11/05/2013 9:20AM

Keeneland November: Half-sister to Zenyatta among offerings from late Kronfeld

Shigeki Kikkawa
Eblouissante highlights the offerings from the dispersal of her late breeder, Eric Kronfeld.

Eblouissante, a half sister to champion Zenyatta, will be among the marquee offerings at the Keeneland November breeding stock sale. Watching the filly, part of the dispersal of the late Eric Kronfeld’s stock, go through the ring will be a bittersweet experience for Don Robinson, whose Winter Quarter Farm is handling the consignment of his late client and friend.

“I think it’s a huge opportunity for the Thoroughbred industry and breeders,” Robinson said. “It’s pretty exciting to offer under other circumstances. But [had Kronfeld not died], Eblouissante would have retired [to Winter Quarter], and we would have had a number of foals from her. It’s kind of like selling the farm, that’s what’s very sad. You’re not selling the crop, you’re selling the farm.”

Kronfeld, best known for breeding 2010 Horse of the Year Zenyatta, died May 15 following a battle with cancer. He was 71. Following his passing, his family elected to disperse his Thoroughbred holdings.

“For me, personally, I offer [Eblouissante] with a lot of sadness,” Robinson said. “For me, it’s the end of a really long association, and the end of a family here. That’s unfortunate, but that’s life."

The consignment to the Keeneland November sale also includes four young unraced fillies, including juveniles Pine and Dandy (Lemon Drop Kid), who is from the family of Horse of the Year Havre de Grace and Grade 1 winner Riskaverse; and Lady Catelyn (Malibu Moon), who is from the family of Grade 1 winners Pleasant Home, Point of Entry, and Pine Island.

“He was allowing himself, I think for the first time, some fun,” Robinson said about Kronfeld’s ownership of the young stock. “We’d gotten some racehorses, and they’re nice fillies. Each one he sent to excellent trainers – Bill Mott, Christophe Clement, and John Shirreffs all had one or two. They don’t have any form, but they’re nice fillies. They’re somebody’s opportunity.

“The stage was set. All the horses, the young ones, were right at Belmont in [Kronfeld’s] backyard," Robinson added. "He was able to make one visit in early spring, right as they got there to John Shirreffs’ barn. He had a great morning there. He was really looking forward to those horses’ performing. The big mare [WHO??] was there. The table was set. That’s life, sadly.”

The group offered for sale also includes two broodmares, including the winning Smart Strike mare Sassifaction, in foal to Blame.

“It’s just a terrific honor that they have chosen us [to offer the dispersal]," Keeneland vice president of sales Walt Robertson said. "I just wish Eric was still here. He left us in a hurry. He’s been a friend of mine for a long time.”

Robinson said that dispersing the stock made the most sense, financially and logistically, for Kronfeld’s surviving family, noting the time and expenses required to manage a Thoroughbred stable.

“Eric sired brilliant kids,” Robinson laughed. “They’re all smart. They don’t have any delusions. We all share the same sadness. I’ve been, probably, the voice of cold reason with them. As much as I’d like [to keep the horses], I advised that this is probably the best thing. There are costs, investments, ongoing expenses. A person has to be well-off financially and very committed to this business, whether it’s breeding, racing, very focused to have success. It required an individual, or at least a couple, that are like that – and if not, you don’t do it.”

Kronfeld, owner of a New York-based investment company, became involved with the racing industry in 1975 with the purchase of two horses in England. Among his initial successes was Mrs. Penny, a $40,000 yearling purchase who was named champion 2-year-old filly in England in 1979. The following year, she took the 3-year-old filly title after winning the French Oaks.

Kronfeld and Robinson’s association began in the 1980s, when the owner sent mares to board at Winter Quarter – founded by Robinson’s father - including the stakes-producing Forli mare For The Flag, who foaled Vertigineux near the end of her broodmare career. The winning Kris S. mare, trained by Michael Dickinson, returned to Winter Quarter for her own broodmare career. Her first foal, the Aljabr filly Where’s Bailey, sold for just $4,000 at the 2003 Keeneland September yearling sale, but became a stakes winner in Oklahoma. The mare’s second foal, Balance, sold for $260,000 at the same sale the following year. The daughter of Thunder Gulch became a multiple Grade 1 winner and millionaire for Amerman Racing.

