Friday, August 8, 2008

A Somerset Saturday

It's a big Saturday for the Somersets in our portfolio. Managed by Star of the North Racing, an arm of Star of the North Bloodstock, Somerset Sam and Somerset Wish are a brother/sister duo (Gazebo-Somerset Blum-Purdue King) bred and raced here in Minnesota and facing a crossroads.

Somerset Sam is a late blooming three year old. At two, he impressed everyone with his stature and smarts. The problem with his rapid growth was the slow development of his joints leading him to be turned out and never started at two. As he turned from two to three, David Miller, managing partner of SOTN, sent him to Kellyn Gorder at Keeneland to give him the best possible chance to develop into the best three year old he could be. Bernell remarked at what a "great job the kid did" in getting Sammy in shape and ready to roll. In his first start, Sammy broke slowly and never really got it into gear and finished 6th out of 10. Not great, but if you're expecting great things out of the gate you're either dreaming or paid six figures for your horse. Next out he went long (mile and 70 yards). Given his size, stride and well, just about everything, we all thought this would suite him. After a sharper start, Sammy hit the wall at the half and finished up the track. One more flat effort in Maiden Special Weight company and he was dropped to a $10,000 maiden claiming race where he raced just off the pace and drew off to win by 3.25 over 5.5 furlongs.

So here we are at the end of the Canterbury meet the Rhone barn getting ready to head off to Remington and David is faced with the question: Does Sam go with? As far as I can tell, there is only one way to determine that - race him against what he'll face and see how he does. That is exactly what Sammy will be doing Saturday when he faces a field of $25,000 claimers in a non-winners of 2 lifetime. Ambitious? As we say up here: You betcha. But I look at it this way: if Sammy will only be effective against a low level of Minnesota breds does it make sense to keep racing him or retire him? If we keep racing him, it certainly doesn't pay to keep him in training all winter waiting for next Derby Day. We'd pay to turn him out. Cheaper, but still running up expenses on the books. When we come back to Canterbury next summer and if he can only compete for $11,000 state bred claiming purses will we ever get our money back? Probably only if we win more than our fair share. If he develops into a nice state-bred allowance horse with the ability to be competitive in stakes company then it's a no brainer. How will we be able to tell? We'll know at the end of the 7th race tomorrow. One good sign: He won drawing off in his last race in the exact same time he finished 10 lengths behind in his debut. Maybe Sammy has figured it out?

Wish is another matter. She won't be an allowance horse. She has the heart of a Kentucky Oaks winner, but that's only translated into a win in 10 lifetime starts in a state-bred $25,000 maiden race. Interesting Wish fact: in those 10 starts she's only finished worse than 4th once. She is that kind of trier. This time out she'll try blinkers for the first time and see if she can stay closer to the lead in this state bred $7500 claiming race. This one may be her last. If this is her level, competing for $8000 a start makes even less fiscal sense than Sammy's scenario. Though a grand-daughter of Unbridled, her mom's side is pretty nondescript so she probably doesn't appear to be solid breeding stock. That is something I will leave to David as he is as good at putting matings together as anyone in the business and has forgotten more about breeding than I will ever know. What I don't want to see happen is have her grind out a living at bottom rung claiming races at bullrings across America. That's my fear if we drop her too far - I'd rather retire her to a good home.

However it turns out, my experience with Star of the North has been first rate. I've developed friendships that I hope will last a lifetime, learned more about the business of racing that I could have hoped for, got my start as a managing partner and had one fun ride.

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