04/29/2011 2:53PM

Snow Chief stakes victory a highlight for owner/breeders


A day such as April 23, when Nahem won the $150,000 Snow Chief Stakes at Hollywood Park, had been in Mike and Cory Wellman’s dreams for more than three decades.

Nahem, whom the Wellmans own and bred in partnership with John Harris, gave the couple their biggest stakes win. They have been married for 35 years, and Thoroughbred owners and breeders for nearly that long.

“It goes back a long way,” Mike Wellman said last weekend.

Nahem, by Bertrando out of the Moscow Ballet mare Miss Bev Hills, ran the best race of his five-race career to win the Snow Chief Stakes for statebred 3-year-olds over 1 1/8 miles. Trained by Paddy Gallagher and ridden by Victor Espinoza, Nahem rallied from sixth in a field of seven to win by a head in his stakes debut.

The victory has not given the Wellmans or Gallagher any thoughts of grandeur. Thursday, Mike Wellman said a first-condition allowance race against open company could be next. Nahem could reappear in stakes this summer.

Nahem needed three races to beat maidens, doing so at Santa Anita on Feb. 18, and then finished second by a head in an optional claimer for statebreds on turf on March 13. Cory Wellman said Nahem needed a few starts for mind and body to understand racing.

“We’ve always had high hopes, but his mind hadn’t caught up with his body,” she said.

Nahem is named in honor of the late owner-breeder Ed Nahem, who raced Bertrando to the 1993 Eclipse Award champion as outstanding older male. Ed Nahem died in 2007, but his estate is active in racing, campaigning the California-bred Liberian Freighter, who won his second graded stakes of April in the Grade 3 Inglewood Handicap at Hollywood Park last Sunday.

The Wellmans bred Miss Bev Hills, and raced the late mare for much of her career, in which she won 7 of 31 starts and $169,820, racing primarily in allowance races and claimers. Nahem is her last foal, and by far her most successful. The dam also produced Unusually Sound, a winner of 2 of 3 starts and $65,600 who last started for the Wellmans and Harris in April 2010.

The Wellmans have kept horses for 30 years at Harris Farms, and were early supporters of Moscow Ballet, a former leading stallion in the state who stood at Harris. They had horses with the late trainer, and legendary jockey, Bill Shoemaker, and now team with Gallagher, a former Shoemaker assistant who is well established on his own.

With Shoemaker, the Wellmans raced Miss Kyama, who won five races and earned $185,823. Miss Kyama is out of Fine Fettle, the dam of Miss Bev Hills. Fine Fettle and Miss Bev Hills never won stakes, but the next generation of that family did when Nahem roared home last Saturday.

Awesome Gambler gets a winner

Awesome Gambler, who stands at Lovacres Ranch near Warner Springs, Calif., was represented by his first winner on April 21 when Willa B Awesome won a maiden special weight race for 2-year-old statebred fillies at Hollywood Park.

Trained by Walther Solis, Willa B Awesome won the race over 4 1/2 furlongs by 2 1/2 lengths as the favorite, and could reappear in the $70,000 Cinderella Stakes over 5 1/2 furlongs on June 11, according to breeder and co-owner Terry Lovingier, who owns the ranch.

Awesome Gambler, a 7-year-old by Coronado’s Quest, stands for $3,000. A winner of 2 of 6 starts and $98,579, his oldest foals are 2-year-olds. Awesome Gambler was a stakes winner in his career, in the Alydar Stakes at Hollywood Park in 2007.