For any breeder, producing a stakes winner is grand and breeding a grade I winner is even better. But the best is breeding a multiple grade I winner who defeats one of Europe’s top contenders, as English Channel did in the $3 million John Deere Breeders’ Cup Turf (gr. IT) at Monmouth Park Oct. 27. Where it goes beyond any reasonable breeder's expectations is that English Channel is now in a good position to receive year-end championship honors.
The trail that led farm owner Ann McBrayer to this enviable position began when she purchased a mare named Belva in 2001. McBrayer first spied the unraced daughter of Theatrical in the 2001 Keeneland November breeding stock sale, where the mare failed to sell and was bought back for $100,000 by The Allen E. Paulson Living Trust.
McBrayer found the mare attractive, in part, because she was carrying a foal by Smart Strike, whom she really likes, according to farm manager Charlie McKinley. McBrayer bought the mare privately and sold the foal – English Channel – for $50,000 to James Scatuorchio.
“At the time she bought Belva, Ann only had a couple of mares and had decided to expand,” McKinley said. “We have been slowly stepping it up and were very fortunate to get Belva.”
Keene Ridge Farm’s broodmare band now includes Cuando Quiere, the dam of Honey Ryder, who finished a close second in the Emirates Airline Filly & Mare Turf (gr. IT), and Evening Primrose, the dam of stakes winner Great Notion.
Belva delivered a Ghostzapper filly this year and was not bred back. According to McKinley, they were strongly considering breeding Belva back to Smart Strike next year. Now, there is no doubt.