FANTASTIC DAY for KIRKWOOD STABLES from north to south

Courtesy of the TDN
HIT IT ONCE MORE ( consigned and sold by Kirkwood for $90,000 at Timonium)   scored in the HAYNESFIELD S., $100,000 at Aqueduct racing a very sloppy mile.  Hit It Once More had prior success in state-bred stakes coming into Saturday, with victories in the New York Derby at Finger Lakes and the Albany S. at Saratoga in his sophomore campaign. After going wire-to-wire against allowance foes when adding blinkers at Parx Jan. 9, he finished fifth in an optional claiming event there last time out. The bay sprinted straight to the lead as the longest shot on the board and was two lengths clear passing the half-mile pole. He was still unchallenged and in hand around the far turn, was set down for the drive at the quarter pole and held steady in the final sixteenth to secure the front-running upset.

“He’s a nice horse,’ said winning trainer Gary Sciacca. “He had a great 3-year-old campaign last year, winning the [New York] Derby and coming back and winning the Albany at Saratoga. It took him a little while to get this 4-year-old year together. We went two starts back with the blinkers and it kind of seemed to make a bit of a difference on him. Made him more focused to do his job. He always broke good but he pays more attention now. From a 3-year-old to 4-year-old just made him pay attention.”  He has earned $494,642.

BERNED (started and prepared by  Kirkwood Stables) ran second in the G2- Barbara Fritchie S at Laurel. The $550,000 yearling is owned by 3C Stables LLC, West Point Thoroughbreds & Robert Masiello. She has earnings of  $254,781 and is a stakes winner already and is now multiple graded stakes placed.

I’M BETTY G dead-heated for 3rd in the Albert M Stall Memorial S at the Fair Grounds. She was consigned and sold by Kirkwood for $150,000 at Timonium. The 4-year-old filly is a multiple SW and has multiple graded stakes placings. She has earned  $162,465

Tom’s Ready a Beacon for the Bensons

Courtesy of the TDN

Gayle & Tom Benson | Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

By Michael Adolphson

After an eight-wide trip and respectable fifth-place finish in Saturday’s salty GI Cigar Mile, Dallas Stewart-trained Tom’s Ready (More Than Ready) capped a 21-race, 28-month career that saw him clash and hold his own against the very best of his generation. The 4-year-old colt closed out his racing tenure as one of the toughest milers in training and finished at the top of his game, including a flashy GIII Bold Ruler S. win in his penultimate start (earning a 107 Beyer Speed Figure).

More importantly, the nearly black grandson of Broad Brush was the ringleader for the racing renaissance of New Orleans’ famed Benson Family, earning more than $1 million, winning three graded stakes and taking his popular Big Easy connections to the biggest dances–the GI Kentucky Derby and GI Breeders’ Cup Mile.

“He was a real war horse,” Stewart said. “He traveled around and ran his race over many different tracks and surfaces. He ran competitively against the best horses and really stepped up a lot on big days. He’s a very sound horse who was a lot of fun to campaign. The Bensons were kind enough to let me train for them and never restrained me. They love racing, come to the races even when they don’t have a horse running and they’re icons in New Orleans. Tom’s Ready was one of the first horses we got for them and I look forward to seeing what he does as a stallion.”

Racing as GMB Racing, Tom and Gayle Benson returned with a flourish into racing after a multi-decade hiatus and channeled the passion they have for the professional sports teams they own–the New Orleans Saints of the NFL and Pelicans of the NBA–into a racing product that competes at the highest level. Tom’s Ready tops a group that includes graded stakes winner Mo Tom (Uncle Mo), talented Saratoga allowance winner Tom’s d’Etat (Smart Strike) and Grade I-placed juvenile Lone Sailor (Majestic Warrior).

Tom’s Ready now heads to stud at Spendthrift Farm, where he will stand for $6,000 and participate in said establishment’s “Share The Upside” program for a fee of $7,500.

“He has been a great horse for us,” Gayle Benson said. “He gives his best effort every time he races and has stayed healthy for us. He and Dallas have been a great fit–in the way Dallas trains and the way this horse has responded. We did not know what to expect (when he first started training), but we are very proud of Tom’s Ready and certainly very proud of what lies ahead for him as a he stands as a stallion at Spendthrift. We have a small broodmare band at Benson Farm, and we will certainly be sending him a few mares.”

GMB Racing is managed by Greg Bensel, who also serves as the Senior Vice President of Communications and Broadcasting for the Saints and Pelicans. Bensel, a long time racing fan, has helped guide the outfit to a 19% strike rate and nearly $26,000 in average earnings per start from 80 races. In 2017, the operation has struck at 22%, giving Bensel and the Bensons added fervor for the future.

“We continue to grow our racing stable for GMB Racing and our broodmare band at Benson Farm,” Bensel said. “We are excited about all of our 2-year-olds, but are keen about Lone Sailor for [trainer] Tom Amoss. Also, Tom’s d’Etat has left Benson Farm after rehabbing and will be back to Al Stall [Jr.] as a 5-year-old.”

