When a Scat Daddy colt was purchased by John C. Oxley for $400,000 at the 2016 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga yearling sale, it marked a feather in the cap for Taylor Made Farm's Bloodstock Investments, a partnership entity that had bought the colt in January of that year for $150,000.
Initially formed to buy and re-sell broodmares, the partnership group made its foray into the yearling pinhooking business with its first purchases at that Keeneland January mixed sale. A solid profit for Bloodstock Investments, the transaction looks even better now that the Scat Daddy colt, named Flameaway, has gone on to win five stakes and is a leading contender for this year's Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1).
Bred in Canada by Phoenix Rising Farms, Flameaway was consigned to the Keeneland sale by Penn Sales on behalf of his breeder. In addition to being by Ashford Stud's late stallion Scat Daddy, who has emerged as a leading sire, the chestnut colt is out of the winning Fusaichi Pegasus mare Vulcan Rose, who has also produced stakes winner Ellan Vannin and descends from an imminently successful Canadian female family.
As one of the most experienced 3-year-olds heading into the Derby, Flameaway has won or placed in seven of nine starts and earned $704,834. His stakes victories include the Dixiana Bourbon (G3) and Sam F. Davis (G3) stakes, with runner-up efforts in the Toyota Blue Grass (G2) and Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby (G2).
"We're thrilled and so excited," said Katie Taylor, the daughter of Taylor Made's Frank Taylor who directs Bloodstock Investments and clearly recalls sliding through the ice-encased barn area at Keeneland to inspect the colt twice.
"At that time, our selection team wasn't well established and my dad and I were buying at that point. I went and saw (the colt) and liked him a lot, although it was hard to look because (the ground) was a sheet of ice. But I was impressed with the way he walked. The other horses were sliding everywhere, but he was just super-determined, sure-footed, and moving on, ice be damned. He didn't care. Dad and I trudged back across to look at him and we were both pretty pumped about him."
The Taylors' enthusiasm for the colt was somewhat muted when they noticed he was proving popular with pinhookers and the effect that could have on the price.
"I am the conservative one when it comes to how much we're going to spend, and I keep a spreadsheet trying to estimate every cost and who we're going to try to sell it to," Taylor explained. "I said 'I'm afraid to get too in on our first yearlings so I don't want to spend more than $150,000.'"
Aware of the interest level in the colt, and armed with the knowledge of the approximate reserve price, the Taylors made a bold move. "Dad said 'we have one shot to get him' so we opened the bidding at $150,000 and got him," Taylor said.
Once at Taylor Made, the colt was slow to grow, with Taylor noting, "it seemed like the only thing to grow in the first four months was his lower lip. He went through a funky stage for awhile and his lip kept growing. But as we were planning where the horses were going to be sent to sell, within a two-week period he just blossomed. And we said, 'Saratoga is the right place for him.' For that sale, we liked that he was a Canadian-bred."
Targeting a Canadian-bred to the boutique Saratoga sale played right into the hands of trainer Mark Casse, who was recently honored with his 10th Sovereign Award as outstanding trainer in the country.
"We're always looking for horses with pedigree that we think are going to get two turns," Casse said of his and Oxley's interest in Flameaway. "He was just a big pretty horse. His head is a little bigger than most and he had a great walk, with a good neck and shoulder. It helped that he was a Canadian-bred. It opens up so many options to have a Canadian-bred and you're not taking a back seat because you're buying a Canadian-bred. I try to look at more of the Canadian-breds for that reason."
If there was any trepidation on Casse's part in considering the colt's purchase, it was that offspring of Scat Daddy and Fusaichi Pegasus, Flameaway's broodmare sire, can be temperamental or high strung. But Casse should not have been concerned.
"He is the kindest horse. Nothing bothers him," the trainer said, adding that the colt improved physically from ages 2 to 3. "A lot of times people will ask if a horse has matured from 2 to 3 and most of the time I'll take a look and say 'nah, not really.' But Flameaway changed dramatically. As a 2-year-old he was more of a chubby kid and now he's a grown man and is well-muscled."
And now he heads into the Derby as one of the most seasoned contenders.
"I think horses get better with racing," Casse said. "We're not ones that always have to find the perfect spot in which to run."
With 30 horses in the Bloodstock Investments package for 2018, Taylor said she and others at Taylor Made are proud, not only of the horses' success in the sale ring and on the track, but also their ability to allow others to share in that success through the partnership.
"It just continues to grow," Taylor said. "A lot of these people have never owned a horse before and we focus on education. We try to teach them about everything that's happening, whether it's an x-ray issue we're dealing with, why we're giving a certain vaccine and when we're giving it, or how to set reserves at sales.
"It's been a great experience. A few of them have expanded and are owning on their own, taking an additional step."