Pope McLean Jr. at Keeneland on Sept. 14, 2016, in Lexington, Ky.

Pope McLean Jr. at Keeneland on Sept. 14, 2016, in Lexington, Ky.

Anne M. Eberhardt

TOBA April Member of the Month

Most recently, Pope Sr. and sons Pope Jr. and Marc bred Bowies Hero.

Talent runs as true in horsemen as in the Thoroughbreds they breed, a maxim exemplified by the McLeans of Kentucky. In the near-five decades since Pope McLean Sr. founded Crestwood Farm in Lexington, his nursery has become a hallmark of consistency. Most recently, Pope Sr. and sons Pope Jr. and Marc bred Bowies Hero, who captured the March 10 Frank E. Kilroe Mile Stakes (G1T) at Santa Anita, in Kentucky.

"It's sort of few and far between that perform like that," said Pope Jr. After a weanling Bowies Hero failed to achieve his $16,000 reserve at the 2014 Keeneland November sale, the son of Artie Schiller sold for $17,000 to RJG Racing Management at the following year's Keeneland September sale. "He was a nice physical. We didn't get a ton of money for him, but Artie Schiller wasn't setting the world on fire, I guess would be the best way to say it," he added.

Consigned by Sweetbriar Sales to the 2016 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Two-Year-Olds In Training Sale, Bowies Hero was purchased by ELA Racing Stable for $32,000. He now races for Agave Racing Stable, ERJ Racing, and Madaket Stables. As a juvenile, Bowie's Hero took the Del Mar Juvenile Turf Stakes. He rounded off his three-year-old season with a victory in the Mathis Brothers Mile Stakes (G2T).

This female family, tracing to blue hens Kamar and Square Angel, is a gold mine for Crestwood. For the McLeans, Bowies Hero's second dam, the Conquistador Cielomare Sister Girl, produced two stakes winners: Mint Lane, a son of Maria's Mon who took the 2008 Dwyer Stakes (G2), and Scudetto (by Yes It's True). They also bred and sold her Saint Liam filly So Sharp, who later yielded grade 1 winner Sharp Azteca.

Sister Girl had a Sky Mesa filly named Remembered, dam of Bowies Hero. Pope Jr. noted, "This is her first foal. He's a good one." Also the dam of an Afleet Alex three-year-old colt named Lundqvist and a Shakin It Up juvenile, Remembered will visit 2017 Horse of the Year Gun Runner this breeding season. Crestwood expects about 70 to 80 foals to hit the ground in 2018. It is home to approximately 80 broodmares; about half are boarders, while the McLeans own the other half by themselves or in partnership.

Sister Girl also foaled a grade 1-placed Hold for Gold filly, Sister Girl Blues. To the cover of Line of David, Sister Girl Blues foaled Firing Line, runner-up to American Pharoah in the 2015 Kentucky Derby (G1). Firing Line stood his first season in 2017, holding court at Crestwood. Pope Jr. called the colt's 14 1/4-length victory in the 2015 Sunland Derby (G3) "just unbelievable," adding, "He was a very brilliant horse, even though he didn't have a very long career, but we think the genetics are there."

Its stallion roster includes Tu Brutus , a son of the late Scat Daddy. Classic-placed in his native Chile and a stakes winner on American turf, Tu Brutus "sure flashed some brilliance, so we think he has the goods," said Pope Jr. He stands alongside 2014 Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) and 2015 Jim Dandy (G2) winner Texas Red , whom Pope Jr. called "a pretty professional horse in the shed and he's quite the physical, too."

And then there's up-and-coming sire Get Stormy , winner of at least one graded stakes for four consecutive seasons. A three-time grade 1 victor on the turf, the son of Stormy Atlantic got better with age on the track. His foals--the oldest of which just turned four--have hit the ground running, their numbers highlighted by 2018 grade 3 winner Go Noni Go. "We absolutely support our own horses that we stand," said Pope Jr. "We're putting our money where our mouth is. We breed some off the farm too. We just kind of work through it every year and see where we are."

In an impatient market, the Crestwood approach is one of patience. Pope Jr. said, "We really try to hang in there and give them every chance to hit, adding, "We don't really want to be competing against yourself, right? Different horses appeal to different people, so we try to just have a nice array of horses." He said, "But with the right horse and in the right situation, we feel like we can compete with just about everybody as far as getting mares and so forth." He cited the example of former stallion Storm Boot, noting, "It would be hard to break a horse like that now and he was a very useful horse." If Bowies Hero is anything to go by, however, the Crestwood ethos will pay dividends for years to come.