The beating heart of the Benson operation has become the aforementioned Benson Farm at Greenwood Lodge in Paris, Kentucky. A 600-acre beauty, it is a favorite getaway spot for the couple, while also serving as a rehab facility in another fashion for their equines.

“We have our established racing operations in GMB Racing and now the Bensons have their farm, where it is mostly a private concern, but we do have some boarders and welcome boarders and other clients that have yearlings that need sales prep,” Bensel continued. “It has all come full circle.”

For now, the focus for GMB is kickstarting a second career for its first stallion Tom’s Ready and hoping the best for its soon-to-be 3-year-old class. It will be difficult, though, to live up to their little blazed beast, who was as tough as he was compact and barreled home with the determination of a Saints running back in the lane.

“We got in the business in 2014 with seven yearlings, of which two made the Kentucky Derby in 2016, so it will be hard to repeat that again,” Bensel concluded. “Our hopes are to be good contributors to the racing and breeding industry as we move forward.

Tom’s Ready Retires to Spendthrift Farm

Son of More Than Ready earned more than $1 million on the racetrack.

Tom’s Ready 

The 4-year-old son of More Than Ready —Goodbye Stranger, by Broad Brush will stand the 2018 season for a fee of $6,000 and he will participate in Spendthrift’s “Share The Upside” program for a fee of $7,500.

“We are excited to offer Tom’s Ready to breeders through our Share The Upside program in 2018,” said Spendthrift general manager Ned Toffey. “More Than Ready is emerging as a promising sire of sires, and Tom’s Ready has tremendous looks and a millionaire’s race record. There’s a lot to like, and we believe breeders will see him as a great opportunity. Tom’s Ready has arrived at the farm and we invite people to come out and see him.”

Tom’s Ready becomes the newest stallion to be offered through Spendthrift’s Share The Upside program. His Share The Upside fee comes with a one-year commitment, and breeders will earn a lifetime breeding right beginning in 2019 after having one live foal and paying the stud fee. For breeders not interested in earning a lifetime breeding right, Tom’s Ready will be offered on a standard stands and nurses contract.

Campaigned by GMB Racing and trainer Dallas Stewart, Tom’s Ready scored the biggest victory of his millionaire career in the $500,000 Woody Stephens Stakes (G2) at Belmont Park last year as a 3-year-old. He defeated older horses, including champion sprinter Runhappy , when he took the 2016 Ack Ack Stakes (G3) at Churchill Downs. He was runner-up to Gun Runner  in last year’s Louisiana Derby (G2) to qualify for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1).

As a 2-year-old, Tom’s Ready broke his maiden by 3 1/4 lengths at Churchill before finishing a fast-closing runner-up in that track’s Street Sense Stakes in his subsequent start. This year at 4, he began the season with a third-place finish in the Churchill Downs Stakes Presented by (G2) on Kentucky Derby weekend, falling short by just three-quarters of a length at the wire. He followed that up with a win in the Leemat Stakes in July at Presque Isle Downs.

This summer at Saratoga Race Course, Tom’s Ready finished third in the Aug. 26 Forego Stakes (G1) before capturing his biggest victory of the year in the Oct. 28 Bold Ruler Handicap (G3) at Belmont Park, earning a career best 107 Beyer speed figure. He retires with earnings of $1,036,267.

Tom’s Ready becomes the newest son to retire to stud by emerging sire of sires More Than Ready, whose son Sebring (AUS) is the sire of Australian Horse of the Year, Dissident (AUS). A $145,000 purchase at the 2014 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga select yearling sale, the dark bay colt was bred by Blackstone Farm from the Broad Brush mare Goodbye Stranger, a half sister to stakes winners Lemonlime and Miss Moses.

Wirlin Curlin winner of the Christopher Elser Memorial S and Kapalua Starlight second in the Donna Freyer S

Kapalua Starlight had to settle for 2nd in the Donna Freyer S at Laurel.The filly raced on or near the lead and could just not hold on in deep stretch. She is trained by Thomas Albertrani for owner/breeder Robert Masiello.

The stakes is restricted to horses trained in SC and KAPALUA STARLIGHT was prepared for the track at Kirkwood Stables.

The colt race, the Christopher Elser S. was won by WHIRLIN CURLIN who got his start at the Webb Carroll TC.


In its first venture into the Australian Two-Year-Old in Training market, Kirkwood sold hip 222, the Medaglia d’Oro colt for $100,000 to Gai Waterhouse & Adrian Bott Racing. To have Gai Waterhouse involved with a purchase right off the starting blocks is a great beginning. Hip 18, the Helmet Filly sold to Philip Cole for $18,000.  The Animal Kingdom colt, hip 189 did not meet his reserve and remains available for purchase.


