Consignor Has Rooting Interest in Havana
Photo: Coglianese Photos

Foxwoods Champagne Stakes (gr. I) winner Havana, undefeated in his first two starts for Michael Tabor, John Magnier and Derrick Smith, is one of six 2-year-olds in training sale graduates pre-entered in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I) Nov. 2 at Santa Anita Park.

The flashy gray son of Dunkirk  Missy Turtle, by Kyle's Our Man, caught the attention of consignor Bruno DeBerdt of Excel Bloodstock at last year's Fasig-Tipton Kentucky fall yearling sale. DeBerdt went to $50,000 to acquire the colt out of the Oakleigh Farm (Paul Sutton) consignment.

"I was approaching my limit, and my biggest concern was whether or not I could afford him," said DeBerdt. "I was impressed with his overall athleticism, but the biggest thing was his walk. He had all the parts and the mind, but it was his walk that really stood out.

"It's funny, I had run into Kim Lloyd of Barretts at the sale and asked him if he had noticed anything I might have missed," DeBerdt added, "and he tipped me off on this horse. He deserves some credit."

David Scanlon breaks and trains DeBerdt's runners just outside of Ocala in Williston, Fla. Scanlon, who also broke and trained Havana's sire Dunkirk and grandsire Unbridled's Song, partners with DeBerdt on pinhooks. The partnership sells in California under the Excel Bloodstock banner and under Scanlon's name on the East Coast.

"David and I agreed that we were going to listen to the horse," DeBerdt said of Havana's initial training. "Of course, we wanted to target the early sales, but we left it up to him to tell us where he fits. He always moved forward, and he never had a sick day. He impressed us all along with his mindset."

Havana made an early sale, the Barretts March Sale of selected 2-year-olds in training. After breezing an eighth of a mile in the co-fastest time of :9 3/5 at the  under tack preview, Havana landed on everyone's radar, including Irish bloodstock agent Demi O'Byrne, who signed the $575,000 ticket for the horse.

"When we prepped him at Barretts the week before the sale we didn't ask him at all and he went in :10 and change. The rider just sat on him," DeBerdt said. "We knew he would do well at the breeze show, but we didn't know he would work like that in a time you dream about. We were pleasantly surprised."

Havana was anything but a secret in his career debut Aug. 23 at Saratoga Race Course for trainer Todd Pletcher. Sent off as the odds-on favorite in a field of eight, Havana led from start to finish and won a 5 1/2-furlong test by 2 3/4 lengths. He recorded a Beyer Speed Figure of 102 in that sparkling victory.

"I watched the race from California, and my wife said to me as they were getting ready to go in the gate, 'I've never seen you this nervous before a race'," DeBerdt said. "It's one thing to sell a horse for a lot of money, but these connections put a lot of faith in our program, and I want to see them do well with the horse. I was confident he was the best horse in the race, but after they ran to challenge him and he just drew away late, my wife turned to me and said, 'You sold him too cheap'."

Havana returned in the Champagne Oct. 5 at Belmont Park. In a thrilling finish, he denied the fast-charging and highly-regarded Honor Code on the line to escape with a narrow win. The game score kept his record unblemished and his championship hopes alive heading into the Breeders' Cup.

"Of course I was worried about Honor Code in the Champagne," said DeBerdt. "Havana was going from 5 1/2 furlongs to one mile. He might have moved to the lead too soon, and he probably got a little tired. He ran a very good race. I think he's come out of the race more seasoned, and I expect we'll see an improved effort in the Breeders' Cup."

Havana resurfaced on the work tab Oct. 20 for the first time since the Champagne score with an easy four-furlong breeze in :49 at Belmont Park for Pletcher, who termed the work "straightforward with an excellent gallop-out."

For DeBerdt, Havana will be his second Breeders' Cup starter. He sold multiple graded stakes winner Olympic Prospect, who contested the Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I) in consecutive years (1988 and 1989).

The California-based consignor is confident in Havana and is looking forward to having a rooting interest in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile.

"This horse always gave us 110%," DeBerdt said. "Based on his races and what we saw from him in his early training, it's his race to lose."

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