Steven and Brandi Nicholson at their Silver Fern Farm near Versailles, Ky.

Steven and Brandi Nicholson at their Silver Fern Farm near Versailles, Ky.

Anne M. Eberhardt

Nicholson Hopes Oaklawn Remains Her 'Lucky Spot'

Breeder of Classic Empire has Red Ruby in the Martha Washington Stakes Feb. 10.

Brandi Nicholson said she's only visited Oaklawn Park twice, but both trips resulted in perfect endings.

Nicholson bred Classic Empire  with her husband Steve and watched the Eclipse Award winner capture last year's Arkansas Derby (G1). Brandi Nicholson returned to the Hot Springs, Ark., track Feb. 3 to watch Exclamation Point, Classic Empire's 3-year-old half brother, win his debut. The Nicholsons bred and own Exclamation Point, a flashy chestnut son of Concord Point.

Brandi Nicholson said Feb. 7 that she plans to once again travel from her Silver Fern Farm in Central Kentucky to Oaklawn, this time to watch lightly raced Red Ruby make her 2018 debut in the Feb. 10 Martha Washington Stakes. A Road to the Kentucky Oaks race, the top four finishers will be awarded 10-4-2-1 points toward a starting spot in the Longines Kentucky Oaks (G1).

"Maybe it's my lucky spot," Nicholson said.

Nicholson owns Red Ruby, a gray daughter of 2000 Horse of the Year Tiznow , with Sandra Sexton, and the two bred the filly bred with Hargus Sexton.

Red Ruby is out of Caroni, which makes her a half sister to Beautician, the runner-up in the 2009 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1), and 2016 LeComte Stakes (G3) winner Mo Tom, who tallied $665,356 from a record of 4-2-4 in 19 starts.

Nicholson said she normally breeds to sell—Classic Empire was a $475,000 Keeneland September yearling sale graduate—and Red Ruby is the first horse she and Sexton have raced together. They have been partners for approximately eight years.

"We haven't been able to buy a daughter back of Caroni, because they've gone too high," Nicholson said. "This was No. 1, an opportunity for us to choose a filly out of the mare. That was in the plan since the moment she was born, and we knew it was a filly."

Caroni, a 21-year-old daughter of Rubiano, is in the twilight of her broodmare career, Nicholson said.

"We're excited to have Red Ruby as a broodmare prospect—coming up the line—knowing that Caroni is getting older and not knowing how many more years we have left with her," Nicholson said. "That's always kind of been the idea with Red Ruby—keep her from the very beginning."

Red Ruby finished second in her Oct. 29 debut for trainer Kellyn Gorder before she broke her maiden by 3 1/2 lengths going 1 1/16 miles Nov. 25 at Churchill Downs.

"We saw her last Saturday, when we were there for Exclamation Point's race," Nicholson said. "We of course went to the barn to visit with Red Ruby for a little bit and she looked great—looked fantastic. Hopefully she'll feel good on Saturday."