Passion Play by Lenny Shulman “Bloodhorse Magazine” 12 January 2019

Hank Nothhaft builds a top breeding program from scratch

BY LENNY SHULMAN
PHOTOS COURTESY OF HANK NOTHHAFT

Nothhaft traded venture technology companies for a career in horses
Nothhaft-bred Finest City, winner of the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint

ELEVEN YEARS AGO VENTURE· TECHNOLOGY COMPANY CEO
Hank Nothhaft looked at himself in the mirror and realized that, after three decades, he was los­ing his passion for his work. He needed a new challenge, one that satisfied his all-encompassing, adrenaline-driven, compulsive lifestyle.

               Hello Thoroughbred breeding and racing.

A decade of immersion into every­ thing horses has yielded significant results for the 74-year-old Nothhaft, a native of Pennsylvania who has traveled the world in both his military and civilian lives. Under HnR Nothhaft Horse Racing (the “R” coming courtesy of wife Randie) Nothhaft has bred Breeders’ Cup Champion Finest City, multiple graded stakes winner Daddy ls a Legend , and multiple stakes-winning homebred Grand Prix. He has also campaigned multiple graded stakes winner Living The Life and multiple grade 2-placed stakes winner Kindle, and has specialized in purchasing modestly­ priced stock that has gone on to perform on the racetrack and in the breeding shed.

There were no horses or racing in Nothhaft’s youth in Sharon, Pa ., between Erie and Youngstown, although today that area is littered with race tracks that didn’t exist decades ago. Nothhaft graduated from the United States Naval Academy and served in Vietnam , achieving his MBA in information systems technology after he exited the military. He assumed ownership of a series of tech companies, which

Nothhaft with Finest City at the 2012 Keeneland November Sale

took him from Washington D.C., to Dallas, and eventually to Silicon Valley in Northern California. There, the racing bug  bit him on friends-and-family outings to Bay Meadows.”   We loved that place, and I developed a positive view of horse racing,” noted Nothhaft. “I was going back and forth to England quite a bit , and read all the Dick Francis novels on those trips, and began going to race tracks like Lingfield, near London, and really enjoyed it. ”

Those good feelings persuaded Nothhaft to take up the challenge of trying to survive in the horse industry, initially as an owner .

“I analyzed a bunch of different industries, and I ended up with Thorough-hred racing,” he said. ” I do look back and chuckle at my naivete in thinking I could do what has subsequently occurred.  I love the competition and the immediate feedback you get on your decisions .

“What I find appealing is you can immerse yourself in the data side of it. I always had a dashboard on any company I was running and loved to throw myself into the statistics and analyze the company in as many ways as possible. So when l started looking at pedigrees and bloodlines, I thought,  ‘Wow, that amount of data is perfect for an insatiable appetite like mine.’ ”

Nothhaft did his homework. He attended seminars put on by the Thoroughbred Owners of California, watched BloodHorse videos on conformation, read books, and then went out and raced some cheap claimers in Northern California, seeking to have fun, enjoy the competition, and hopefully break even. ‘The plan didn’t work well, and Nothhaft used the economic meltdown of 2009 to liquidate his stock, learn from his early mistakes, and start over again.

With the benefit of advice from Gary Mandella and Mary Knight, he began buying better Cal-breds. Chalking it up to “dumb luck,” he bought Randie’s Legend at auction for $ 43,000 in 2008 .

She would go on to produce Daddy ls a Legend. But Nothhaft turned the corner when he decided that Pennsylvania offered more opportunity than did the situation in California. He enlisted Carl McEntee to help buy bloodstock and the operation clicked. Nothhaft grabbed Kindle for  $50,000, Be Envied for $37,000, Living The Life for less than $50,000, and Halljoy, who would become group stakes -placed. for $150,000 . All became valued members of his broodmare band, with Be Envied producing Finest City and Grand Prix.

“Hank came to realize that buying more-commercial broodmares was the most productive place to be, and safest to work within,” McEntee noted. “We’ve had good success and have made smart decisions on our breeding selections, which we both spend a lot of time on. ‘There’s luck involved, because this is the ‘Thoroughbred industry, and there are no certainties. But the harder you work, the luckier you seem to get.”

‘Today, Nothhaft’s 10 broodmares produce Pennsylvania-breds after being bred to Kentucky stallions, and he him­self is on the board of the Pennsylvania Horse Breeders Association.

“One of the side benefits of getting into horses is that I’ve reconnected with my home state,”  he said. “I’ve traveled the world, lived for three decades in California (today he lives in Austin, Texas) , and came back to my roots; in Pennsylvania.  I’ve won the Presque Isle Downs Masters Stakes (G2) twice. Where other guys have Kentucky Derby fever, I want to get a PABRED to win the Masters,” which has never happened . It takes all kinds of people, right?”

Most of the mares Nothhaft owns today either raced for him or were bred by him, the notable exception being Sulis, whom he bought specifically to breed to Silver Train, a stallion Nothhaft bought and stood in Pennsylvania, hut who died after just two years. Having paid $105,000 for Sulis, a daughter of Maria ‘s Mon, Nothhaft proceeded to sell weanlings  out of her for $250,000, $130,000, and $ 220,000 within four years.

