As director of sales at Gainesway Farm near Lexington, Michael Hernon works hard to make sure the nursery and its clients enjoy success with their horses. But this year, he had some notable achievements of his own to savor.
Hernon teamed with Bill Andrade to breed Zazu, who captured the Las Virgenes (gr. I) and Lady’s Secret (gr. I) stakes along with the Hollywood Oaks (gr. II). The 3-year-old gray/roan daughter of Tapit was considered a top contender for the Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic (gr. I), but she missed the race because of a shoulder problem.
Earlier this month, Hernon and Andrade reaped some lucrative rewards for Zazu’s accomplishments when they sold her dam, Rhumb Line, and Zazu’s weanling half sister by Birdstone for $850,000 and $300,000, respectively, at the Keeneland November breeding stock sale. Gainesway consigned both Rhumb Line, who was in foal to Tapit, and the Birdstone filly.
“The market is the true acid test of what your horses are worth and we were selling in very strong market,” Hernon said. “I thought they were very fair prices. Bill and I wish their new owners the very best of luck.”
Hernon’s association with Rhumb Line, an 11-year-old daughter of Mr. Greeley, began when he acquired her privately.
“I bought her off the racetrack,” Hernon said. “She’d shown a very good level of ability, winning the first three races of her career in New York. She also was big, grand-looking, and correct.”
Initially, Hernon owned Rhumb Line with Michael Narlinger, and they bred her first foal, Art Princess (by Officer), who went on to become a winner and finish second in the 2008 Irish Thoroughbred Marketing Cherry Hinton Stakes (Eng-II).
In 2007, Hernon and Narlinger put Rhumb Line in Gainesway’s consignment to the Keeneland January horses of all ages auction because Narlinger “was selling various horses at the time,” Hernon said.
Hernon wanted to keep the chestnut mare, who was in foal to Tapit, but he said somehow his bid was missed. When the auctioneer’s hammer went down, the price was $65,000 and Edward Daly Bloodstock was the buyer.
“I was a bit disappointed, but in the busy auction scene, bids can be missed,” Hernon said. “Fortunately, I had been able to find another partner (Andrade) to go in with me on the mare, and we were able to offer Edward Daly a profit and get her back.”
Rhumb Line produced a filly, named Star of Sapphire, and then she was bred to Tapit again. The resulting foal was Zazu.
“I thought it was a good mating on paper,” said Hernon of the decision to send Rhumb Line to Tapit early in her broodmare career. “There was some inbreeding to Northern Dancer that I liked and I liked the Pulpit/Seattle Slew line (in Tapit’s pedigree) on top of the Mr. Prospector (in Rhumb Line’s pedigree). It gave me a good dosage profile and the ability for the foal to have a combination of speed and stamina.”
As a yearling, Zazu “was impressive,” Hernon remembered. “She was very strong mentally. When you asked her to walk, she was really going somewhere. Because she was strong-willed and wanted to do things her way, it was best to encourage her and make her think it was her idea. You didn’t want to get into a battle with her. Later, she showed that will and determination in her races.”
Consigned by Gainesway to the 2009 Keeneland September yearling sale, Zazu was purchased for $285,000 by Jerry and Ann Moss, who raced 2010 Horse of the Year Zenyatta.
“We were very happy with the price at the time,” Hernon said. “I think, obviously, the Mosses have added their touch of good luck to the equation, and I’ve been delighted to see her race so successfully in their colors. (Trainer) John Sadler has handled her extremely well.”
Even though Hernon no longer owns an interest in Rhumb Line, he looks forward to watching Zazu and her other offspring perform on the racetrack.
“She has a 2-year-old colt by Corinthian (Corinthian's Jewel) and a yearling full brother to Zazu,” Hernon said. “We also might not have seen the best of Zazu yet.”
Bowden Global Equine bought Rhumb Line and Hernon plans to keep a close eye on her progress as a producer.
“I’m particularly pleased that Rhumb Line currently is being boarded locally in Lexington, so I will be able to go and see her,” Hernon said. “I always thought she was the kind of mare that could produce really good runners.”