3 winners today for Kirkwood Stables

5-year-old SCHOLAR ATHLETE (Einstein) annexed his 6th win racing 1 1/8 on the turf in an AOC at Aqueduct – making it 2 wins in a row this year.  He has upped his earnings over $300,000 for owner West Point Thoroughbreds. The graded stakes-placed winner is trained by H. Graham Motion.

At Oaklawn, WHOLE LOTTA LUCK (Lookin at Lucky) won for the 4th time and was one of 5 hoses claimed from his race.  We wish his new connections the best of “luck”.

At Hawthorne, MOON SONG (Elusive Quality) went over the $100,000 mark with his 6th win. The 7-year-old gelding is owned by  RM Racing LLC and trained by Ralph A Martinez.

Tom’s Ready, New At Spendthrift For 2018

Courtesy of the Paulick Report

by Paulick Report Staff | 04.02.2018 

Tom’s Ready at Spendthrift 3.31.18

Our spotlight on new stallions for 2018 shifts to Spendthrift Farm, where Tom’s Ready took up stud duty this year.

On the track, the 5-year-old son of More Than Ready was a multiple graded stakes winner who won the Grade 2 Woody Stephens in one of the fastest times in recent memory. During his sophomore year, on his way to the Kentucky Derby, Tom’s Ready was second to eventual star Gun Runner in the Louisiana Derby.

Bred in Pennsylvania by Blackstone Farm, Tom’s Ready was a $145,000 purchase at the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Select Sale. He retired with earnings over a million dollars.

We hope you enjoy the latest edition of In the Stud presented by Kentucky Equine Research. We would once again like to thank our friends at EquiSport Photos for the excellent video.

Tom’s Ready ITS from EquiSport Photos on Vimeo.

Conquest Big E Breaks Through in Hardacre Mile

Courtesy of the Blood Horse

Conquest Big E Inside) wins the Hardacre Mile over Always Dreaming (blue cap) at Gulfstream Park
Conquest Big E Inside) wins the Hardacre Mile over Always Dreaming (blue cap) at Gulfstream Park

Coglianese Photos/Andie Biancone

Conquest Big E Breaks Through in Hardacre Mile

Son of Tapit upset Always Dreaming to earn first graded stakes win.

Daniel Hurtak was adamant he knew what he was talking about.

Based on what he had seen from his mercurial gelding Conquest Big E in training, the owner was insistent that if the son of Tapit  could get himself forwardly placed in one of these graded stakes, he would have enough mettle to keep himself in front by the time the wire rolled around.

“For two months, I’ve been asking for him to make the lead and couldn’t get a jock to make the lead with him,” Hurtak said. “I told the jockey today (Jose Batista), ‘If you make the lead, he gets really game because in the mornings, nobody beats him.'”

Batista took that sage advice to heart in the $300,000 Gulfstream Park Hardacre Mile Stakes (G2) March 31, and, indeed, Conquest Big E made an honest man out of his owner when he earned an upset, front-running victory over 2017 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1) winner Always Dreaming.

In leading every point of call en route to a three-length victory and first graded stakes score, Conquest Big E completed a long, strange trip toward finally living up to his potential. Initially purchased for $700,000 by Conquest Stables out of the 2014 Keeneland September yearling sale and trained by Mark Casse, the gray runner was put on the 2016 Kentucky Derby trail but dashed those aspirations with off-the-board efforts in that year’s Lambholm South Holy Bull Stakes (G2) and Gotham Stakes (G3).

When he sold to Tommy Roberts for $110,000 as part of the Conquest Stables dispersal at the 2016 Keeneland November breeding stock sale, he had only two wins from nine starts and was toiling in the allowance optional claiming ranks. Though he dropped his next three starts for his new connections, he had a resurgence last summer with back-to-back wins at Gulfstream Park, including a gate-to-wire, seven-length score in the Coast Is Clear Handicap going one mile.

“I knew that he can run with these horses,” said trainer Donna Green Hurtak, who celebrated her first graded stakes victory in the Hardacre Mile. “He’s a very talented horse. He’s also a Tapit, and they can be a little quirky. We’re just pleased he got to show his ability today.”

One of the things his conditioner said she worked on was breaking Conquest Big E of his habit of hopping out of the gate, an issue that cost him position during his runner-up effort in the Jan. 27 Fred W. Hooper Stakes (G3) and fourth-place finish in the Hal’s Hope Stakes (G3) Feb. 24.

“We did a little gate work with him, trying to get him out of the habit,” Green Hurtak said. “It’s great when you’re a trainer and things work, because it’s not easy to get them out of bad habits.”

