All the way from Ohio to Ascot to celebrate Con Te Partiro victory
Daniel Kessler and Cathy Cordes make the long trip from Cincinnati
It was a long way to come to receive a small silver strawberry dish that measures not many inches in diameter.
But husband and wife Daniel Kessler and Cathy Cordes made the near 4,000-mile journey from Cincinnati, Ohio, to Berkshire to collect the memento that honoured their feat of breeding Sandringham Handicap heroine Con Te Partiro, as Ascot welcomed breeders of winners at last month's royal meeting to the course on Friday.
“We thought we'd come for lunch at Ascot,” Kessler said with a shrug of mock nonchalance.
Kessler, a urologist in his home city, and wife Cordes operate as KC Garrett Farm, the initial letters taken from each of their names and the Garrett in memory of Cordes' grandparents. They own eight broodmares, three in partnership, and the star of the string is Temple Street, a 13-year-old daughter of Street Cry who has produced the high-class Donworth – a distant second to Accelerate but still a long way in front of Arrogate in the Grade 2 San Diego Handicap this month – as well as Royal Ascot heroine Con Te Partiro.
“Temple Street was a mare we raced and she was a real closer,” Kessler remembered. “She won an allowance race, so we ran her in a stakes race and she finished third. Then we ran her on Kentucky Derby day [in the Grade 1 Humana Distaff] and, once again, she came from behind and almost won the race, finishing second to Informed Decision who was subsequently an Eclipse champion. We campaigned her boldly after that but eventually she got a knee issue, so we started breeding from her.”
Kessler identified Tiznow as a sire who would click with Temple Street, and the mating has been repeated four times with success, having produced Donworth as well as a colt who sold for $675,000 at Keeneland last September, with a yearling sister set for the same sale this autumn and another colt foal by the sire to follow.
Temple Street this year received one of the highest accolades that can be bestowed upon a broodmare in the US: she is in foal to record-breaking champion sire Tapit.
But it was Scat Daddy who gave Kessler and Cordes their most memorable success as breeders, Con Te Partiro – one of four winners for the late Ashford Stud resident at Royal Ascot this year along with Caravaggio, Lady Aurelia and Sioux Nation.
Scat Daddy rewarded the breeders' approach of using sires on an upward curve and in the year Con Te Partiro was conceived, he stood at $30,000 – less than a third of what he was supposed to in 2016, which his premature death in December 2015 prevented.
“We saw Scat Daddy was up and coming every year,” Kessler explained. “My adviser, the late Judy Klosterman, asked 'why would you breed to him, Daniel?' and I said 'he's just getting better, Judy'. So we bred to Scat Daddy and he indeed got better and better.”
Looking back to Con Te Partiro's royal victory, when the breeders watched on television from home, Kessler said: “It was exciting – absolutely thrilling. She was dead last, behind a wall of horses, and I saw [jockey] Jamie Spencer looking for space, going from side to side, and then she had a little opening not far from home and she started to move and then, whoosh, she blasted by everyone.”
“It was extra special because she runs just like her mother,” added Cordes. “Her mother was last out of the gate and a come-from-behind closer.”
The couple may have missed Royal Ascot but a flight of fancy brought them to the course a month later when the racecourse extended the invitation to celebrate their success with other breeders.
“We got the invitation and the truth is, we said to ourselves: like we're going to go all the way to England for lunch on a Friday two weeks from now? Come on, let's be realistic,” said Kessler.
“Then I thought, when are we going to be invited to Ascot again? Hopefully next year, but it could be a long time. We've been in racing for nine years and don't take anything for granted any more, so I said I thought we should go. Cathy said 'no, you go, I'll stay at home', but I said 'come on, you'll really love it', and it's been a thrill.
“We've been treated wonderfully, and the executives at Ascot have all been very kind and welcoming. I've enjoyed meeting the other breeders and we've been swapping advice and sharing stories.”
Cordes added: “I have to commend Ascot for rewarding breeders - there's no one else who does that. I've always complained about the Breeders Cup; they shine the light on everyone else, but what about the breeders that picked out the sires and mares and put the horses on the track? This is such a great honour.”
Kessler and Cordes are spending the rest of their trip to Britain visiting the gallops in Newmarket and sightseeing in London.
The song that inspired the naming of Con Te Partiro deals with the bittersweet nature of having to say goodbye. Let's hope it is only a temporary farewell to the couple and that they return to watch their talented homebred filly – or another they have produced with their astute eye for an emerging sire – compete at Royal Ascot next year.