Tiger Walk at Pimlico

Tiger Walk at Pimlico

Jim McCue, Maryland Jockey Club

Tiger Walk Made Long Trek to the Preakness

Early health and physical issues made colt a longshot to even make it to the track.

Sagamore Farm’s Tiger Walk is a 30-1 chance in the May 19 Preakness Stakes (gr. I) after drawing post 1 for the second jewel in the Triple Crown. The dark bay or brown colt was a longer shot than that to even make it to the racetrack, according to his breeder.

But with time to grow into his gangly body and to outgrow some early health and physical issues, the son of Tale of the Cat  will enter the gate at Pimlico Race Course off consecutive mid-pack finishes in the New York Racing Association’s Triple Crown prep series: the Feb. 4 Withers and March 3 Gotham stakes (both gr. III) and the April 7 Resorts World Casino New York City Wood Memorial Stakes (gr. I) for trainer Ignacio Correas.

“He needs to move up five lengths to get into the mix,” said bloodstock agent Bob Feld, who found the colt as a yearling for Kevin Plank’s Sagamore operation. “Blinkers on are going to be a key element for him to move up to the level where he needs to be.”

Where he started was a frightful experience in the foaling barn April 20, 2009, at Ina Bond’s River Bend Farm near Goshen, Ky.

Farm manager Larry Weeden’s foaling records tell of a very difficult birth from the mare Majestic Trail. Her colt would weigh a whopping 157 pounds at birth and Majestic Trail didn’t get up for about two hours following delivery.

“Of all the ones that have been foaled at the farm, it was the hardest,” Bond said. “His nickname was ‘Gumby’ because he was so big and gangly…but he’s certainly turned into a wonderful horse.”

His problems didn’t end at birth.

“He had some problems, but they cleared up,” Bond said. “He had some issues. When we had him as a weanling he had what looked like might have been the start of OCDs, epiphysitis, spurs in his hocks and his ankles…all sorts of things.”

River Bend, a commercial venture that Bond has developed over the past 22 years, didn’t see much commercial value in the young Tiger Walk, especially in the economic climate of 2009 and 2010. Tiger Walk didn’t go through the auction ring, but wound up with Janie Glasscock, the daughter of Doug Arnold, at the Arnold’s Buck Pond Farm near Versailles, Ky.

It was nearing the end of the 14-day run at the 2010 Keeneland September yearling sale where Feld was approached by Arnold to take a look at a yearling that had RNA’d. Never knowing where the next “big horse” can come from, Feld decided to take a look.

“It wasn’t my type of horse,” Feld said. “Then Arnold said, ‘My daughter has a really nice Tale of the Cat back at the farm, maybe you want to take a look at it.’ I wasn’t in the mood to drive like a half-hour to find out. Luckily his farm is just a few miles away.

“When he pulled the horse out it was love at first sight,” Feld said. “After working the sale for over two weeks your eye just get really honed. A horse can just come out of its stall and you know whether you like the horse or not. This horse came out and I said, ‘Wow.’ He looked very expensive to me. He looked like a Book One, Book Two type of colt. I’m more of a physical purchaser, and Arnold handed me his pedigree and his second dam is a half sister to Dynaformer. To me it was home run, home run.

“We negotiated a price that I thought was very, very fair at $75,000 and we were happy. Carreras really liked him, too. Sometimes they run to their looks.”

Personal Glory, the half sister to Dynaformer (by Danzig—Andover Way, by His Majesty) was a private purchase by Bond. She makes her mating plans after conferring with the Clay family at Three Chimneys Farm and bloodstock agent Tim McMurry.

“I’m far from an expert on breeding, so I like to get several opinions,” Bond said.

With the downturned bloodstock industry Bond has reduced her broodmare band to six. At one time, alone and with different partnerships, she had 14.

“I don’t have top mares, but perhaps a layer below the top mares,” she said. “I’ve had some good quality mares and I’ve had some good success. I’ve had horses sell for $1.05 million and $850,000. I’ve had a lot of luck.’

Personal Glory died last year, but not before being a very successful producer for Bond and River Bend Farm. Six yearlings out of the mare would bring $1,685,000 in her career.

Majestic Trail was not as successful as a commercial broodmare. Like Tiger Walk, a lot of her foals had problems and she no longer owns the mare.

However, she is excited about Tiger Walk’s chances in the Preakness and is happy for Plank and the Sagamore team.

“I’m excited we bred him and we had him on the farm,” she said. “Plank is a good, new person in the business; we want people like him to do well.”

Regardless of how he runs at Pimlico, Tiger Walk has already beaten the odds.