Nothhaft with his grandchildren at Golden Gate Fields
Nothhaft with Living the Life UK All Weather Champion and 2 times winner Masters Stakes Gr2

As legendary Kentucky horseman Robert Courtney used to say, that’s how you make money in this business.

Because the Pennsylvania incentive program is going well, Nothhaft said he might increase his mare population to 15, but generally he is concentrating on improving the quality of the band rather than increasing its number.

“Carl and I made a decision not to take the risk of raising them to be yearlings .” Nothhaft said of his early preference for selling weanlings . “At least until now. The yearling market is crazy right now so I’m not unhappy to hold onto them another year because the financial advantage is shifting that way. That hasn’t always been true.” That updated strategy comes in part from the American Pharoah-Kindle weanling colt Nothhaft sold for S400,000 who was pin hooked by Peter O’Callaghan and sold for s2.2 million at last September’s Keeneland yearling auction.

Kindle and Kindle 17 who became the most expensive American Pharoah sold so far at $2.2M

Nothhaft supported McEntee during the latter’s time at Darby Dan Farm and has helped bankroll McEntee’s move to open Ballysax Bloodstock, which now consigns the Nothhaft-breds.

“Carl is all energy and is a hard worker,” said Nothhaft. “In his first year in 2018 he’s had good-quality consignments and gotten good results.
“Hank is an incredibly passionate man who has to have something to d rive him and I’m the same way,” noted McEntee.”He’ll call me at 4 or 5 a.m. his time to talk. He knows only one speed, and that’s 100 mph .”

Nothhaft’s single most notable day in the business came on Nov. 5, 2016. when the Breeders Cup Filly & M are Sprint (G 1) was run at Santa Anita Park. The Nothhaft-owned Living The Life, who had won the Presque lsle Downs Masters in 2014 and 2015 and the All American Stakes (G3) in 2016. was slated to compete against the Nothhaft-hred Finest City, whom the breeder had sold as a weanling in 2012 for $50,000.  ‘·My wife and l and other family members were planning to go from our home in Saratoga. Calif. Nothhaft stated. “Then a week before the race,  Living the Life came up lame and had to be retired. I was so bummed out I had a knee-jerk reaction to give my tickets away. So we watched from home. I bet heavy on Finest City  and when she won. there was an eruption . My phone started going crazy, so there was a lot of recognition of our connection to the horse. But l felt silly watching Gary Mandella accept our trophy.”

In the past, Nothhaft annually compiled what he now calls a “fantasy list ” of stallions for his mares, where he and McEntee would generate a roster of studs that fit his mares although they knew they wouldn’t he able to get to those stallions. Today, it is a different story.

“Now that I have better mares. we know we’re able to get to all the stallions on our list this year.” said Nothhaft. “So we’re not playing fantasy football anymore.” Nothhaft bought back a Pioneer of the Nile-Kindle weanling colt in November 2018 on a final bid of $375,000. He .also kept an American Pharoah-Halljoy year­ling filly who RNA’d for $335.000. Those babies are indicative of the quality of stallions to whom he now sends his mares.

“This is a very faddish industry in my opinion,” he stated. “So going to American Pharoah in his first year-if you pick the right first-year stallion it can be a bonanza when you’re selling the progeny. Certainly American Pharoah was a good pick. So we do use some select first-year or young stallions, we call ‘Living the Dream stallions.’ They don’t have anything running yet, or at least won t before (the progeny) sell.

“As far as more proven stallions, we’re not generally going to the heavy hitters such as Tapit, Candy Ride, Into Mischief, and so on. When I was starting out, I bred to Tizbud. a full brother to Tiznow.  Now, I love Tiznow, who is one of the less expensive studs I go to today, so that highlights where I started and where I’m at. But I’m also smart enough to know the minute you think you’ve got it all figured out, you’re actually really stupid because the gods are about to come down and chop your knees off. So I keep my feet on the ground.”

Said McEntee, “Hank is unlike most business people who come into the horse industry, where they tend to lose all of their previous business acumen. Hank has maintained the smart decision-making that got him to where he is.”

Nothhaft has worked diligently to try and help ensure that the Pennsylvania incentive program remains on sound footing, although that has proven to be a tricky enterprise in the past. ”Pennsylvania has had a great program for years,” said Nothhaft, “except that the state (government) kept coming up short on funds and taking money away from the breeding program for the general fund. As a breeder, you never knew what was going to be there going forward. What we’ve done is put  the program in a trust; while that can still be broken, there is a significant penalty for the state if it decides to take funds away, so we feel more comfortable going forward.

“The number of foals is increasing in the state. There are new sires and brood­ mares showing up, and the quality of the talent you need is increasing. We know New York-bred and Cal-bred races are tough, but Pennsylvania isn’t a lay-up, either. But it does run between 400 and
500 races a year for state-breds, and if you have a decent horse, you can find a level at which to race and have a good chance of earning some money which is attractive.” ‘ The man on the street- which I con­sider myself- who doesn’t have 200 horses can realistically breed Pennsylvania-breds and sell or race them with the anticipation of a reasonable financial outcome. That’s the world I thought I was getting into way back at the start.”

