Catesby Clay’s Runnymede Farm near Paris, Ky., has enjoyed a recent string of successes that could not have been more perfectly timed. Its horses, including Awesome Gem and Laughing Lashes, were winning and placing in important races just as the farm was getting ready to offer its yearlings at the Keeneland September sale in Lexington.
That’s a big deal for a small Thoroughbred nursery, especially when times are tough just about everywhere in the horse business.
“Those horses aren't making us rich now because we sold them, but what we hope is that people will look at our yearlings and say, “These guys produce serious racehorses, so I think these horses are worth a bit more,’ ” said Runnymede’s general manager and vice president Martin O’Dowd, several days before the auction’s Sept. 12 start.
Awesome Gem got the ball rolling at the racetrack July 10 when he became a grade I winner in the Hollywood Gold Cup Handicap. Laughing Lashes then kept the momentum going with a victory in the Aug. 8 Keeneland Debutante Stakes (Ire-II) and a runner-up finish in the Aug. 29 Moyglare Stud Stakes (Ire-I). Most recently, Jaycito finished second in the Sept. 9 Del Mar Futurity (gr. I) in his second career start on the same day that Rogue Romance broke his maiden by 2 3/4 lengths in a 1 1/16-mile turf race at Saratoga.
Laughing Lashes, Jaycito, and Rogue Romance all are 2-year-olds. In 2009 at the Keeneland September auction, Laughing Lashes (by Mr. Greeley) brought $100,000, Jaycito (by Victory Gallop) sold for $110,000, and Rogue Romance (by Smarty Jones ) brought $65,000.
“We really loved our yearlings last year,” O’Dowd said. “We knew Jaycito was going to be a good horse. He fell into book four (of the sale catalog), but he was a superstar. He easily was the best physical we had last year and everybody was crazy about him, but the big money was gone by the time he sold. Laughing Lashes was a really nice filly, but she needed to go to overseas. I was hoping that someone from Europe would buy her because I knew that’s where she would perform the best. Everything about her physically suggested she was going to be a turf filly, and she had what I would call a grass walk.”
Runnymede has 365 acres and its broodmare band, in recent years, has had between 25 and 30 members, which is an increase in size from 18 in the past.
“We’re probably at capacity for us,” O’Dowd said. “But at the time, we had the space and we saw an opportunity to buy some young mares with nice pedigrees and nice families, and we didn’t have to pay a lot of money for them.”