The patience paid off as Conquest Big E got away well from the inside post in the six-horse Hardacre Mile field and clicked off the opening quarter-mile in :23.57 with Always Dreaming—making his first start in seven months—sitting just off his flank in second. Conquest Big E put a length on the classic winner as he reached the half-mile in :45.88, then got really brave on the final turn, opening up by nearly three lengths.

With Batista giving him some right-handed urging in the lane, Conquest Big E kicked on handily to cover the distance in 1:35.92 over a track rated fast, rewarding those who backed him at odds of 12-1.

Always Dreaming held for second in his first outing since running ninth in the Aug. 26 Travers Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets (G1), with stablemate Tommy Macho 1 1/2 lengths back in third.

“I thought he ran well first time off a layoff,” trainer Todd Pletcher said of Always Dreaming. “Gulfstream can be a tricky track when a horse gets loose like that. We got the trip we were hoping for. We got a nice, clean trip. I thought he fell into a good rhythm and ran steadily. The horse on the lead never came back.”

“It was a positive effort. A mile is a tough distance to start off a layoff. I know the horse that won had a couple troubled trips here. He was a horse I was concerned about shaking loose.”

Veteran Page McKenneyMr. Jordan, and multiple graded stakes winner Irish War Cry completed the order.

Bred in Kentucky by Gainesway Thoroughbreds, Conquest Big E is out of the Carson City mare Seeinsbelieven. He improved his record to five wins from 20 starts with $393,515 in earnings.

“I’m very proud of him today,” Green Hurtak said.


Courtesy of the TDN
Gulfstream Park GULFSTREAM PARK HARDACRE MILE S.-GII, $300,0001m,  CONQUEST BIG E,  g, 5, (Tapit)
O-Daniel C. Hurtak
B-Gainesway Thoroughbreds Ltd. (KY)
T-Donna Green Hurtak
Lifetime Record: 20-5-2-1, $393,515.
Conquest Big E sprung a big upset in the Gulfstream Park Mile with a front-running victory over come-backing GI Kentucky Derby hero Always Dreaming. Away well from his rail draw, the gray seized the early advantage, ticking off opening splits of :23.57 and :45.88 with favored Always Dreaming stalking from second. Turning for home in front, Conquest Big E surged clear in the stretch and proved not for catching, skipping home to a decisive victory.
“When we got in position, I knew that he can run with these horses,” winning conditioner Donna Green Hurtak said. “He’s a very, very talented horse. He’s also a Tapit and they can be a little quirky. We’re just pleased he got to show his ability today.”

A $700,000 KEESEP yearling buy, Conquest Big E was initially campaigned by Conquest Stables and trainer Mark Casse He was purchased for Tommy Roberts for $110,000 from the Conquest dispersal at the 2016 Keeneland November sale.

Kirkwood trainee REASON TO SOAR wins 2018 debut

REASON TO SOAR is back with a vengeance in his 2018 debut! Owned by West Point  REASON TO SOAR broke his maiden right off the bat with a huge come from behind rally. Next, he ran third in the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Sophomore Stakes at Tampa Bay, and then back in NY,  he added another third in the New York Stallion Stakes at Aqueduct. Today at Gulfstream, he rated, got the lead at the quarter pole and held it to win by a length to win his first allowance condition. The 4-year-old gelding is trained by George Weaver.

Galloping Success for Kirkwood

Kip Elser’s Kirkwood Stables bucked the trend for speed at the under-tack preview Monday and instead offered five juveniles specifically purchased as yearlings with the intention of only galloping prior to the Fasig-Tipton Gulfstream sale.

Three of the five sold Wednesday, with a colt by Noble Mission (GB) (hip 2) starting off the afternoon selling for $120,000 to Caves Farm. Bloodstock agent Dennis O’Neill purchased the final offering from Gulfstream Gallop LLC when he bid $100,000 to take home a filly by Blame (hip 137).

In between, a filly by Data Link (hip 26) brought $65,000 from Martin Racing Stable. Colts by Exchange Rate and Liaison were bought back.

Elser purchased all five as yearlings last year on behalf of an undisclosed client. “I think we had a good solid day,” Elser said after congratulating O’Neill on his purchase.

“It was an experiment. We wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for a very brave man who wanted to try something, I won’t say completely new, but certainly something that hadn’t been tried recently. He’ brave. He doesn’t cry when he loses, he doesn’t crow when he wins. He just loves the game. I think it was a very worthwhile experiment and I think we can build on in it from here. I think we’ll do it again next year.

