Fred Mitchell laughs that one of the biggest impacts Leslie's Lady had on his family's Clarkland Farm operation is "she's made life much easier" for the small-scale, well-respected staple of the Bluegrass.
It's as good a summation as any Mitchell could come up with for the mare, the dam of 4-time Eclipse Award champion Beholder and sire Into Mischief , who was named the 2016 Broodmare of the Year by the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association and Kentucky Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders.
Owned by Fred and Nancy Mitchell's Clarkland Farm, Leslie's Lady has been a game-changing influence on the racetrack and in the commercial auction arena, far surpassing the expectations she held when Clarkland bid $100,000 to purchase her at the 2006 Keeneland November breeding stock sale.
Into Mischief first brought the daughter of Tricky Creek to prominence when he captured the 2007 Cashcall Futurity (G1) and went on to become an emerging sire for Spendthrift Farm, with such notable runners as two-time Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile (G1) winner Goldencents and multiple grade 1 winner Practical Joke. It was the Henny Hughes filly Leslie's Lady foaled in 2010, however, that cemented the 21-year-old mare as a blue hen.
Owned by Spendthrift, Beholder became the first horse in North American history to win grade 1 races at ages 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6, earning four Eclipse Awards for divisional honors in the process. The bay filly notched the first of her three Breeders' Cup victories when she took the 2012 Grey Goose Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1). She then prevailed in the 2013 Breeders' Cup Distaff (G1) and ended her career in storybook fashion when she bested previously unbeaten champion Songbird in the 2016 Distaff at Santa Anita Park.
"It's a dream come true to have a mare of that caliber and to be associated with her," Fred Mitchell said of Leslie's Lady. "I don't think we had any kind of expectations to think she'd ever throw a filly like Beholder or even Into Mischief. When we bought her Into Mischief was a just a yearling.
"And Nancy just loved Beholder as a yearling. But nobody would ever dream with that kind of pedigree she would be that kind of runner, and that (Leslie's Lady) would throw those kind of individuals."
During the fall of 2016, Clarkland sold a Scat Daddy colt out of Leslie's Lady for $3 million at the Keeneland September yearling sale, the most expensive Thoroughbred sold at public auction in the world last season and the highest-priced yearling at the September auction since 2010. In 2014, a Curlin filly out of Leslie's Lady went to Bridlewood Farm for $1.1 million at that year's Keeneland September sale.
"(The Scat Daddy colt) was just a super individual and that's the same way Beholder was," said Fred Mitchell, who added that Leslie's Lady currently has a Medaglia d'Oro colt by her side. "When she had the Curlin filly, at the time she had brought more than any Curlin had at public auction. We're a small family farm and ... you just have to be tickled to be associated with a mare like her."
Other honorees during the KTOB's annual Kentucky-Bred Champions Award Luncheon held at Keeneland were:
• Horse of the Year, 3-year-old male: Arrogate
• 2-year-old male: Classic Empire
• 2-year-old filly: Champagne Room
• 3-year-old filly: Songbird
• Older dirt male: Frosted
• Older dirt female: Beholder
• Turf male: Tourist
• Turf female, racing abroad: Tepin
• Sprinter: Drefong
• Steeplechase horse: Special Skills
2016 Merit awards presented at the KTOB Luncheon:
• P.A.B. Widener Trophy for KTOB Breeder of the Year: Clearsky Farms
• Hardboot Breeders' Award (pays tribute to distinctive but unsung breeders that help make up the backbone of our industry): Brereton C. Jones
• Charles W. Engelhard Award (acknowledges a member of the media for outstanding coverage of the Thoroughbred industry): Jay Privman
• William T. Young Humanitarian Award (distinguishes a person or organization in the Thoroughbred industry "who recognizes and promotes the human endeavor"): Godolphin Flying Start and Kentucky Equine Management Internship
Also receiving awards were the top Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund money earners in 2016 in five separate categories.
2016 Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund leaders:
• KTDF Sire of the Year: Kitten's Joy (Ramsey Farm)
• KTDF Earner of the Year: Kitten's Roar (Ken and Sarah Ramsey)
• KTDF Owner of the Year: Ken and Sarah Ramsey
• KTDF Trainer of the Year: Michael Maker
• KTDF Breeder of the Year: Ken and Sarah Ramsey