Updated on 09/15/2011 2:07PM

In Reality launched a pair of stars


LEXINGTON, Ky. - Generally, graded stakes are the best races of the year. They tend to attract the best horses, biggest crowds, and most wagering. But in terms of excellence, the best horses don't usually begin their careers in these prestige events. Typically they start in unheralded races, sometimes in unheralded places. Yet in racing and much of life, excellence seeks its own level, and top horses competing in less glamorous races will rise to compete with the best graded stock.

For instance, the finish of last year's restricted In Reality Stakes, the final part of Florida's Stallion Stakes Series, drew considerable interest in Florida but much less elsewhere when Express Tour defeated Outofthebox. Last weekend, that pair won a graded stakes apiece, the Jerome and the Super Derby, and their audience was much larger and even more appreciative of their talents.

One of the groups watching the In Reality with interest last year was Godolphin, which purchased Express Tour to race in Dubai, with a long-term objective of winning the Kentucky Derby. The son of Florida stallion Tour d'Or won the UAE Derby but was unplaced at Churchill Downs.

That the massive chestnut Express Tour didn't succeed is not a black mark against him. Only one horse each year wins the Derby, and many other good ones do not.

Express Tour's second race since his attempt for the classic in Kentucky was the Grade 2 Jerome, and he succeeded with emphasis. He not only showed excellent speed but also carried it over the course of a mile very well, which suggests that he may have a role to play among the older horses next year.

One colt who doubtless will be competing with him is the Montbrook colt Outofthebox, who defeated Godolphin's E Dubai in the Grade 1 Super Derby. Once a classic hope himself, Outofthebox was also bred in Florida, and he sold to owners Richard, Bertram, and Elaine Klein for $135,000 at the Ocala Breeders Sales Company's February auction of 2-year-olds in training.

The colt's breeder is Mike O'Farrell's Ocala Stud, which also stands the colt's sire, Montbrook. O'Farrell said, "Ocala Stud's connection to Outofthebox goes even deeper than that. We owned Old Bess, his third dam, and bred Patsy's Lil Girl [the colt's second dam]. We bought back Patsy's Lil Girl for a broodmare after selling her as a young horse," and she produced Cricket Box for the Ocala, Fla., nursery.

As the circumstance with Patsy's Lil Girl suggests, Ocala stud is a commercial operation, selling its young horses annually at the sales. O'Farrell said that the farm kept Cricket Box, the dam of Outofthebox, only because "she was injured prior to the sale. So we kept her and bred Outofthebox."

Cricket Box is by Notebook, who also stands at Ocala Stud, making this pedigree something of a celebration of the Florida farm's breeding program. Both Notebook and Montbrook are strong horses best known for siring quick racehorses who are sound and competitive. Last weekend, Montbrook had three stakes winners, and Notebook had another one.

In appearance, O'Farrell said that Outofthebox "takes after the Montbrook side of the family. Both are good-sized horses about

16.1 hands. Montbrook is more heavily muscled, and Outofthebox is a more rangy type of horse."

O'Farrell still has Cricket Box, who produced a chestnut filly by Concerto in 2000. He said, "This is a filly from the first crop by Concerto, and she is a nice, good-looking filly. Cricket Box is back in foal to More Than Ready."

Nor is this the only good news for Ocala Stud this week. The farm has acquired a new stallion for next year. Ocala Stud and three partners - Vernon Heath, Harold Plumley, and Paul Robsham - purchased the End Sweep colt Trippi as a stallion prospect. O'Farrell said, "All of us are breeders and will send him good mares." The colt will not be syndicated and arrived in Ocala on Sept. 24.