by Ryan Martin
Mill Ridge Farm’s Headley Bell Riding High into Saturday
Fourstar Crook Can Flatter New York-Bred Program
Horseracing is a Family Affair for Team Nyaleti
Dark Artist Goes for Fourth Straight Win in Grade III Pucker Up
MILL RIDGE FARM’S HEADLEY BELL RIDING HIGH INTO SATURDAY
Headley Bell is well aware of how good of a position he is in going into Saturday’s International Festival of Racing, at Arlington International Racecourse.
The Managing Partner of Mill Ridge Farm and President of Nicoma Bloodstock bred the Grade I $400,000 Secretariat Stakes 2-1 morning line favorite Analyze It and syndicated Oscar Performance – the 3-1 favorite for the Grade I $1,000,000 Arlington Million.
“It’s truly a gift,” Bell said. “To come here with an experience like this and two horses that are favorite in the Secretariat and the Million, it doesn’t get any better than that.”
According to Bell, Analyze It did not always have it together from a confirmation standpoint and recalls observing the son of Point of Entry on the farm as a weanling.
“When he was a weanling I was concerned because he wasn’t a great mover behind,” Bell said. “He just kind of had a straight hind leg. We actually entered him in the (Keeneland) January Sale as a weanling and took him out because he wasn’t moving well.”
Analyze It turned things around throughout that year, however, and ended up being purchased by Pat Hoppel from the Keeneland September Yearling Sale in 2016 for $130,000.
“That was a lot of money for a Point of Entry who was unproven at the time,” Bell said. “He ended up really blossoming as a yearling. He really trained well for Pat, Pat loved him. He didn’t sell him initially and then Pete Bradley went back and bought him (at the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Company’s March 2017 Sale of Two-Year-Olds In Training for $190,000). He’s really blossomed.”
Trained by Chad Brown and owned by William H. Lawrence, Analyze It kicked off his career with a maiden victory last October at Belmont Park which he won by 6¼ lengths at 12-1 odds. He then shipped to the west coast to take the Grade III Cecil B. DeMille Stakes at Del Mar on November 26 and won his sophomore debut in Keeneland’s Grade III Transylvania Stakes, where he beat fellow Secretariat hopeful Captivating Moon by 5¼ lengths.
An Arlington Million victory would make Oscar Performance a Grade I winner at ages two, three and four. At age two, he won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Santa Anita and at three, won the Belmont Derby Invitational as well as last year’s edition of the Secretariat Stakes.
Although, the Amerman Racing-owned Brian Lynch trainee has only run once this season, perhaps he is in the best form of his 12-race career. His solo sophomore outing took place in the Grade III Poker Stakes at Belmont Park on June 17, where he set a track record for one mile over the New York lawn of 1:31.23 eclipsing the previous mark set by Elusive Quality. In doing so he defeated two-time graded stakes winner Made You Look and Voodoo Song, the latter of which won the Forbidden Apple Stakes in his next outing.
He is scheduled to retire at the end of his 4-year-old campaign and will stand at Mill Ridge Farm. Trainer Brian Lynch previously indicated that after the Arlington Million, Oscar Performance would likely target the Grade I $1,000,000 Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland Race Course on October 6 before a run in the Grade I $2,000,000 Breeders’ Cup Mile at Churchill Downs on November 3.
“We’ve syndicated half the horse already and it went really well,” Bell said. “We syndicated him in seven days on a basis of $75,000 for the shares. We kept the other half too, rather than putting kickers on the deal, we just kept the other shares syndicated after he’s finished racing. We got a great syndicate. But for him to be a Breeders’ Cup winner at two, win all the best races at three and then to break that twenty-year track record is amazing. He’s very well bred, he has a fabulous pedigree blend. He’s a very handsome horse. Right now, he’d stand for $15,000 but we’ll see. There are other races in mind. Obviously, you got to get there, but he has already established himself as a proper horse.”
Oscar Performance is by leading turf sire Kitten’s Joy and is out of the Theatrical (IRE) broodmare Devine Actress, who produced multiple stakes winner Oscar Nominated who also is by Kitten’s Joy.
Bell believes that a $15,000 stud fee on a horse like Oscar Performance would be quite the deal for potential breeders.
