12/19/2016 3:26PM

Fipke takes risks pursuing a breeding gem

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Famed geologist Charles Fipke, whose adventurous nature has taken him to remote locations the world over in pursuit of his profession, is unafraid to take risks.

Geologists had unsuccessfully searched for diamond deposits in North America for more than a century. Fipke, with only a shoestring budget, did not relent in prospecting his native Canada, and in 1991 made the groundbreaking discovery of what would become the Ekati diamond mine.

Fipke, who bought his first Thoroughbred in 1981, is also not afraid to take risks in his racing and breeding business – and some of his longshots have proven to be diamonds in the rough. Although the owner has found success with Grade 1-winning homebreds Forever Unbridled and Unbridled Forever, he is perhaps better known for rounding out huge exactas in recent Triple Crown events.

Fipke colorbearer Golden Soul (34-1) finished second to Orb in the 2013 Kentucky Derby, and Tale of Verve (28-1) chased home American Pharoah in the 2015 Preakness Stakes.

The two are sired by Fipke’s Grade 1-winning homebred stallions Perfect Soul and Tale of Ekati, respectively, both standing at Darby Dan Farm in Lexington, Ky. Fipke has been intent on polishing the prospects of both, sending them his top broodmares, as well as mining the sales to purchase additional mares who fit their profiles.

Tale of Ekati, in particular, has come to life to reward his owner in recent months. The Tale of the Cat horse is the sire of eight stakes winners, with six coming in 2016. Three of his offspring have become stakes winners in the last two months alone, and the stallion has had nine individual winners since Nov. 1.

The rally has been led by Verve’s Tale (a full sister to Tale of Verve), a $43.60 upset winner of the Grade 3 Comely Stakes at Aqueduct. Verve’s Tale had not missed the board this year, but the Comely – which she won by a neck over Lewis Bay – was her first start outside the maiden ranks.

“I wasn’t quite sure she was where she should be for these type of horses, but she was doing so well, I couldn’t hold her down, so I put her in there,” said Barclay Tagg, who trained Tale of Ekati and handles Fipke’s New York-based runners. “She loves to run. She’s nice and sound. She’s gone through all kinds of stuff, but she’s been doing quite well. I wasn’t afraid to bring her over.”

Tale for Ruby, another Fipke homebred trained by Tagg, captured the Safely Kept Stakes at Laurel Park in November. Saint’s Fan has won both his starts, most recently the Louisiana Champions Day Juvenile, and will give Tale of Ekati an early-season Triple Crown hopeful, as he targets the Grade 3 Lecomte at Fair Grounds. Saint’s Fan is a homebred for Fipke’s Kentucky-based trainer Dallas Stewart.

“He’s just a natural athlete,” Stewart said. “He knows how to finish these races off … He’s just been the best and I can’t say enough about him as a 2-year-old. He’s scary good.”

Tale of Ekati’s other stakes performers this year include Tale of S’avall, whose multiple stakes placings include a third in the Grade 3 Dwyer Stakes. That performance inspired Fipke to add the latest gem to his broodmare band, 2005 Breeders’ Cup Distaff winner Pleasant Home. He purchased Pleasant Home for $530,000 at the Keeneland November breeding stock sale out of a reduction of the Phipps family’s vaunted bloodstock holdings.

Pleasant Home, like Tale of Ekati, is from the family of champion Sky Beauty. She is the dam of unraced S’Avall, dam of Tale of S’avall.

“[Tale of Ekati is] the only one that goes with this mare,” Fipke said. “I feel Tale of S’avall will be a Grade 1 winner and that will make the page, and of course I’m interested that the foals out of her by Tale of Ekati will be linebred to Maplejinsky. That will be great breeding stock.”

Pleasant Home is 15, advanced for a commercial purchase, but Fipke wasn’t put off by her age, joking that he “did all right” with another older mare he purchased, Lady Shirl. Fipke purchased Lady Shirl when she was 18 and bred her to Perfect Soul the next season. The resulting foal, Perfect Shirl, won the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf in a $57.60 upset.

Perhaps the audacious owner can strike gold once more.