Gormley will soon occupy a high-profile place in the history of Castleton Lyons as the first Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1) starter produced by the Ryan family's international operation.
The multiple grade 1-winning colt owned by Jerry and Ann Moss is a particular source of pride, because the farm has been racing and nurturing much of his family for a couple generations.
"Every breeder aspires to produce a horse that is good enough to contest a Kentucky Derby, and we have been lucky enough to produce Gormley, who will arrive to Churchill (Downs) with an impressive résumé," said Shane Ryan, who operates Castleton Lyons on land that has produced some of the Bluegrass region's finest racehorses since 1793. The colt was bred in the name of Castleton Lyons and Kilboy Estates, the Ryan family's sister farm in Tipperary, Ireland.
The farm north of Lexington and off Iron Works Pike was once owned by James Keene, who is credited with creating the most success Thoroughbred farm during the late 1800s. Keene produced Domino, Sysonyby, Spendthrift, Peter Pan, Kingston, Sweep, Ballot, Black Toney, Colin, and Ben Brush (winner of the 1896 Kentucky Derby). In 1908 London Sportsman magazine declared that Keene possessed, "the greatest lot of race horses ever owned by one man," according to the farm history on Castleton Lyon's website.
The Ryans began their own history with Gormley's family with Miss Mambo, a daughter of Kingmambo. She got the Ryans' attention after finishing third in the 2004 Gainsborough Poule d'Essai des Pouliches (G1, French One Thousand Guineas).
"She was a well-bred filly with good form, so it made sense to try and acquire her for our racing and broodmare stable, and shortly afterwards we bought her from owner Sean Mulryan," said Ryan. Miss Mambo's second dam is multiple grade 1 winner Estrapade, who was named Eclipse champion grass mare in 1986.
Put into the care of trainer Dermot Weld in the fall of 2004, Miss Mambo went on to win a stakes at Naas and finished fourth in the Coolmore Fusaichi Pegasus Matron Stakes (G1) at Leopardstown. She was shipped to Christophe Clement in 2006, when she won at Gulfstream Park and placed in the Indian Maid Breeders' Cup Handicap at Hawthorne Racecourse before being retired to the Castleton Lyons paddocks.
Miss Mambo's first foal was Race to Urga, a daughter of Bernstein, who was named after the musical for which renowned conductor/composer Leonard Bernstein composed the music.
Raced by Castleton Lyons and trained by Clemente, Race to Urga won five times in eight starts. She won the Wait a While Stakes at Gulfstream after winning three consecutive allowance races in New York and Florida. Her only off-the-board finish was an unlucky run in the Hatoof Stakes over a yielding course at Arlington International Racecourse. She suffered a setback after the Wait a While and had to be retired.
Race to Urga was first bred to Malibu Moon , a son of A.P. Indy, who Castleton Lyons co-owns with Spendthrift Farm, where he stands.
"Physically and on paper it was a very good match," Ryan said. "Because we co-own Malibu Moon, we have supported him with our best mares since bringing him to Kentucky from Maryland. The Malibu Moon/Storm Cat cross has worked before with some other good horses like Eden's Moon, and as we stood Race to Urga's sire Bernstein here at Castleton, we have bred many of his daughters and have seen that this nick can produce a very nice horse."
That cross produced Gormley, who was offered at the 2015 Keeneland September sale through the Paramount Sales consignment and bought back for $150,000. The colt was bought privately for the Mosses at his fall-of-the-hammer price soon after he left the ring.
The Mosses and trainer John Shirreffs, the same connections that raced multiple champion and Horse of the Year Zenyatta, got off to fast start with Gormley.
He won his first start by 4 1/4 lengths at Del Mar. In his second start he won the grade 1 FrontRunner Stakes gate-to-wire by three lengths. A bad start and wide trip cost Gormley the Sentient Jet Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1), in which he finished seventh. As a more experienced sophomore, Gormley won the Sham Stakes (G3) in his 2017 debut. He had more lessons to learn about stalking and pouncing in the San Felipe Stakes (G2), where he finished fourth, and then applied what he learned to win the Santa Anita Derby (G1) over Battle of Midway and stablemate Royal Mo.
Ryan said Gormley is built very similarly to his dam.
"Race to Urga is a very good physical, medium-sized, correct, and a good mover," he said. "Gormley would be a relatively similar physical, although because he is a colt, he has more substance."
As for the rest of Gormley's family, Miss Mambo foaled a Gio Ponti filly in February and is back in foal to Malibu Moon. Miss Mambo's daughter Talihina Sky, closely related to Gormley because she is also by Malibu Moon, produced a Gio Ponti filly this year. She has a colt by Gio Ponti who is 2 this year. Talihina Sky is scheduled to be bred to Darley's Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist soon.
Race to Urga is due soon to freshman sire Justin Phillip , who Ryan said he is excited about because his first juveniles have averaged $246,666 so far this year. She will go back to Malibu Moon this year.
Three-time grass champion Gio Ponti and grade 1-winning sprinter Justin Phillip both stand at Castleton Lyons.
Gio Ponti won seven grade 1 stakes, including consecutive editions of the Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland. He garnered championship honors in 2009 (champion grass horse and champion older horse) and in 2010 (champion grass horse), and retired with $6,169,800 in earnings. Gio Ponti, a finalist this year for National Hall of Fame honors, stands for $7,500.
Justin Phillip won the Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap (G1), the Woody Stephens Stakes (G2), and the Count Fleet Sprint Handicap (G3). He retired with $1,293,437 in earnings and stands this year for $5,000.
Ryan said Gormley's success is rewarding, because it validates all the effort the farm has put into cultivating a high-quality broodmare band.
"It is a great reflection on our staff at Castleton that we have bred and nurtured Gormley and so much of his family," he said. "We are constantly reviewing our broodmare band, and breeding and retaining his dam has increased the quality of our operation. There is great excitement here."