12/30/2016 12:50PM

Conquest Enforcer scores quickly for Madden-Paolucci partnership

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Benoit & Associates
Conquest Enforcer made his $785,000 purchase price look good with his win in the Mathis Brothers Mile at Santa Anita.

Make no mistake, Zach Madden enjoyed the holiday weekend, but he was the first to admit his mind was on the future.

The Dec. 26 opening-day card at Santa Anita loomed, with Conquest Enforcer entered in the Grade 2 Mathis Brothers Mile Stakes for his first start under new colors. Madden scouted the colt at the Keeneland November breeding stock sale and signed the $785,000 ticket as agent for a partnership including Ron Paolucci’s Loooch Raching Stables.

Only seven weeks earlier, Conquest Enforcer had been the most expensive colt of the marquee Conquest Stables racing-age dispersal, making the Mathis Brothers Mile a potential statement race for Madden’s fledgling bloodstock operation.

“I stayed back in Lexington and just watched it at home, but I’d be lying to you if I said I wasn’t thinking about it every 10 seconds over the holidays,” Madden said. “I was on pins and needles a bit.”

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Madden watched Conquest Enforcer, a 3-year-old Into Mischief colt, lead at every point of call in the Mathis Brothers Mile and earn his first graded stakes win. Phil D’Amato trained Conquest Enforcer for Loooch Racing Stables, Imaginary Stables, and Raquel Ritchie.

It was a resolute early success for the purchase of Conquest Enforcer, and for the partnership of Madden and Paolucci.

Madden, 30, first established ties with Paolucci as director of client development at Three Chimneys Farm, where Madden worked to recruit Paolucci’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies winner Ria Antonia to his consignment for the 2014 fall mixed sale season. The filly sold for $1.8 million.

When Madden hung his own shingle in 2015 under the name Buckland Sales, Paolucci kept in touch.

While their business relationship started with a $1.8 million horse, Madden said a $30,000 yearling was what secured Paolucci as a client. Madden signed the ticket on Ohio-bred Sincere Devotion for owner Bill Tallisman at the 2015 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky fall yearling sale, and the filly won by an easy four lengths in a maiden special weight at Thistledown.

Paolucci, Thistledown’s leading owner by wins and earnings in 2016, liked what he saw.

“Ron was around and was friends with the client, and said, ‘Who’s this filly?’ ” Madden said. “She ran off the TV screen right in front of Ron and he asked me, ‘Did you buy this horse? For $30,000?’ That filly ran in a maiden special weight and won up there over the summer, and I think that piqued his interest a bit, too.”

By the next run of yearling auctions, Madden once again had Paolucci as a client.

“In October, we bought five horses at the Fasig-Tipton yearling sale,” Madden said. “I met him again out at the Breeders’ Cup and he said: ‘Hey, I’ve got me and possibly some friends lined up to spend some money out at the November sale. Would you mind working for me?’”

One of the November sale season’s highlights was the 96-horse racing-age portion of the Conquest dispersal, and the pair put the draft in their crosshairs as soon as the catalogs were available.

Madden and Paolucci landed on 10 horses to further inspect on the sale grounds and agreed that Conquest Enforcer, then a Grade 2-placed stakes winner, was their key target, setting a $750,000 ceiling to secure the colt.

“We got all of our ducks in a row on the vetting and we knew we were going to take a big swing on him,” Madden said. “I’d heard a few other people were, too, and I said, ‘This isn’t going to be easy.’”

Madden said Paolucci told him to start at $500,000, and the bidding quickly went past that.

“We bid $725,000 and somebody hit it at $750,000,” Madden said. “I said, ‘Gosh, I’m sorry. We took a big swing, but we’re out.’ I was literally walking out of the back ring, and he said, ‘No, no, no, stay there. Just stay on.’ Of course, as we’re talking, someone hit at $775,000, and I said, ‘Do you want me to bid $785,000?’ I thought somebody would just come back in, and he said, ‘Yeah, do it.’ ”

Conquest Enforcer was the most expensive of four purchases by Madden for Paolucci at the Keeneland November sale, totaling $970,000.

“You have a lot of people who say, ‘I’m going to spend a bunch of money,’ and never step up to the plate, but they did in a big way,” Madden said. “Trust me, nobody’s rooting harder for them than me.”