The well-worn joke goes that somebody is so old, they don't buy green bananas. For a while, Rick Porter was so sick, he couldn't even think about buying yearlings.
After a two-year battle with cancer, Porter, who underwent an experimental treatment earlier this year in Boston with help from fellow Thoroughbred owner B. Wayne Hughes, learned recently that his cancer is in remission. And he celebrated by purchasing 14 yearlings at a variety of auctions in the past two months.
"I'm tickled pink to be where I am," Porter said after signing tickets for 10 yearlings at Keeneland's September yearling sale. "I had a chance to thank Wayne at the sale and he’s a really great guy. I didn’t think I’d even be buying yearlings this year. So I couldn't be happier with that, or with the group we bought. Time will tell."
Porter, who buys under his Fox Hill Farm banner, did his best impersonation of Noah preparing for a heavy rain. At Keeneland, he bought two yearlings by Orb , two by Pioneerof the Nile , two by Giant's Causeway , and two by Ghostzapper . In addition, he purchased a Verrazano filly and a Medaglia d'Oro filly, perhaps with the last named hoping to replace a Medaglia d'Oro filly he recently retired, champion Songbird, who will sell in Fasig-Tipton’s November breeding stock sale.
"I'm finished for the year," Porter said of buying yearlings. "My budget has been reached, and we were able to fill it by the end of the Book 2; it just worked out that way, and we averaged around $300,000, which is our target."
One high-risk, high-reward yearling purchased by Porter was a $625,000 RNA from the Eaton Sales consignment. He is a War Front colt who is a half brother to champion Take Charge Brandi and a grandson of grade 1 winner Take Charge Lady, the dam of champion Will Take Charge and grade 1 winner Take Charge Indy .
"The last RNA I bought from (Eaton Sales') Reiley McDonald was Hard Spun ," Porter said, referencing his grade 1-winning earner of more than $2.6 million. "(Trainer) Larry (Jones) thought this War Front colt was the best physical in the sale, but he didn't vet, which was probably why he was an RNA. So we sent the images to (Dr.) Larry Bramlage and he said the issue would heal up, so I made Reiley an offer and we bought him. The pedigree is unbelievable, but the vet issue knocked the big players out. We'll find out how smart I am. Or not."
Porter, who also bought two yearlings at the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga selected yearling sale and one at the auction company's inaugural Turf Showcase, will be splitting his horses up among Jones, Mark Casse, and Richard Mandella, with the latter getting the War Front colt. Although War Front is best known for getting turf runners, this yearling has dirt pedigree all over his female family.
"Richard is already in the Hall of Fame," Porter noted, "but I told him there’s a higher Hall of Fame, for trainers who can win the Kentucky Derby with a War Front."