Superstar stallions chosen for Pope's elite broodmare band
Pricey purchases Havre De Grace and Songbird among the line-up
Choosing stallion mates for mares who individually cost $10 million (£7,215,400/€8,167,700) and $9.5 million at auction is a thrilling yet pressurised process that only one person in the world faces prior to the beginning of the breeding season.
Mandy Pope is the Whisper Hill Farm owner whose commitment to elite breeding is so strong that she acquired the two highest-priced broodmare prospects ever sold at public auction. She has completed that task for 2018 while also arranging matings for more than 30 other mares in her upscale band.
Pope revealed during the recent Keeneland January Sale that she has chosen Tapit for the fifth time for $10 million mare Havre De Grace, America’s Horse of the Year for 2011, and that the Gainesway stallion will also cover her champion Groupie Doll and Breeders’ Cup winner Unrivaled Belle, among others.
Songbird, twice a champion prior to her November sale for $9.5 million, will have company in visiting Juddmonte’s newly retired champion Arrogate, with Pope also including her Kentucky Oaks winner Plum Pretty and Rhumb Line, dam of Grade 1 winner Zazu, in Arrogate’s first book.
Pope has also pledged to make use of Gun Runner, America’s likely Horse of the Year for 2017, who is set to begin his stud career at Three Chimneys Farm, as well as Claiborne Farm’s War Front with some of her other outstanding mares.
“I’m very lucky,” Pope said of being able to fulfill the axiom of breeding the best to the best. “It’s great when the foals are born, and I look forward to them becoming great racehorses, either for me or for whoever might buy them.”
Many aspects of the business beyond planning matings are demanding, she added.
“Mentally, emotionally and financially, this is a very, very tough business,” she said, underlining the stark fact that the risks in breeding can far outnumber the singular thrills of buying world-class mares or any subsequent rewards from them. “It’s taken a lot to keep forging ahead.”
For Pope, Havre De Grace is the queen of her mares. Pope said she is returning the now 11-year-old daughter of Saint Liam to Tapit because she likes the three foals the cross already has produced, all of which she owns: Heavenly Grace, a four-year-old filly who has placed in three starts; a newly turned two-year-old filly and a yearling colt.
Havre De Grace, who also produced the now three-year-old unraced colt River Front when bred to War Front, is carrying a foal by Tapit for 2018. Pope believes that a great mating should be replicated several times in order to maximise the chances that the potential involved will reach fruition.
Plus, she said Tapit is the rare kind of sire who can add either speed or stamina to a mating. “He can help a lot of different mares with what he brings to the table,” she said.
With Songbird, a now five-year-old by Medaglia D’Oro, Pope said she had plenty of options since the champion’s pedigree is an outcross other than being 4x5 to Northern Dancer. She is planning to sell the mare's first foals to recoup some of her investment and believes a foal by Arrogate would be likely to prove popular at the sales.
Pope also hopes that Medaglia D’Oro mares will cross well with Arrogate since Plum Pretty is another by the Darley sire. A $4.2 million acquisition, ten-year-old Plum Pretty has a yearling colt by Distorted Humor and is in foal to Curlin, carrying a filly.
Rhumb Line, an 18-year-old Mr Greeley mare who produced Grade 2 winner and young stallion Flashback in addition to Zazu prior to her acquisition by Pope for $2 million, has a yearling Empire Maker colt and is in foal to Honor Code.
After choosing such top-notch mares to send to Arrogate, Pope voiced hope he will be the son of Unbridled’s Song to carry on the legacy of his sire.
Among other stellar mares in Pope’s band, twice champion sprinter Groupie Doll, a $3.1 million purchase who has produced her first three foals by Tapit, is carrying a 2018 foal by Tapit and will go back to Tapit again.
Pope also owns two outstanding mares by Galileo: the $5.2 million purchase Betterbetterbetter, a three-quarter sister to Irish 1,000 Guineas winner Yesterday and to Group 1 winner Quarter Moon, and $3.9 million buy Aloof, a daughter of Cheveley Park Stakes winner Airwave and a half-sister to the dam of Coolmore’s multiple Group 1 winner Churchill.
Betterbetterbetter has a two-year-old colt by Tapit named Better Tapit and a yearling filly by War Front, while being in foal to Tapit with a filly. Now nine, Betterbetterbetter will be bred back to War Front, who also sired her four-year-old filly named Intisaar that Pope sold to Shadwell as a yearling at Keeneland for $1.45 million.
Pope said she bought Aloof after being struck by how attractive she was when shown at Keeneland, and the mare rewarded her with two War Front foals that sold well, a $900,000 filly, now three, named Flora Sandes who is a winner for Godolphin, and a newly turned juvenile filly sold for $1.6 million last September to Larry Best’s OXO Equine. The juvenile filly’s sale price is the highest Pope has received for a yearling she has sold at auction.
Aloof is currently in foal to Tapit and is slated to go back to War Front.
The depth of Pope’s broodmare band, as well as her shrewd instincts in pursuing certain families, is illustrated by the fact that she has two half-sisters to the dam of Gun Runner and to 2005 Horse of the Year Saint Liam from a deep family developed by the late Edward P. Evans.
Dance Quietly, a ten-year-old stakes winner by A.P. Indy, was a $950,000 purchase in 2016 who produced a Medaglia D’Oro filly last spring and is in foal to Curlin. She will go back to Medaglia D’Oro.
Princesa Silvia, a five-year-old by Medaglia d’Oro purchased for $1.4 million, is carrying her first foal, a colt by War Front, and will go back to Tapit, Pope said.
At the same Keeneland November Sale that she bought Dance Quietly and Princesa Silvia, Pope also acquired Unrivaled Belle and Grade 1-placed stakes winner Miss Empire. Unrivaled Belle’s then juvenile daughter by Tapit, Unique Bella, has blossomed into a Grade 1 winner and a potential champion of 2017.
Unrivaled Belle has a yearling full sister to Unique Bella named Unrivaled Princess and is carrying a colt foal by Tapit; she will be bred back to the Gainesway sire.
Meanwhile, Miss Empire - who is a half-sister to Grade 1 winner Bordonaro - produced a filly by Tapit that was purchased as a foal in 2016 by Peter Brant for $975,000. Her first foal for Pope is a now yearling filly by Medaglia D’Oro, and she is carrying a Tapit filly with plans to go back to Medaglia D’Oro.
Nearly every mare owned by Pope has some kind of elite distinction, with her band also including I’ll Take Charge, a six-year-old by Indian Charlie out of Broodmare of the Year Take Charge Lady and thus a half-sister to champion Will Take Charge and to Grade 1 winner and sire Take Charge Indy. A $2.2 million yearling acquisition, I’ll Take Charge is in foal to Medaglia D’Oro and will be bred to Tapit.
Pope said she is sending Silvery Starlet, an eight-year-old Unbridled’s Song half-sister to sires El Corredor and Roman Ruler who was her first seven-figure purchase when acquired for $1 million in 2011, to Gun Runner. Speed Succeeds, another $1 million purchase who produced Grade 1 winner Brilliant Speed, also will visit Gun Runner this spring.
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