Bobby Zen

The freakish vitality and durability of his trainer stands in poignant contrast to the posthumous legacies entwined by the success of Seize the Grey in the GI Preakness S.

Most obviously, as colleague Jill Williams highlights in her Saturday Sires series, the industry has been given fresh cause to lament the premature loss of Arrogate. For the family and friends of Seize the Grey’s breeder, however, Saturday was a more intensely personal cue to honor the memory of Audrey “Tolie” Otto, barely a year after her passing.

Otto’s stable, Jamm Ltd., was named for her four children: John, Audie, Michael and Matthew. Audie is now taking her mother’s program forward, evidently with all the same passion–and also with the continued counsel of Headley Bell, and nowadays his son Price, at Mill Ridge.

It was through their Nicoma agency that Tolie Otto purchased Seize the Grey’s granddam Shop Again (Wild Again), for $450,000 at the 2007 Keeneland November Sale, as a half-sister to that summer’s GI Personal Ensign S. winner Miss Shop (Deputy Minister).

Herself a minor stakes winner, Shop Again proved a most astute investment. First of all, her dam’s weanling colt that year turned out to be that very fast horse Trappe Shot (Tapit). And while he proved a limited stallion, eventually exported to Turkey, this nook of the family has continued to excel in the meantime.

Miss Shop, for instance, produced In Type Gal (Tapit) to win two graded stakes on turf. And Miss Shop’s three-parts sister Shop Here (by Deputy Minister’s son Dehere), already dam of GII Adirondack S. runner-up Fifth Avenue (Monarchos), has since emerged as second dam of multiple Grade I-placed Shoplifted (Into Mischief) and GII Shakertown S. winner Imprimis (Broken Vow).

Shop Again duly proved a fertile producer for Otto, in every sense. Her third foal, a son of Pulpit, made $360,000 as a yearling and became the GI Frontrunner S. winner Power Broker–whose success ensured that her next three yearlings through the ring would generate $2.2 million between them.

At 22, Shop Again is now enjoying retirement after aptly signing off last year with a filly by Mill Ridge’s flourishing resident sire, Oscar Performance.

While Otto was prepared to sell several of Shop Again’s daughters, her 2013 filly by Smart Strike was sent into training with Brendan Walsh. Though confined to four starts, Smart Shopping flashed ability to win a Churchill maiden on her only juvenile start, before running third in a stakes at Tampa Bay.

She has certainly been launched onto her second career with due purpose, so far sent to American Pharoah, Uncle Mo, Arrogate, Justify and Life Is Good. Her colt by Arrogate, sold to MyRacehorse for $300,000 at Saratoga two years ago, is of course, Seize the Grey.

He had broken his maiden and also been stakes-placed at Saratoga by the time Smart Shopping’s Justify filly was catalogued for the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky Sale last fall. With Smart Shopping and Justify both so upwardly mobile since, that has quickly proved an inspired call. (The filly, meanwhile named Cirque Lodge, is currently learning the ropes with Niall Brennan).

“Tolie was a dear friend of Mom, John Chandler and our family for 40 years,” Headley Bell recalls. “We share many wonderful memories, including racing [GI Kentucky Oaks winner] Keeper Hill (Deputy Minister) together. Shop Again grew to become a foundation mare for Tolie, after producing Power Broker and with Trappe Shot emerging in the family, and it was always intended to retain Smart Shopping to race and breed from. Brendan thought her a Kentucky Oaks filly before an injury.

“We believed in Arrogate when others didn’t, and bred 11 mares to him for our clients in what turned out to be his last year. Seize the Grey was an attractive yearling and suited Saratoga, but time was always going to be his friend.”

And time has also been key to the exemplary cultivation of the dynasty that has produced Seize the Grey. In this commercial age, time is a friend denied to too many horses; to too many mares, above all. But the Otto and Bell families, through a diligence and patience shared from one generation to the next, have given a literal demonstration of the old axiom: more haste, less speed.

Striking A Flag On Old Hilltop

Besides Arrogate and Tolie Otto, yet another posthumous legacy was showcased in the Preakness–that of Smart Strike as a broodmare sire. He had already achieved quite an affinity with this race, through sons Curlin and Lookin At Lucky, and now Smart Shopping’s son has reiterated his prowess in a second dimension.

