By any measure, sportsman Brad Kelley has taken a bold position with his acquisition of Calumet Farm and with the money and energy that he has poured into that historic farm.
Last year, Calumet won the Preakness Stakes with Oxbow (by Awesome Again); this year, Kelley’s Bluegrass Hall bred Saturday’s Travers Stakes winner V.E. Day (English Channel).
Through this period, as Kelley has developed his program for Calumet, he has added stallions to the operation that represent a broad spectrum of aptitudes for racing, from the sprinter Hightail to milers like Snapy Halo (Southern Halo), from classic winner Point Given to the stout stayer Americain.
The farm’s latest addition is English Channel, who began his stallion career at Bluegrass Hall under the management of Ben Walden before Kelley bought out the partners in that farm and took it private. Then English Channel moved to Lane’s End, where he remained until last week’s announcement that the chestnut champion would stand at Calumet in 2015.
Owned by Calumet and Jim Scatuorchio, English Channel is a son of leading sire Smart Strike (Mr. Prospector) out of the Theatrical mare, Belva. English Channel proved a first-class racehorse, winning 13 of 23 starts, including six Grade 1 races, earning $5.3 million. Purchased and raced by Scatuorchio and trained by Todd Pletcher, English Channel was champion turf horse in 2007.
When he went to stud, however, English Channel was not widely embraced by breeders or buyers at the sales. One look told me why. English Channel is not a very big horse. He is, moreover, notably light and lean. Built more like a greyhound than a weightlifter, English Channel runs directly counter to the “American sales type” that dominates the auctions for yearlings and 2-year-olds in training.
Not surprisingly, the stallions who do produce this type with regularity are heartily embraced by the market and are rewarded with good mares that have potential to help a sire get the best start to his career.
In addition, the American racing program, with the majority of its races at six furlongs and the slimmest minority at distances beyond nine furlongs, plays a massive role in the perceptions of breeders, buyers, and sales companies.
They know what will work in most situations, and they cater to that. Otherwise, they would go out of business.
English Channel has galloped into the wind of this prevailing set of circumstances. Even so, he has sired Queen’s Plate winner Strait of Dover, who was the 2013 champion 3-year-old colt, as well as graded stakes winner Optimizer and The Pizza Man, who won the American St. Leger on Aug. 16.
That said, V.E. Day attracted plenty of attention as a sales yearling and sold for $105,000 out of the 2012 Denali Stud consignment to Pete Bradley, who regularly selects yearlings for pinhooking partnerships that sell horses in the 2-year-old sales market.
That is exactly what happened with V.E. Day, who brought $135,000 at the 2013 OBS March sale. As the sale differential of $35,000 suggests, the colt did well but did not make a massive impression at the auction.
V.E. Day breezed a quarter-mile in :21.80. That was a good breeze for a two-turn colt, but sprinters went faster. Yet the son of English Channel looked good doing it and impressed watchers enough to find a good home, where he currently races as property of Magalen O. Bryant. One of the colt’s aces was that he had a very good stride length of more than 24 feet, and both his pedigree and his physique suggested strongly that he was a colt who would improve with time and training.
Beginning his career on the racetrack this season at 3, V.E. Day has won four of his six starts and has quickly raced up the class ladder from maiden to G1 winner.
The bottom half of the colt’s pedigree indicates this pattern of development as well. The chestnut colt is out of a mare by leading sire Deputy Minister, who was a champion juvenile and sire of many fine two-turn racers. The second dam is by English Derby winner Roberto, who was a fast classic winner; and the third dam is by Graustark, one of the best sons of unbeaten Ribot.
The fourth dam is the splendid broodmare Golden Trail, and this family was developed by Daniel Galbreath at Darby Dan Farm. Galbreath bred V.E. Day’s second dam, Our Dear Sue, and she produced stakes winner Don’t Read My Lips (Turkoman).
Gaines-Gentry Thoroughbreds bred California Sunset, the dam of V.E. Day, and sold the unraced mare, carrying her fourth foal on a cover to Bluegrass Cat, for $220,000 to Kelley in 2007, with Ben Walden signing the ticket.
The mare’s best earners prior to V.E. Day are All About Alex (Afleet Alex) with $229,218 and English Sunrise (English Channel) with $91,781.
Their dam California Sunset has a 2-year-old full sister to the Travers winner named English Sunset. The mare was barren for 2013, and she has a weanling colt by Americain.
In keeping with Calumet’s program of breeding stock with classic potential, they are supporting their Melbourne Cup winner Americain with premium broodmares like they have done with English Channel, and only time will prove whether that may likewise prove as fruitful.
*The preceding post was first published last week at Paulick Report.
**In the meantime, Calumet Farm has announced that its 2013 Preakness Stakes winner Oxbow, who stood the 2014 season at Taylor Made Farm, has been moved to Calumet and will stand there in 2015.
***Calumet Farm, when owned by Warren Wright and Lucille Wright Markey, bred and raced three previous winners of the Travers: Whirlaway (1941), Beau Prince (1961), and Alydar (1978).