Robinson praised Kronfeld’s decision to send Vertigineux to Street Cry, then standing his first season at Darley, for the mating that produced Zenyatta.

“He just had good instincts,” Robinson said. “He was all over Street Cry. I’m thinking ‘market,’ and at the time, Street Cry’s first crop here, I knew it would be a hard sell, and it was. But he was a total believer in Street Cry. He was dead right.”

Zenyatta was purchased for just $60,000 by Jerry and Ann Moss at the 2005 Keeneland September sale. Moss and Kronfeld became acquaintances when both were involved in the music industry in the 1970s, when Kronfeld was with PolyGram Records and Moss with his A&M Records.

Zenyatta, named champion older female in three consecutive seasons in addition to her Horse of the Year title, won 19 of her 20 career starts, including the 2009 Breeders' Cup Classic and the 2008 Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic. She won 13 total Grade 1 events, and also finished second by a head to Blame in the 2010 Breeders' Cup Classic in her career finale. She retired with a bankroll of $7,304,580, making her the all-time earnings leader among North American females.

“I call her the four-lifetime horse. It’s just been extraordinary,” Robinson said when recalling Zenyatta’s impact. “Eric and that family, I think, put this little corner of Fayette County in a very special category. Not many are ever going to come around like Zenyatta. And for me – I wish my father and my grandmother were around, because this is – our farm reached the pinnacle. I think if there’s a top of a mountain anywhere, raising that horse, to me, we reached the summit. Beyond anybody’s wildest dreams – certainly mine.”

Eblouissante was Vertigineux’s sixth foal, and the last one owned by Kronfeld. He privately sold the mare to Coolmore in 2008, when she was carrying the Bernardini filly.

“When I thought the world of finance was coming to the end, in 2008, I talked it over with Donnie Robinson,” Kronfeld told Daily Racing Form in 2011. “I said, ‘I think we have to sell her. There are never going to be the eight-digit prices for broodmares.’ The odds on her throwing one more [Zenyatta] are astronomical. I said I wanted to keep the in-utero foal. John Magnier [of Coolmore] allowed me to do that. I asked for a number, and there was no negotiation.”

Eblouissante won her first two career starts, both in California, before finishing sixth in the Grade 3 Shuvee Handicap July 20 at Saratoga Race Course, after becoming unruly in the gate. She has posted three works since.

“This particular filly, I think is just extraordinary. She probably couldn’t be bought if she were a stakes winner,” Robinson said. “She’s by the right sire, she’s gorgeous, she’s big and beautiful and John Shirreffs will tell you she has a ton of ability. It’s just a tricky family to train, and she’s always been with, I think, the best guy in the universe to ever train that family.”

Other top runners campaigned by Kronfeld included Nereid, who he purchased for $190,000 out of the 2009 Keeneland September yearling sale. The daughter of Rock Hard Ten finished in a dead heat for the win in the Grade 1 American Oaks in 2011, and placed in three other Grade 1 events. Kronfeld sold her for $1.3 million to Lane Seliger of Baumann Stables at this year’s Keeneland January horses of all ages sale. It was the highest price paid for a broodmare or broodmare prospect at the sale.

“Eric was, really, over the years kind of a one or two horse man,” Robinson said. “He believed in families. He’s a very lucky guy. He worked hard and was very astute. He’s never had more than a handful of horses his whole life. He’s been very small and careful, he’s never gotten far-flung.

"He picks the page, the paper he likes, and then asks his people on the ground to see what they think to approve or not approve. Nereid was like that – he picked her out on paper, and then she was just an extraordinary individual. The nicest Rock Hard Ten I’ve ever seen, just a knockout. I wouldn’t say he had a system. He just had good instincts.”