“When you’re doing that you’ve got to think four years down the road. You’re in the moment and then the balloon goes off and you struggle. So, even in the syndicate, you got eight seasons in the first four years to make a very attractive deal. Because the bottom line is we want to give him a chance to be a stallion and we’re willing to give a little bit up front to get something in the end.”
Bell’s journey to Chicago to watch his two superstars in action is somewhat of a homecoming for him. He last was at Arlington 41 years ago when working as a groom for his mother, trainer Alice Chandler, who campaigned Nicosia to two stakes victories at the Chicagoland oval.
“I was telling our son Gardner that I was last here with that filly,” Bell said. “She won the Sheridan and the (Grade II) Matron and I haven’t been back since. She was a top mare. My mother was the first lady to be a trainer, owner and breeder of a $100,000 stakes winner. I was her groom and that was truly very special. I was a senior in college and it was very memorable. It’s something very special just to come back.”
FOURSTAR CROOK CAN FLATTER NEW-YORK BRED PROGRAM
Michael Dubb considers himself to be an ambassador for New York racing. As a Thoroughbred owner he is heavily involved in the acquisition of horses bred in the Empire State and serves on the Board of Directors of the New York Racing Association. But when he has the opportunity to showcase his most talented New York-breds out of state at a high level, he often times will seize such an opportunity and he is doing just that with Fourstar Crook in Saturday’s Grade I $600,000 Beverly D – a “Win and You’re In” event for the Grade I $2,000,000 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf at Churchill Downs on Nov. 3.
Owned by Dubb in partnership with Bethlehem Stables and Gary Aisquith, the 6-year-old daughter of Freud dominated her New York-bred counterparts during her past couple of campaigns winning four stakes against such level. But at the end of last year’s campaign after finishing third in the Grade I E.P. Taylor Stakes, Dubb was faced with a decision. He could either retire her, or continue to race her as a 6-year-old. Not only did he opt for the latter, but in doing so he has run her at a much more competitive level.
“This is my fifth year of racing her,” Dubb said. “We started racing her when she was two and each year she got better and better. My feeling with her was at five, I could retire her or introduce her to tougher competition which I thought she could handle. She’s proven that she can handle whatever we can put in front her.”
That she has. Fourstar Crook has won two of her three starts this year, all of which took place against graded stakes company. She made her seasonal bow a winning one in the Grade II Hillsborough Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs on March 10 defeating three-time graded stakes winner Proctor’s Ledge and Grade I winner La Coronel. Next out, Fourstar Crook took her talents to Kentucky and ran second in the Grade I Jenny Wiley Stakes at Keeneland on April 14 to stable mate and fellow Beverly D. entrant Sistercharlie (IRE). She turned the tables on her stablemate next out in the Grade II New York Stakes and defeated Sistercharlie by a head in the mile-and-a-quarter event at Belmont Park.
A victory in the Beverly D. would not only give Fourstar Crook her first Grade I victory, but also would make her the first New York-bred to win the prestigious event.
“The Beverly D is obviously such a prestigious race for fillies and mares and it’s kind of an international ace as well,” Dubb said. “It attracts horses from overseas like Aidan O’Brien’s fillies. The New York-bred program has really upped its game with horses like (Grade I winners) Diversify, Audible and Mind Your Biscuits. I try to represent the fillies in that division. It would be nice for the New York-bred program to have her win the race.”
Dubb has yet to decide if Fourstar Crook will race next year, but indicated that after the Beverly D. he would like to try the Grade I $500,000 Flower Bowl at Belmont Park on October 7.
“The races I’d like to run in this year are the Flower Bowl and the (Grade I $2,000,000) Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf (at Churchill Downs on November 3),” Dubb said. “We’ll make a decision after those two races where we go from there, whether to retire or keep racing her. I’m not a breeder per se and I think it’s important to keep horses on the track. She has a nice fan base in New York and I think it’s important for the sport to keep good horses like her in training.”
Dubb will not be in attendance when Fourstar Crook races in the Beverly D. as he and his wife will be vacationing in Spain, but he will be watching the race from overseas.
“(Bloodstock agent) Gary Young will represent me,” Dubb said. “He selected her from the Timonium sale as a two-year-old. He’ll be there on my behalf.”
