03/05/2010 1:00AM

For new team, life's a beach so far

Photos By Z/Keeneland
Jill Julian (left) and Stacy Yagoda paid $200,000 for a yearling who then brought $2.3 million.

LEXINGTON, Ky. - If anyone doubted that new 2-year-old consignors Stacy Yagoda and Jill Julian could pull it off, they're not doubting anymore.

Last week, the exercise rider and former trainer brought their first horse to Fasig-Tipton's Calder select juvenile sale, a Distorted Humor colt they acknowledged was "like a fat third-grader" when they paid $200,000 for him last fall as a yearling. But when the March 2 auction ended, Yagoda and Julian had earned the sale's biggest paycheck: $2.3 million from buyer Jess Jackson.

"People thought we were crazy," Yagoda said of their ugly-duckling yearling, now a swan. "But we thought he was pretty."

Yagoda, 39, and Julian, 43, teamed up last September to form the Two Beaches (yes, the double entendre is intentional) consignment. Each was going through tough times: Yagoda had gotten a divorce, and Julian had lost her job. But they had horses in common. They also had behind-the-scenes experience working for major yearling-to-juvenile resellers, Yagoda for her ex-husband Ricky Leppala and Julian as a longtime associate of Carl Bowling.

"We're very fortunate to have learned from some really talented people," said Julian, who was with Bowling for 11 years.

Yagoda tried to drum up some partners for the new venture but got no takers. So the two women bought four horses on their own at the 2009 Keeneland September sale, signing tickets under the name On the Sly. The Distorted Humor colt was their first purchase.

"He had all the right parts, they just weren't all put together," said Yagoda. "He was potbellied, and he didn't walk very pretty, and he just looked like a big, fat weanling. He was a May foal, and I think everybody thought he just wasn't much. But he had such a pretty neck, and he had long legs, and he looked like he was going to grow a lot."

The colt's pedigree was a big draw. In addition to being by a hot sire, he also was out of multiple Grade 1 winner Tomisue's Delight. That made him a half-brother to another Grade 1 winner, Mr. Sidney.

"That pedigree - we both thought we could never own anything bred this well," Yagoda said.

The pair also benefitted from the colt's early auction slot. He was Hip No. 47 out of a 200-horse session.

Yagoda and Julian were ready to walk away if he went beyond their budget. He didn't, and they shipped him and three other yearlings to Sal and Colleen Simeone's Sienna Farm training center south of Ocala, Fla., to break and train their purchases for resale.

"I'd been constantly told, 'You're just a gallop girl, you don't know how to train,' " said Yagoda, who has galloped horses for 19 years. "But I guess I finally got the confidence that I could. I've got a son going to college in the next year and a half, and someone's got to pay tuition. This is how I make my living. I don't have a 9-to-5 regular job. I don't have a great degree to fall back on, and even if I did, people with college degrees don't have jobs right now. This is what I know how to do."

At Sienna, she said, the two women found a supportive network. Trainer Art Fisher, for one, offered a lead pony and arranged for his horses to gallop or work with Yagoda's when they needed to go in company.

"Everyone was wonderful, and if they needed someone to get on horses, I'd gallop one for them," she said of the center's trainers.

Yagoda fed and exercised the Distorted Humor colt herself every day, rising early to set feed, returning home to see her kids off to school, then heading back to Sienna to gallop the Two Beaches horses. She finished in time to meet her kids again in the afternoon.

The Distorted Humor colt was the only Two Beaches horse at Fasig-Tipton Calder.

"I felt pretty confident he'd bring $800,000 to $1 million, because he was that nice of an individual," Yagoda said. "We had all the right people who loved the horse and wanted the horse, but people are fickle, and you're never quite sure.

"He was like the fat third-grader that everyone picks on who grows up to be that great, awesome athlete," she added. "That's kind of what he was."

"We're really happy with who bought him," Julian said. "He'll have a great home, and you're going to be hearing from him. Definitely."

You might be hearing more from Two Beaches, too. They sell next at the Ocala Breeders' March sale in Ocala on March 16-17.