A dose of naivete represent standard equipment for those seeking entrance to the Thoroughbred industry as a business proposition . And the addition of successful business people such as Hank Nothhaft to its ranks swells the legitimacy as well as the feasibility of this world of horses. He has embraced a challenge far too puzzling for most; entered on the ground floor and built a sturdy operation upward despite knowing nothing about its workings when he started. That horses can rekindle this sort of passion in a person of substance such as Nothhaft is a huge positive.

“l have been retired from the tech world for three or four years now, and I thank God every morning that l got involved in the horse business because it so satisfying,” he said. “It is extremely difficult, so when things do go right, the satisfaction and the adrenaline and the good feeling you get is so significant that it’s worth all the effort. “For a small guy like me, you have to work really hard to have something good going on, and when it does, it keeps you in a good mood for a while and you re­ally have to inhale the happy fumes and the success . You have to ride over what I call th e Valley of Despair to keep your self going and motivated if you’re passionate about it.”■

HnR’s Mister Nofty (PA) Runs to Front for 5th Career Win

In his fourth start of 2017, Mister Nofty, a PA_BRED,  returned to his 2016 form, winning an open 1 mile 70 yard Allowance Race at Penn National going wire to wire unchallenged.   Given a field of seven that included no other early speed, Mister Nofty ran free to the lead under the guidance of his regular rider Brian Pedroza and maintained it during the duration of the race.

Trainer Keith Nation, looking for a turf race for Mister Nofty, entered this race with not turf options in sight.  Mister Nofty continued his front running style and was able to overcome a reasonably talented field in this open allowance non winners other than 2.  This is Mister Nofty’s first strong outing since sustaining minor leg and hoof injuries during the Presque Isle Mile last September.

Mister Nofty worked bullet at Delaware Park Sept 5 for this race. Photo Hank Nothhaft

Mister Nofty came out of this race 100% and will be looking to build on this race.  HnR is looking at all options, dirt or turf.

Mister Nofty is an HnR homebred colt, foaled at Northview Stallions, by Scat Daddy out of Walking Path by Bernardini.  Hank Nothhaft worked with bloodstock agent Carl McEntee of Darby Dan Farm,  to develop the breeding plan that produced Mister Nofty.  He trained at Webb Carroll before starting his racing career. 

Race Statistics

Penn National, Race 7, AOC 9/9, $30,400, 3yo/up, 8.32f (dirt), 1:41.73, track fast. 1–Mister Nofty, 119, dk b/br c, 4, Scat Daddy–Walking Path, by Bernardini, $21,888, O–HnR Nothhaft Horse Racing, LLC, B–HnR Nothhaft Horseracing LLC (PA), T–Keith Nations, J–Brian Pedroza Margin: ¾, 7 starters

HnR’s Grand Prix (PA) wins Garofalo Memorial Stakes Wire to Wire

Grand Prix becomes Multiple Stakes Winner against older rivals at PA Day at the Races Stakes Card at PARX in Bensalem PA

Grand Prix found the fast track at Parx to her liking and won the Garofalo Memorial Stakes wire to wire unchallenged by her older rivals.  This was her 3rd win in 4 starts since moving from CA to PA to take advantage of the PA_BRED incentive program.  Grand Prix is now in the top 50  of approximately 6500 three year old fillies to race based on 2017 earnings.   HnR Grand Prix connections are planning a start in a graded stakes next time out.

Race Video  Video Link via Bloodhorse Magazine
Grand Prix Inside Rail Photo Equi Photo @PARX

Below is an excellent summary of the race that appeared in the Thoroughbred Daily News on Sept 2nd.

Thoroughbred Daily News Sept 2, 2017

  1. TERESA GAROFALO MEMORIAL S., $107,750, PRX, 9-2, (S),

3yo/up, f/m, 6f, 1:10.06, ft.

Grand Prix (PA) finish line photo lost her right front shoe sometime during the race.  Crosses the finish line with no shoe on.  Equi Photo @PARX Garofalo Memorial Stakes
1–GRAND PRIX, 122, f, 3, Tale of the Cat–Be Envied (MSP,

$200,697), by Lemon Drop Kid. ($62,000 RNA Wlg ’14 KEENOV; $145,000 RNA Ylg ’15 KEESEP). O/B-HnR Nothhaft

Horse Racing, LLC (PA); T-Gary Mandella; J-Jose C. Ferrer.

$60,000. Lifetime Record: 13-4-4-2, $207,750. *1/2 to Finest City (City Zip), Ch. Female Sprinter, GISW, $1,256,394.

2–Mama Jones, 119, f, 4, Smarty Jones–Mohonour, by Honour and Glory. O-Someday Farm; B-Patricia L. Chapman (PA);

T-John C. Servis. $25,000.

3–Power of Snunner, 126, m, 7, Power by Far–Snunner, by Yarrow Brae. O/B-James M. Courtney (PA); T-Timothy C. Kreiser. $13,750.

Margins: 1HF, HD, HD. Odds: 2.90, 16.30, 2.40.

Also Ran: Discreet Senorita, Hey Braciole, Campeona, Anais.

Members of the Garofalo Family joined HnR Grand Prix Connections in Winners Circle 

Grand Prix | Equi-Photo

Grand Prix recorded her first career black-type win on the dirt in the New Start S. against state-bred foes at Penn National June 3 before finishing runner-up amongst allowance company going five panels on the grass here June 26. Victorious in the Penn slop July 22, she was given ample support to make it two straight while returning to stakes company.

