Hi Julie and Andy

by Alan Leavitt

Because I believe the brilliance of a 2-year-old colt is the best predictor of future success as a sire, it’s interesting to watch the results of the $400,000 Kentucky Sire Stakes Finals for 2-year-old colts. at the trot, contested last Sunday at the Red Mile.

The winner was French Wine, now with a 2-year record of 1:53 and winnings of $358,332, and counting. He’s from Bar Hopping, and the slightly salacious Creamy Mimi from Conway Hall. French Wine is trained by the lovely Julie Miller, and driven by her husband, Andy Miller, one of the best chauffeurs in our business.

Before delving deeper into French Wine’s journey, it should be noted that the greatest Thoroughbred breeder of all time, Federico Tesio, also always sought out bulls that had run well at 2 years old. Which in his day was not always easy to find, but he searched long and hard in some remote places and inevitably found obscure horses which gave him the best runners.

In our sport, you don’t have to look any further than Walner to see how 2-year-old excellence translates into a great bull. Walner, who was trained by my old friend Linda Toscano, was only beaten once when he was 2 years old. He did not return at 3 years old, but this had no relation to the evaluation of his future reproductive potential.

Today, Walner is well on his way to becoming the dominant trotting stallion, although each year he is challenged by new horses like this year’s premier stallion, Greenshoe. Eventually, in Jim Harrison’s pithy phrase, he could be cannibalized by one or more of his own sons, but that’s well set in the future.

But back to French Wine, who is an exceptional two-year-old trotting colt without a speck of Walner in his pedigree. He has no closer crosses than a 4 by 4 cross with American Winner, which in technical terms makes him a bloodline of that horse.

In short, if the sum of the two generations is that the same name appears twice is six or less, that is Inbreeding.

If the sum of these two generations in which the same name appears twice is seven or eight, it is Breeding lines.

If no name appears twice in any of the above terms, the horse so bred is a cross cross.

Today, the vast majority of our trotters and leaders are Outcross. Which, as I keep saying, against the wind, leaves a huge opportunity for any breeder planning to create a great horse through judicious inbreeding. It would also be a great selling point for a yearling, at least in this kid’s mind.

There’s another aspect here that smart guys like Adam Bowden have already picked up on. Traditionally, farms that house stallions would wait until a stud had finished running before chasing them to stand on their farms.

I may have been the one to break that mold when I first unionized Noble Victory, then Speedy Crown, then Speedy Somolli while they were still on the track. It was also the same story when I discovered No Nukes when he was only 2 years old.

For me, if you know what to look for, which is a brilliant 2-year racing season, then now is the time to up your game for the horse.

It was a unique idea that I had for myself at one point. Now others are sharing it, to their advantage.

Now back to French Wine, who has already told the world that he might just be a grandfather. Her dam, Creamy Mimi, a name that probably qualifies as a Freudian slip, was a great racing filly who earned nearly a million dollars on the track.

She became a good producer. Contrary to the norm, French Wine is her ninth foal, whereas as a rule a mare’s horse production is usually lost by her last foals.

Looking at the list of Creamy Mimi’s foals, it’s funny to see that one of them actually changed nationality. Swedish Envy morphed into French Laundry after being sold as a yearling to John Fielding and Christine Takter, although the horse was also retained by his breeders, Al Libfeld and Marvin Katz.

Creamy Mimi’s fourth dam is Armbro Whirl, a daughter of Catherine Lobell, one of two Canny Imp daughters that Glen Brown bought me for Armstrong Brothers. He struck gold with both. I purchased Canny Imp from RD Ricketts in partnership with Bill Rosenberg, the founder of Dunkin Donuts. At one point, Rosenberg and I owned over 70 mares in partnership. Canny Imp was a daughter of the world champion 2-year-old trotting filly, Impish, and today she qualifies as a foundation matron.

Rosenberg was nobody’s weak cup of tea. One night long ago I was with a group of four on the glass in Yonkers. I happened to notice Rosenberg and a companion being led to a table in the nosebleed area. Since we had two empty seats, I invited Rosenberg to join us.

The featured race that night was $25,000 and a horse from Rosenberg won it. A few months later, Rosenberg accosted me for “sticking it with the check that night in Yonkers.”

“But, Bill,” I said, “you just won $12,500.”

“What does that have to do with anything?” he retaliated.

My dear friend Mario Z taught me the basics of Italian, starting with the “Buongiorno” greeting. In my most optimistic moments, I want to be ready to greet someone I’ve always wanted to meet “Buongiorno, Federico”.

About Michael Brafford

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