He's named after an Italian artist.
He races for one of the world's leading owners.
He's won two of his first three starts in Ireland including a stakes.
And he's bred in ... West Virginia.
Meet Giovanni Boldini, who will take aim at the $1 million Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf (gr. IT) Friday, Nov. 1 at Santa Anita Park. A victory would make him the first West Virginia-bred to win a Breeders' Cup race. His 86-year-old breeder, Charles "Buck" Woodson, will be cheering him home.
Giovanni Boldini was was born at Woodson's 40-acre Buckstud Farm near Charles Town, W.Va., where Woodson typically has about nine or ten mares. In recent years, besides sending his top mares to his own stallions, Woodson also has sent them in rotating seasons to Kentucky stallions. His decision in 2010 to send Giovanni Boldini's dam, Dancing Trieste, by Old Trieste, to young sire War Front already has paid dividends.
Giovanni Boldini set records before he ever raced, fetching record prices for a West Virginia-bred as both a weanling and yearling. As a weanling Giovanni Boldini sold for $190,000 at the 2011 Keeneland November breeding stock sale.
"It was very exciting to see him sell for that," Woodson said, adding that as the bidding got going he was hoping to reach $200,000.
Consigned by Woodson's Buckstud, with Millennium Farms as agent, Giovanni Boldini was purchased by Kingsbury Stables.
"It was very exciting and it also was exciting when I got the money," Woodson said with a laugh. "That was pretty nice too."
But Giovanni Boldini was just getting started. A year later he would become the highest-priced West Virginia-bred yearling when he sold for $675,000 at the 2012 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga selected yearlings sale. Consigned by Hill 'n' Dale Sales Agency, agent, Giovanni Boldini was purchased by Coolmore's buyer Demi O'Byrne.
"When I saw that Demi O'Byrne had purchased him, that's when I knew this horse was becoming quite a story," Woodson said. "They took him back to Ireland and I started thinking about the possibilities for this horse."
As the person who nominated the foal to the Breeders' Cup, those possibilities for Woodson include a check equal to 5% of the purse earned if Giovanni Boldini finishes first, second, or third. When Woodson sends his mares to Kentucky stallions, he typically nominates those foals to the Breeders' Cup.
Woodson said he sent Dancing Trieste to War Front for several reasons. War Front, who stood for $10,000 that season, has skyrocketed in demand and will stand for $150,000 next year.
"I liked War Front and I thought in terms of conformation, he was a good fit for the mare," Woodson said. "Plus, I like dealing with Claiborne Farm. I wish I had more mares to send to their stallions. I can't really afford War Front anymore."
But Woodson got in on a good thing early and now will watch the foal he bred race in the Breeders' Cup. Woodson landed Dancing Trieste, who failed to win a race but is out of a mare who was group I-placed in Argentina, for $20,000 at the 2008 Keeneland January horses of all ages sale.
"She wasn't the biggest filly but she was really put together well," Woodson said of seeing her at the sale. "I thought she had a little class too."
Woodson had hoped to make the trip to Santa Anita for the Breeders' Cup but timing proved difficult as he is in Lexington where Dancing Trieste will be offered at the Fasig-Tipton November sale. She is in foal to two-time grade I winner The Factor , a son of War Front.
Since he's in Lexington, Woodson plans to watch Friday's race from the Lafayette Room at Keeneland. He said family and friends already have told him they'll be watching as well. He'd love to travel to Europe to watch Giovanni Boldini.
"I've tried to follow this horse in Ireland but it's pretty difficult," Woodson said. "I'd like to know of one of his races far enough ahead of time that I could go over and watch."
No West Virginia-bred has won a Breeders' Cup race. The only previous West Virginia-bred to start in the Breeders' Cup is Soul of the Matter, who placed fourth in both the 1994 and 1995 Classic (gr. I). But Woodson believes West Virginia has made great strides in its breeding program and he expects to see more success in the years to come.
"This horse has been quite a story," Woodson said.
And that story may just be getting started.