Grand Prix chilling before race Photo Hank Nothhaft

On the engine from the start, the bay steadily increased her advantage through crisp fractions of :21.90 and :44.51, was clear while drifting out in the stretch and kept it going all the way home to best Mama Jones. Favored Discreet Senorita was fourth.

Be Envied, a half sister to GI Futurity S. winner Burning Roma (Rubiano), is also responsible for champion female sprinter and millionairess Finest City (City Zip), who earned her biggest career victory in the GI Breeders= Cup Filly and Mare Sprint. The

15-year-old mare produced a full-brother to Grand Prix in 2015, prior to aborting the following season.

The Daily Racing Form also published a race summary authored by Jim Dunleavy presented below:

Daily Racing Form Garofalo Stakes by Jim Dunleavy

“Garofalo Memorial: Grand Prix wire to wire

Grand Prix, a 3-year-old daughter of Tale of the Cat, went wire to wire to defeat older Pennsylvania-bred fillies and mares in the $107,750 Teresa Garofalo Memorial Stakes.

Grand Prix, the 5-2 third choice in the betting, sprinted clear early in the six-furlong race, then was never seriously challenged while winning by 1 1/2 lengths. She paid $7.80 and was timed in 1:10.06. The race was run in the rain over a fast track.

Grand Prix is trained by Gary Mandella, was ridden by Jose Ferrer, and is owned by Hank Nothhaft. She has been based at Delaware Park and Parx since May.

She won the $101,000 New Start Stakes over statebred 3-year-old fillies at Penn National on the Penn Mile card June 3.

Mama Jones, a 16-1 shot, raced forwardly throughout and held second by a head over the late-running Power of Snunner. Discreet Senorita, the slight 2-1 favorite over Power of Snunner, was bumped and squeezed back at the start. She rallied along the inside into the stretch but was caught late for third by Power of Snunner, who finished a head in front of her.

Grand Prix (PA) Proud Owner and Breeder wearing Coolmore Jacket in support GP Sire Tale of the Cat and Finest City Hat 1/2 Sister of Grand Prix

Grand Prix, who was bred by her owner, is now 4 for 13 with earnings of $207,750.”

 

Coolmore Coverage
MORE STAKES SUCCESS FOR GRAND PRIX

Evergreen Coolmore stalwart Tale of the Cat is the sire of progressive filly Grand Prix (3f Tale of the Cat x Be Envied, by Lemon Drop Kid), who landed another Black type victory when taking out the $107,750 Dr Teresa Garafalo Memorial Stakes at Parx Racing on Saturday .

A homebred for HnR Nothhaft Horseracing trained by Gary Mandella, Grand Prix raced clear to win the six furlong sprint by a length and a half.

Ultra-consistent, Grand Prix has the overall record of four wins and six placings from 13 starts with prizemoney topping $200,000.

Grand Prix is bred to be good as a half-sister to 2016 Champion US Female Sprinter and winner of the 2016 Grade I Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint Finest City.

Grand Prix is the third winner from stakes-placed Be Envied, a half-sister to Grade I winner Burning Roma.

The Paulick Report Coverage

Paulick Report Garofalo Stakes

“HnR Nothhaft Horse Racing’s Grand Prix was a sharp, front running winner of the $100,000 Dr. Teresa Garofalo Memorial Stakes for fillies and mares three and up. The 3 year-old daughter of Tale of the Cat broke sharply and was in front after the first sixteenth of a mile. She’d opened a clear lead after hitting the quarter in a quick 21.90 and from there, was never really threatened. She led by two entering the far turn, three approaching the top of the stretch and then was geared down late by winning jockey Jose Ferrer to win by an official margin of a length and a half. Trained by Gary Mandella, Grand Prix went off as third choice in the wagering at 5-2 and paid $7.80 to win. She covered the six furlongs in 1:10.06”

Finest City Honored as PA BRED Horse of the Year 2016

The Pennsylvania Horse Breeders Association (PHBA) hosted Its’ 38th Annual Iroquois Awards Banquet on June 9 at The Hershey Hotel. PHBA members, the board of directors, and top Pennsylvania breeders and owners were present for a great night of dinner, cocktails, and conversation.

Brian Sanfratello, Executive Director of the PHBA, served as Master of Ceremonies for the gala evening. Roger Legg PHBA President offered his greetings and welcome to the assembled group, while the Honorable Russell Redding, Secretary of Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture provided insightful comments on the current status and support by PA for the thoroughbred industry.

 

Russell Redding PA Secretary of Agriculture PHBA Awards 2017
Russell Redding PA Secretary of Agriculture PHBA Awards 2017

Henry “Hank” Nothhaft provided the Keynote address describing his journey to breeding Finest City, one of four, and the first PABRED Breeders’ Cup Champion in 24 years, and Eclipse Award Winner as Best Female Sprinter.

Click on the link below for the full script of Hank Nothhaft Keynote.

Hank Nothhaft Keynote Script

PHBA Keynote Audience
PHBA Keynote Audience


Impressive Crystal Trophies were awarded for a number of categories.

