The Brock Talk

Friday, May 11, 2012

Florida finger prints cover Kentucky Derby day

Although there were no Florida-breds in the Kentucky Derby presented by Yum! Brands this year, there were plenty of Marion County finger prints all around Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May. As many as 11 of the Derby starters had connections to the Ocala area, including the top three finishers.

Winner I’ll Have Another was purchased out of the 2010 Keeneland September Yearling Sale by Victor Avilia of Ocala, who works as an exercise rider at Dr. Barry Eisaman’s Eisaman Equine in Williston, Fla. Avilia purchased the son of Flower Alley for $11,000 before returning to Ocala to train the colt with the assistance of Eisaman.

Derby runner-up Bodemeister received his early training from J.B. and Kevin McKathan at their training Center in Citra and third-place finisher Dullahan spent time at Gold Mark Training Center in Ocala.

After six months of training I’ll Have Another, Avilia sold the colt under Eisaman’s consignment at the 2011 Ocala Breeders’ Sales Company Spring April Sale of Two-Year-Olds in Training for $35,000. (See story on page 53). If you’re keeping score, that is $24,000 in profit that hit the Marion County economy. Add to that the feed, employees, veterinary care and supplies, land, barns, race track maintenance, transportation and tack spent on I’ll Have Another during his stay here in Marion County, and one can begin to calculate the impact one young thoroughbred has on the area and Florida economy. According to one Ocala-area farm manager, the cost to train a yearling into his 2-year-old year and up to the date of his sale, hovers around $90 per day. So for a horse like I’ll Have Another who was brought to Marion County in September of 2010 and sold in April of 2011. That roughly equates to nearly $19,000. With several thousand yearlings coming to Marion County each year, their total impact on the economy is hundreds of millions. If one uses the horses that pass through just the four two-year-old in training sales conducted in Florida this year, they alone generate some $40,000,000 in economic impact before there is ever a hand raised to bid on them. A conservative estimate is that these two-year-olds will generate some $85,000,000 in gross receipts at these four auctions.

It wasn’t just Derby horses at Churchill Downs that day that received their early training in Ocala. Little Mike, winner of the $500,000 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic received his early training from James Crupi and his team at New Castle Farm in Ocala. Bred in Florida by Carlo Vaccarezza of Parkland and owned by his wife Priscilla, Little Mike is trained by Dale Romans. But Vaccarezza is quick to point out that Crupi deserves much of the credit for the success of the 5-year-old gelding.

“I want to give a lot of credit to Jimmy Crupi,” Vaccarezza said after the Turf Classic. “He had the horse since he was a baby. He took his time, never rushed it with the horse and broke him the right way. And like he tells me, a strong foundation goes a long way.”

The Twin Spires Turf Sprint (G3) run at Churchill on Derby day, was also won by a Florida-bred in Great Attack. Bred by Edward Seltzer of Williston and Murray Durst of Hollywood, Great Attack is also by the Stonewall Farm Ocala stallion Greatness. In winning the $125,000 Turf Sprint, Great Attack was just ahead of Bridgetown in second, who is yet another local product. Bridgetown is owned by Melnyk Racing Stables and bred by Eugene Melnyck, owner of Winding Oaks Farm in Ocala.

So don‘t be misled when the Kentucky Derby does not feature a registered Florida-bred. At one time or another, most of them have considered Marion County home. A closer look at the other stakes at Churchill Downs that day and there is little doubt the major impact Florida breeding and training continues to have on thoroughbred racing on a national scale.