Coming into this year’s Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), there were a couple of birds that were flying under the radar. By race’s end, everybody knew about Mine That Bird, the 50-1 longshot who came out of New Mexico and oblivion to win the world’s most famous race.
But the other unknown bird, Summer Bird, also flew past a bunch of rivals in the latter part of the race to finish sixth at 43-1. That effort didn’t gain Summer Bird much notoriety, but it did move his connections to try another classic -- the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) June 6. Like Mine That Bird, Summer Bird is a son of Belmont winner Birdstone .
Primary among those connections are Summer Bird’s breeders/owners Drs. Kalarikkal K. and Vilasini Devi Jayaraman, whose Tiffany Farm has been turning out runners first when it was located near Hot Springs, Ark., and for the past 11 years, at the operation’s 300-acre farm near Ocala, Fla. The Jayaramans, both now retired after successful careers in medicine, were honored as Arkansas’ top breeders in 1997 and 1998, and their good fortune has continued in the Sunshine State. The natives of India named their farm after a beloved Poodle.
The list of stakes winners they’ve bred stretches out impressively, and includes grade I winner Dearest Trickski, grade II winners Sweet and Ready and Royal Spy, and grade III winners Abounding Truth and Comic Truth. Royal Spy, Sweet and Ready, and Comic Truth raced as homebreds for the Jayaramans.
Nor is this the couple’s first brush with the Triple Crown trail. Irish Actor, a $45,000 yearling purchase, ran seventh in the 1989 Kentucky Derby and eighth in the Belmont Stakes. The son of Bold Forbes had already won the Young America Stakes (gr. I) at Meadowlands and the Minstrel Stakes at Louisiana Downs, and had run third behind Easy Goer and Is It True in the Champagne Stakes (gr. I). Irish Actor, who banked $559,845 in his career, also ran second in the Peter Pan (gr. II) and Flamingo Stakes (gr. I).
“Well, that one was already a grade I winner, and this one (Summer Bird) is a maiden winner,” said Dr. K. K. Jayaraman by way of Triple Crown comparison. “We had Summer Bird here at the farm for a long time. He’s a big horse and it took some time for him to come around. He doesn’t have sprinter speed, and it took a while for him to get ready for the races.”
After breaking his maiden at second asking at Oaklawn Park in March, Summer Bird was thrown into the fire of the Arksansa Derby (gr. II), where he finished a good third to Papa Clem and Old Fashioned, just 1 1/4 lengths off the winner.
“We were impressed that he did that well,” said Jayaraman, “especially considering it was just his third start. Then in the Kentucky Derby he had to come seven-wide and ended up running OK down the stretch.”
Coming into the Belmont, Summer Bird has one win from four starts, with earnings of $123,040, for trainer Tim Ice.
The Jayaramans, who will be attending the Belmont, bought the dam of Summer Bird, Hong Kong Squall, by Summer Squall, as a yearling. The operation, which at one time had between 50 and 60 broodmares, now is down to a more manageable 19 producers. While the Jayaramans might look to sell a couple of yearlings, they run a mainly breed-to-race operation.
Of the mating of Hong Kong Squall to Birdstone that produced Summer Bird, Dr. Jayaraman noted that he was sending a mare to Smarty Jones, and while in Kentucky he was impressed with Birdstone, whom he thought represented good value at $10,000, so he bred a mare to him as well. The Jayaramans sold the Smarty Jones yearling and kept the Birdstone.
Now they hope their son of Birdstone flies into the limelight and makes it a pair of popular birds cruising through this Triple Crown season.