05/02/2017 1:16PM

Lockdown can continue Juddmonte's dream year in Kentucky Oaks

Barbara D. Livingston
Juddmonte's Kentucky Oaks entrant Lockdown is a full sister to champion Close Hatches.

“There are always dreams every year,” said Garrett O’Rourke, manager of the American wing of Prince Khalid Abdullah’s Juddmonte Farms. “We have foals hit the ground and, crazy dreamers that we all are, we start dreaming about all of them.”

If this is a dream, don’t wake anyone at Juddmonte up. Juddmonte has the world’s highest-rated horse in Arrogate – one of two 2016 Eclipse Award champions for the operation, which earned the Eclipse as outstanding owner. A mare Juddmonte bought as Arrogate’s eventual mate, Eclipse finalist Paulassilverlining, looks poised for a solid season. And Juddmonte has homebred Lockdown in the Kentucky Oaks – where she’ll face a daughter of Juddmonte stalwart Mizzen Mast in Sailor’s Valentine.

Big dreams have always followed Lockdown, a full sister to Juddmonte’s champion Close Hatches. The family’s roots run deep – both are daughters of homebred Grade 1 winner First Defence, himself out of Honest Lady, a Grade 1-winning half-sister to Belmont Stakes winner Empire Maker. Juddmonte has been involved with the female family since acquiring Lockdown’s third dam, Monroe.

“When Close Hatches was born, she was just a breathtaking foal, and remained that way the whole way through her development,” O’Rourke said. “She was one of those well-bred, beautifully conformed, powerfully built fillies who also had a lovely temperament. She loved to train and loved to race. If you’re trying to construct the perfect horse, she definitely is the type you would go for. When Lockdown was born, she was similar, a little bit bigger or taller than Close Hatches. As she developed, she became more along the lines of Unbridled, Unbridled’s Song in that she got leggier, scopier. That gave us the impression she might get better, hopefully, with age and distance.”

Lockdown has not finished worse than second in her four starts. She won the Busanda Stakes at Aqueduct in just her third outing, and three months later, she finished behind runaway Miss Sky Warrior in the Gazelle Stakes.

O’Rourke said that trainer Bill Mott thought Lockdown probably needed the race in the Gazelle.

“After she won [the Busanda], she transferred down to Payson Park and took a little while to adapt down there,” O’Rourke said. “He just felt he didn’t have her cranked – there was no reason to have her cranked for that. And she obviously got beaten by a very good filly.”

Paulassilverlining, expected to start in the Humana Distaff on Kentucky Derby Day, was privately acquired in mid-March, with an eye toward one day breeding her to Arrogate. For now, she remains on the track, displaying the toughness her connections all speak highly of in winning the Madison Stakes at Keeneland by a neck in her first start for her new barn.

“When I went to see her when we were buying her, I walked into the barn and her head was out over the webbing, and she’s got a beautiful head and big eyes,” O’Rourke said. “Your inclination is to walk straight up and pet her – and she pins the ears and goes for you. You see straight away that she has an air of confidence and toughness about her that obviously transfers to the afternoon in her races.”

Juddmonte has another Oaks rooting interest in Ashland Stakes winner Sailor’s Valentine, by Mizzen Mast. The stallion’s other outstanding fillies include Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf winner and French classic winner Flotilla; two-time Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint winner Mizdirection; Grade 2 winner Stonetastic; and Grade 2 winner Filimbi, a Juddmonte homebred out of Oaks winner Flute.

“He gets you a horse that will run early, that can win as 2-year-olds,” O’Rourke said of Mizzen Mast. “They can run on turf, they can run on dirt, they were very effective on synthetic when there were a lot of synthetics around. They hold their weight extremely well. They’re really, really honest horses. Unfortunately, they’ve never made big money at the sales. … There are stallions like him out there that are underappreciated, but I think the buyers that go to the sales and avail of the opportunity to buy them at an affordable price are the ones that are cashing in on his value.”

Mizzen Mast is the only stallion standing in Kentucky for Juddmonte, which sold First Defence last year. The operation has a five-horse roster at its Banstead Manor Stud in England. It has retired two accomplished runners to Kentucky in recent years, but they have stood at other farms in order to get other American breeders involved for the best chance of success. European champion Noble Mission, a full brother to Frankel, stands at Lane’s End, with Juddmonte retaining an interest. Eclipse winner Flintshire stands at Hill ‘n’ Dale for the partnership of that farm, Juddmonte, China Horse Club, and SF Bloodstock.

So that leaves Mizzen Mast by his lonesome – for now.

“Hopefully, we’ll get him a buddy that’s also a gray that he can really relate to,” O’Rourke said.

Arrogate was a yearling purchase by Juddmonte with an eye toward racing on dirt in California with Bob Baffert. He is now a virtual certainty to join Juddmonte’s carefully curated stallion roster at the conclusion of his career.

“If you look at the stallion rosters at a lot of the big stallion farms in the U.S., you’ll see that most of those operations didn’t actually race the majority of the horses themselves,” O’Rourke said. “You have to go out and buy them, and we’re not willing to do that. We race our own horses; we have to be patient in allowing the horses to be good enough in their racing careers to come back. Looking at our rosters over the years, it’s about every five to seven years that we come across a really top horse we can stand at stud. That’s on average. Sometimes you’ll get two or three in a row and then get a gap. We’re having a little bit of a gap at the moment, and hopefully we’re ready to get two or three in a row. … Obviously, we have a very important one, hopefully, to come to stud here soon.”