Fourstar Crook was purchased from Parrish Farms’ consignment operation for $110,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Mid-Atlantic Two-Year-Olds In Training Sale in 2014.
HORSERACING IS A FAMILY AFFAIR FOR TEAM NYALETI
The ownership group surrounding Grade I $600,000 Beverly D. contender Nyaleti (IRE) serves as an opportunity to bring family together. The 3-year-old daughter of Arch races for co-owners 3 Batterhams and A. Reay. The 3 Batterhams moniker is the nom de course of Chris Batterham, wife Rosie, son Rob and their married daughter Jen Reay.
Chris and Rosie Batterham have been in Thoroughbred ownership for just over two decades and have enjoyed success with a number of horses, however Nyaleti is their first Thoroughbred to race in the United States.
“My dad was always very keen on horseracing. We had some good success. We had several jumpers like Majadou who won at the Cheltenham festival,” said Chris Batterham. “My Dad died a few years ago and then we had a bit of a gap for a few years. One day, my daughter was saying to me ‘Dad you should have another horse,’ because they always enjoyed going to the races socially as they got older. So, we got a horse named Masham Star and a year later we got this young lady (Nyaleti). We’ve had about 18 or 19 horses and we’re very lucky that every horse we’ve had has won.”
Trained by Mark Johnston, Nyaleti made her career debut a winning one at Salisbury Racecourse last June, where she defeated eventual Group 1 British 1000 Guineas winner Billesdon Brook (GB). Following two runner-up efforts against the Ballydoyle-based September (IRE) and Clemmie (IRE), she won the Group 3 Princess Margaret Stakes at Ascot by five lengths and did not win again until winning the Matchbook Conqueror Stakes at Goodwood on May 5.
Two starts back she shipped to Dusseldorf for the Group 2 German 1000 Guineas on May 21, which she won by 4¼ lengths. Her most recent outing was a well-beaten fourth in the Group 1 Tattersalls Falmouth stakes where she was 12 ½ lengths behind Alpha Centauri (IRE).
Batterham has been on the Arlington International Racecourse backstretch all week long to watch his filly train each morning.
“I’m very pleased with her,” Batterham said. “She’s kept her weight, ate every scrap of food on the plane and has eaten everything since which is very much like her.”
Batterham and his family could enjoy the taste of victory on both sides of the pond on Saturday as his other horse, Masham Star, races at Redcar overseas.
DARK ARTIST GOES FOR FOURTH STRAIGHT WIN IN GRADE III PUCKER UP
Following all of the Grade I action that will take place at Arlington International Racecourse on Saturday, a salty field of thirteen will line up for the Grade III $100,000 Pucker Up Stakes.
Breaking from the rail for the mile-and-an-eighth event for sophomore fillies is Goodwood Racing VIII’s Dark Artist who will look to make it four triumphs in a row. Trained by Jane Cibelli the 3-year-old daughter of Paynter enters the Pucker Up off of stakes wins in the Boiling Springs Stakes and Open Mind Stakes at her home track of Monmouth Park. Both stakes victories were captured by margins of less than a length.
In the Open Mind, Dark Artist traveled in second behind pacesetter Too Charming before successfully confronting her in the final strides to win by a neck. Dark Artist was a bit further off the pace when she captured the Boiling Springs, going to the lead in the final eighth of a mile and holding off a late surge from Reversethedecision.
“There’s not a lot of speed so she should be forwardly placed,” Cibelli said. “The jockey may have to be careful coming out the one hole as you can get shuffled back. If she breaks well she could be on the lead. I don’t want her to be on the lead. I’d like her to be third or fourth a couple lengths off the pace. If the race unfolds like the form suggests.
Prior to her pair of stakes wins, she was victorious at Gulfstream Park on April 27 when defeating a first-level allowance field in wire-to-wire fashion.
“She’s taken a step forward,” Cibelli said. “She ran three times in a couple months so I skipped the (Grade II $200,000) Lake George (at Saratoga). It was a month after her previous race so I’m hoping the six-week rest puts her where she needs to be. She trains very well, her blood is good and her attitude is good.”
Jockey Trevor McCarthy will ride Dark Artist who will break from the rail.