If Dixie Chatter wins the Oct. 27 Bessemer Trust Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I), proverbial lightning will have struck Tony Holmes’ Marula Park Stud near Lexington twice in the span of three years.
Though Holmes did not breed Dixie Chatter, he purchased the grade I-winning colt’s dam, Mini Chat, last November, and owns her in partnership with Dr. Walter Zent. The two men, along with John Gunther, were also partners on Heat Lightning, a mare they bought in foal to Stephen Got Evenfor $62,000 at the 2002 Keeneland November mixed sale from Lane’s End, agent. The foal she was carrying grew up to be Stevie Wonderboy, who won the 2005 Juvenile for owner Merv Griffin and was named champion 2-year-old colt.
“For being a small breeder, you just count yourself very lucky for what has been happening,” Holmes said. “I feel like the tide is coming in, but I have been there when it is going back out and you can feel the sand going away from underneath your ankles, so you have to make the most of it when the tide is coming in.”
Mini Chat was offered in foal to Tale of the Cat at last year's Keeneland November sale by Stonereath Farms, agent, and Holmes purchased her for $100,000. Dixie Chatter is the mare’s first foal, and he had a lot to do with why Holmes bought her.
“At the time, I knew (owner Herman Sarkowsky) had bought the Dixie Unionyearling back, and he was going to go to Richard Mandella,” Holmes said. “That was a big plus, and I just thought for a Deputy Minister mare out of a Breeders’ Cup winner, (the price) was pretty good.”
Dixie Chatter’s granddam, Phone Chatter, won the 1993 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I), was named the champion 2-year-old filly, and went on to produce grade II winner Cat Chat (by Storm Cat). Phone Chatter died earlier this year after delivering a full sister to Cat Chat in Ireland for Eagle Holdings.
Though Heat Lightning was sold in foal to Birdstone to Hugo Merry Bloodstock and Bluegrass Thoroughbred Services for $1.1 million at the 2005 Keeneland November sale, Holmes and Zent still own Mini Chat. The 8-year-old mare, who never raced, is in foal to Indian Charlie.
“There have been quite a few inquiries about her,” Holmes said. “Even though the mare is young, I was trying to get her kick-started with a stallion that will really move up his mares. Looking at it now, I didn’t really need to do that. She kick-started herself. Mandella got her kick-started for us, not Indian Charlie.
“I was really happy when I bought her, knowing what I knew about her. Who would have thought that a year later this would have happened?”