02/17/2011 3:32PM

McDowell farm's banner flying high in Arkansas


Comedero, who won five consecutive stakes last year, and Strong Suit, who won the Group 2 Coventry in England, were headline acts for the Arkansas breeding program in 2010. And one man was behind both horses.

Bill McDowell raised Comedero and Strong Suit at his family’s 900-acre farm in Sparkman, Ark., which is about 40 miles south of Oaklawn Park. McDowell was the breeder of Comedero, and the co-breeder of Strong Suit, along with Gainsborough Farm and Robert N. Clay.

Comedero rose to prominence in short order last year during a 5-for-8 season that included wins in the Grade 3 Chick Lang at Pimlico and the $400,000 Red Legend at Charles Town. He will be honored as Arkansas’s horse of the year for 2010 during the Arkansas Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Horsemen’s Association’s banquet April 2.

“I think he’s about the best horse I’ve ever bred,” said McDowell, who has been in the business since 1982.

Comedero is by Posse and out of the stakes-placed mare Pawnee Patti.

“I breed to sell,” McDowell said, “and I had seen the Posse yearlings and liked them, and that’s why I bred to Posse.

“The mare is just a nice-looking mare. She won over $100,000, and I raised a brother of hers that won $400,000. His name was Dirty Mike.”

McDowell has bought and sold Pawnee Patti more than once through the years. He first sold her as a weanling. McDowell then bought her off the track when her career was over and sold her again, as a broodmare prospect. But not long after, McDowell was reunited with Pawnee Patti one more time, when his father, Don, purchased her in Florida. Pawnee Patti has changed hands since, with McDowell selling her privately to Dan Bearden.

“He bred her to Posse, so she will have a Posse in 2011,” McDowell said. “I think she’s still in New York,” where Posse stands.

Comedero, too, has had a couple of different owners. McDowell sold him privately as a weanling to Bearden and Dan White, who then resold the horse to current owner Peter Redekop.

Strong Suit’s story has just as many twists and turns. His dam, Helwa, was barren several years ago and her owner at the time was getting out of racing and wanted to sell her and went to McDowell, who had once boarded Helwa. The deal came with a free breeding to Rahy, so McDowell agreed, and the mating produced a rare Arkansas-bred runner in Europe. “It took me two years to get her in foal, she was an every-other-year mare,” McDowell said. “But it was a really nice foal. He was very nice.”

McDowell sold Strong Suit at auction as a weanling for $27,000. The horse was taken to Europe, and won his debut last May in England. He then took the Coventry as the favorite, and in two subsequent starts placed in Group 1 races, one at the Curragh in Ireland and the other at Newmarket in England.

McDowell, meanwhile, gave Helwa to an employee at Gainsborough, and she was bred back to Rahy, he said, but died.

McDowell-bred horses earned $1.4  million in 2010, which was a best for the operation. As a bonus, Storm and a Half, who stands at the farm, was the leading general sire in Arkansas in 2010. He had 57 winners from 119 runners last year, for 2010 progeny earnings of $1,451,968. Among his six stakes winners were chief earner All About Allie.

McDowell Farm will be recognized as Arkansas’s breeder of the year for 2010 during the breeders’ and horsemen’s group’s banquet, at the Austin Hotel in Hot Springs.

Tactical Cat leads Oklahoma

Tactical Cat was the leading general sire in Oklahoma last year, with 54 winners from 115 runners for 2010 progeny earnings of $1,644,518. His chief earner was Kittylicious, a New York-based runner who was third in the $70,000 Riskaverse at Saratoga in September.

Tactical Cat stands at Diamond G Ranch near Edmond, Okla.

“It looks like we’re on our way to get a full book to him,” said farm manager Don Waits.

Tactical Cat’s first season at stud in Oklahoma was 2009, so his first Oklahoma-breds are yearlings of 2011. His fee has been reduced from $2,000 to $1,000 for the upcoming season, because of the tough economic times for breeders, said Waits.

Affirmatif, a stakes-winning son of Unbridled’s Song, will begin his stud career this year at Diamond G.

“He was a very fast individual and there are not a lot of Unbridled bloodlines in Oklahoma,” said Waits.

Affirmatif is from the female family of multiple Grade 1 winner Rubiano.