Click on the link below to view photos PHBA Crystal Awards.

Photos PHBA Crystal Category & Iroquois Awards 2017

See the full list of Category Winners listed Below.

 

Iroqouis Champions 2017

Full Gallery of Photos of the PHBA Awards, Click Link Below:

PHBA IROQUOIS AWARDS PHOTO GALLERY 2017 

Hank Nothhaft owner of HnR Nothhaft Horseracing accepts Horse of the Year Award for HnR PABRED Finest City.

 

Hank Nothhaft Accepts Finest City HOY Award form Betsy Barr PHBA Director
Hank Nothhaft Accepts Finest City HOY Award form Betsy Barr PHBA Director

Finest City-Beats the Odds Becomes 1st PABRED Breeders‘ Cup Champion in 20 Years

Finest City-Beats the Odds

Becomes 1st PABRED Breeders‘ Cup Champion in 20 Years

by Hank Nothhaft

Those who participate in thoroughbred horse breeding and racing know that it can be unbelievably exhilarating or an unforgiving, unpredictable arena.  Just the minute you think you have it figured out, some humbling occurrence ensues making you wonder how on earth you got into such a tough business (sport).  So when events take a benign, favorable turn, one tries to enjoy the glow for as long as possible to blunt the inevitable future valleys of gloom.

 

The finalists for the Thoroughbred industry’s Eclipse Awards, equivalent to Hollywood’s Academy Awards, were announced this week.  Finest City, a four year old, PABRED filly by City Zip is one of the three finalists for the Female Sprint Category.  Given her accomplishments and victory in head to head competition over her rivals, Finest City has an excellent chance to add an Eclipse Trophy to her growing list of honors.

 Finest City BC Poster 12:29:16

As her breeder, it was thrilling to see Finest City win the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint in November at Santa Anita Park.  Though the exhilaration of the moment has faded, a quiet, enduring and sustaining satisfaction remains as a reminder of why involvement with thoroughbreds can be so rewarding.

 

Finest City Surges to Win Breeders Cup Photo Kevin Kraynak
Finest City Surges to Win Breeders Cup Photo Kevin Kraynak


The breeding of Finest City was the direct result of my efforts to create a well pedigreed, race proven, black type broodmare band for Breeders’ Cup Champion Silver Train., who I purchased from Vinery in Kentucky to stand at Northview in Pennsylvania.  I was ably assisted in this quest by Bloodstock Agent Carl McEntee, then of Northview PA, now of Darby Dan Farm in KY.

 

Finest City First PABRED Breeders' Cup Winner in 20 Years
Finest City First PABRED Breeders’ Cup Winner in 20 Years

 

It also was not a “fluke” in the sense that a great deal of thought and effort was applied to the process of acquiring the mare Be Envied in foal to City Zip that produced Finest City.  Be Envied’s enviable resume—she’s a half sister to grade I winner Burning Roma— is full of class, flawless, elegant, impeccable top and bottom complimented by her sire, Lemon Drop Kid.  In my opinion, Lemon Drop Kid, an emerging leading broodmare sire, should get credit for producing horses that can run extremely well on all surfaces at classic distances.

 

Due to many hours pursuing various mares, Be Envied was purchased at the bargain price of $37,000 at the 2011 Keeneland November Sale.   This was the result of spending several days analyzing pedigrees of mares in the catalogue, inspecting them, assessing physical fit with Silver Train, creating our short list, bidding on our top picks, often getting out bid or hitting our budgetary limits.  We ultimately purchased three mares in foal during the Keeneland November 2011-mixed stock sale.  However, no more or less effort went into the decisions, preparations and care of Finest City than any of our preceding or subsequent breeding decisions.  Our goal was to buy mares compatible with Silver Train whose foals could be kept for racing or sold for at least what we paid for the mare in foal, thus recouping our investment in the first twelve months.  We actually exceeded this goal by a wide margin.  On the other hand, winning the Breeders’ Cup was never discussed, not to mention that the odds of this occurring are lottery like.  More discussion on Breeders’ Cup odds later.  Therefore, when Finest City won the Breeders’ Cup, it was not fulfillment of a dream, because this was not a dream we ever dared dream.

 

Be Envied by Lemond Drop Kid Bargain Purchase $37,000

 

Be Envied by Lemond Drop Kid Bargain Purchase $37,000
Be Envied by Lemond Drop Kid Bargain Purchase $37,000

From the time of her birth, Finest City was a beautiful, well-balanced athletic filly. The fact that Finest City looked very commercial and could command a handsome price influenced my decision to sell her rather than keep to race.  As a technology entrepreneur trying to transfer his skills to the “Horse Business”, I viewed this as a good opportunity to generate some cash flow, nothing more or nothing less. This was a change of heart, since I already named her City Envy to honor her Sire and Dame, in anticipation of racing her.  As a result, Finest City (AKA City Envy) became the first horse that I bred and sold at auction, highlighting my status as a novice breeder.

