Catching up With Ron McAnally
Hall of Fame trainer Ron McAnally, 78, has many memories to choose from over the years, and winning the Aug. 21 Beverly D. Stakes (gr. IT) at Arlington Park with Eclair de Lune has certainly gone down as one of his favorites.
After spending a few moments at Keeneland with McAnally, who plans to sell a couple homebreds in book two of the September yearling sale, one thing became obvious: he is still basking in his most recent grade I victory, which was his first in the Beverly D.
But who can blame him? After all, McAnally saddled Éclair de Lune for Arlington Park chairman Richard Duchossois, who named the Beverly D. for his late wife. Not to mention the fact it was the 25th anniversary of the race.
Finding a filly to win the Beverly D. wasn’t easy. “I told (longtime client Duchossois) that someday I would find him one,” said McAnally, who went all the way to France to discover German-bred Éclair de Lune.
“There were two that were with me--French bloodstock agent Emanuel de Seroux and a friend of mine, Murray Friedlander,” said McAnally. “The three of us got in the car and drove to Deauville, and (Arc sales officials) showed us four fillies. We didn’t say anything; just got back in the car, but all three of us agreed that (Éclair de Lune) was the one.
“She happened to be in the sale the next day, and we had her vetted, and that’s how we got her. We actually got her for a lot less money than we thought she would bring.
“(After Éclair de Lune won the Beverly D.), Dick (Duchossois) was in tears and said, “I’d rather win this than the Kentucky Derby (gr. I)," McAnally continued. "He named the race after his wife that passed away from cancer and had told me for many years that he wanted to win it. (Thoroughbred owner) Jim Tafel came up to me at the sale this morning and said, ‘It doesn’t matter if there’s not another race run in Chicago this year; that was the highlight of the whole meeting.’ "
With the win, Éclair de Lune earned a starting slot in the Emirates Airline Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf (gr. IT) Nov. 5 at Churchill Downs.
McAnally has received numerous honors over the years relating to his storied training career, which was highlighted by the great John Henry. One of the most recent was an event that benefitted the Edwin J. Gregson Foundation last summer in Del Mar, Calif.
McAnally, who has trained dozens of grade I winners in addition to Éclair de Lune, including other Hall of Famers Bayakoa and Paseana, has picked out horses both in the United States and overseas for his numerous clients. But out of all the sales he visits each year, the Keeneland September sale is the auction he most anticipates.
One of McAnally's biggest rags-to-riches stories at the sale was when he bought a bay colt named Silver Ending for just $1,500 in 1988.
The trainer, who is known for purchasing and conditioning some of racing’s greatest “misfits,” saddled the son of Silver Hawk to four graded stakes victories, including the 1990 Pegasus Handicap (gr. I) and Arkansas Derby (gr. II) during his 3-year-old campaign. Silver Ending retired with earnings of more than $1 million.
“We always come to Keeneland…it’s the best sale in the world for yearlings, and we’ve plucked a couple good ones out of here,” said McAnally. “We have a couple fillies here that might sell. They’re our own horses that we bred.”
While McAnally didn’t fully understand why Keeneland decided to have the first two select sessions at night, he felt that they both went considerably well. “I didn’t understand the theory behind it, but I think it went pretty good the last two nights,” he said. “For me, the market has dropped off considerably (in book two), but the first two nights were very good.”
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