Classic Success
Photo: Barbara Livingston
Roses in May was one of several graded stakes winners selected by Danzel Brendemuehl.
Danzel Brendemuehl’s passion for Thoroughbred racing was ignited – almost literally – when she was just 16 years old. Living in Malibu, Calif. in 1973, she watched as the nearby mountains burned with raging wildfires and knew she would have to leave the area. What she didn’t know was how the evacuation would change her life.

“They sent trailers out from Hollywood Park to evacuate the horses up and down the beach, so they picked us up and took us to Hollywood en masse,” remembered Brendemuehl, 52, who at that time rode show jumpers and hunters. “I galloped my first race horse the next day, and that was the end of it. I was hooked.”

In those days, girls weren’t allowed on the backside after dark or before daylight, but Brendemuehl didn’t let that stop her. She sneaked into the track in the early morning hours, pulling a cap down low over her eyes and galloping horses for free just to get on them. Her parents didn’t want her to do it, but that just made the experience all the more thrilling.

“Back then the backside was sort of like its own little world,” she said. “It’s funny, I remember thinking, 'Ooh, this is really naughty.'  My parents always tried to steer me away from horses, but I wasn’t having any part of it.”

In spite of a college hiatus from racing (her parents sent her to the University of Hawaii where she graduated with a BA in Advertising and Marketing Sciences), horses were never far from Brendemuehl’s fingertips. In Hawaii, she rode polo ponies. Later, after moving to Pennsylvania to pursue a career with an ad agency, she rode to the hounds. But it wasn’t until she married a builder whose work took him to South Florida that she returned to the racing world.

“We were traveling through Ocala and when we saw it, we decided to build a place,” she said. “I started then, keeping a few mares and weanlings and breaking babies for a few clients.”

After a 15-year marriage to Ocala veterinarian Jim Brendemuehl, the horsewoman divorced again and took her small operation to the next level, beginning solid growth with the founding of Classic Bloodstock 12 years ago. At first, she dealt mostly with cheap horses. Then, lightening struck.

The big horse was Fleetstreet Dancer, who went on to win the Japan Dirt Cup (JAP-I) in 2003. From the first crop of the now-popular Smart Strike, he was a Keeneland September consignment from Taylor Made Sales Agency.

“As soon as I saw him, I said, ‘I love this horse!’” Brendemuehl recalled. “But he walked like a duck. He had a big stride from the side, but from the front it looked like he was paddling. When I picked up his feet, I saw that they’d shod him completely backwards. They were trying to make him not toe out, and they took him down to where he toed out even more.”

While Brendemuehl was looking at the horse, mega trainer Bob Baffert walked by with his bloodstock agents.

“When he walked out, they actually laughed at him,” she said. “I thought right then, I’m buying this horse. I got him for $22,000 and took him home, pulled his shoes, trimmed his feet, and kicked him out into my front field.”

Brendemuehl’s neighbor at the time was bloodstock agent Diane Allen. When Allen looked out of her window, she noticed the colt’s impressive movements and called Brendemuehl.

“She said, ‘Who is  that horse?’” Brendemuehl remembered. “I told her and she said, ‘I can have somebody on him in a second.’ So I sold him as a private purchase to Robert Irving for $150,000 before the sales. He lost him on a claim to Lee and Ty Leatherman, and luckily he ended up with Doug O’Neill and the rest is history.”

Other top horses consigned by Brendemuehl include Emirates Airline Dubai World Cup (UAE-I) winner Roses in May and Coaching Club American Oaks (gr. I) winner Wonder Lady Anne L. Current runners, still developing, include the impressive Strub Stakes (gr. II) winner Monterey Jazz and grade II winner Fridays A Comin.

Regarding her knack for selecting such runners, Brendemuehl said the sense is inborn.

“There’s an instinctual thing you feel with those horses,” she remarked. “Some horses I love I just can’t make the sales company
love them; and if other people saw what I saw, I’d get more money for them. I’m not buying the typical pinhooker horse; I’m looking for something different. I like a horse with leg and fluidity; those big, tall, lanky horses. I love horses like that because they can only get better.”

With about 47 horses in training and around 20 headed to the sales (16 of which belong solely to her), Brendemuehl will have consignments at the Barretts California sale of 2-year-olds in training (March 12) and the OBS March sale of 2-year-olds in training (March 18-19).

“If I can avoid it, I’m not going to do the very early sales right now. There’s too much pressure on the horses, and I’m happier and the horses are happier when we go to a later sale.”

For Brendemuehl, that commitment to the safety of horses in her care will always be a top priority, as will the full-disclosure policy she implements each day. Armed with a good reputation and tough work ethic, she only plans for her operation to grow.

“This thing started from nothing,” she said. “I had to start from scratch. For me, the future is that I will always have some horses and would like to be able to be well-off enough to not have to carry a lot of outside horses.”

With her focus on the middle market, judging from the success she’s had so far, that future might be closer than Brendemuhl imagines.

“I’m not the type of person who is gonna buy a horse for $1 million and re-sell it for $4 million,” she said. “I’m brave, but I’m not that brave. I love the meat and potatoes type of horses, because they’re the type of runners that routinely step it up in my program and become graded stakes winners.”

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