On Account of Kirkwood Stables, South Carolina, USA. (As Agent) (Stable B 14 – 16)

October 10 -11

18 Chestnut Filly Helmet …………………………………… Angel in Grey
189 Bay Colt Animal Kingdom (USA) ………… Never Fade (GB)
222 Bay Colt Medaglia d’Oro (USA) …………. Rose of Kentucky


Courtesy of the TDN

Kip Elser | Horsephotos

By Alayna Cullen

Horse racing is a global sport, heralded for its international festivals where the world’s greatest come to compete. Not only has racing become more of an international affair, but so, too, have sales. No matter what sale you go to in the world it is becoming increasingly common to see industry leaders from each jurisdiction congregate at major sales rings. One man who knows much about this is Kirkwood Stables’ Kip Elser, who has an exciting sales venture starting in Australia.

Known for his success at pinhooking yearlings to 2-year-olds as well as educating young racehorses, Elser has always had an eye for spotting emerging markets. As such, he has teamed up with former American-based trainer Murray Johnson to offer a ready-to-run consignment at the upcoming Magic Millions 2017 Gold Coast 2YOs-in-Training Sale Oct. 10-11 at their sales complex in Bundall, Queensland.

“My wife Helen’s dad had done some business in Australia and he suggested to us that we go take a look at things down there a few years ago. We went over for their 2-year-old sale last October at Magic Millions to see if there was room for someone new in the market and I think we see a market that is just starting to take off. I reconnected with an old friend of mine, Murray Johnson, who had been in America for a number of years but has moved back to Australia, and I went back in March and bought three yearlings to be over there with Murray and consign at the ready-to-run sale at Magic Millions in October this year.”

Based at Spring Dale Race Center in Camden, South Carolina, Elser has been pinhooking for the better part of 30 years and is no stranger to entering foreign markets.

“We have sold here (in America) at lots of different sales, and about 10 years ago we started selling at the Breeze Up at Tattersalls in England and did very well out of it. Then we started going to South Africa five or six years ago. We got introduced to a wonderful couple down there, Nicola and Mark Coppez of Balmoral Stud, and we started building a 2-year-old sales consignment with them. We’ve done great business and built the operation from 12 or so horses to over a hundred in this past year.”

Elser knows about the many variables associated with horses and sales, but thanks to the shuttling of stallions from the Northern Hemisphere to the Southern, Elser was able to stay within his comfort zone to some degree when choosing yearlings to buy for the Australian venture.

“I bought a colt by Medaglia d’Oro out of Rose of Kentucky (Aus) who can go anywhere, and a colt by Animal Kingdom out of Never Fade (GB) at the Inglis Easter Sale. I also bought a Helmet (Aus)–Angel in Grey (Aus) filly. Helmet is a top 2-year-old sire in Australia and I bought the filly from Spendthrift, so I didn’t get too far off the beaten track for that part of it.”

Of the horses as individuals, Elser said he thought he had “balance in a small package. They are three very different horses, picked that way partly by design. The Medaglia d’Oro colt is a beautiful mover that looks like he will be all class for next spring in Australia. The Animal Kingdom looks a little earlier, probably quicker maturing, so she looks like she will be out early, and the Helmet filly looks to be an early 2-year-old, too.”

Although the venues and the time zones may change, some things are pre-destined to stay the same at a horse sale.

“At the end of the day it will all come down to ‘do we have the right horses?’” said Elser. “No matter where you are in the world, if you don’t have the right horses, then you’re nothing.”

That said, Elser said he was confident in his three representatives for the upcoming sale, and would be going into the Australian market with real hopes of continuing the project for years to come.

“We will make mistakes the first year,” he said. “But we will hopefully learn from those mistakes when we go back the next year, and by the end of the third year, we will have a small crop of 3-year-old graduates and hopefully a larger group of 2-year-olds out there. That will be a fair test of the market to see if there is a real opportunity there. It would be silly to go out there for a one-time deal. We want to show people that we are committed to the market down there and we want to give it a real try.”

Murray Johnson, who has been preparing the horses for the sale, said he was, “very excited about the partnership with Kip. It’s an evolving market and growing like it did in America a few years ago. There are results on the racetrack now from sales graduates and people are starting to see that the 2-year-old sales are a successful formula for the right horse.”

Speaking with Elser about the project, it is easy to see how enthusiastic he is about entering the Australian market. If the elated tone in his voice doesn’t give it away, the smile that spreads across his face when asked about the horses or his plan certainly does.

“This is the next stop,” he said. “I’m really excited by it.”

Kip Elser, Kirkwood Stables: Quote about the Keeneland Yearling Sale

Kip Elser, Kirkwood Stables:Quote about the Keeneland Yearling Sale – Book 1
“I think the top of the market as always is very, very strong as you can see by some of the bigger buyers teaming up. And I think the middle market is still very, very solid. You can buy horses, but you better be prepared to pay a bit over your original appraisals if you want to get the ones you really like.…/buyers-comment-wednesday-session