05/08/2017 11:30AM

The sun shines bright on WinStar's Derby Day


Though it was not one of the names on the laundry list of owners tied to Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming, the fingerprints of WinStar Farm could be seen all over the race’s superfecta.

Kenny Troutt’s elite racing and breeding operation stands Bodemeister, the sire of Always Dreaming, as well as Pioneerof the Nile, who sired fourth-place finisher and champion juvenile male Classic Empire. WinStar also co-owns third-place finisher Battle of Midway with Don Alberto Corp. after purchasing a stake in the colt about two weeks prior to the race.

A Kentucky Derby win is good for business at any point in an active stallion’s career, but it’s most helpful for one just starting to build his résumé. As a member of Bodemeister’s first crop, Always Dreaming gave his sire a colossal surge in stature among the first-year sophomore stallions on the North American sire list.

The winner’s share of the Derby purse propelled Bodemeister to 17th place on the North American sire list by earnings in 2017, well ahead of the next-closest first-year sophomore stallion, Shackleford, in 44th position.

“It was a big day,” said Elliott Walden, president and chief executive of WinStar Farm. “It was really exciting to have another sire that won a Derby in his first crop like Distorted Humor [the sire of 2003 winner Funny Cide]. It’s the epitome of what breeders and owners want. They want two-turn Derby horses, and it’s just really exciting that Bodemeister could pull this off in his first crop.”

Bodemeister, an 8-year-old son of Empire Maker, is in his fifth season at WinStar, where he stands for an advertised fee of $25,000.

The Derby win, and the prior success of Always Dreaming in the Grade 1 Florida Derby, franked Bodemeister’s position as a leader of his sire class. His foals stood out early, making Bodemeister North America’s leading first-crop sire at auction by average yearling sale price in 2015. He finished with the second-highest average prices for weanlings and 2-year-olds of his freshman class during their respective seasons.

“The exciting thing about Bodemeister is however you want to measure crops – broodmare records or whatever – his record will not fall off in years 2, 3, and 4 like a lot of sires have, and our sires, too,” Walden said. “Of any of the stallions that we’ve had at WinStar, his demand has been through the roof all four years, and even this year. He’s been the most popular horse we’ve ever had, and the quality of his mares is really strong.”

Classic Empire’s gaining fourth-place effort yielded another high-profile Derby effort for sire Pioneerof the Nile, who was represented two years ago by Triple Crown winner American Pharoah.

Pioneerof the Nile, an 11-year-old son of Empire Maker, stands for an advertised fee of $110,000.

Both stallions finished second in their own Derby tries, with Bodemeister running behind I’ll Have Another in 2012 and Pioneerof the Nile crossing the line a runner-up to Mine That Bird in 2009.

WinStar Farm stands 22 stallions at its Versailles, Ky., base, six of whom have sired a Derby winner or finished in the top three during their own attempt at the classic race.

Completing the equation was Battle of Midway, who was purchased privately by WinStar and Chilean-based Don Alberto Corp. on April 21, about the halfway point between finishing second in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby and his race at Churchill Downs. He was previously campaigned by Rick Porter’s Fox Hill Farm and remained under the shed row of trainer Jerry Hollendorfer.

The Smart Strike colt’s third-place effort was the best Derby placing by a WinStar-owned horse since 2013, when Revolutionary closed up the rail to also finish third. Revolutionary stands at WinStar alongside Super Saver, who won the 2010 Derby under the farm’s colors.

Battle of Midway earned $200,000 for his Derby effort. The terms of the colt’s sale were not made public, but he made strides toward recouping his new partnership’s investment, not only through his purse earnings but by boosting his stock as a potential member of the WinStar stallion roster down the road.

In the meantime, Walden said he looked forward to seeing Battle of Midway’s potential on the racetrack become further unlocked.

“They’re not making any more Smart Strikes,” Walden said. “He’s been a proven sire of sires with Curlin. [Battle of Midway is] just a very good-looking horse whose record was very good. This is just his fifth start. He didn’t run at 2, so he’s still an improving horse, and that is really the reason we bought into him.”