Louisville Magazine

APR 2012

Louisville Magazine is Louisville's city magazine, covering Louisville people, lifestyles, politics, sports, restaurants, entertainment and homes. Includes a monthly calendar of events.

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my cell phone. Once he has satisfied his curiosity, he takes a playful nibble at my Breeders' Cup jacket and gallops off. I'm told Rachel is to be bred to 2006 Champion Tree-Year-Old Bernardini in a couple weeks. Less than 10 miles away at Lane's End Farm, Zenyatta — by two years Rachel's senior — is just a few days from delivering a Bernardini foal herself. I'm struck by parallels that persist between the two champs even in retirement, as well as the cyclical nature of fame. In 2009, an East Coast (Rachel) versus West Coast (Zenyatta) debate intensified as each filly obliterated all comers on the racetrack. It reached a crescendo when Rachel's owner, the late Jess Jackson, elected not to run her in the Breeders' Cup at Santa Anita Park due to his dislike for synthetic surfaces. Te madness continued when Zenyatta unleashed her electrifying stretch run to defeat males and become the first and only filly to win the Breeders' Cup Classic. In January, Rachel was voted 2009 Horse of the Year amid outcries from those who felt Zenyatta's Breeders' Cup win should have secured the award. Te talk raged on for the rest of the winter when it was announced that Zenyatta would not be retired as expected but would race again in 2010. An April meeting in Arkansas for Oaklawn Park's Apple Blossom Invitational Handicap was scheduled to finally settle the dispute on the track, but four-year-old Rachel wasn't training at her accustomed high level. She wouldn't make the race and never quite regained her old form, running second three times that year before being retired. Zenyatta won five races, making her 19-0 overall, before losing a heartbreaker to Blame at Churchill Downs in the 2010 Classic, but took Horse of the Year honors to cap her stellar career. Te owners of a third female superstar, 2011 Horse of the Year Havre de Grace — whose dam, Easter Bunnette, resides at Stonegate Farm, near Anchorage — aren't ready to retire her for breeding duty just yet. At the time this story is being written, Havre de Grace is pointed toward the March 17 New Orleans Ladies Stakes at Fair Grounds Race Course in the Big Easy. In the breeding game, the odds are overwhelmingly stacked against you, the variables too numerous to count. Te objective, however, is relatively simple for broodmare farms: Find the most attractive stallions for your mares and try to produce good runners. Breeding operations range from small family-run farms to large-scale operations like Stonestreet, which has more than 80 mares on its roster. It's easy to assume that star-studded pairings like Curlin/Rachel or Bernardini/Zenyatta are foolproof, but this is hardly the case. Take 2002 Horse of the Year Azeri, who was bred to 2004 Horse of the Year and Breeders' Cup Classic winner Ghostzapper, as a prime example of a seemingly can't-miss mating. Te result was a filly, now three, named Wine Princess, who sold for $475,000 as a yearling — a relatively modest figure for a horse with such prominent bloodlines (including a lot of Native Dancer). While Wine Princess has yet to make a start and could be any kind of runner, 14-year-old Azeri's other foals haven't made much of an impact at the races. In 2007 Azeri was bred to blue-chip stallion A.P. Indy, resulting in her first foal, a colt named Take Control, who sold for $1.9 million as a two-year-old. He won his only start in 2009, but shin injuries have kept the colt sidelined ever since. In 2008 she delivered a Giant's Causeway filly named Arienza, who has been a modest success, earning $113,418 at the time this article was written. While none of these examples are necessarily an indictment against Azeri, major success as a producer has eluded the superstar so far. While the verdict is still out on Azeri, there are countless cases of mares with prodigious accomplishments and affluent bloodlines failing to produce quality stock. In 1988 Winning Colors became just the third filly to win the Kentucky Derby. In the breeding shed she was sent to the best stallions of her era and delivered 10 foals — none of whom has ever won a stakes race. Genuine Risk, the 1980 Kentucky Derby winner, suffered from fertility issues and produced just two foals in a 17-year broodmare career, with neither making the races. Success in the breeding shed has come from unlikely sources as well as the more logical ones; sometimes things actually work according to plan. In 1988, the filly Personal Ensign was Zenyatta before there 4.12 LOUISVILLE MAGAZINE [95]

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