Unbeaten in four starts after a clear victory in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and a near-certainty to be the Eclipse Award winner as the leading colt of his division, the 2-year-old Game Winner will be the second juvenile champion by his sire, the Argentine-bred Candy Ride (by the Cryptoclearance stallion Ride the Rails). The stallion’s fleet Shared Belief was champion of the juvenile crowd in 2013, when he was unbeaten in three starts, including the Grade 1 Hollywood Futurity.
Unlike the juvenile program of Shared Belief, Game Winner is set to take a break and then gear up for the 2019 classics in the New Year, according to trainer Bob Baffert.
That decision will make some trainers breathe easier about their prospects in the coming weeks, but it also puts a major bar to the hopes for Candy Ride to lead the general sire list this year. Kitten’s Joy (El Prado) stands more than $1 million clear of his rival, and Candy Ride needs a couple of major winners to close the gap.
But Game Winner holds out hopes of further grand results in 2019 for the lengthy bay stallion at Lane’s End, and Game Winner will not be the first unbeaten colt that trainer Baffert has pointed to the classics.
Bred in Kentucky by Summer Wind Farm, Game Winner is related to one such colt trained by Baffert. In 1998, the trainer brought an unbeaten colt of towering speed and stature to the Kentucky Derby, but Indian Charlie (In Excess) lost for the first time, finishing third to Baffert’s “other horse,” Real Quiet (Quiet American).
Retired to stud at Vinery, Indian Charlie became a leading sire, and one of his champion racers was Fleet Indian, who is the second dam of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner.
Fleet Indian won 13 of 19 starts, earned $1.7 million, and was the 2006 Eclipse Award winner as the top older mare off her 5-year-old season, when she won six consecutive races, including the G1 Beldame and Personal Ensign.
Consigned to the 2007 Keeneland November sale in foal to Storm Cat, Fleet Indian was officially listed an RNA at $3.9 million and was led from the ring unsold, but the mare was sold privately to the Summer Wind Farm of Jane and Frank Lyon shortly thereafter.
For Summer Wind, Fleet Indian produced four foals consecutively, then was euthanized due to complications of colic on Oct. 1, 2011 when the mare was only 10. Fleet Indian was not in foal at the time of her death, and none of her foals came close to reproducing her elite form on the racetrack.
Of the quartet, only the last, the Medaglia d’Oro filly Fleet of Gold earned black type with a third in the Busanda Stakes at Aqueduct. Three, however, are mares, and the unraced A.P. Indy mare Indyan Giving is owned by Summer Wind and is the dam of Game Winner.
Sold at the 2017 Keeneland September yearling sale as Hip 346, Game Winner brought only $110,000, just a touch below the 2017 median price of $130,000 for all 55 Candy Ride yearlings sold.
The winning bidder on behalf of Gary and Mary West was Ben Glass, who said: “To get him for that price, I guess I’m lucky. I love A.P. Indy and Candy Ride, and everybody has to get lucky once in a while.”
Once the hammer fell on the handsome bay colt, Game Winner went to “Dell Ridge Farm on Winchester Road outside Lexington, where Des Ryan takes care of them till they go to Jeff Kirk in Ocala to break. We send all our horses to Jeff; the young horses go there for breaking and pre-training, and the older horses who need layup or rehab go to Ocala too. I bought a place down there 30 minutes from Crystal River just so that I can interfere with Jeff’s training.”
When not interfering with Kirk’s training regimen, Glass is usually on the road to sales or to watch racehorses around the country for the Wests’ stable. They have racing stock with five different trainers across the U.S., and to orchestrate such a sizable operation, Glass noted, “It’s a team effort, and it takes a good group like this to put all these horses on the track in the best form possible.”
In addition to Ryan in Lexington and Kirk in Ocala, Glass has Dr. Douglas Brunk, “who’s worked with me for 35 years,” to assess vet work across the country and Dr. Craig Van Balen in Lexington, who does the pre-purchase exams on potential racehorses.
“That’s the team,” Glass said, “except for the Boss, and he has the final say.” If the results from Saturday are any indication, the boss is pretty happy. With an Eclipse Award winner in the barn with Baffert and last year’s champion 3-year-old West Coast (Flatter) retired and off to Lane’s End Farm to begin his stud career next year, the Wests’ stable is flying high.
And the legacy of Fleet Indian is looking like a Winner.