My Man Sam descends from a well-bred filly that Jay Bligh purchased for $52,000 at Keeneland November back in 1990, making him a third-generation homebred.
That filly was Sky Darter, who was part of the dispersal of noted owner/breeder Aaron U. Jones’ bloodstock. Then a 3-year-old in the midst of her racing career, Sky Darter went on to win twice for Bligh. More important for her resume as a broodmare prospect, she placed in four stakes races to earn valuable “black type” (meaning her name is bolded in pedigree reports and sales catalogs).
Sky Darter became the dam of Strike the Sky, who won once from four starts but became a much more notable broodmare for Bligh.
“Steve Young manages our horses,” Bligh told the Churchill Downs notes team, “and he trained for us at one time, but Cindy and I decided to rethink what we were doing and go for a little bit more quality. Steve said, ‘OK then, we’ll start with Strike the Sky and keep her,’ and boy was he right.”
Strike the Sky has had seven foals make it to the races, and all are winners. Chief among them are Hudson Steele, who captured the 2012 Dixie (G2) on the Pimlico turf on Preakness Day, and Lauren Byrd, runner-up in the 2010 Jessamine at Keeneland, also on turf.
Although Lauren Byrd was retired after only four starts as a juvenile, she’s beginning to follow in her dam’s hoofsteps as a good broodmare. My Man Sam is her second foal, and she’s two-for-two so far. Having Lauren Byrd as heir apparent gives Bligh some solace for the loss of Strike the Sky, who was killed by lightning in the summer of 2014.
My Man Sam also met with a setback that same summer, in what turned out to be a blessing in disguise for Bligh. Slated to be sold at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale, he sustained a foot injury and had to be taken out of the sale.
Bligh subsequently sold a 75 percent interest in the colt to Sheep Pond Partners and Newport Stables, but he retains a 25 percent stake. My Man Sam, his only horse currently active on the racetrack, is now taking him to the Kentucky Derby (G1) after a barnstorming second in the Blue Grass (G1).
“He’s a delight,” Bligh told Churchill’s notes team. “He’s a very, very intelligent horse and I think that’s what you need. [Jockey] Irad [Ortiz Jr.] is going to have to get lucky and get the trip, but if he draws a little bit better than we did over at Keeneland [post 14 in the Blue Grass] then I think that can happen.”
Photo courtesy Churchill Downs/Coady Photography.