 

Finest City Northview MD with Hank
Finest City Northview MD with Hank

After our decision to sell her at the Keeneland November 2012 Mixed Sale, we hired Hunter Valley as our consignor, prepped her at Northview Maryland and sent her to Lexington.  Ultimately, though she showed well, was very popular, some minor stifle issues kept the price well below our expectations and sold right on our reserve for $50,000.  We were very disappointed with this price as we expected to get well over a $100,000 for her.   She was purchased by Cobra Racing who pin-hooked her and sold her as a yearling at the September 2013 yearling sale at Keeneland. to Seltzer Thoroughbreds of San Diego, CA, hence the name Finest City,

 

Subsequently, we’ve had the good fortune of selling several additional weanlings at Keeneland for six figure sums up to` $250,000.  All their pedigrees are similarly attractive as Finest City and were nearly flawless physical specimens. So far, none have come close to Finest City’s accomplishments though some have shown promise.  We also bred a number of horses from the Silver Train program who are just plain average and have produced results within industry norms, not to mention a few who had physical issues that precluded any racing career at all.  I mention this only to highlight the obvious, that a powerful pedigree and physical perfection don’t necessarily correlate to racing success.  Soundness, the intangible competitive fire of the horse, intelligence, timing and luck all play a role.

 

So how long were the odds for a PABRED Breeders’ Cup Winner?

 

First there have only been four PABRED Breeders’ Cup Champions, including Finest City, since the Breeders’ Cup’s initial races in 1984 at Hollywood Park, CA.  The other three are Go for Wand, Tikkanen and Alphabet Soup.

 

The great two times Eclipse Award winning Go for Wand is the initial PABRED Breeders’ Cup winner, having won the 1989 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies at Gulfstream Park.  A Christiana Stable homebred by Deputy Minister, she entered the Hall of Fame in 1996, fueled by 7 Grade 1 wins in 13 career starts.  Harry Lunger and his wife Jane DuPont Lunger founded Christiana Stables, named for the community of Christiana, Delaware, in 1937.  Having campaigned at least 45 stakes winners, these are the type of breeders and owners that you expect to win a Breeders Cup.

 

Two Time Eclipse Award Winner Go For Wand (PA)
Two Time Eclipse Award Winner Go For Wand (PA)

Oddly, I have a personal connection to the Lunger family that strikes me as at least a strange coincidence.  While serving in the U.S. Marine Corps in Vietnam in 1968-1969, one of the officers I worked closely with was Lt. Brett Lunger, Jane and Harry Lunger’s son.  Brett, a very dynamic and energetic leader, went on to be one of the first American drivers in Formula 1 in 1975.   Maybe some good karma got passed via this relationship.

 

Cozzene BC Mile Winner Sire of Tikkanen & Alphabet Sout
Cozzene BC Mile Winner Sire of Tikkanen & Alphabet Sout

Tikkanen is the 2nd PABRED Champion via his win in the 1994 Breeders Cup Turf at Churchill Downs in KY with Mike Smith up.  Tikkanen, a homebred like Go For Wand, sired by Breeders’ Cup Mile Winner Cozenne, was bred and campaigned by George Strawbridge, Jr., a perennial leading breeder in PA and a person who you would expect to win a Breeders’ Cup Championship Race.

 

Tikkanen (PA) by Cozenne
Tikkanen (PA) by Cozenne

The third PABRED Breeders’ Cup Champion is the beloved Alphabet Soup who won the Classic in 1986.  He was also sired by Cozenne and became one of Cozenne’s 14 millionaire offspring including Tikkanen.  Southeast Associates, headed by Roy S. Lerman, bred and sold him privately to Californian Georgia B. Ridder as a two year old.  In a 24 Race career that netted him earnings of $2.990,270, Alphabet Soup only raced twice outside of California.  In the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Woodbine, ON, Cigar, tried to become the first horse to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic in consecutive years, but fell short by a half-length, finishing third in his farewell race, behind 20-1 shot Alphabet Soup under Chris McCarron, who bested Preakness Stakes winner Louis Quatorze by a nose.  Alphabet Soup went on to stud duty until his retirement to “Old Friends” in Lexington, KY.

 

Alphabet Soup Settling in at Old Friends in Lexington KY
Alphabet Soup Settling in at Old Friends in Lexington KY

After a twenty-year hiatus, Finest City became the 4th PABRED Breeders’ Cup Winner with Mike Smith up, giving him claim to riding 50% of PA’s Breeders’ Cup Winners.   Like Alphabet Soup, owned by a Californian, Finest City has never raced outside of CA.  Speaking of 50%, Finest City ended up with an up and coming young trainer (28 years old) Ian Kruljac, whose total career starts total 24 of which 14 are Finest City.  Always in the hunt after breaking sharply from post 12 in a field of 13, Finest City and jockey Mike Smith held off the oncoming Wavell Avenue to prevail by three-quarters of a length. Paulassilverlining was third, another 1 1/4 lengths back.  Paulassilverlining is one of Finest City’s chief protagonists for this year’s Eclipse.

Finest City will attempt BC repeat at Del Mar 2017 Photo Kevin Kraynak
Finest City will attempt BC repeat at Del Mar 2017 Photo Kevin Kraynak

 

Let’s take a look at some of the raw numbers involved in winning a Breeders’ Cup Race with a PABRED to see how daunting a task it is.  Since its’ inception, there have been 288 Breeders’ Cup Champions, 4 from PA (no adjustment for repeat winners) or 1.4%. These 288 champions had to vanquish a total pool of horses estimated to be around 3000 of the best horses in the world.  Since 1996, the last time a PABRED won, there have been 214 winners including one by Finest City or about .5 (1/2) a percent.

