Updated on 09/17/2011 10:37AM

Bittersweet stakes win for breeders

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Private Chef's victory in the Grade 3 Will Rogers Stakes on May 25 at Hollywood Park - only his second lifetime start - was bittersweet for his breeders, Herb and Ellen Moelis. "It was a beautiful thing," said Herb Moelis, who sold Private Chef, a 3-year-old Partner's Hero gelding, as a yearling for $50,000. "But unfortunately, we sold his dam."

The Moelises, who own and operate CandyLand Farm, a 160-acre nursery in Chesapeake City on the Delaware border, have a history of hits and misses with Private Chef's family since claiming a 3-year-old filly named Redeemer for $20,000 in 1989. Redeemer is the granddam of Private Chef.

Having entered the Thoroughbred business in 1984, the Moelises learned fast and had a lot of good fortune along the way. The first horse they raced, La Reine Rose, became a stakes-placed winner, and within three years they had bred a multiple Italian Group 1 winner named Candy Glen.

The Moelises were drawn to Redeemer because of her pedigree. A daughter of Dixieland Band out of Printing Press, she is a direct female line descendant of the legendary matriarch La Troienne.

A three-time winner at 2, Redeemer had been well campaigned by the time the Moelises claimed her at Gulfstream Park in March 1989, so the couple turned their new purchase out at their farm for a freshening.

Then came bad news. Redeemer severely injured her shoulder in a paddock accident, and only the quick response of the Moelises' farm manager and veterinarians saved the filly's life.

Redeemer returned to the races, but with little success. Retired to be a broodmare, her fortunes skyrocketed before she delivered her first foal. Redeemer's younger half-sister Lite Light became a graded stakes winner at 2 and was one of the top-ranked 3-year-old fillies in 1991 after winning the Kentucky Oaks, Coaching Club American Oaks, Santa Anita Oaks, and Las Virgenes Stakes, all Grade 1 races. Lite Light retired with earnings of $1,231,596.

Redeemer produced 10 consecutive foals for the Moelises, who sold nine of them at public auction for more than $1 million combined. Among them was Redeemer's third foal, Mississippi Lights.

A daughter of Majestic Light, as was Lite Light, Mississippi Lights brought $100,000 at Fasig-Tipton's Saratoga select yearling sale. Once again good fortune shined on the Moelises. They found Mississippi Lights entered in a claiming race at Delaware Park in October 1996 and took her for $20,000. Although Mississippi Lights retired winless, the Moelises had a daughter of Redeemer in their broodmare band.

The Moelises take advantage of the Maryland-bred program and routinely foal a number of their mares in Maryland, either at Woodstock Farm or Plane Tree Farm, both just a stone's throw from CandyLand. All of Mississippi Lights's foals are Maryland-breds. Her first foal, a gelded son of Allen's Prospect named Gulfport, was sold for $49,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic October yearling sale in 2000. Her second foal is Private Chef. The mare's current 2-year-old, a colt by Two Punch, brought $40,000 at last fall's Fasig-Tipton Midlantic yearling sale. The Moelises are considering keeping the mare's yearling colt by Northview Stallion Station's first-year sire Lion Hearted.

The desire to trim back a growing broodmare band last fall prompted the decision to sell Mississippi Lights.

"We were up to about 35 mares, and we couldn't keep everybody," said Herb Moelis.

So they weeded out a few of the mares who were not stakes runners or stakes producers. Mississippi Lights was sold privately following the Keeneland January sales after being a $47,000 buy-back through the ring. Private Chef had yet to make his first start, which came on Feb. 16 at Santa Anita, when he surged to a dead-heat win with Special Rate.

Redeemer remains in production at CandyLand Farm and produced an Honour and Glory colt in mid-April, her first foal since 2000. Hopes now ride that the 17-year-old mare, who was bred back to Not for Love, will produce a filly next season.