Smart Strike died in 2015, but it is obviously standard procedure for a stallion to emerge as a distaff influence further down the line, his daughters needing to be mature enough to have completed their track careers before beginning the slow cycles from foaling straw to winner’s circle. Smart Strike mares have already given us two shock GI Kentucky Derby winners in Mine That Bird (Birdstone) and Rich Strike (Keen Ice); another has lately given us dual champion Goodnight Olive (Ghostzapper); while only a couple of weeks ago we saw yet another produce Gun Pilot (Gun Runner) to win the GI Churchill Downs S.

Smart Strike sews a third thread of his sire Mr. Prospector into Seize the Grey: the Preakness winner’s sire Arrogate extends the Fappiano line, while being out of Distorted Humor mare, representing the Forty Niner branch.

One way or another, this iteration of Smart Strike’s genetic impact is hardly surprising in one who bequeathed heirs as potent as Curlin and English Channel (not forgetting Lookin At Lucky, always scandalously underrated, while I’m looking forward to Tom’s D’Etat contesting the succession).

If you could distill any single asset from the sheer versatility of Smart Strike’s stock, it might be a propensity to thrive with maturity. With Arrogate throwing a similar flavor into the mix, then, we can be fairly confident that Seize the Grey is only just getting started. A bit like his trainer!

Thaw Continues For Frosted

No denying that it’s been a tough road for Frosted since his retirement as the most expensive of the 2017 intake, at $50,000. But now that he has entered a more commercial bracket, stabilizing at $10,000 after serial fee plunges until last year, it definitely feels as though the ice is melting.

Last year felt like a quietly productive one for the Darley stallion, with three domestic graded stakes winners and 18 black-type performers, and this time around he has all but matched that already, up to three and 15 respectively after Frost Free won the GIII Chick Lang S. last weekend. In fact, this year Frosted is getting his stakes action at a tick under 10% of starters, a match for all but a couple of elite stallions.

Now obviously he started out with some excellent raw materials, so we’ll have to see whether he can maintain his positive curve with cheaper mares. But his pragmatic new fee in 2023 saw his book rally to 154 from 108 mares, and it might yet prove that a little bit of commercial pep turns out to have been the ingredient missing during his tepid start.

Frost Free himself only made $27,000 as a yearling, deep in the Keeneland September Sale, but stood out at the Texas Thoroughbred Association 2-Year-Old Sale last April, where he made $100,000 from Danny Keene. He’s the first starter out of D.J.’s Favorite (Union Rags), whose own mother I’m Mom’s Favorite (Indian Charlie) showed an affinity for Pimlico as winner of the Miss Preakness S. in 2013. But while the fourth dam Tout Charmant (Slewvescent) won the GI Matriarch S. and GI Del Mar Oaks, the family has proved fairly fallow of late and it’s duly a feather in Frosted‘s cap to have stoked up its embers this way.

McVay Going The Long Way Around

Having added third in the GI Preakness S. to his GI Kentucky Derby fourth, Catching Freedom is shouldering a lot of the work for what had appeared to be a dazzling range of sophomore prospects for Constitution.

Doubtless some that have slipped off the radar will resurface sooner rather than later, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Mc Vay outflanks them all after breaking his maiden by seven lengths at Santa Anita last weekend.

When a genius like John Shirreffs campaigns a young horse the way he has Mc Vay, you know there’s some kind of monster talent lurking there. In the event, contesting California’s principal Derby trials exposed Mc Vay as still way too goofy, and he took an outlandishly scenic route even in outclassing his rivals when given this reset back in maiden company.

But the exceptional judges who bought him for $1.25 million at Saratoga (Mayberry Farm for CRK Stable) confirmed their shrewdness in placing him with a trainer whose Grade I achievements, relative to starters, laughably exceeds many who have somehow beaten him to the Hall of Fame.

Mind you, even in his hands, Mc Vay has a long way to go before he can match the yield achieved by his registered breeders, Band of Brothers, who bought Dothraki Sea (Union Rags) for $560,000 at the 2020 Keeneland November Sale. They doubled their money simply in selling Mc Vay, who had arrived in utero as part of the package.

And if he can now start to fulfill his potential, they still have a mare very closely related to GI Norfolk S. winner Dixie Chatter (by her sire Dixie Union), the pair being out of an unraced daughter of champion Phone Chatter (Phone Trick) and distaff legend Deputy Minister.

With those genes behind Mc Vay, it could yet be that another “Coach” ends up challenging the one toasted by our whole community on the opposite coast the same day.

The post Breeding Digest: Some Very Smart Shopping Indeed appeared first on TDN | Thoroughbred Daily News | Horse Racing News, Results and Video | Thoroughbred Breeding and Auctions.

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