O’Neill has had plenty of success buying at 2-year-olds sales. He purchased subsequent GI Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist (Uncle Mo) for $400,000 at the Fasig-Tipton sale in 2015 and paid $35,000 for 2012 Derby winner I’ll Have Another (Flower Alley) at the OBS April Sale.

After signing the ticket on the galloping Blame filly, who was a $30,000 purchase at the Fasig-Tipton Turf Showcase, O’Neill said, “It goes back to how they move. She moved really good down the lane and I really liked the way she galloped, as strange as that might sound. We probably stretched a little bit. We were thinking $70,000 or $80,000. But she’s a really pretty filly and we’ve had luck with Blame fillies. So we thought we’d give it a shot.” O’Neill continued, “Kip let them roll a little bit- it wasn’t like it was a nice easy gallop. They were going pretty good. So you got to see how they were going to go. Which is the big thing for me, just to see their action. She was rolling pretty good down the lane.”

Of the concept of skipping furlong breezes in favor of gallops, O’Neill added, “I have mixed feelings on that. I tend to feel like an eighth of a mile at this point, is not going to hurt them. We bought two Derby horses that worked a decent eighth and they never took a bad step in their whole career. We=ve had a lot of success buying at the 2-year-old sales and had very few problems out of it. I don=t think an eighth of a mile is that much to ask.”

Elser said he has received plenty of positive feedback on the idea. “There have been a tremendous number of people who have wished us luck and said, I hope it works for you because it might help us broaden our market down the road.”

Kirkwood Stables to gallop offerings at F-T Gulfstream breeze show

Courtesy of the DRF

The five horses consigned under the Kirkwood banner at the elite sale will be shown under an untimed gallop during the breeze show, forgoing the blazing times strived for by horses going an eighth or a quarter of a mile.

Elser, who is based in Camden, S.C., said the notion was first brought to him last summer by a longtime friend and client he would describe only as “somewhat of a contrarian,” who tasked him to buy a handful of yearlings and take them to the Gulfstream sale with the built-in notion of going there to gallop. The horses would not be drilled to breeze leading up to the sale, and Elser signed the tickets on the yearlings as agent for “Gulfstream Gallop LLC,” stating their purpose from the moment they took ownership.

“There’s quite a few people that’ll always tell you, ‘I wish they didn’t have to go so fast. I can see all I want to see just to see them move,’” Elser said. “We need some people with confidence in their judgement to look at these open galloping through the lane, and see what they think.

“I hope we can dial it back a bit for the horses, the buyers, all of us getting horses ready to sell. I hope we can maybe broaden the market a little bit. There’s a lot of nice horses out there that get lost in the shuffle when the primary criteria is just how fast they go.”

:: DRF BREEDING LIVE: Real-time coverage of breeding and sales

Restricting sale-bound juveniles to galloping contradicts the commercial market tide. Just one horse was on the record as having galloped during last year’s under-tack shows at the seven combined juvenile auctions hosted by Fasig-Tipton, Ocala Breeders’ Sales Co., and Barretts. He was eventually scratched.

Adena Springs galloped each of the 50 horses it offered during the 2015 and 2016 Fasig-Tipton Gulfstream sales, the first two hosted at the venue. The average hammer price (both horses sold and buybacks) on those juveniles was $63,390, less than a third of the overall average hammer price for the 2015 sale, which had the lowest average of the two sales.

It is important to note, though, that a variety of factors outside of the gallops likely influenced those returns. Adena Springs was by far the largest consignor at the 2015 sale, looking to support the first auction at the Stronach Group-owned track. As such, many of the offerings had pedigrees that would not typically be seen in the boutique Fasig-Tipton Gulfstream catalog, and the prices reflected that.

One of the purchases, an $85,000 Einstein gelding named Scholar Athlete, was sent from the sale to Kirkwood Stables to finish his training, and became a Grade 3-placed runner for West Point Thoroughbreds.

This is not the first time Elser has made headlines for galloping his juveniles. In the early 2000s, he consigned a handful of breeze-only horses at several sales for Seth Hancock of Claiborne Farm, who strongly opposes the rigors of the modern breeze show process. Included in that group was the $750,000 Pulpit filly Pray for Aces and stakes winner Nakayama Kun.

Though he intended all along to just gallop the horses he has consigned to the Gulfstream sale, Elser said that did not change his criteria for buying yearlings. As such, he said his expectations for what will constitute a successful sale for the Gulfstream horses is also unchanged.

“Getting all the horses sold, that’s a successful sale,” he said. “Beyond that, going on and proving that the buyers are right when they buy these and going on to win races for them.