 

Let’s look at the numbers from a PA perspective. Since 1995 there have been approximately 23,000 foals born and registered in PA.  Of this pool, roughly 14,500 made at least one start in a race.  This makes Finest City 1 of 23,000/14,500 respectively.  The percentages are obviously miniscule:  less that one ten thousandth in both categories (0.00004/0.00006).  Assuming the foal crop is 50% fillies, the percentages remain less than a ten thousandth.

 

From a national level the odds are even longer since PA generally produces less than 3% of the registered crop (Range 1995 to 2015-2.2% to 5.4%) Then of course, globalization means that horses from 19 other countries were entered in the 2016 Breeders’ Cup.   This makes the mountain even higher.

 

The long and short of these numbers is that PABRED Finest City winning the Breeders’ Cup was a tall order overcoming stratospheric odds.  Then again, to be a thoroughbred breeder is playing the DNA lottery, though breeding the “best to the best” reduces the odds a bit, the odds remain extremely long.  There’s always the real possibility for inexplicable magic to occur.  One look no further than the amazing California Chrome, the result of breeding a mare by a regional sire who won an $8,000 maiden claiming race in a 6 race career that netted $7,000 and an E number of 64, to a sire standing for a $1500 stud fee, and two guys who dreamed the big dream.  As long as the chance exists to create the wonder of the “next big horse” the art, science and mystery of thoroughbred breeding and racing will continue to produce the inexplicable and attract a large, broad range of optimists.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Science, Art and Luck-Noble Mission-Macaabra Matchmaking

Two years ago we purchased our first British invader in Newmarket, U.K. This was the result of implementing HnR Nothhaft Horseracing LLC’s (HnR) plan to buy highly pedigreed fillies or mares in training in the U.K, try to step them up on the track in the U.S. and retire them to broodmare status either in house or via sale after retirement. Qualifying for the ship in bonus at Delmar Turf Club is an additional minor side element to this approach as well. Little did we know that this purchase would lead to a rendezvous with Frankel’s younger brother Noble Mission in Kentucky. Named Macaabra (IRE), she was a 3 year old filly by emerging world class sire Exceed and Excel by Danehill, who was enjoyed significant success as a two hemisphere sire standing in both Australia and the U.K. for Darley. In fact, the proof statement to this claim is that when Australian wonder mare Black Caviar, the highest rated mare in the history of Timeform, undefeated in 25 starts including winning the Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot, was retired to broodmare status, Exceed and Excel was the stallion chosen for this honor. On 13 September 2014, Black Caviar gave birth to her first foal, a bay filly by Exceed and Excel. Keep in mind this is a southern hemisphere birth as Black Caviar is based in Australia.

Besides the powerful sire line Macaabra brought through Exceed and Excel via Danehill to Danzig to the “Kingmaker” Northern Dancer, the female line has real strength as well. Macaabra’s dame Al Cobra (IRE) is by Sadler Wells by Northern Dancer. This pedigree is rated an A by both Truenicks and Werk eNicks and brings a Natalama and Northern Dancer Cross 4th and 5th generation cross. Colts Helmet and Outstrip are turf Grade 1 stakes winners bred on this cross. Other graded stakes winners are Infamous Angel, Mrs. Kipling, and Nideeb. Macaabra Bloodlines

We brought Macaabra to the U.S. in 2013 and raced her for two years. She ended her career with 4 wins in 16 starts including a win in an allowance race at Santa Anita Park on the downhill turf course. She also qualified for a ship in bonus by finishing second in an allowance race in her first U.S. start at Delmar going a mile on the turf. She ran in three stakes races and came within 1.5 lengths of hitting the board and earning black type. Though completely sound when retired, veterinary diagnostics indicated that she would likely have knee problems if we continued to race her. We decided to opt for retirement and broodmare status in Kentucky at Darby Dan Farms.

Breeding choices are a combination of science, art experience (opinion) and luck. Lot’s of rules of the road exist as well. Breed the best to the best and hope for the best is one of the widest known. Others are to breed a new mare to an established stallion. We certainly included this in our choice for our mare Kindle. We chose to breed this first time broodmare to Tiznow, a well-established and consistent stallion. Another rule is to breed a new stallion to established mares. Perhaps we should have followed this course with Macaabra but instead we decided to swing for the fences and chose a new sire to breed to. Lot’s of factors went into this decision, but the purpose of this summary is to concentrate on the nicks involved as part of the decision tree for this breeding.

