A few years into his first venture as a Thoroughbred owner/breeder, David Jacobs got some advice from a seasoned horseman.
"He told me if I was going to stay in this business I needed to get better stock because my horses weren't good enough," said the Kentucky native. "I didn't take his advice, and now I'm glad I didn't."
From his initial band of one modest broodmare, Jacobs has bred four black-type winners and just celebrated an important milestone as the breeder of a graded stakes winner. This year's Xpressbet Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) winner Promises Fulfilled is the most successful horse bred by Jacobs.
Jacobs, 73, a former United Parcel Service executive and entrepreneur, entered Thoroughbred racing and breeding in 1991 when trainer Joe Littrell urged him to buy a 4-year-old filly named Copelan's Girl. The filly was a solid member of the claiming ranks previously owned by New Yorker Nate Glantz, who had decided to get out of the business. Jacobs had a side business selling alfalfa hay off his farm in Scott County, and Littrell was a customer.
"He called me and said, 'I really like this horse and don't want to sell her to just anybody. Would you buy her?,'" Jacobs recalled. "I had not been in the business before, so I talked it over with my wife (Andrea), and we took a chance."
Kept in training with Littrell, the filly would win four more claiming races before she was retired to be a broodmare. Her first couple of foals did not amount to much on the racetrack, and Jacobs' goal at the time of just breeding some good allowance winners seemed a tall order. Then Jacobs got a filly by Little Missouri they appropriately named Fast Delivery. The filly would become his first black-type homebred with five wins and five placed finishes out of 13 starts at 3, ending her sophomore year with a victory in the My Charmer Stakes at Turfway Park. She eventually would win three black-type stakes and place in four others, including a third in the 2001 Doubledogdare Stakes at Keeneland.
As a mare, Fast Delivery would produce seven winners from 10 starters and one black-type performer named Marquee Delivery (Marquetry), who placed in four stakes—including a second in the 2008 Gardenia Handicap (G3) and a third in the 2007 Arlington Oaks (G3).
Marquee Delivery's quality as a racehorse would carry into her breeding career. Her first foal was multiple black-type-placed winner Marquee Cal Gal (Cowboy Cal), who finished second to her full sister Marquee Miss in the 2016 Holiday Inaugural Stakes at Turfway Park. Marquee Miss won three other stakes, including the Martha Washington and Dixie Belle stakes, both at Oaklawn Park.
Marquee Delivery was just getting warmed up as a producer and again would ring the bell with her fifth foal, a colt by Shackleford : Promises Fulfilled.
The mating to Darby Dan Farm's Shackleford came at the urging of Julie Rini, owner of Crowning Point Farm, where Jacobs boards his three mares. Rini handles all the foaling and arranges to get the mares bred in addition to providing counsel, along with Carrie Brogden of Machmer Hall and Select Sales, to Jacobs.
"I talked him into Shackleford. I just love him, and he is one of the most fertile stallions I know," Rini said. "We had to breed Marquee Delivery late, and that same year we had a mare who had not ovulated, and we could not get a double to Shackleford. She ovulated seven days after her cover, and she got in foal. That never happens."
Promises Fulfilled was born May 11, which would put him a bit behind the curve in physical appeal at the fall yearling sales. In addition, Marquee Delivery tended to throw lighter-boned and immature-looking foals, which all would fill out and develop size later, but never appear as big strapping yearlings at auction.
"He had perfect conformation," Rini remembered. "He just looked a little immature. I'm sure by the time he's 4 or 5, he'll be massive like his father."
Select Sales offered Promises Fulfilled at the Keeneland September sale where Brogden snagged trainer Dale Romans to look at him. Romans got his first classic win with Shackleford in the Preakness Stakes (G1) and won three other graded stakes with the son of Forestry, including the Metropolitan Handicap and the Clark Handicap (both G1).
"He was just a nice-looking little horse," Romans told BloodHorse earlier this week. "He was my type. He looked like he might need to grow up and mature a little bit and, if he did, he'd be the right type of horse. And it came together pretty good for him.
"He has the same shape as his daddy," the trainer continued. "He's not as big as his daddy, but Shackleford wasn't that big early, and blossomed as he got older. If this horse does that, he'll be just like him."
Romans gave $37,000 for the colt on behalf of owner Robert Baron. Promises Fulfilled has now won three of four starts and has earnings of $327,280. He is expected to make his next start in the Xpressbet.com Florida Derby (G1) March 31.
With Promises Fulfilled a graded stakes winner and ranked second on the Road to the Kentucky Derby leaderboard, Jacobs is fielding a lot of calls from breeders inquiring about his willingness to sell Marquee Delivery.
"It's a dilemma. If (Promises Fulfilled) wins more, she could be worth a lot more than I've been offered. It's a gamble," said Jacobs, who also has to consider that Rini sold a weanling Tiznow colt out of the mare on his behalf for $100,000 at the Fasig-Tipton November sale.
"That colt was actually her first big baby," Rini said. "A nice, big-boned colt that looks more like Tiznow. I was surprised. Those people got a good deal on him. What we got was our bottom price. If he didn't bring at least that, he would have come home. I wish he would have."
Regardless where Jacobs lands on selling Marquee Delivery, he's grounded in knowing full well how fortunate he's been already, and even more grateful for the people around him who have helped him realize so much success from his initial one-horse operation.
"I do realize I've been lucky, but part of it, too, is that Julie and Carrie and (trainer) Phil (Simms) have given me good advice, and I've made some good decisions," he said. "Anything can happen, but I've been in business, and I always remember an older guy who once told me the harder you work, the luckier you get."