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One of the many interesting notes from the recently concluded Keeneland September yearling sale was the purchase of a group of eight colts by Juddmonte Farms. The yearlings all possess American dirt pedigrees, and the eight colts were purchased from five consignors: Gainesway (2), Lane’s End (2), Four Star (2), Clearsky, and Dromoland.

All these are intended for trainer Bob Baffert, who trains a West Coast stable for Juddmonte, and “this is the third year we have purchased yearlings for this purpose,” noted Garrett O’Rourke, farm manager of Juddmonte Farm in Kentucky.

“Really this is an outgrowth of Juddmonte’s historical success of racing in California,” O’Rourke continued, cataloging a list of triumphs that go back into the 1980s. Nearly all were horses who came over from Europe to race, but in the late 1990s, Honest Lady became the first major racer for Juddmonte who was retained to stay in the States and race entirely in California under the handling of trainer Bobby Frankel.  Frankel also conditioned Honest Lady’s dam, the great mare Toussaud, during the latter part of her career. Being a daughter of Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew, whose offspring were not exceptional as European turf performers, Honest Lady was a logical selection for this approach, and she gave it a smashing start.

That athletic filly was a graded winner at 3 who challenged the colts in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby of 1999 and then won the G1 Santa Monica in 2000, when she was also second in the G1 Metropolitan Handicap and in Breeders’ Cup Sprint.

Honest Lady’s siblings like Chester House, by a more turf-friendly sire in Mr. Prospector, raced initially in England before coming to the U.S. to win G1 races, but her half-brother Empire Maker, by Kentucky Derby winner Unbridled, stayed in country, won the Florida Derby, ran second in the Kentucky Derby, and won the Belmont Stakes in 2003.

Over the years, however, the Juddmonte program has been to take their young stock to Europe for racing, then bring over those who seem suited to American racing for competition here as older horses. It is a program that has paid massive dividends with such winners as Toussaud (G1 Gamely), Skimming (G1 Pacific Classic twice), Tinners Way (G1 Pacific Classic twice and G1 Californian), and literally barns full of other outstanding horses.

In all, Juddmonte has had exceptional success as a breeder and owner, both in America and in Europe, where its operation so recently has lit all the torches of athletic stardom with the great Frankel, named for the farm’s legendary American trainer.

Frankel, the man, spent most of his life as a trainer in California, and he was the focus for Juddmonte’s development of older horses in the States. But clearly, Khalid Abdullah, Juddmonte’s owner, enjoys the variety of sport, and for an operation that focuses on breeding for Europe and the classics in general, producing stock for racing in California might require some supplements.

The first set of four yearlings purchased specifically for the California racing program are now three years old, and they include West Riding (Tapit), unbeaten and highly regarded filly who won an allowance at Del Mar at the end of July; Beach Hut (First Defence colt), stakes-placed in the San Pedro this season; Pimpernel (Elusive Quality colt out of Xtra Heat), winner of a maiden special and allowance; and the unraced Head Quarters (Curlin colt).

The second set of yearling purchases are a trio named Bassanio (Speightstown colt; $200,000), Lamu (Malibu Moon colt; $300,000), and Planet (Street Cry colt; $700,000). All are unraced 2-year-olds.

The group of eight this year represent a larger number and a great outlay of cash, which suggests an active appreciation for the success achieved and for the prospects ahead with Juddmonte in California.

As typical for this undertaking, the pedigrees suggest American speed and dirt performance, and they doubtless were selected with an eye toward the type of stock that Baffert has enjoyed success with in the past.

The group this year is exclusively colts, and they are: Speightstown x Union Waters, $400,000; Unbridled’s Song x Bubbler, $560,000; Candy Ride x Cat Charmer, $460,000; Harlan’s Holiday x True Addiction, $200,000; Scat Daddy x Unspoken Fur, $360,000; Trappe Shot x Winning Call, $600,000; Midnight Lute x Seeking the Ghost, $220,000; and Trappe Shot x Songfest, $380,000.

As was the general perception at the sales, Trappe Shot is a first-crop sire of great appeal, and Juddmonte bought two of them. Those were the only yearlings by an unproven sire that the international operation purchased, and there is a thought here that these yearlings have enough pedigree that any of them could go to stud if they do enough on the racetrack.

That is a long-term goal, not an immediate one, and any major breeder would have that consideration lingering in the back of his mind when making up a list of the most interesting prospects. The next couple of seasons will tell us which make the grade, and breeders and racing fans can while away the hours of fun at their sport by observing these and other young prospects as they develop.

* The preceding post was first published earlier this week at Paulick Report.

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