09/29/2006 12:00AM

King of the Roxy has exceeded expectations


LEXINGTON, Ky. - Victory in the historic Grade 2 Futurity Stakes has propelled King of the Roxy into a position among the elite 2-year-old colts focusing on the Breeders' Cup Juvenile.

Obviously a talented colt with speed and courage, King of the Roxy has not always been viewed as one of the select. As a son of a stallion standing for $3,500, the Ohio-bred colt was shunted into the final day of the Keeneland September yearling sale last year, and as the third yearling through the ring that day, he brought only $8,000, a sum that disheartened his breeder, Debbie Kopatz.

The lucky buyer that day was Richard Matlow, who played a role in starting the story of this colt with another purchase a few years ago.

Said Kopatz, "I bought a mare called Eastern Quack in foal to Fit to Fight, and I took that foal to the Keeneland yearling sale in 1999 and sold it for $50,000 to Richard Matlow. That was a great price for our small operation, and my husband and I decided to reinvest half of that money in two mares. One of those mares was Marrakesh," the dam of King of the Roxy.

Kopatz bought Marrakesh at the Keeneland November sale in 1999 for $17,500. A daughter of Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes winner Bold Forbes, Marrakesh was in foal to Alydeed at the time.

After producing a filly by Alydeed in 2000, Marrakesh had two successive dead foals, was left unbred in the third year, and then produced King of the Roxy for Kopatz in 2004 after being bred to Littleexpectations.

In selecting that mate for Marrakesh, Kopatz said that planning and good fortune united.

"I'm a big believer in using nicking, and Bold Forbes mares with sons of Valid Appeal were an A-plus nick," Kopatz said.

Littleexpectations is a full brother to the successful young stallion Valid Expectations, and both are sons of Valid Appeal, by In Reality, a very successful stallion whose male line is not widely represented but also claims leading freshman sire Officer.

With only a handful of Valid Appeal or In Reality-line horses in Kentucky, Kopatz said, "I picked Littleexpectations because the mare was in Kentucky and the vet called to say that the mare was ready to breed. I needed to breed Marrakesh literally the next day, and Littleexpectations was available. And that's how we got King of the Roxy."

Breeding a racehorse who has succeeded as greatly as King of the Roxy is "proof that every little girl out there who thinks she wants to breed horses actually can," Kopatz said. "That was my dream."

Kopatz used money from her wedding to purchase her first Thoroughbred. She has been breeding racehorses ever since, and she and her husband have shaped their lives to accommodate horses.

"We originally lived out in the country," Kopatz said. "Now we live in a subdivision where everyone has encroached around us. We live on 11 acres and own another 22 just down the road."

Kopatz has her own business, Action Bail Bonding, in Canton, Ohio. "I'm blessed to have a job where I can be a stay-at-home mom and make a decent living," she said.

After breeding a graded stakes winner, she will be making a somewhat better living with the sales of her horses, and other yearlings out of Marrakesh will not get lost at the end of the September sale.

Lack of demand in the sales ring, however, has not hindered King of the Roxy from rising to compete with the best young stars in the sport.

After showing speed and immediate stakes potential, the youngster was sold in a private transaction during the summer of 2006 to Team Valor. The new owner shipped the colt to Todd Pletcher at Saratoga, where King of the Roxy ran second to Chace City in the Saratoga Special before his success in the Futurity.

Even Kopatz has benefited from the increasing prestige of her undervalued star.

"Right after purchasing King of the Roxy, Team Valor bought the yearling half-sister by Bright Launch from us privately," she said.

Kopatz owns a share in Bright Launch, a son of the In Reality stallion Relaunch, and Marrakesh is back in foal to Bright Launch on a March 4 cover. The mare has no foal of 2006 after slipping to Century City late in the breeding season in 2005.

Despite her regard for Bright Launch, Kopatz said she "probably would have bred Marrakesh back to Littleexpectations because King of the Roxy was such a nice-looking foal, except that Littleexpectations went to Texas."

After beginning his career at stud in Kentucky, Littleexpectations was relocated because he would receive extra attention in Texas as a full brother to Valid Expectations, a former leading freshman sire and the leading sire in the state.

As a direct result of his son's success, however, Littleexpectations has returned to Kentucky. A chestnut son of Valid Appeal and the Iron Constitution mare Mepache, Littleexpectations will stand at Millennium Farms Kentucky as the property of Millennium and Ackerley Brothers. The horse's stud fee for 2007 will be announced later.