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When I think of “hard-luck” broodmares, the name of Keeper Hill immediately comes to mind. There were few mares of comparable talent in the 1998 crop of 3-year-old fillies and maybe a handful as well-bred.

As a racer, Keeper Hill won three G1 races and was second or third in eight more. She had a very high level of talent, courage, and consistency to show form like that. Her sire is the important sire and broodmare sire Deputy Minister; her dam is a multiple graded stakes producer, and the second dam is a stakes-winning half-sister to leading sire Fappiano.

With all this going for her, Keeper Hill also was blessed with outstanding connections, being foaled and raised at Mill Ridge Farm, then trained through much of her career by Bobby Frankel.

To say that high hopes were held for this big, scopy, good-looking mare when she went to stud is a significant understatement. She was the goods.

A look at her produce record below shows how much in a mare’s life, in particular, depends on things no breeder or animal can control. Those first three years listed as “barren” were not, at least not in the more usual sense of the word in relation to fertility. Instead, those were the MRLS years that blighted the production of many mares, and Keeper Hill was one of those.

Once past the toxic destruction that swept through the Bluegrass, Keeper Hill produced four foals in succession, and the last of the quartet is Keep Up, who won the G3 River City Handicap at Churchill Downs on Sunday.

Before he could deliver on some of the promise associated with his celebrated dam, Keep Up had to overcome an obstacle of his own. While in sales prep as a yearling, the bay fractured his left knee, then spent long months on stall rest recuperating.

As credit to the care he received and the colt’s own character, Keep Up did heal and go into training, and now he is fulfilling some of his potential as a racehorse.

Due to the lengthy recuperation, the bay son of Unbridled’s Song took some time coming to his form, but he has progressed notably this season and even this fall, marching upward in class to win his first stakes in this graded event.

After Keep Up, Keeper Hill produced her first and only filly, a daughter by Bernardini who is a good winner and has prospects for the future, and the mare has a 2yo colt by Smart Strike and a yearling colt by Pulpit.

Earlier this year, Keeper Hill had a dead foal, and due to the trauma related to that, she was given the year off, will be bred in 2013.

The complete produce record is below:

1st Dam: KEEPER HILL, b, 1995. Bred by Chadds Ford Stable, et al (KY). Raced 4 yrs in NA, 21 sts, 4 wins, $1,661,281 (ssi = 37.14). Won Kentucky Oaks (G1), Las Virgenes S. (G1), Spinster S. (G1); 2nd Coaching Club American Oaks (G1), Santa Anita Oaks (G1), Gazelle Handicap (G1), Mother Goose S. (G1), Delaware Handicap (gr. 3); 3rd Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1), Personal Ensign Handicap (G1), Beverly Hills Handicap (G1), Ruffian Handicap (G1). ($250,000, 1997, KEEAPR, 2yo)

2001:   Barren.
2002:   Barren.
2003:   Barren.
2004:   Shaami, ch g, by Gone West. Raced 3 yrs in NA, 17 sts, 1 wins, $30,004.
2005:   Empire Keeper, b c, by Empire Maker.  Unraced in NA, Eng and Fr.
2006:   Valerian, b c, by Empire Maker. Raced 1 yr in NA, 1 sts, 0 wins, $197.
2007:   KEEP UP. b h, by Unbridled’s Song. Raced 3 yrs in NA, winner at 4 and 5, 11 starts, 5 wins, $213,623.
At 5: Won River City H. (G3).
2008:   Barren.
2009:   Milania, b f, by Bernardini. Raced 2 yrs in NA, 8 sts, 2 wins, $72,350.
2010:   Platinum Proof, dk b/ c, by Smart Strike. 
2011:   Motivating, b c, by Pulpit. 
2012:   Dead Foal.

Broodmare sire: DEPUTY MINISTER, dkbbr, 1979-2004. Sire of 519 dams of 2797 foals, 2140 rnrs (77%), 1534 wnrs (55%), 421 2yo wnrs (15%), 204 sw (7%).


2nd Dam: Fineza, dkbbr, 1985-2011. Bred by John Nerud Revocable Trust (FL). Raced 3 yrs in NA, 28 sts, 4 wins, $128,239 (ssi = 4.42). 3rd Cape May County S. Dam of GOLDEN GEAR, bay horse, Gulch, $634,009. Won Commonwealth Breeders’ Cup Handicap (G2), Equipoise Mile Handicap (G3), Kentuckiana S., Phoenix S., Silver Bullet Centennial Handicap, Centennial Handicap, Teleprompter S.; 2nd Fort Springs S.; 3rd Essex Handicap (G3) and Chasm, bay mare, Gulch, $96,669. 3rd Cicada S. (G3).