Daddy Long Legs at Ballydoyle 4/29/2012.

Daddy Long Legs at Ballydoyle 4/29/2012.

Anne Marie O'Brien

Woodford Is Rooting for Its Derby 'Daddy'

Daddy Long Legs was foaled and raised at Woodford Thoroughbreds.

John and Susan Sykes’ Woodford Thoroughbreds near Versailles, Ky., is a commercial breeding operation. Its goal is to sell the young horses that it raises, so Woodford no longer owns Daddy Long Legs, who is scheduled to run in the May 5 Kentucky Derby Presented By Yum! Brands (gr. I) at Churchill Downs.

But the Woodford team is enjoying the Scat Daddy colt's success on the racetrack and the farm’s reputation is benefitting from the chestnut 3-year-old’s accomplishments.

“It has been a great thing to see him do so well,” said Matt Lyons, Woodford’s general manager.

Racing for Michael Tabor, Derrick Smith, and Susan Magnier, Daddy Long Legs has won three of his five career races. In 2011 he captured the Juddmonte Royal Lodge Stakes (Eng-II) and this year he triumphed by 1 ¼ lengths in the March 31 U.A.E. Derby Sponsored by The Saeed & Mohammed al Naboodah Group (UAE-II). Aidan O'Brien trains the colt.

“It was a little bit disappointing last year at the Breeders’ Cup (when Daddy Long Legs finished 12th in the Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, gr. I),” Lyons said. “But to see him come back and win the U.A.E. Derby was a big thrill for us and Susan and John Sykes, who bred him (in the Woodford name).”

Daddy Long Legs is out of the Meadowlake mare Dreamy Maiden, who scored in the 1999 Raven Run Stakes at Keeneland and a division of the 2000 Likely Exchange Stakes at Turfway Park. The colt is a member of the first crop sired by Scat Daddy, who is a son of Johannesburg.

“We chose the combination (that produced Daddy Long Legs) because the mare had produced a couple of good Johannesburgs,” Lyons said. “Physically she was a really big, pretty mare and going to that Storm Cat (sire) line had always worked with her, so we were trying to replicate the (previous) breeding a little bit by going to Scat Daddy.”

Dreamy Maiden’s Johannesburg offspring were The Emperor Nero, who was foaled in 2005, and Lake Ontario, who was foaled in 2008.

“They were good-sized, strong horses that were physically forward; they came around early,” Lyons said.

Daddy Long Legs was similar in appearance to The Emperor Nero and Lake Ontario. Behavior-wise, he was a low-key youngster during his days at Woodford Thoroughbreds.

“He was just an easy horse to be around,” Lyons said. “You never knew he was around. There was nothing outstanding that set him apart. He was uncomplicated and he never had any problems. He was just a nice horse.”

Like The Emperor Nero and Lake Ontario, Daddy Long Legs was offered at the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky July select yearling auction and like those two close relatives, the colt was acquired by a representative of or entity associated with powerful Ireland-based Coolmore Stud.

Aisling Duigan purchased The Emperor Nero for $180,000 from Taylor Made Sales Agency, agent, in 2006. Ashford Stud, Coolmore’s Kentucky division, bought Lake Ontario for $100,000 from Woodford Thoroughbreds, agent, in 2009. And Ashford purchased Daddy Long Legs for $100,000 from Woodford Throughbreds, agent for Woodford Foals, in 2010.

“At the sale he (Daddy Long Legs) was popular, but I don’t think he made everybody’s list,” Lyons said. “He was a little bit tough (acting) there. He got a little bit more aggressive being around other horses in that sort of environment. He was a headstrong horse and he needed to have a good handler on him to show himself the best because, otherwise, he would try and take advantage (of the situation) a little bit.”

Lyons had mixed feelings about Daddy Long Legs’ commercial performance.

“I would have thought that we would have gotten a little more action on him at the sale and I would have thought that he would have done a little better on price,” Lyons said. “But when it came down to it, I think Coolmore obviously liked him being from the first crop of the sire (which stood at Ashford) and they knew the family, so they had a little bit more insight than the other buyers did. At the end of the day, I was pleased he went to them, but I would have liked to have gotten a little more for him.”

Woodford no longer owns Daddy Long Legs’ dam. In 2010, Taylor Made, agent, consigned Dreamy Maiden to the Keeneland January horses of all ages sale. In foal to Lion Heart, she was purchased for $42,000 by McMahon Bloodstock, agent.

The following year, Hunter Valley Farm, agent, offered Dreamy Maiden at the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky November select mixed sale. Sierra Farm bought her, while she was in foal to Street Sense , for $170,000.

“She had had seven foals (at that time),” said Lyons of the reason for selling Dreamy Maiden. “She had been bred to a lot of good stallions and while she had a minor stakes winner (Tres Dream, by Chester House), it really hadn’t happened for her yet. Obviously, we got out too soon, but that’s the way it goes sometimes.”

But Lyons and Woodford still have a rooting interest in this year’s Run for the Roses.