'I believe Sergei Prokofiev is the greatest horse to come off the farm'
Nancy Sexton speaks to David Anderson about the Canadian-bred Royal Ascot hope
The Canadian bloodstock industry is proud of its heritage, and rightly so considering the deeds of E.P. Taylor and others. Much has changed since Taylor’s death in 1989 but despite dwindling crop sizes and stallions at stud, the Canadian thoroughbred remains supported by a collection of determined enthusiasts, particularly in Ontario, and in return, is an animal that more than holds its own on the world stage.
That stage shifts to Royal Ascot later this month when Sergei Prokofiev, arguably the best two-year-old seen out so far this year, takes his chance at the meeting, most likely it seems in the Coventry Stakes. He will be a warm order to get Scat Daddy’s Ascot off to a flyer for Ballydoyle but he also heads there carrying the hopes of Canada, having been bred in Ontario by Anderson Farms.
Founded by Robert Anderson, Anderson Farms has long been part of the fabric of Canadian bloodstock, responsible in its time for the 1992 Queen’s Plate winner Alydeed and 1987 Scottish Derby hero Ascot Knight, both of whom became important Canadian sires.
Anderson, a popular industry figure who was inducted into the Canadian Hall Of Fame in 2015, had a close association with the Taylor family’s Windfields Farm and following the launch of his Anderson Farms in 1970, would refer to his own setup as ‘Windfields West’.
It was an accurate portrayal of a farm that came to be respected just as much for its commercial prowess as it was for its ability to throw good runners.
In 1985, for instance, Anderson was the leading consignor at both Saratoga and Keeneland, a ranking enhanced by the $2.5 million sale of the Danzig colt National Assembly to Vincent O’Brien.
Anderson Farms today remains a commercial yet boutique enterprise of 25 mares under the direction of David Anderson, who assumed ownership when his father passed away in November 2010.
The farm has its mares bred in Kentucky and then foaled up in Canada, allowing it to take advantage of the lucrative Canadian-bred programme.
It is in the middle of a purple patch as the breeders of Kentucky Oaks runner-up Wonder Gadot, one of the favourites for the Queen’s Plate and Canadian Oaks, Beaugay Stakes runner-up Inflexibility and Connaught Cup Stakes runner-up Tower Of Texas, who ran second to Tepin in the 2016 Woodbine Mile.
The farm also part-bred Marco Botti’s Oh So Sharp Stakes heroine Raymi Coya, subsequent dam of the Queen’s talented filly Make Fast.
However, there is a feeling that Sergei Prokofiev, who barely came off the bridle to win the Rochestown Stakes at Naas, could eclipse them.
After all, in a throwback to the farm’s previous marketplace achievements, he was the colt that led the way during a memorable Keeneland September Sale last year when realising a session-topping $1.1m to MV Magnier.
“I believe Sergei Prokofiev is the greatest horse to come off the farm,” says Anderson. “When he was born, he was standing within 20 minutes – right from the get go he was a very special horse.
“Everybody could see his physical presence and conformation at the sale but I’ve never been around a horse who has it all like he does. He had unbelievable stamina. He never got tired at the sale – his last show was his best show.
“We went into Keeneland hopeful. We all dream, though to have it actually happen is a different thing. But the stars aligned and, of course, it was a very good market.”
One of only 810 foals born in Ontario in 2016, Sergei Prokofiev is from the final crop of the much missed Scat Daddy, also the sire of Inflexibility, and the first foal out the Anderson-bred Orchard Beach.
The daughter of Tapit is a half-sister to Grade 3 winner Necessary Evil and out of the Unbridled’s Song mare Song And Danz, a $400,000 purchase by the farm in 2011.
“I got into Scat Daddy late,” says Anderson. “I’ve had only three on my farm – I got $340,000 for one, $450,000 for another and $1.1m for Sergei Prokofiev, all off fees from $30,000 to $35,000. So he’s been an unbelievable stallion for me.
“He was a tremendous bodied horse and he’d put that into a yearling along with great bone. They weren’t always the flashiest horses but they had everything in the right place.
“Orchard Beach is a big, scopey Tapit, and inbred to Unbridled, something that seems to be working [the same pattern is also found in Tapit’s Grade 1 winners Unique Bella and Sweet Loretta]. With her, we just felt Scat Daddy was the right cross physically and on paper.”
He adds: “Obviously Sergei Prokofiev is a very quick horse but I think he might want to stretch out in the end.”
Orchard Beach has a ‘stunning’ Hard Spun yearling filly destined for Keeneland September, a colt foal by Air Force Blue, and is back in foal to Medaglia D’Oro.
Anderson also owns her Street Cry daughter Back To Love, although her reintroduction to the fold required some detective work – sold for £7,200 on her most recent public auction appearance at one of Tattersalls Ireland’s Ascot Sales, she was found earlier this year as a riding horse and is now in foal to Caravaggio.
Away from the Orchard Beach clan, an observation of the European scene has also yielded the promising four-year-old Mexican Hat, a recent winner at Woodbine who was bought for just €27,000 through the BBA Ireland at last year’s Arqana December Sale.
“She was bought as a broodmare prospect,” says Anderson. “I know the family well as her dam is a half-sister to Loving Vindication, the dam of Wonder Gadot, and I knew at the time how she was coming along. And I knew her half-sister, Secret Spice, was well regarded in California and she’s been stakes-placed, so there’s been a few nice updates.
“Mexican Hat won well the other day and might come back in another allowance race.”
In the meantime, plans are afoot to support Sergei Prokofiev on his Ascot assignment, one which could see him become the first Canadian-bred winner of a two-year-old race at the royal meeting.
“I’ve never been to Royal Ascot before,” he says. “I guess when you sell a yearling for a lot of money, particularly to connections like Coolmore, it means so much for that horse to come back and be good.
“I’m a kid from Canada, so it’s wonderful to be going to Royal Ascot as the breeder of a horse like Sergei Prokofiev. It’s very exciting and I’m really looking forward to it.”
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