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WPT April E-Newsletter

April 14, 2010 · By · Share

Video Feature: WPT 2009: A Story of Excellence | Kentucky Derby: Will You Jojn Us? |
| Triple Crown Mania: What to Know About the Derby | | Racing History: Derby Winner For Sale? |
A New Career: Fitz Just Right | Did You Know: Fun Facts and Other Information

Video Feature: WPT 2009: A Story of Excellence

Take a look at this feature by videographer Bruce Casella chronicaling some of the great stories from the West Point Thoroughbreds family in 2009.  From the rags-to-riches story of Amazed By Grace to millionaires Awesome Gem and Macho Again, it was a year to remember. Enjoy:

Back to TopThe Kentucky Derby is coming: Will you join us?

There is nothing like the first Saturday in May, and we will have it covered like never before.

Join us in Las Vegas:
  • Thursday 4/29: Join us at the Wynn Resort for the first ever Kentucky Derby Handicapping Seminar and Cocktail party. Time: 4:00-6:30pm.  Meet and mingle with West Point team members and partners for cocktails.  The event will also include an expert handicapping panel as we break down Kentucky Derby 2010.  Click here to RSVP.

Join us in Louisville:
  • Coming to Louisville Derby week? We are finalizing our Derby week plans.  Click here to let us know when you are arriving, if you have not already, so we can include you on the list to receive the schedule of events.

Back to TopTriple Crown Mania: What to Know About the Kentucky Derby

Breeding and Foaling

It's that time of year. The Kentucky Derby is less than three weeks away, and for some owners and trainers every dollar counts. Only twenty horses can stand in the starting gate on the first Saturday in May. There were over 37,000 Thoroughbred foals born in 2007, so to be one of those twenty is a tremendous feat. The horses that make it to the Kentucky Derby must have accumulated enough graded stakes earnings during their two and three-year-old years to put them at the top of their class.  A horse does not necessarily have to win a Grade I race, as long as their graded earnings put them in the top twenty. For those just out of the top twenty, the weeks and days leading up to the Derby can be full of apprehension. One defection can mean the difference between doing the emotional Kentucky Derby walkover and watching on television.

Our own Flashy Bull just made it into the field in 2006 with $109,000, and we were one of the lucky twenty to lead our horse over from the Churchill backside and past the Twin Spires. To be a part of such a historical event is truly a heart pounding, emotional experience.

This year's field is shaping up to be one of the most competitive ever. With only one serious prep race left, the Lexington Stakes (G2) on April 17th at Keeneland, the 20th horse has earnings of $250,500.

The race looks wide open. Will Lookin' At Lucky rebound off his tough trip in the Santa Anita Derby?  He will surely face a stiff challenge from Wood Memorial winner Eskenderaya. He could be the real deal. Will the Blue Grass be a legitimate prep race even though winner Stately Victor could not knock off entry level allowance horses on conventional dirt? The pace scenario will certainly be interesting with the likes of Rule, Sidney's Candy, Line of David, Paddy O'Prado, American Lion, and Conveyance. West Point trainer Dale Romans sends out the lightly raced, but talented Blue Grass runner up Paddy O'Prado.  Click here to see the most current graded earnings list.

Kentucky Derby Traditions - Since the first running of the Kentucky Derby in 1875, the event has become steeped in traditions ranging from food, drink, to glamorous attire:

  • If hosting a Kentucky Derby party, Hot Browns and Kentucky Derby Pie are a must. The Hot Brown is an open-faced sandwich of turkey and bacon covered in Mornay sauce, baked until the bread is toasted and the sauce turns brown. Derby Pie is made from pecans, chocolate chips, and bourbon.
  • The official drink of the Kentucky Derby is the Mint Julep. For those that attend the big race, the cocktail is traditionally served in a commemorative Kentucky Derby glass. The drink is made of bourbon, mint, and sugar syrup.
  • For the ladies out there, get your Kentucky Derby hat now!  The Kentucky Derby is a tremendous display of fashion. The grandstand will be lined with elegant, colorful dresses and elaborate chapeaus. 
  • For those of you who prefer not to be dressed up, the infield is a surefire place for fun. Pay $40 and be in for a memorable experience. Be ready to party.
  • The Kentucky Derby is often referred to as the "Run for the Roses" because of the beautiful blanket of roses placed on the winning horse. This tradition began when a New York socialite started handing out red roses to the ladies post-race in 1883.  
  • During the post parade, the University of Louisville marching band plays Stephen Foster's "My Old Kentucky Home." Look around you. I guarantee people will be tearing up.

Back to TopRacing History: Derby Winner for Sale?


In the long history of the Kentucky Derby(G1), only three top-priced yearlings have won America's Run for the Roses. Flying Ebony (1925), Majestic Prince (1969) and Fusaichi Pegasus (2000) each were the highest-priced horse sold at an American yearling auction two years before their classic victories.
Their prices, in fact, are an accurate reflection of the progression of the Thoroughbred market over the last century. Flying Ebony topped the market at $21,000 in 1923, Majestic Prince set a new world record yearling price of $250,000 in 1967 and Fusaichi Pegasus was the most expensive yearling of 1998 at $4-million.

Before the bloodstock boom of the 1980s, of course, private breeders dominated the American classics, and wins by horses bred by commercial breeders were relatively rare. For example, in the 30 years from 1940-1969, eight horses sold at public auction (26.7%) won the Derby.

