select racing stock for him and to help decide which of those Clarke breeds should be sold as surplus to the stable.
So Shahinian recommended that the breeder sell the immature-looking I’ll Have Another as a yearling. The other side of that coin is that Shahinian also had urged Clarke to buy the colt’s dam, the Arch mare Arch’s Gal Edith, for $80,000 at the OBS March sale of 2-year-olds in training in 2004.
The filly had ability and was unbeaten in a single start.
Shahinian said, “The fillies out of the racing stable are the ones that become broodmares if we think there’s anything there to work with. We retired Arch’s Gal Edith to stud because she was a really promising racehorse who fit our program. From mischance, she did not get to express what we thought she had the ability to do, but there was some genuine talent that the trainer, Kiaran McLaughlin, felt sure went untapped.
“Arch’s Gal Edith was always robust but more of a linebacker than an offensive lineman. She was strong in the same way that her son Those Wer the Days (by Thunder Gulch) is strong. But she also had enough leg and bone under her to do what she needed to do.
“One of the negatives with her is that she put a lot into her training. You never asked her to do anything and she wasn’t ready to do it. She was very forward physically and mentally in her attitude toward training and racing. She was also an impressive mover for a filly who wasn’t really big.”
[When I saw the mare at Brookdale Farm near Versailles, Ky., two weeks ago, I put her at 15.3 hands or just a touch more.]
She is big enough, strong enough, and appeared to have talent enough to be quite a good horse. It’s all the more disappointing that she didn’t get to show it.
Had Clarke let his disappointment get the better of him and sold Arch’s Gal Edith, she might have bred a classic winner from somebody else. Or not at all.
Clarke has plenty of experience in racing, however, and he plays the game for the long term. As a result, he held onto the mare and bred her to good horses. Her third mate was Travers winner Flower Alley (Distorted Humor), who was suggested to Clarke by Freddie Seitz of Brookdale Farm, where Clarke keeps Arch’s Gal Edith and her foals.
Freddie Seitz wears different hats at different times of the year at Brookdale, but in advising Clarke about his mares, Seitz suggested Flower Alley because “of really liking him as a racehorse. He had speed and carried it in his Travers victory and in the Breeders’ Cup to be second. He seemed like a typical Distorted Humor, who puts speed into his offspring but also gets a lot who can carry it. That’s why I liked Flower Alley as a stallion prospect, and we tried to get him as a stallion for Brookdale. That did not happen, but we liked him, used him, and bred his stakes winner Bouquet Booth.”
Clarke agreed, and the mating produced I’ll Have Another, by far the best offspring of his sire and the leading colt of 2012.
But nobody knew what destiny awaited the chestnut son of Arch’s Gal Edith when he was a young colt frolicking in the fields of Brookdale.
As Brookdale’s yearling manager, Seitz was very familiar with the colt and said that I’ll Have Another was the “most middle-of-the-road type yearling you could have. He was medium-sized, no real issues, very mellow personality. He was a good mover and walker, but we have a lot of nice movers who don’t go on to win the Kentucky Derby and Preakness. Compared to how immature he had been, he looked like a different horse by sales time, had improved from what he had been earlier in prep, but still he wasn’t the type who really wowed buyers in September.”
Bought for a song ($11,000) in September, I’ll Have Another was much stronger when presented for resale at the OBS April last year. But even there, the quick chestnut found few friends in the buying public aside from Dennis O’Neill, who picked him up at $35,000 for the account of Paul Reddam.
The karmic connections of so many people who made so many independent decisions will converge on the racetrack at Belmont Park this Saturday afternoon. As tempting as it might be for us to wonder “what if?” there is every reason to believe that changing the steps along this stairway to stardom would mean that Bodemeister would be racing for the Triple Crown instead.