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Part 1: Road to the Ontario Sires Stakes

“It’s just a crap shoot really, but pedigree, pedigree is a big thing."
By Sandra Snyder

Last fall two Ontario Sired trotting colts boarded a Doyle Transport van at the Fasig-Tipton Sales Pavilion in Lexington, Kentucky and headed north. Twelve hours later they arrived at trainer John Bax’s Campbellville farm and began the process that transforms immature yearlings into powerful racehorses. Over the next four weeks Ontario Racing will highlight these two colts and the path that their connections hope will lead them to the 2018 Ontario Sires Stakes.

Part Two: Building a Racehorse
Part Three: Early Successes and Surprises
Part Four: Joining the 30 Per Cent
Hip No. 537 — Radical Roy

Bred by Tom Rupert, Peter Dennis and Billee Steinhoff, Radical Roy was born and raised on Rupert’s farm in Simcoe, Ontario and earned a spot in the Lexington sale by virtue of his pedigree. He is the son of first-year sire Royalty For Life, a Hambletonian winner who earned $1.6 million on the racetrack and trotted in 1:51.3, and Radical Janey, who is a full-sister to former Ontario champion and sire Majestic Son. The mare’s only other surviving foal, Kadabra colt Radical Road, was a three-year-old Grassroots winner in 2017 and has earned $73,767 in his career to date.

At the sale Radical Roy was part of the Peninsula Farm consignment — which presented the colt to potential buyers on behalf of Rupert, Dennis and Steinhoff — and was listed as hip number 537, slated to sell late on October 6, the fourth day of the five day sale.

“I’m looking for Ontario-breds, first and foremost, when I go down to Lexington,” explained John Bax. “Before I ever go, I look at all the videos and make an assessment based on the videos — a lot of times the video won’t make me like them, but it might make me dislike them. You’re looking to see how they move their feet, and carry their legs and that kind of stuff on the video, so that’s the first thing.

“If I don’t write anything down it’s usually a good thing. If I see something like a leg crooked, tipped out, tipped in, I make a note of that stuff and then I go on down to the sale and look at them, obviously, in person and look back on the notes and see if I see in person what I saw in the video,” the trainer continued. “I’m pretty particular, I look at the pedigree and I think of what cross will work, and if I’ve had anything to do with the family before that weighs in as well.”

When Bax and his son Matt watched Radical Roy’s video they saw a free-moving youngster with a left leg that swung into toward his right knee at the trot. The pair liked the colt’s pedigree — they have had success with Majestic Son offspring, including former Ontario Sires Stakes Gold Series winner Charmed Life who has gone on to earn $1.4 million — so when he arrived in Lexington Bax went to take a closer look at the colt.

Watch Radical Roy's yearling video:

“He had a real bad flip on the video so he was on the fourth day, and of course right away I’m thinking okay, if that leg isn’t too bad I can get this one at a bargain price,” recalled Bax. “I looked at the foot and I thought there was room for improvement as far as the trimming goes and shoeing.”

When Radical Roy pranced into the sales ring Bax was proven correct, bidding was tepid and the auctioneer lowered his hammer on the trainer’s $20,000 US bid. Long-time owner Don Allensen of Wyoming, Ontario was with Bax in Lexington and immediately claimed a share of the bright bay colt. Richard Gutnick of Blue Bell, Pennsylvania would also take a share and after the colt returned to Ontario Peter Porter, who lives just down the road from Rupert in Port Dover and had admired the colt as a yearling, dropped by Bax’s farm and purchased the fourth share.

“It’s just a crap shoot really, but pedigree — and being with John, John’s pretty suited to what he buys, likes the Balanced Image in there, likes a little Angus Hall on the mother’s side, not a lot, but a little — pedigree is a big thing,” said Allensen. “You’ve got to get the black type on both sides, or preferably the maternal side.”
Hip No. 634 — Magical Journey

Unlike Radical Roy, Magical Journey did not have far to travel to arrive at the Fasig-Tipton Sales Pavilion. The son of leading Ontario sire Kadabra and Some Like It Lindy was born and raised at Brittany Farms in Versailles, Kentucky.

Like Radical Roy, the Bax’s liked what they saw on Magical Journey’s video. Their only question was why the colt was selling so late in the sale, as hip number 634 during the latter part of the final day, October 7.

Watch Magical Journey's yearling video:

“I couldn’t understand why he was on the fifth day,” recalled Bax. “Brittany Farms, usually they don’t sell that day, so I was really looking for a hole. If they’re on the last day you know, they’ve got a leg on crooked, or they walk backwards wrong, or their pedigree’s no good, and Brittany Farms has pretty decent pedigrees, so I scrutinized that.”

Brittany Farms general manager Art Zubrod said the colt’s placement in the sale was largely due to the lack of production from Some Like It Lindy. Her six previous foals had failed to live up to the farm’s expectations, with 2012 Glidemaster filly She Glides being the most successful with $89,421 in earnings and a mark of 1:54.4f.

“I have to say Some Like It Lindy is one of our most disappointing mares, ever,” said Zubrod of the mare, who was sold to Swedish owners in 2016. “Beautiful mare, loved her pedigree, and pretty much loved every yearling she produced. For one reason or other they just never panned out to be anything more than ordinary at the best.”

Willing to take a modest risk that Magical Journey would break his mother’s streak of lacklustre production, Bax left money and instructions with Dr. Brett Anderson and headed back to Ontario where his Super Final starters were beginning their final week of preparations. Keeping within the budget, Anderson successfully acquired the colt for $30,000 US.

Joining the Bax Stable in ownership on Magical Journey were long-time partners Gaelic Stable of Sharon, Ontario — comprised of Joe and Kathryn Parkinson’s Brilo Farms, Gary Durie, Todd Durie and Thomas Saunders — and Gordon Wright of Charlotte, Michigan.

“I liked him off the video and I’m the one who picks out for our stable, I decide what we’re going to buy that year and the boys tell me how much they want to spend,” explained Parkinson, who assembled the Gaelic Stable in 2011 and quarterbacks its operation. “Liked the pedigree, it seems you pretty much need to have a Kadabra, so that’s what we were looking for last year, or personally anyways.”

*  *  *
With their yearling auction experience having come to a close Radical Roy and Magical Journey boarded the horse van for the trip to their new home — the first of many shared experiences for the soon-to-be best buddies — ready to start the next chapter in their lives as Ontario Sires Stakes hopefuls.

(Photos, from top: 1) Radical Roy (left) and Magical Journey (right); 2) Radical Roy; 3) Magical Journey / Sandra Snyder)


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