07/31/2008 11:00PM

Partners snag brass ring


When Thoroughbred owner and breeder Steve Kemp was approached by his friend Bill Hicks with an interest in buying a broodmare, Kemp sent his friend off with a pile of catalogs.

"It was the Keeneland January sale earlier this year," said Kemp, who owns Ballycroy Training Centre in Adjala Township, just north of Woodbine racetrack.

"I told him to do some studying and pick out what he likes."

It turns out that both Kemp and Hicks, who met when a horse Hicks owns in partnership was boarded at Ballycroy, were immediately on the same page, literally.

Both had marked off Ring Star, a strongly built, gray, stakes-winning daughter of the late Great Gladiator who was not in foal but just 12 years old. They bid $27,000 and took her home to Canada.

Now, less than seven months later, their mare's 3-year-old son, Solitaire, is the morning-line favorite to win Sunday's $500,000 Breeders' Stakes, the third race in Canada's Triple Crown at 1 1/2 miles on the turf.

Solitaire, a Victory Gallop colt bred by Jeff Begg's Windways Farm in King, Ontario, is a maiden, but he was third in the Queen's Plate and has performed well in one turf outing.

"We're really looking forward to it," said Kemp, who bought Ballycroy with his wife, Kathleen, as an equestrian center but then switched to Thoroughbreds nine years ago.

Ring Star, who produced six foals for Windways Farm, was attractive to Kemp and Hicks because her sire is well known in Canada as a top broodmare stallion.

"She had a nice race record, and they had bred her to a lot of nice stallions, so they must have had hopes for her," said Kemp.

Indeed Ring star's first mate was Carson City, and the resulting foal was the multiple winner Ring City.

The mare foaled a Grand Slam colt next that Windways sold as a weanling at Keeneland in November 2003 for $230,000. That colt brought $700,000 as a yearling from John McCormack Bloodstock. Named Fusaichi Dinosaur, the colt is a winner in Japan.

A Smart Strike filly was born next, Lujan Strike, and she is a winner in Argentina.

Solitaire is the mare's fourth foal, and his sire, the Canadian-bred Victory Gallop, was a champion older horse and Belmont Stakes winner.

Begg remembers Solitaire quite well as a young horse.

"He was a very aggressive weanling," said Begg. "I remember him as a wild young horse."

Solitaire, a $52,000 weanling sold by Begg and a $250,000 yearling purchase by William Clifton Jr., was gelded early in his racing career by trainer James Bond.

Ring Star, who was bred by John Carey in Ontario and raced for Murray Stable and trainer Brian Ottaway, has a 2-year-old Vindication filly in training with Reade Baker named Pukka Star and a Strong Hope yearling filly.

Kemp and Hicks bred the mare to Bold Executive this past February and are anxiously awaiting an early foal.

"We bought her, at first, to breed to race, but now she is a commercial mare for us," said Kemp, who has 20 of his own horses plus another 40 boarders at the 100-acre Ballycroy.

"When you are a small person in the business, it's nice to get some breaks."

Victory Gallop now in Turkey

Victory Gallop, bred by Ontario's Ivan Dalos, moved to his third country in February when WinStar sold the Cryptoclearance horse to Turkey.

After standing for $10,000 at WinStar in Lexington, Ky., Victory Gallop stood one Southern Hemisphere season in Chile before he was sold this winter.

He stands at Izmit Central Stallion Station near Istanbul for $5,000.