Crafty Unicorn made a big impression in his career debut, rolling to a 1 ¾-length victory in the male division of the $100,000 OBS Championship Stakes March 12 in Central Florida. The 3-year-old son of Friends Lake covered 1 1/16 miles in 1:45.80 over the Ocala Breeders’ Sale Co.’s oval, which has a synthetic Safetrack surface.
“I knew this horse was for real; I knew he had a lot of talent,” said Crafty Unicorn’s grinning owner and trainer, Dennis Manning of his colt, which had the least experience of any horse in the race. “He has been training at the Oak Ridge Equine Center, where I am the president, here in Ocala. We ran a first-time starter a couple of weeks ago at Tampa (Bay Downs); he won easy and this horse had been outrunning him at home. (Former jockey) Gary Boulanger, who has been working for me all winter as an exercise rider, said, ‘Dennis, ‘Let’s take a shot in the OBS Championship.’ I said, ‘All right, let’s do it,’ so we took him (Crafty Unicorn) here and the good Lord was smiling down on us.”
Manning wasn’t sure about the bay colt’s next target.
“You’re catching me off guard. I couldn’t tell you; I don’t know,” said Manning, who indicated a race at Tampa Bay could be in Crafty Unicorn’s future.
Ridden by Angel Serpa, the colt stalked the early pace, set by Here We Go Joe, from the inside and made his move to challenge in the second turn. Crafty Unicorn took command heading into the stretch and gained a clear lead in the final furlong. Burn the Mortgage finished second in the field of 10 runners. It was another 1 ½ lengths back to Moon Traveler, who edged Big Blue Nation by a neck for third.
Bred in Florida by Sabrina Plumley and Harold J. Plumley, Crafty Unicorn is out of the Lemon Drop Kid mare Unicorn Kid. In 2009, Kaizen Sales, agent, scratched him from the Keeneland November breeding stock sale. The following year, Kazien sold the colt for $10,000 to Judy Karlin and George Santis at the OBS August yearling auction. In 2011, Nickajack/Rey de Oros, agent, bought Crafty Unicorn back for $24,000 from the OBS spring sale of 2-year-olds in training and then offered him at the OBS June sale of 2-year-olds in training and older horses. Manning said he bought the colt (in the name of Red Maple Farm) for $20,000.
“The first time I laid eyes on him, I was on my way out of the door leaving the sale,” Manning remembered. “I said, ‘Whoa who is that?’ It was just like I had seen a gorgeous woman. I said, ‘Let me look at his video.’ I saw his video and he had worked in :34 2/5 (in the under tack show). I said, ‘I’ve got to have this horse.’ I had to buy him.”
A physical problem was a factor in Crafty Unicorn’s failure to race at 2.
‘When I bought him, he had really, really bad shins,” Manning said. “We gave him time off and cooled his shins out. By then, it was fall so, where was I going to go? I decided to just give him a little bit more time to mature. After the sale, he was very hyper. We wanted to just change his attitude and get him to relax. Now he’s a gentleman. He really is. He’s a nice horse to be around; he just does everything that he’s supposed to do. He ran like a professional today, so I’m very happy with him.”
Andrew’s Girl rallied from last to first and came charging from the outside in the stretch to score by 1 ½ lengths in the $100,000 filly division of the OBS Championship Stakes. The 3-year-old daughter of Lawyer Ron turned in a time of 1:47.60 for 1 1/16 miles while being ridden by Leandro Goncalves.
“She is a filly that has one run,” said Andrew’s Girl’s trainer, Edgar Estevez. “Goncalves knows her, so he knew that no matter where she was in the race when he asked her, she was going to give him the best that she’s got.”
Oaks Lily was the runner-up, finishing 1 ½ lengths in front of Ten K Cat. The latter finished three-quarters of a length in front of Normative Appeal, who had Serpa aboard.
Bred by Stonewall Farm Stallions in Kentucky, Andrew’s Girl is out of the Storm Cat mare Pondering and is owned by Mark Haisfield, who is associated with Stonewall. She had raced only one time prior to her OBS Championship victory, taking a maiden race at one mile and 70 yards on grass by 1 ¼ lengths Feb. 18 at Tampa Bay.
“Right now, we’re going to get her back home safe,” said Estevez following the OBS Championship. “We’re going to regroup and then find out what the best race is for her. Nobody knows how special their horse is until they’ve run a race like this and now we know how special she is.”
Lane’s End, agent, scratched Andrew’s Girl from the 2010 Keeneland September yearling sale. Eddie Woods, agent, consigned her to the 2011 OBS March select juvenile auction, but he bought the chestnut filly back for $72,000.
The divisions of the OBS Championship were among the four races on the program for the auction firm’s annual day of racing for 3-year-old graduates of its sales. The event is known as the Day of Champions. Who Is Camille (by Dixie Union) triumphed by a length in the filly division of the OBS Sprint Stakes at six furlongs, posting a time of 1:11. The winning rider was John Velazquez. Devoted Wildcat (by Forest Wildcat) was the one-length winner of the male division of the OBS Sprint. He completed six furlongs in 1:10.80 while being ridden by Kent Desormeaux.