04/10/2017 1:46PM

Irap provides dam with a big finish

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Keeneland/Coady Photography
Irap pulls off a 31-1 upset in the Grade 2 Blue Grass Stakes.

Irap’s tenacious victory in the Grade 2 Blue Grass Stakes put an ideal bookend to the broodmare career of Canadian champion Silken Cat, whose first foal was the champion sprinter and premier sire Speightstown.

Those two horses, and all the ones in between, were bred by Marie Jones and her late husband, Aaron Jones, who purchased the mare privately from Sam-Son Farm between her juvenile and sophomore seasons. Silken Cat died in March 2016 at age 23, having resided at Taylor Made Farm in Nicholasville, Ky., for the past two decades. Irap was the last of her 11 foals.

“We’ve always loved her, and we’ve had some good runners out of her,” Marie Jones said. “It’s very special to see [Irap] go run like he does. When you breed them, that’s what you hope for, and to see it, the success makes you feel so good. You know you’re doing something right.”

Silken Cat was among the most successful runners foaled in Quebec, winning three of four starts and earning $102,120. She was named Canada’s champion 2-year-old filly of 1995 on the strength of a three-race campaign that featured an eight-length debut score, a 14-length allowance win, and a 3 1/4-length victory in the Mazarine Stakes, all at Woodbine.

The mare was sent to Mill Ridge Farm stallion Gone West for her first mating in 1997 and produced Speightstown, who sold for $2 million at the 1999 Keeneland July yearling sale. He won the Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Lone Star Park four years later and earned the Eclipse Award as champion sprinter before retiring to WinStar Farm in Versailles, Ky.

It took Silken Cat 16 years to produce another graded stakes winner, but the foals in between yielded massive success at auction.

Among the highlights were Tigerline, a $1.4 million Unbridled’s Song colt; Gone Purrfect, a full sister to Speightstown who brought $1.5 million; Cableknit, an Unbridled’s Song filly who sold for $1.7 million; and Amour d’Ete, a Tiznow filly who changed hands for $1.75 million. The most successful of the seven-figure quartet on the track was Tigerline, who placed twice in two career starts.

Irap, a Tiznow colt, entered the 2015 Keeneland September yearling sale as a massive specimen who towered over his contemporaries in the Taylor Made Sales Agency shed row. He fit the bill for a son of Tiznow, who stands 16.3 hands tall and is known for passing on his size.

Irap finished under his reserve at the Keeneland September sale, with a final bid of $140,000. He was later offered at the 2016 Ocala Breeders’ Sales Co. March sale of 2-year-olds in training, where he sold to Dennis O’Neill, the brother and bloodstock agent of trainer Doug O’Neill, for $300,000. He races for owner J. Paul Reddam.

“He sure has changed,” said Frank Taylor, vice president of boarding operations for Taylor Made. “He looks a lot different now than he did as a yearling. He’s just gotten a lot bigger and stronger, more mature, and more athletic. He’s really come around.”

Jones said Irap did not bear much physical resemblance to Speightstown, leaning closer toward Tiznow. Mentally, though, she said the maternal influence was clear in the Blue Grass winner.

“He’s a lot like his mother,” Jones said. “Silken Cat was a runner. She had the grit and wanted to win.”