March 4, 2014
Aurelia’s Belle (Lemon Drop Kid – Aurelia by Danzig)
bred by Alexander – Groves – Matz
Purchased and owned by: James "Jim" Miller
When I describe our work, I most often use the term “portfolio manager.” We help manage our client’s equine portfolio’s to best meet their goals. Whether the project is to build a broodmare band, advise on matings, pinhook, purchase at auction, racehorse management, or any other thoroughbred activity: we work everyday on behalf of our clients.
We have had the great pleasure of working with Jim and Terry Miller since 2010. Jim and Terry live in Maryland and have close ties to West Virginia and its breeding industry. Recognizing the value of pedigree, they sought to acquire mares whose families were atypical of the West Virginia mare population. While the foundation of their business has been the West Virginia breeding program, they have found great pleasure in racing, at all levels. In November of 2011 we worked with them to acquire a Florida-bred mare named Honey Chile (pronounced Honey Chil’), who was trained by Wayne Catalano. Speaking to Wayne before purchasing Honey Chile, we developed a great deal of respect for his horsemanship and passion for the animal. After purchase, it was obvious that Jim should keep Honey Chile with Wayne through the rest of her racing career.
Thus began a wonderful friendship with Wayne and his team, led by assistant Kelsey Danner. Honey Chile went onto place in a number of stakes races substantially increasing her earnings. She was a wonderful race mare and we look forward to her first foal later this year. Because Jim and Terry had so much fun with Honey Chile and Wayne, when the Keeneland September Yearling Sale came around we decided to look into yearling fillies that we could send to Wayne. Our hope was to find a filly with a strong pedigree whose upside was tremendous if she won a race, let alone a stake, and whose downside was limited due to the strength of her pedigree.
Whenever we advise on purchasing a yearling we first look to find an athlete. If we do not find that athlete, within the budget, then we will not advise to purchase. All horses are evaluated on their athletic ability, and finding that athleticism is the foundation of our strategy. As I will often relate, athletes have certain qualities and presence not found in other horses. This is a highly subjective analysis, and is one that you grow to feel after being around thousands of horses, learning the difference between those who have “it” and those who don’t.
When Aurelia’s Belle was led down the hallway of Keeneland’s Barn 8, I said to Jim, “I hope she is coming out for our show.” She had an air of quality about her that I look for in an athlete—a confidence and presence that excites. As she was paraded for us we couldn’t help but be captivated and excited by her action and quality. Later, when we sat down to evaluate the yearlings who had made great first impressions, we kept returning to her; she had made the most lasting impression. Having found the “athlete” we next evaluated her pricing.
Aurelia’s Belle hails from a wonderful female family that traces back to the foundation mare Courtly Dee, a family carefully nurtured by the Alexander-Groves-Matzes. They raise outstanding horses and we have the utmost respect for their program. We recognized that should this filly become a winner she would have tremendous residual value. We loved her turf breeding complimented by Wayne’s turf training successes and also that she might not be a horse “for everyone.” She could be faulted physically on her size; she wasn’t the most imposing filly. Yet, we accepted this as the Danzig coming out in her, and thus were not put off by her smaller size. We concluded that if she could be bought for less than $200,000 she would be good value. The bidding stopped at $170,000 and she became Jim and Terry’s.
From there she was sent to Niall Brennan, whose team does an outstanding job letting a horse come into their own and developing the horse from the field to the track. Niall reported throughout her few months in Ocala, that the filly was straightforward and a good mover.
Wayne received her in early summer of 2012 and after a few works she began to stand out for him. He commented on her tenacity and toughness and that she showed him quite a bit of ability. As you can imagine, this only fueled the dream and anticipation of her first start, which occurred in October at Keeneland. There she arrived fit and dappled, and as she loomed on the outside, turning for home, and crossing the finish line a head in front she provided everyone associated the most wonderful afternoon!
Since breaking her maiden on the Keeneland polytrack, Aurelia’s Belle has made three starts in graded stakes races at Gulfstream, placing in all three. Interestingly, she has raced very immature in all of her races; hanging on her left lead throughout the race, which leaves us hopeful that there is still a great deal of talent to uncover. Most importantly, she has provided everyone around her tremendous excitement and anticipation, as the race year just gets underway.
We are most appreciative of the opportunity to help the Millers’ manage their portfolio, the Brennans’ for nurturing her through her early training years, and Wayne Catalano’s team for helping her realize her athletic ability. In this sport you are only as good as your team, and we are thankful to be a small part of her success.