“There’s plenty of good judges out there who could pick a horse if A) they have good confidence in their judgement; and B) if their clients let them get away from the formula they’ve been having to use recently.”

Kirkwood Takes Alternative Approach to Sale Workouts

Courtesy of the BloodHorse Kip Elser of Kirkwood Stables
Kip Elser of Kirkwood StablesCathy Clark

Kirkwood Takes Alternative Approach to Sale Workouts

Five horses from Kip Elser’s consignment will gallop up to the sale.

When the under tack workouts take place March 26 for horses entered in the Fasig-Tipton Gulfstream selected sale of 2-year-olds in training, don’t look for any of the entries from Kirkwood Stables to be doing a quick eighth-mile or quarter-mile down the lane.

At the behest of a client, the Kirkwood horses will gallop during workouts for the March 28 auction that will be held in the walking ring at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale, Fla. Monday’s under tack show begins at 9 a.m., and Wednesday’s sale starts at 3 p.m. (all times Eastern).

Spring Sale

Kip Elser, who operates South Carolina-based Kirkwood, said the idea for the unique approach to showcasing his young horses’ abilities came during a conversation at Saratoga in August.

“I ran into an old friend and former client at Saratoga, and he said, ‘I think this pendulum (of fast workouts during breeze shows) has swung too far.’ He said, ‘Go to the fall sales and buy me a small group of nice horses and take them to the Gulfstream sale and just gallop them, don’t breeze them.'”

Elser said “Gulfstream Gallop,” the name under which the Fasig-Tipton sale juveniles were purchased, is designed to offer an alternative to the traditional methods of evaluating racing prospects.

“Without trying to disparage anybody else’s way of doing business, we’re going to try a way to give buyers just as good a way to evaluate these horses,” said Elser, adding that buyers are astute and professional enough to look beyond workout times that do little to sort out the better offerings. “There are plenty of good horsemen out there who can judge a horse without having it go in some blazing time. Buyers need to have confidence in themselves. I think there are enough good judges out there who will trust their own judgment and just go out there and pick out some nice horses.”

As 2-year-olds in training sales have soared in popularity—and sellers have become adept at getting their horses to go fast during the under tack shows—juvenile sales have, in some cases, become the end-all rather than a means to the end.

“We have created this situation ourselves. Consignors have gotten better and better at getting horses to go faster, but what has happened is that the preparation for a 2-year-old sale is no longer a part of the process of getting them ready to run. It is a very different process,” the horseman said. “Theoretically, a 2-year-old sale should be a stop on the way to their first start. For some, it is the end of the process rather than a step along the way.

OBS Sales

“When that train leaves South Carolina, there are how many steps on the way to the racetrack, whether it is Kentucky or New York or wherever? There are steps in the process. You go from middle school to high school and on to college. It is a steep pyramid, but it is a clearly defined path to get to the races.”

Elser said buyers can have confidence the Gulfstream horses are galloping as part of a long-range plan, not because they have shown an inability to go fast.

“The first hurdle you have to get is the question of whether these horses were tired and found wanting,” he explained. “They were never intended to do anything else. In my mind, I think this makes it a believable project. They were bought in the name of Gulfstream Gallop, and right from the day we signed the ticket and sent them home, that was the plan.”

This is not the first time Elser has brought outside-the-box thinking to his sales approach. Kirkwood had horses gallop at juvenile sales when Elser was representing Seth Hancock and Claiborne Farm. Also, Kirkwood was one of the first North American operations to sell 2-year-olds in England, and it established a foothold in the South African 2-year-old sales sector.

“That is part of where this game will take you, if you let it,” Elser said.

Other consignors, most notably Frank Stronach’s Adena Springs operation, have showcased 2-year-olds in training by only galloping them in advance of an auction.

Elser said the horses in his pinhooking group “are not extremely expensive horses, but they are good value.”

The Kirkwood consignment at Fasig-Tipton Gulfstream:

  • Hip 2, a Noble Mission  colt from the female family of multiple grade 2 winner Lewis Bay. The colt’s half brother, Yulong Warrior, recently won a stakes race in the United Arab Emirates.
  • Hip 26, a Data Link  filly whose extended female family includes prominent broodmare Toll Fee.
  • Hip 88, an Exchange Rate colt from an active female family that includes multiple grade 3 winner Sailors Sunset.
  • Hip 136, a Liaison  colt out of a stakes-placed Pine Bluff mare who is from the family of multiple grade 1 winner Both Ends Burning.
  • Hip 137, a Blame  filly from the female family of 2001 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) winner Tempera.