That all changed when prices for American yearlings began rising dramatically in the 1970s, fueled primarily by European-based buyers led by the partnership between British soccer pools heir Robert Sangster, great trainer Vincent O'Brien, and the latter's son-in-law John Magnier. At the same time, many of America's great private breeders died off and their more commercially minded successors saw that there were profits to be made in a business where a single horse could be sold for millions of dollars.

As a result, over the last 20 years, 12 of 20 Kentucky Derby winners were listed as sold at public auction, and two others were sold privately before racing. In fact, one of the 12, War Emblem, was actually a buy back when he was listed as sold for $20,000 at the 2000 Keeneland September yearling sale, but he was sold privately by his breeders, Russell Reineman and Hurstland Farm, to Prince Ahmed bin Salman after winning the Illinois Derby(G2). Thus, 14 of the last 20 Derby winners (70%) were sold before their Derby victories.
Average price for the 12 listed as sold at public auction is $401,125, but that is badly skewed by the $4-million Fusao Sekiguchi paid for Fusaichi Pegasus at the 1998 Keeneland July sale of selected yearlings. Average price for the other 11? $73,595. In other words, in 11 of the last 20 years, you could have bought yourself a Kentucky Derby winner for an average of less than $75,000. Yep, that's right!

Although the press loves to crow when a horse without much pedigree wins a Triple Crown race, the truth is the vast majority of Derby winners are quite well-bred animals. The last 20 Derby winners were by 20 different sires, 14 of those sires were Grade 1 winners, and in truth, every one of them possessed Grade 1 ability. Mr. Prospector, sire of Fusaichi Pegasus, was a top-class sprinter with soundness issues, and it took an all-time great named Forego to beat him in the Carter Handicap. Mr. Prospector's son, Our Emblem, sire of War Emblem, was temperamental and not very interested in racing, but was beaten only a nose in his edition of the Carter.

Dynaformer, sire of Barbaro, and Distorted Humor, sire of Funny Cide, also had temperament issues but still managed to win Grade 2s and clearly could have done more had they wished. Elusive Quality, sire of Smarty Jones, set or equaled course records in his Grade 3 wins, but broke down before winning a Grade 1, as did Big Brown's sire Boundary, another top-class sprinter with soundness issues.

The bottom line? If you want to win the Derby, you'd better have a horse by a sire who at least had the ability to win a Grade 1 himself.

Getting to the classics is tough. You have to have brilliant speed, stamina, soundness, the right pedigree, and-most importantly of all-terrific luck. -- John P. Sparkman

Back to TopA New Career: Fitz Just Right


One career ends and another begins.  West Point Thoroughbreds' gutsy filly Fitz Just Right has been retired from racing and bred to multiple graded stakes winner Henny Hughes.

We purchased Fitz Just Right for $160,000 at the 2008 OBS two-year-old in training sale from consignor Don Graham.  She caught our eye not only because of her striking presence but also because we heavily support her sire, Seattle Fitz.  We purchased him as an unraced 3-year-old in Dubai in 2002, and the Argentine-bred horse proved to be a wise investment, earning $594,371 in his career. He captured the Brooklyn (G2), Aqueduct (G3), and William Donald Shaefer (G3) Handicaps, and was second to Medaglia D'Oro in the prestigious Donn Handicap at Gulfstream Park.

His flashy daughter, Fitz Just Right, showed the same kind of talent.  She was one of the top three-year-old fillies of last year, and was poised to start in the Kentucky Oaks before being sidelined by an ankle injury. The same injury led to her subsequent retirement.  
Carrying the black and gold, she won three of five races; the most prestigious race was the $100,000 Darley Ocala Breeders' Sale Championship Stakes. She was granted a mating to Henny Hughes for the triumph.  In what would be the last race of her career, Fitz Just Right was second to the talented filly Hot Cha Cha in the Bourbonette Oaks (G3) at Turfway Park. She retired with earnings of $142,051.
Henny Hughes earned over $1.1 million in ten career starts. He saw the winner's circle six times, with victories in the Saratoga Special (G2), Vosburgh (G1), King's Bishop (G1), and Jersey Shore Breeders' Cup (G3). He was second in three other grade I races.

Although her career was shorter than we all wished for, Fitz Just Right gave us many thrills. She was all heart, and we hope her offspring show the same determination and grit.  Thanks for the memories, they will last a lifetime.

Back to TopDid You Know: Fun Facts and Other Information

Photo Crasher
  • Take a look at the picture above.  Do you know who the highlighted man is? No? Neither did we! This photo comes from the 2007 Grade 1 Darley Test winner's circle at Saratoga.  The man in question has become somewhat notorious nationwide.  Why? Because he likes to crash some of the biggest events in the world.  He has been spotted across the world.  His name is Jerry Berliant, and it's safe to say you know you've made it when Jerry invades one of your photos.  Click here to read an article written by Roger Ebert about his run in with Jerry.  Or check out these two stories: Story 1 and Story 2

  • Frog of the footDid you know that all horses have a frog? The frog is a heart-shaped structure that extends from the sole of a horse's hoof. It has a rubbery consistency and acts as a shock absorber and gripping aid.  It also helps pump blood from the horse's foot back to the heart. It is analogous to the human fingertip.
  • It is very unusual to drive by a group of horses in a pasture and to see all of them laying down. Why? The answer is that one animal is always standing "on the lookout" for the others horses to alert them of danger. In the wild, horses are prey animals.
  • Horses have a wide range of vision. A horse can see completely around its entire body except for small blind spots directly in front of its face, underneath its head, and directly behind itself. 
  • Horses cannot breathe through their mouths.


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