08/21/2008 11:00PM

Faith in dam led to Magical Fantasy

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - Magical Fantasy's shocking 42-1 victory in the Del Mar Oaks on Aug. 16 vindicated breeder Shack Parrish's long faith in her female family.

Parrish, the president and general manager of Indian Creek Farm in Paris, Ky., first became associated with Magical Fantasy's family back in the late 1980s, when he bought her second dam, Love's Reward, from Irish breeder Mrs. Dare Wigan.

The Nonoalco mare wasn't pretty, but her immediate family included Group 1 winner Brassenthwaite and a slew of other stakes performers. So Parrish made the purchase for Indian Creek and the Hint of Love Partnership, and they quickly got a nice Diesis colt out of Love's Reward: Keen Hunter, who won France's Group 1 Prix de l'Abbaye de Longchamp in 1991.

Love's Reward looked promising, but the partners sold her Easy Goer filly Kissing Gate.

"We figured she'd be around long enough that we could get a filly out of her if she became famous," Parrish recalled.

Queen Elizabeth II of England bought Kissing Gate for $65,000 as a yearling in 1994. Love's Reward, meanwhile, went on to produce Group 2 winner Altibr, by Diesis, in 1995. But in 1997, disaster struck.

"She got a very strange liver ailment and died," Parrish said.

Love's Reward, as it happened, had never produced another filly after Kissing Gate. So when the queen offered Kissing Gate at Tattersalls December in 2003 after breeding her with limited success, Parrish and his nephew Charles Beach IV, an insurance underwriter in London, swooped in.

"I'd always been very fond of the family," Parrish said. "We'd had a lot of luck with Love's Reward, and it was a sentimental thing on my part, at best. Plus, those really deep old families sometimes come back, and I was hoping that might happen. The family seemed to have enough depth that we, being Indian Creek, would be interested in. But Indian Creek doesn't buy usually mares that have had multiple foals, so I didn't think she fit Indian Creek. So I just bought her myself with my nephew."

The pair sent Kissing Gate to Diesis.

"I figured that mating worked with her mama, so it might work with her," Parrish said.

The resulting foal was Magical Fantasy. She started her career in England, but since switching to the States this year at 3 she has turned into a Grade 1 winner. She also was second earlier this year in the Grade 3 Senorita Stakes at Hollywood.

Kissing Gate is in foal to Arch and has a yearling colt by Leroidesanimaux in which Magical Fantasy's owners - David Bienstock, Paul Mandabach, and Charles Winner - have privately bought a majority interest.

Parrish wasn't on hand to see Magical Fantasy's Del Mar Oaks. He was at Saratoga last Saturday, where Proud Spell took the Alabama Stakes. That gave Parrish something else to celebrate: his lifelong friend and fellow Bourbon County, Ky., native Tim Thornton manages Airdrie Stud for Proud Spell's owner, Brereton C. Jones Jr. Thornton helped raise the filly, now a dual Grade 1 winner after her Kentucky Oaks victory in May.

"Tim was May King when my sister was May Queen in kindergarten," Parrish said, "and then we were acolytes together at St. Peter's Episcopal in Paris."

Parrish and Thornton have spent most of their lives in close proximity, sharing space as roommates in college and now as consignors together at horse sales. Seems fitting that two fillies they worked closely with arrived as Grade 1 heroines in the winner's circle on the same day, too.

Declines across the board at Ocala

The Ocala Breeders' Sales Co.'s August open yearling sale ended Thursday evening with significant declines that sounded a warning note for the open yearling market to come at Keeneland's September sale next month.

The OBS auction in Ocala, Fla., ended with a 28 percent drop in gross that was expected due to a smaller catalog. More worrying were a 12 percent decline in average and a 21 percent decrease in median.

The three open sessions sold 636 yearlings for a total of $6,472,200, as compared to last year's total of 778 bringing $9,047,400 in four sessions. The average price this year was $10,176 as compared to last season's $11,629. The 2008 median was $5,500, down from $7,000 in 2007.

The buy-back rate this year was 31 percent, up from 27 percent in 2007.

The open sessions followed a single select session that also was down this year. At the select session, 115 yearlings sold for $5,778,000 for an average price of $50,243 and a $40,000 median. Those figures were down 40 percent in gross on a smaller catalog; 13 percent in average; and 20 percent in median, which was coming off of a record price in 2007.

The select session buy-back rate climbed from 25 percent to 43 percent.