With a wire-to-wire victory in the Stephen Foster at Churchill Downs on June 18, 6-year-old Bradester became the latest Grade 1 winner for his sire Lion Heart (by Tale of the Cat), and the horse now has earnings of more than $1 million, with five graded stakes victories in 23 starts.
Bred in Kentucky by Doug Branham, Bradester is from the last Kentucky-sired crop by his handsome chestnut sire, who was sold to the Jockey Club of Turkey in early 2010 before covering a mare that season.
Funded by the government of Turkey through a levy on betting turnover at the country’s racetracks, the Jockey Club of Turkey has been a buyer of quality stallions for three decades. It also offers domestic breeders significant incentives to purchase mares and import them to Turkey to breed and raise their produce for the country’s sport.
The Jockey Club of Turkey’s previous purchases include stallions such as Kentucky Derby winners Sea Hero (Polish Navy) and Strike the Gold (Alydar), who became a leading sire for their racing program. The package deal with Coolmore in January of 2010 included G1 winner and Kentucky Derby second Lion Heart, champion Dehere (Deputy Minister), and the multiple G1 winner Powerscourt (Sadler’s Wells).
The first two horses were the stars of that year’s stallion purchases. Lion Heart alone is the sire of G1 winners Dangerous Midge (Breeders’ Cup Turf and at stud in Chile), Line of David (Arkansas Derby and sire of Kentucky Derby second Firing Line), and Tom’s Tribute (Eddie Read Handicap), as well as Canadian Horse of the Year Uncaptured.
The latter is at stud in Florida at Ocala Stud, which also stands Lion Heart’s Saratoga Special winner Kantharos, the sire of graded stakes winners X Y Jet and Mr. Jordan.
Lion Heart entered stud in 2005 and has now stood more seasons in Turkey than he stood in Kentucky. One of the chief commercial knocks against the beautifully balanced sire of fleet foals was that Lion Heart was not a tall horse and that he generally did not sire especially tall horses.
The sales market has a rabid distaste for yearlings that are not of sufficient height. That may have been the case with Bradester, at least early on, because he was neither a profitable sales weanling, selling for $13,000 at the 2010 Keeneland November sale, nor sales yearling, selling for $20,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic yearling auction in 2011.
Cary Frommer, who resells horses in training at the 2-year-old sales, found Bradester as a yearling and loved what she saw. “When he was a yearling, he was not a real big colt, may have been closer to 15 hands, was a plain wrapper, nothing flashy, but had nothing wrong with him,” said Frommer. “So I was waiting to try to buy him but missed bidding on him when he went through the ring because I was on the phone with an owner. As it happened, the colt didn’t sell, and I was able to buy him immediately afterward.
“I purchased him as a yearling for $20,000, put him through the breaking and pre-training that took him to the sale, and Bradester was just a grand prospect all along. So I told Barry Berkelhammer he ought to buy him, which he’s kind of reluctant to do because we have a few horses together, but once he saw the colt, he knew this was one he needed to buy.”
Berkelhammer, a Florida-based bloodstock agent, recalled: “Cary had him as a 2-year-old in training at Palm Meadows when Fasig-Tipton was holding their Florida sale there. I also had a couple horses with her, and while I was around watching how they were training, I saw Bradester, and he was training lights out. He was so good that I decided to make a few calls.”
One of Berkelhammer’s calls was to Joseph Sutton, a racing man who is in the energy business in Texas. “Joe Sutton does not usually buy colts,” Berkelhammer said, “and Bradester was the first colt that we bought.”
On Berkelhammer’s recommendation, Sutton paid $195,000 for the smooth-striding bay colt he later named Bradester. He had worked a furlong in :10 2/5, which wasn’t a wildly fast time, but the son of Lion Heart had looked good doing it, stretching out with a stride length of 24 feet.
That purchase was a good call for both parties, and Bradester “has been a fun horse, has lasted a long time,” Berkelhammer said, and “[trainer] Eddie [Kenneally] has done a great job conditioning him. The horse has got a great personality, is fun to be around, and is a neat horse.”
He’s also grown up a lot. Berkelhammer said that the once-midsize or smaller yearling is now “more of a hunter type with plenty of leg. He’s a pretty horse too and probably stands 16.2 hands.”
Looking at the handsome bay in the winner’s circle at Churchill Downs, you’d have to say that Bradester has grown up the right way.