Buyers at 2-year-olds in training sales have a vast array of diagnostic and research tools to help hone down their selections to those with the greatest potential to succeed at the track, but sometimes “gut instinct” works best as trainer Eoin Harty found out when he bought Drafted for $35,000 at this year’s Ocala Breeders’ Sales Co.’s March sale.
Drafted has been victorious in his only start to date, a 4 1/2-furlong maiden special weight race at Keeneland, and on June 14 Harty will saddle the colt for Sheikh Mohammed’s Godolphin in the Windsor Castle Stakes at England’s Royal Ascot.
Bred in Florida by John Foster, Barbara Hooker, and the Field Commission Partnership, Drafted is a son of the under-the-radar stallion Field Commission , a champion sprinter in Canada who stands at Solera Farm near Williston, Fla., for a fee of $2,500.
Tipped off by Florida horsewoman April Mayberry that he should take a look at Hip 54, a March 22, 2004 foal consigned by Kim Harrison, Harty inspected the colt before the sale and the only notation on his catalog page was “that he looked fast.”
Undeterred that Field Commission, who has 28 registered foals and has been represented by two winners from five starters, was not in the same league as many of the other sires represented in the catalog, or that there was no blacktype in the colt’s first three dams, Harty took a shot at a price that had more upside than downside, with one of the co-breeders staying in as a partner with Harty.
“Because I spent a lot of time working with (trainer) Bob Baffert, I had seen an awful lot of horses by obscure stallions who turned out to be good runners,” Harty said of his decision to buy the colt despite the lack of a fashionable pedigree. “I went with my gut feeling and I have faith in my ability to pick out a nice horse.
“He was the only horse I bought there. All the other horses I liked were way out my price range. He certainly looked like good value at the price and I didn’t think I could get hurt too badly. I bought him for my own account but the breeder stayed in for half of the ownership, which is a good sign and told me he was worthy of the purchase price.”
Harty, who is one of the top trainers used by Godolphin, did not waste any time in getting Drafted ready for the races, with the colt affirming the trainer’s confidence in his ability while working at Tampa Bay Downs before shipping to Keeneland.
“I didn’t mess around with him and as soon as I worked him at Tampa Bay I knew he was exactly what I was looking for. I was very pleasantly surprised.”
At Keeneland on April 23, Drafted breezed four furlongs from the gate in a snappy :47 2/5, third-best from 79 horses working that day, and four days later zipped four furlongs in track-record time of :50.45 for 4 1/2 furlongs in his maiden win.
Harty’s phone began ringing with offers following that impressive performance, with one of the calls coming from the trainer’s employer, Godolphin, which ended up buying the colt for an undisclosed amount.
“I didn’t approach them; there was no arm-twisting,” Harty said. “They were one of many offers made for the horse. (Godolphin CEO and racing manager) John Ferguson had the idea to buy the horse with the goal of trying to win a 2-year-old stake at Ascot.”
Harty, who has accompanied the colt to Ascot, said he was on board with the decision to attempt the Royal Windsor because Drafted should be competitive in the five-furlong sprint and has the temperament to handle the rigors of overseas travel at a young age.
“He is precocious and on top of that has a great mind. He has the right mental capacity to handle everything asked of him.”
While Godolphin and Harty are not looking beyond the Windsor Castle for Drafted’s next start, the trainer believes the colt will prove a good find for Sheikh Mohammed.
“Everybody has made money with this horse so far and hopefully Godolphin will make money,” Harty said.