Bo Smith's Thoroughbred breeding program may be small—it has four mares and the 10-acre Smith Farm and Stable near Millstone, N.J.—but you can't say it's been inconsequential.
At the recent Fasig-Tipton July select sale in Lexington, Smith and consignor Joe Dodgen looked at the catalog page for Smith's Hip 88, a Malibu Moon filly they sold for $250,000 to pinhooker Nick De Meric.
"I bred everybody on the page and raced the ones we didn't sell," said Smith, who got his start in the Thoroughbred game with the mare listed at the very bottom of Hip 88's catalog page, a multiple stakes winner named Fancy Pan, the sale yearling's fourth dam.
Fancy Pan, by Paavo, was the first racehorse that Smith ever owned. Smith and partners bought her as a 4-year-old in 1987 and campaigned her in the name of Gunsmith Stables. When they bought her for $37,000, Fancy Pan was a claiming runner, but she bloomed into a multiple stakes winner for the Gunsmith partners and trainer Mark Perlsweig. She retired in 1989 as the winner of the 1988 Omnibus Stakes at Monmouth and the 1989 Lady Baltimore Handicap at Pimlico. She had six other stakes-placings to her credit, too, and left the track with $237,060 in career earnings—most of them for Smith and partners.
Fancy Pan's retirement put Smith in the breeding business. That's when Dodgen got involved in the story, shortly after Fancy Pan produced her first foal, a Lord Avie filly named Avie's Fancy.
"They brought Fancy Pan to me when Avie's Fancy was three weeks old," said Dodgen, whose Seven Fold Farm is located near Lexington. "We've been in business ever since. Bo sent me a card the other day with a copy of a bill from 1988 for Fancy Pan, and he said, 'Most marriages don't last this long'."
Avie's Fancy turned out to be a good one. She won eight stakes for Smith, including the Matchmaker Stakes (gr. IIT) in 1995 and the Boiling Springs Handicap (gr. IIIT) in 1994, and earned $402,909, then produced another stakes-winning filly, Our Cozzette, for Smith's racing string and broodmare band.
Things got even better when the Gunsmith partners took Avie's Fancy's 2001 foal, the Saint Ballado colt St Averil, to auction. He brought $500,000 when purchased by Darby Dan Bloodstock at Fasig-Tipton's 2002 July select sale and then continued the family's graded-winning tradition with a victory in the 2004 Santa Catalina Stakes (gr. II). St Averil also finished second to Lion Heart in the Hollywood Futurity (gr. I) and was on the Triple Crown trail for a time before sore front feet prompted owner Stan Fulton to sideline him.
Meanwhile, back at Smith Farm and Stable, Fancy Pan's granddaughter Our Cozzette had produced the Touch Gold filly Our Fantene, who developed into yet another stakes winner and stakes producer. When Our Fantene retired, the Gunsmith partners bred her to Outflanker and got the grade III winner Javerre. The 6-year-old gelding has been racking up black type and earnings from New Jersey to Pennsylvania to Maryland for Smith.
"I mostly stay in the mid-Atlantic region," said Smith, adding that he favors Pennsylvania racing, is just getting involved in Maryland, and also has two crops of Delaware-certified horses. "I have some good mares, and I have some modest mares, and the modest mares I don't breed to sell commercially. I know I'm not going to make a profit with them, but I run those foals in state-bred programs where I think they can make money on the racetrack."
Javerre won the 2013 General George Handicap (gr. III) and the 2012 New Jersey Breeders Handicap for state-breds. His third-place finish in the May 30 John J. Reilly Handicap at Monmouth Park increased his earnings to $470,309 and added a nice little update to Fasig-Tipton July Hip 88's catalog page before she went in the ring.
"It was a fair price for this market, at a sale early in the year," Smith said of the Malibu Moon filly's $250,000 price. "We're satisfied. She was well-prepped by Joe.
"It's a difficult thing for a small operation to keep a mare like that," he added. "One misstep, one problem, and you know you've thrown away a lot of what you could do with a quarter of a million dollars. So I just thought selling was a prudent thing to do. I would have loved to have kept her, and she would be an excellent addition to our broodmare band down the road, that's for sure."
The filly's dam, Our Fantene, has been visiting Kentucky stallions in recent breeding seasons—she has a Stay Thirsty colt by her side now and is back in foal to Curlin —but Smith keeps her at his 10-acre New Jersey property for most of the year.
"Joe's got a paddock bigger than that!" Smith said with a laugh.