Danzel Brendemuehl saw something in Besilu Stables Fountain of Youth Stakes (gr. II) winner Wildcat Red that many overlooked at last year's Ocala Breeders' Sales Co.'s June sale of 2-year-olds in training and horses of racing age.
"I can't tell you how willing he was," said Brendemuehl. "He is such a smart colt."
Xavier Moreau, who bred Wildcat Red out of the Miner's Mark mare Racene under the banner of his Moreau Bloodstock International in partnership with Winter Racing Enterprise, sent the D'wildcat colt to Brendemuehl only six weeks prior to his scheduled sale date at OBS.
"He didn't know how to swap leads when we first got him," Brendemuehl recalled. "But he was always very willing, and he learned an awful lot in a short amount of time. He was a quick study. I was delighted that Xavier asked me to sell him."
Brendemuehl and exercise rider Jose Cuellar worked diligently with the youngster to get him ready for the breeze show and auction ring.
"We would break him off at the eighth pole, go a speedy sixteenth with him and then wrap up on him," Brendemuehl explained. "I remember the exact day the light bulb went on for him. I was watching from a pony, and two strides before where we usually had him take off he jumped and his ears went up. I knew right at that moment that he got it. He put it all together."
Sold at OBS by Brendemuehl's Classic Bloodstock, Wildcat Red brought $30,000 from trainer Jose Garoffalo.
"He was the horse I liked best in the June sale," Brendemuehl said. "He's not perfect up front, he toes out some, but kudos to Jose for choosing him. I only wish for Xavier he would have sold for more money."
Racing for Salvatore Delfino's Honor Stable Corp., Wildcat Red broke his maiden by eight lengths going 6 1/2 furlongs at first asking at Gulfstream Park last September.
"I received a lot of phone calls after he broke his maiden," Brendemuehl said. "Everyone wanted to know what I thought of him. I tried to tell people at the sale that this colt was going to be alright, but nobody listened."
Following an allowance score at six furlongs in his second lifetime start, Wildcat Red crossed the wire first in the 6 1/2-furlong Juvenile Sprint Stakes at Gulfstream but was disqualified for bearing out in the stretch and placed second. He then finished a head behind General a Rod in a thrilling Gulfstream Park Derby at one mile Jan. 1 before returning to annex the seven-furlong Hutcheson Stakes (gr. III) by 4 3/4 lengths Feb. 1. He avenged his loss to General a Rod with a hard-fought win over that stubborn rival in the 1 1/16-mile Fountain of Youth, his first try around two turns, Feb. 22.
"The Hutcheson was a foregone conclusion to me," said Brendemuehl. "No surprise at all that he won that race. He just has so much speed, and a great turn of foot. In the Fountain of Youth, he showed how tenacious he is."
Never worse than second in six lifetime starts, Wildcat Red is generating a nice return on investment with earnings to date of $490,850. His connections have indicated he will likely be pointed to the Besilu Stables Florida Derby (gr. I) on March 29.
Brendemuehl believes that despite the speed influence of sire D'wildcat, Wildcat Red is capable of further success in two-turn races.
"He may get some stamina from his dam," said Brendemuehl. "With the help of a speed-favoring track he can certainly get a distance. I think he would be deadly in a race like the Preakness Stakes (gr. I)."
Wildcat Red is not the only training program graduate Brendemuehl has on this year's Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum Brands (gr. I) trail. She also trained Uncle Sigh, second in the Withers Stakes (gr. III) at Aqueduct Race Track for Wounded Warrior Stables and Anthony Robertson and trainer Gary Contessa.
"Once we sorted him out, he was scary," Brendemuehl said of the son of Indian Charlie—Cradlesong, by Pine Bluff. "I had my doubts about him early on, but boy, he is really something else. Once he got going, I actually couldn't wait to get him to Gary at the racetrack because I didn't want anything to happen to him here. He's a nice horse with a great personality."
Brendemuehl also bought and trained Wounded Warrior Stables' 3-year-old stakes winner Sushi Empire. The daughter of Empire Maker —Dowell House, by Danzig, was a $145,000 buy-back at last year's Fasig-Tipton Florida sale. Classic Bloodstock acquired the filly as agent for Wounded Warrior Stables for $165,000 out of the Taylor Made Sales Agency consignment at the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky fall yearling sale in 2012 .
Sushi Empire won Santa Anita Park's Blue Norther Stakes Jan. 1 and finished third in the Miesque Stakes (gr. III) at Betfair Hollywood Park last year at two.
In 2013, Brendemuehl sold 18 of 23 juveniles at public auction for $1,536,000. Her top-priced horse was Mendocino Joe purchased by Stonestreet Stables for $550,000 at the Fasig-Tipton Florida sale. Racing for Stonestreet and Biagi Thoroughbreds, the son of Malibu Moon —Right Place, by Petionville, finished third in his career debut at Belmont Park last year for trainer Todd Pletcher. The colt has been on the sidelines since a dull effort as the odds-on favorite at Gulfstream last November.
Armed with new recruits for the upcoming 2-year-olds in training sales, Brendemuehl, who is based at Eclipse Training Center in Ocala, Fla., enters the 2014 sale season on a positive note.
"I'm cautiously optimistic," she said. "I think we're on an upswing. The market picked up tremendously last year. There is a lot of new energy, new faces buying horses, and that's a good indicator that people have confidence in the economy."
Among Brendemuehl's leading prospects for this year is a colt by Pulpit—Fun Crowd, by Easy Goer, entered in the OBS selected sale of 2-year-olds in training March 10-11. Slated to sell as Hip 157, the colt is a half brother to grade I winner Funny Moon and multiple stakes winner Throng.
Also selling at OBS in March is a War Front filly out of Pammie From Miami, by Cozzene. Cataloged as Hip 312, the New York-bred filly was purchased by Wounded Warrior Stable for $170,000 out of the Highclere Sales consignment at the 2013 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga New York-bred preferred yearling sale.
In Fasig-Tipton's Florida sale March 24 at Adena Springs South in Williston, Fla., Brendemuehl has high hopes for Hip 33, a Tapit colt out of the winning Tale of the Cat mare Sunny Morning, and Hip 122, a Medaglia d'Oro filly produced from the unraced Pulpit mare Lady Charade.
"I'm excited," said Brendemuehl who trains 30 to 40 head each year, the majority of them destined for the sales ring. "We have some big ticket horses this year.
"There's nothing like having a horse go through your program and then watching it go on and do well," she added. "I'm a believer that good horses come in all shapes and sizes and all price ranges. Wildcat Red is proof you don't have to spend a lot to get a top horse, and horses like him keep buyers coming back to the sales."