Why Own a Racehorse? The 2YOs First Day On the Racetrack

(Our colt got his first bath after jogging over the Churchill Downs track this morning / Photo by Gene McLean)

Went out to Churchill Downs this morning. Had to be there to see my 2-year-olds first day of school, right?


On Friday, my young colt by Caleb’s Posse and out of the ill-fated Diamond Seeker, was picked up at his boarding school at beautiful Buck Pond Farm in Versailles and transported to Churchill Downs. It was his first trip ever to a real racetrack, after being broken and spending about six weeks roaming and rolling the hills of Woodford County.

This morning, the colt was tacked up at Buff Bradley’s barn; got a new rider on his back for the first time; was led over to the Churchill Downs’ main dirt track for the first time, and walked through the gap to his first class for the first time. He also got a first hand look at the Twin Spires for the first time ever.

The June foal, who still has a little growing to do both physically and mentally, rolled around the racetrack and looked like a little boy learning to ride a bicycle without training wheels. Standing at the gap with Buff, I felt the excitement that comes with something new. I felt the excitement of hopes, dreams and what may be. I felt excitement.

After all…

It has been a long time since I bred Diamond Seeker, who ran for me a couple of times down at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans before she was severely injured. It was three long winters ago. After she was retired — over 4 years ago — and we brought the filly home to the farm, I started to think about what stallion I may want to breed to Diamond Seeker — a pretty daughter of Sightseeing.

I looked at several young stallions, just entering stud duty. And, after I thought of a couple of prospects that may fit my price range, I started to zero in on a couple of new stallions at Three Chimney’s Farm. I was hoping for an accomplished runner, for sure, to match with my maiden mare.

So I called the farm. And, guess who answered the phone when I asked for someone in the stallion division?

My great, long-time friend, Pam Michul. We have known each other since the day I walked into the offices as the Executive Vice President of the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association and the Kentucky Thoroughbred Owners & Breeders’ Association way back in 1988.

As I found out then, some 30 years ago when Pam was working for Mr. John Galbreath over at Darby Dan Farm, Pam Michul was as affable, caring, helpful, and interested as the first time I made her introduction. As always.

After a brief discussion, Pam invited me out to the farm to take a look at some of the stallions. And, she promised to dig into the pedigrees to see whom she would recommend as a possible mate. A week later, Pam called. And, I decided to drive out.

The first stallion she showed me was Caleb’s Posse. A good looking son of Posse, and out of the Slewacide mare Abbey’s Missy. He ran 19 times in his career. Won 8, with 5 seconds and 2 thirds. And, he earned nearly $1.5 million in purses.

(Our Caleb’s Posse colt gets a nose rub and his first racetrack bath / Photo by Gene McLean)

The things that attracted me the most, though, were three key factors:

  1. Caleb’s Posse won as a 2YO, including the Clever Trevor Stakes at Remington Park. In six starts at 2, he won three times, with a second and a third.
  2. As a 3YO, Caleb’s Posse was an Eclipse Award Finalist for the Champion 3YO title and Champion Sprinter category. He won the Breeders’ Cup Mile at Churchill Downs by 4 lengths — soundly defeating the likes of Shackleford, Trappe Shot, Tapizar, Wilburn and The Factor. Several of those were stallions that I was looking at, as well. He also won the G1 King’s Bishop at Saratoga, a race that I have always held in high regard — especially for those colts that were soon to be stallion prospects. And, he also won stretching out to 11/16-miles — by capturing Ohio Derby.
  3. And, there’s the fact that Caleb’s Posse is out of a mare that comes from the Seattle Slew line. That made him a cross of the Mr. Prospector line over Seattle Slew. And, my mare, Diamond Seeker, was just the opposite. She was from the Seattle Slew sire line over the Mr. Prospector line on the bottom. Her sire, you see, was Sightseeing — who is by Pulpit. Pulpit is by A.P. Indy, who is by Seattle Slew. I was really looking for that type of cross.

And, so what was once a mathematical equation that both Pam Michul and I drew up in our minds and on paper is now standing in front of me. In real time. In real life. And, today, he may his debut at Churchill Downs.

We still have a long, long way to go. The colt has a lot of miles to log. But, at the very least, we are now at Churchill Downs. And, now, the real work can begin. Now, the real dreams can be dreamed.

As we were walking back to the barn after the initial trial spin, Buff looked over and said, “In a month, you won’t even recognize him. He will change that much.”

I am hoping for that transformation. After all, Buff Bradley is one of the most talented horsemen I have ever known or watched. A guy who knows how to get the most out of each horse. A horseman who gets to know every horse in his barn both personally and professionally, and treats each of them like they are members of his family.

Yet, I think I will always recognize this colt. After all, I’ve been dreaming of this day for three long years.


The horse broke well today,” Gaffalione said. “I had the horse inside, Dunph, going to the lead and then (Gun It) showed a little bit of speed. When I saw they were intent on going I just tried to get him back and got him to relax. He came back to me nicely and settled well down the backside. Got a little keen going into the far turn and wanted to move a little early. But I didn’t want to take too much away from him so I tried to sit as long as I could. He was waiting on horses down the lane but I kept him at task and there was plenty of horse there.”

“Mark (Casse, the trainer) and his team have done a great job,” Gaffalione said. “They’ve had a ton of confidence in this horse the whole way. It’s just an honor to be able to ride the horse. He’s just so professional, trains great and he’s a pleasure to be around.”

Tyler Gaffalione, Rode of War of Will to victory in the G2 Risen Star Stakes at the Fair Grounds
  • Gene McLean

    Gene McLean

    Gene McLean began his professional career in 1977 as a sportswriter and columnist for the Lexington Herald-Leader in Lexington, Ky., and was recognized as one of the state’s best writers, winning the prestigious “Sportswriter of the Year” honor in 1985. Now the President and Publisher of The Pressbox, McLean sets ...

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