Better Than Honour

Better Than Honour

Anne M. Eberhardt

Better Than Honour: A Rare Jewel

Amongst all the equine sapphires and emeralds selling at the 2008 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky November select mixed sale, breeders are also going to be offered the chance to buy the equine equivalent of the Hope Diamond.

Better Than Honour, the 2007 Kentucky Broodmare of the Year, is being offered as part of a dispersal of the joint holdings of Southern Equine and Hill 'n' Dale Farms. She will sell as hip No. 188, the last offering through the ring Nov. 2. The one-day sale begins at 3 p.m. at the sale company’s Newtown Paddocks near Lexington.

“I think it will be a very select market, and people are looking for jewels. She (Better Than Honour) certainly is a jewel not only in her racing performance and her pedigree, but her production record as well,” said Headley Bell of Nicoma Bloodstock. “Jewels are hard to come by.  They are one of a kind and all of those things, yet, you don’t have a multitude of programs that are looking to add to their crown. There are only a very few players today, fewer than you would have had six months ago, and that is going to be the difference (in what she could bring inside the auction ring).”

Southern Equine’s Mike Moreno owns 70% of Better Than Honour, with Hill ‘n’ Dale’s John Sikura owning 30%. The two men, on the recommendation of Sikura, privately purchased the mare from the Coolmore operation about six weeks after her son, Jazil, won the 2006 Belmont Stakes (gr. I). 

BBA Ireland purchased Better Than Honour for $2 million at the 2004 Keeneland November mixed sale from the consignment of Lane’s End, agent. She was carrying grade II winner Casino Drive at the time.

“She was a mare with tremendous potential,” Sikura said of the purchase. “She had produced a Classic winner and is from a preeminent female family. She is a mare that we hoped could be an important commercial success in breeding. She is a once-in-a-lifetime mare, if you lead a lucky life.”

Moreno said the undetermined value of Better Than Honour led to her being sold publicly as opposed to working out a private deal with Sikura to buyout his interest. “It is my intention to buy her back and I plan to be pretty aggressive in my efforts,” Moreno said. “I have an advantage; owning 70% allows me to be extremely aggressive.

“My view is if you can only own one mare in the world then she would be the one,” Moreno continued. “I’d rather go after her and hopefully have her as a legacy mare over the next few years. Every big racing operation can point back to that one foundation mare. She is that for us, so, we are going to go after her pretty hard.”

The world record for a broodmare or broodmare prospect sold at public auction was established at the 2007 Keeneland November mixed sale when John Ferguson, representing Sheikh Mohammed, paid $10.5 million for Playful Act, who was sold not in foal.

Sikura said:  “The hope and expectation is that a mare of her merit will be received in a way that will be completely unique. The auction process is always dynamic and ever changing. Having done it for a long time and sold a lot of horses, I never have any predetermined ideas that I know what is going to happen. I have a very good feeling about the possibilities, and we will see how they play out.”

However, due to the current global economic situation, there is speculation among Kentucky-based bloodstock agents on whether or not Better Than Honour, who is not in foal, will break the record set by Playful Act.

“I think a year makes a difference,” said Bell, who estimated her price could fall between $6 million to $8 million. “I think our economy is different than it was this time last year. And I think it is going to be felt throughout, even for jewels.”

Mike Akers of Dapple Bloodstock, said: “This horse has the pedigree and is capable of producing quality horses that will end up in the stallion barn or in select sales. I think that is what I would look at in the market place without saying these are trying economic times. However, for oil paintings, which is what I call these kind of mares, there is no rhythm or reason to it.”

 “You have two very strong people in the existing ownership and two or three other people outside that would like to have her,” Akers said.  “I think she is $7 million to $8 million. I think that one, her two strong existing owners are not going to get out in the $6-million range, and then, if they get to a number where neither of those guys wants it, then it has to be pretty strong.”

A 12-year-old daughter of Deputy Minister, Better Than Honour is the dam of back-to-back Belmont Stakes winners Jazil and Rags to Riches (2007), who were both bred by the Gumberg’s Skara Glen Stables. Better Than Honour has a yearling Giant’s Causeway colt.

In the history of U.S. racing, only eight mares have produced two American Classic winners. The first to do so was Maggie B.B., dam of 1879 Preakness winner Harold and 1884 Belmont winner Panique. The others include: Cinderella (dam of 1896 Belmont winner Hastings and 1898 Derby winner Plaudit); Lady Margaret (1896 Preakness winner Margrave and 1902 Belmont winner  Masterman); Ignite (1900 Preakness winner Hindus and 1906 Derby winner Sir Huon); Leisure ( Preakness winners Royal Tourist in 1908 and Holiday in 1914); and Prudery (1927 Derby winner Whiskery and 1928 Preakness winner Victorian). 

Before Better Than Honour, Weekend Surprise produced Summer Squall, winner of the 1990 Preakness Stakes (gr. I), and A.P. Indy, winner of the 1992 Belmont Stakes.

Better Than Honour, who was bred in Kentucky by Carl Icahn’s Foxfield, went through the 1997 Keeneland July yearling sale, where she was purchased for $750,000 by trainer John Kimmel, agent.

Racing for Robert Waxman, Better Than Honour won the Demoiselle Stakes (gr. II) by way of disqualification at 2. As a 3-year-old, she placed in the Acorn (gr. I), Mother Goose (gr. I), and Comely (gr. III) Stakes before retiring with earnings of $250,920.