Arthur Hancock III has made his living succeeding against unlikely odds. When he ventured off from his family's stalwart Claiborne Farm 30 years ago to start his own Stone Farm near Paris, Ky., claiming his land would someday exceed Claiborne's, many viewed the move as the migration of a loon.
But beneath the well-cultivated party animal reputation lay the foundation of an excellent horseman, from a long line of the same. When Hancock's homebred Gato Del Sol won the 1982 Kentucky Derby (gr. I) at 21-1, and his Sunday Silence took the Derby seven years later while all but Californians were touting Easy Goer, Hancock's reputation soared with the eagles.
It should be no surprise, then, that while all eyes were on the anticipated battle between Affluent and Surya, Hancock's homebred Owsley flew home to annex the $544,500 WinStar Galaxy (gr. IIT) Oct. 4 over yielding grass at 4-1. Hancock stood Owsley's sire, Harlan (named after an eastern Kentucky county), until the stallion's death in 1999.
"This is very emotional because of Harlan and because of the family budget," Hancock noted moments after the victory. "Because of Harlan, we name his foals after counties in Kentucky. Harlan's been a wonderful gift to us, and hopefully (his son) Menifee will carry on and be a great stallion too." Owsley has helped that family budget to the tune of more than $700,000 in lifetime earnings.
Owsley certainly carried credentials into the Galaxy. The 4-year-old filly out of the Sham mare Insipid cruised home a winner in the Glens Falls Handicap (gr. IIIT) in August, and celebrated July 4 with a victory in the New York Handicap (gr. IIT). But she appeared up against it facing Affluent, who a year ago won the Queen Elizabeth II Cup (gr. IT) over wet footing at Keeneland, and was coming in off a win against subsequent Beverly D. (gr. IT) queen Golden Apples in the Ramona Handicap (gr. IT) in July. If not for the presence of Azeri, whom she finished second to in three consecutive grade I dirt tries, Affluent likely wouldn't have been on the grass at all.
Owsley, under Prado, settled at the back of the six-pack early in the 1 3/16-mile heat. When the real running started up the backstretch, Snow Dance reeled in pacesetter Esyoueffcee. Surya, conditioned by turfmeister Frankel, made a move, with Affluent stringing along to her outside. Turning for home, Affluent dropped back, and the race seemed joined between Snow Dance and Surya. But Prado got a dream trip through down at the hedge, and Owsley had more steam than either of the two up front. She got home easily in 1:56.72, 1 1/4 lengths clear of Snow Dance, with Surya third.
Trainer Randy Schulhofer, running his first horse at Keeneland in his name after taking over his father's (Scotty) stable earlier this year, eyed the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf (gr. IT), saying that "a little bit farther could be even better, and soft turf is a possibility in Chicago also." As for Arthur, he and his wife, Staci, were plotting a trip for lunch in Owsley County, just as they had traveled to Menifee after that one took the Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I). Crow won't be on the menu. Hunch of Hunches
In one of the great hunch bets of recent times, Westerly Breeze blew past Atlantic Ocean through a stiff wind created by Hurricane Lili to win the $445,200 Walmac International Alcibiades (gr. II) for 2-year-old fillies Oct. 4. The daughter of Gone West entered the Alcibiades with just a maiden win, and thus was sent off at nearly 16-1.
The Thoroughbred Corp.'s Atlantic Ocean came in off a score in the Kentucky Cup Juvenile Fillies, and was second-choice behind Midnight Cry, who closed well for third in the Spinaway (gr. I) last out. Robby Albarado sent Westerly Breeze out after Atlantic Ocean at the quarter pole, and the latter stopped like she hit a seawall. The winner survived a determined late run from Ruby's Reception to record a three-quarters-of-a-length victory in 1:46.90 for the 1 1/16 miles. Final Round finished third.
Trainer Carl Nafzger noted Westerly Breeze broke her maiden at Arlington Park, and there was a good chance she'd be returning there for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I). Louisville's A. Stevens Miles owns Westerly Breeze, who was bred, ironically, by The Thoroughbred Corp. out of the Cox's Ridge mare On the Brink. Bluegrass Clippings
There was plenty of other stakes action at Keeneland over the weekend. Manofglory took the Oct. 4 $75,000 Nureyev Stakes for turf sprinters for owner Raymond Dweck...The $75,000 A.P. Indy Stakes was won by Dixie Tactics in an impressive run, her third straight victory for owner Don Eberts... Augustin Stable's Rochester captured the $150,000 Sycamore Breeders' Cup over 12 grassy furlongs Oct. 6...Later that day The Thoroughbred Corp.'s February Storm won the $75,000 Storm Cat Stakes at a mile over the turf.