One of the best racehorses in thoroughbred history and perhaps the best of his generation is Frankel. Frankel is by Galileo out a Kind (IRE), a 2 times stakes winner by Danehill. Undefeated in 14 races including winning nine grade 1 stakes in a row, Frankel is the highest rated thoroughbred in British Racing History. According to Wikipedia “following his win in the Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot, Timeform raised its provisional rating to 147, making him the highest-rated horse in the organisation’s history.[1] In January 2013 Timeform announced that his final rating at the end of his racing career was also 147. [4]” There are endless articles about Frankel available, but Wikipedia has a very good summary at: Frankel Best of His Generation

He is in residence at Juddmonte Farms in the U.K. with a stud fee of 125,000 British pounds for 2013 and 2014. Of course only the most select mares are offered the opportunity to breed to Frankel. Excitement is building as his first off spring move towards the auction ring and eventually the track. Frankel Pedigree and Race Record

Noble Mission

Noble Mission

In the meantime, Frankel has a younger full brother named Noble Mission who clearly was in Frankel’s shadow in his younger years. After Frankel’s retirement and a change to a front running style instead of coming off the pace. Noble Mission came into his own winning three grade 1’s to finish his career on a high note. His final record is 21 9-6-2 including 8 stakes wins, earnings of 1,364,058 British pounds. Once again there are numerous articles available about Noble Mission’s exploits but Wikipedia has a very good summary at: Noble Mission World Class Performer
According to the Wikipedia article, On 18 October, Noble Mission started the 7/1 fourth choices in the betting for the Champion Stakes, the race in which Frankel had concluded his unbeaten career in 2012. His eight rivals included Cirrus des Aigles (the 7/4 favourite), Ruler of the World, the six-year-old Al Kazeem, and the lightly raced but highly regarded Irish colt Free Eagle. Racing on heavy ground, Noble Mission was sent into the lead by Doyle from the start and set the pace from Al Kazeem, with Ruler of the World and Cirrus des Aigles close behind. As the field entered the straight many of the fancied runners were struggling and the race evolved into a protracted struggle between Noble Mission and Al Kazeem. The older horse gained a slight advantage inside the final furlong, but Noble Mission rallied in the final strides to win by a neck after a “thrilling duel”,[29] with Free Eagle finishing one and a quarter lengths back in third. An emotional Lady Cecil said “It’s just a fairytale. It means so much to us. When he died I kept the licence to feel closer to him”. Doyle commented “I knew it was Al Kazeem as soon as I saw his head alongside and I know what a good horse he is, but this fella is unbelievable. He just relaxes in front now, and I was able to save a bit for the finish”.[30]

Off this phenomenal effort, Noble Mission retired and on November 2nd it was announced he would be a stallion at Lane’s End Farm in Versailles, Kentucky. We visited Lane’s End in October to view Mineshaft and The Lemon Drop Kid. We were in the process of evaluating stallions for our 2015 plan, but Noble Mission was not announced yet. When Noble Mission was announced, we hadn’t completed the due diligence phase of our stallion breeding roster for 2015. Noble Mission bloodlines and race record

After some discussion with Macaabra’s U.S. trainer Gary Mandella and our bloodstock agent, Carl McEntee, who found and purchased Macaabra, we all concluded that on many levels Noble Mission could be a good physical and confirmation match for Macaabra. As always, we wanted to see what the bloodline nicks looked like using some of the major nick rating services. We used Truenicks, Werk eNicks, and Goldmine to establish their ratings for this possible match and to see what additional insights we could glean. The ratings were favorable: Truenicks assigned an A+; eNicks an A+++; and Goldmine a 20/20 rating which is considered an extremely attractive match based on having TWO horses with a 20 or higher rating. The Noble Mission-Macaabra Goldmine nick has a striking TWENTY-SIX horses over a 20 rating on this cross. The inbreeding in this cross is quite interesting with Sadler Wells 3m x 3f, Danehill 3f x 3m and Northern Dancer 4m. 5m x 4m, 5m, 5m.

Video of Noble Mission in Residence at Lane’s End

However, the most interesting information that came out of these nicks is that there are at least 26 graded stakes winners that have been bred off this cross. This is really an amazing number in absolute terms as well as percentage (14%), and is largely due to Galileo’s success with the Danzig mare line.

According to Andrew Caufield in his article ”Noble Mission (GB) The Next Great European Import” : Noble Mission Next Great European Import “Galileo owes much of his success to his remarkable partnership with the Danzig male line in general and with the Danehill branch in particular. His 26 stakes winners from mares by Danehill represent 14% of the foals from this cross, with no fewer than ten of them achieving the status of G1 winner. Among them is a world superstar in Noble Mission’s brilliant brother Frankel, who is rated the best horse ever seen by Timeform in that organization’s long history. Frankel was a champion at two, three and four, and Galileo’s G1 winners out of Danehill mares also include another champion two-year-old colt in Teofilo and a champion two-year-old filly in Maybe. Then there are the European classic winners Intello, Golden Lilac, Roderic O’Connor and Cima de Triomphe. Some of the 2014 two-year-olds from this cross have also shown G1 potential, with the Group winners John F. Kennedy and Highland Reel figuring among the leading fancies for the 2015 2,000 Guineas.

Other graded stakes winners from this nick are Frankel, Golden Lilac, Magician, Mekong River, Romantica, and Tapestry.

These Nicks added a lot of momentum to our assessment of the Noble Masson-Macaabra match. Once we completed our due diligence, HnR immediately applied to Lane’s End for a slot to breed to Noble Mission. HnR was granted this opportunity and has executed a contract for 2015 breeding. Needless to say we approach this match with great anticipation and hope the luck and timing that brought Noble Mission to the U.S. for a date with Macaabra will continue and produce another stakes winner to add to this impressive line.