While many of the dams of Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championship contenders are owned by famous breeders who have carefully developed their broodmare bands over decades, the dam of Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) favorite You is owned by a financially strapped university in Louisiana that is ready to cash in on her success.
Last October, breeder Dolphus C. Morrison of Birmingham, Ala., donated You's dam, Our Dani, plus one other broodmare named Keep Dealing to the university's equine program in the Department of Agriculture. Morrison boards his mares at Jody and Michelle Huckabay's Elm Tree Farm Farm near Paris, Ky., and Huckabay was a graduate of the Louisiana school when it was known as Northeast Louisiana University. Morrison learned of the program during the time he based his racing stable in Louisiana and his trainer, Hal Wiggins, sent his sons there to study. "It's a good program for people wanting to train and breed horses," Morrison said. "They do a good job."
Our Dani was claimed in September of 1997 and sold that December for $1,900 at a Fasig-Tipton Midlantic mixed auction to Arthur Hall, who in turn sold her privately to Morrison. You, a daughter of You and I born in 1999, was Our Dani's first foal, the result of a mating planned by Morrison. "I thought it might be a pretty good cross," said Morrison, "and I guess it turned out to be a good one."
You was entered in the 2000 Keeneland September yearling sale but was bought back by consignor Elm Tree Farm, agent, for $9,000. As agent, Elm Tree sold You's half brother, by Candy Stripes, for $1,500 at the Keeneland November breeding stock sale. (He was sold this August at the OBS yearling sale for $170,000 after You's early success.) You raced for her breeder before being purchased privately this summer after her second start by Robert Frankel on behalf of Edmund Gann.
"I got a good price for You," Morrison said, without disclosing the amount. "That's the way we run our business. She trained well, ran a couple of good races. We evaluated her to be a medium stakes winner to an allowance horse. You have to generate cash flow for your operation. That was the basis of our decision to sell her."
Tami Lewis, an assistant professor who manages the university's Layton Farm, where Our Dani was sent last year, bred the mare to In a Walk, a son of Chief's Crown who raced for the late Tommy Valando and was donated to the university after being injured in a spill at Belmont Park in 1992. In a Walk had won just 1-of-11 starts for trainer Scotty Schulhofer. A $325,000 Keeneland July yearling graduate, In a Walk showed promise in his racing debut, finishing second to Lure in the latter's track-record-breaking debut, when he went five furlongs at Belmont in :56.30.
Lewis said the 8-year-old Our Dani is in foal to In a Walk and doing very well.
Following You's triumph in Saratoga's Adirondack Stakes (gr. II) this summer, Lewis started fielding calls from breeders interested in buying Our Dani. The first offer, she said, was for $125,000. After You won the Frizette, Lewis received an offer of $750,000.
University officials, who have been under fire from state officials for financial problems that led to an unfavorable audit and sanctions by a university accreditor, are examining the proper way to sell Our Dani, according to Lewis. "We'd like to sell her through a sealed-bid process," she said, "but someone also suggested we might consider the Keeneland sale in January."
The equine program is supported through the sale of horses bred there and by breeders' awards paid to breeders of Louisiana-bred horses. Lewis said the highest-priced yearling bred by the program brought "just under $5,000." The program owns approximately 50 horses. About 10 of those Thoroughbreds. Through the program, the university offers bachelor's degrees in agricultural business and a minor in equine science.
Morrison hasn't asked the university to return the mare to him, Lewis said, though she said the Huckabay family are among the interested buyers. She also said Lane's End had expressed an interest in Our Dani.
"Our whole point here is not to make money, normally," Lewis said. "Our stud fees, breeders' awards, and sale proceeds usually go back to the university's general fund, not to our program. We're trying to work out a deal with the university where we'll get a percentage of the money."
Lewis and her students have not seen You race, but she's planning what she calls "a social" this Saturday to watch and cheer for mare's prized filly.