Bob Baffert had his eyes trained on Hip 509 on the Ocala Breeders' Sales Co. grounds, studying the gray colt's small yet athletic frame, looking for similarities to his famed parents. He kept lingering, feeling for muscle tone and potential with his astute hands. And the more Baffert kept his attention on the juvenile before him, the more Billy Koch's heart sank.
"I was standing in the ring with Bob Baffert and ... he was inspecting the colt, putting his hands on him, checking him out. And I was like, 'I can't outgun Baffert. He's got more money than we do,'" the founder and managing partner of Little Red Feather Racing said March 16, still weary from the whirlwind OBS March 2-year-olds in training sale he just returned from. "So I'm thinking to myself, 'He's going to buy this horse.'
"Then he went and reached under (the colt's) belly and, when he did, the colt literally—like a cobra—tried to kick him. And Baffert jumped back. The second he did that, I was like 'Oh God, we have to buy this horse. He is just like his mother.'"
Nicknamed the "White Witch," the snow-colored distaffer gave her owners a grade 1 triumph in the 2013 Matriarch Stakes (G1T)—one of her three graded wins—and when she sold to Bridlewood Farm for $1.9 million at the 2014 Keeneland November breeding stock sale, the emotional connection she inspired had Koch wiping tears in the pavilion as he talked about letting her go.
So when Koch kindly asked Baffert if he planned to buy the first foal out of the 8-year-old Alphabet Soup mare, relief washed over when the Hall of Fame conditioner said he would pass. And after laying out a bid of $200,000 during the March 15 session at OBS, Koch and his partners got to bring home a colt they already considered part of the family.
The newest member of the Little Red Feather stable is one they hope will invoke some old memories. While selling Egg Drop three years ago was the best decision from a business standpoint, the partners have kept tabs on their former runner's broodmare career and were tracking her first offspring shortly after the colt was able to stand and nurse.
Prior to seeing the Tapit colt at the OBS March auction, Koch said Little Red Feather tried to purchase him privately from Bridlewood as a yearling. When he went through his paces during the pre-sale breeze show, covering an eighth of a mile in :10 1/5, the correct nature of his conformation and strong mechanics solidified to the Little Red Feather team they weren't just letting sentimentality draw them back to his catalog page.
"We thought he was a really, really good mover. On the stride analysis we use, he was very good," Koch said. "(Trainer) Phil D'Amato, who was there for the Egg Drop days (as an assistant to) Mike Mitchell, fell in love with him. He's extremely correct. He's just not very big. A lot of first foals are small and he's on the smaller side. But he had everything in the right place. It was like the stars aligned and we were really, really fortunate to get him."
In case he needed a reminder of how popular Egg Drop was during her 13-race career, the volume of messages on Koch's phone since landing her Tapit colt have served as a reminder. Name suggestions are already coming in.
"He was called Wonton for a while, and my good friend Michelle Yu came up with Drop It, which I thought was funny," Koch laughed.
Egg Drop's stark coloring always allowed for Little Red Feather's white, navy, and orange silks to stand out that much more in her six trips to the winner's circle. That her doppelganger son will now also carry those colors goes down as a victory in Koch's eyes, regardless of what the colt's running lines ever produce.
"I was talking to my sister and she's like 'Everyone loves this horse. You've got a lot of pressure on you,' and I was like, 'There is really no pressure,'" Koch said. "We're going to do the best job we can and he's going to do the best job he can to be a great racehorse like his mom and his dad. We're just so excited to carry on the tradition, and for him to carry the Little Red Feather silks when he debuts is going to be quite a show."