Practical Move as a baby (Photo by Lindsay Kloster/Dell Ridge Farm)
When young horseman Chad Brown was working for the late Hall of Famer Bobby Frankel at old Hollywood Park, one of the horses in his care was a filly named Dash for Money. In that spring of 2003, few could have imagined that their connection would eventually produce a major contender for the Kentucky Derby (G1) 20 years later – Dash for Money’s grandson, Practical Move. Fewer still could have prognosticated how that would come about: Brown is the co-breeder, not the trainer, of that colt.
In the intervening two decades, Brown has become one of the sport’s elite trainers, a four-time Eclipse Award
winner who has developed multiple champions. He’s yet to win the Kentucky Derby, but three of his runners have gone close. In 2013, Normandy Invasion made a big move to strike the front before tiring to fourth. Champion Good Magic was runner-up to Triple Crown sweeper Justify in 2018, and Zandon loomed into contention when third in 2022.
One might be tempted to say that it’s only a matter of time until Brown, 44, trains a Derby winner. It would be a strange twist of fate if he appears in the Derby record book as a winning breeder first, but that’s exactly what Practical Move might achieve for him.
Twenty years ago, Dash for Money was a promising sophomore herself for Frankel. The Stronach Stables homebred went off as the 9-10 favorite in her debut as a juvenile, and she rolled impressively in last-to-first fashion. Pitched straight into the Santa Ysabel (G3) off that sprint maiden, she didn’t get involved in fifth. Dash for Money showed more when reverting to sprinting, as though taking her name to heart. She placed on turf and back on dirt in the 2003 Railbird (G3), where she finished third to Buffythecenterfold, who was co-owned by Stronach and the fancied half of his favored entry at 2-5.
Initially a broodmare for Stronach’s Adena Springs, Dash for Money was sold for $230,000 at the 2007 Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale and came into the fold of Waterville Lake Stables. Among her Waterville Lake-bred offspring was a filly by champion Afleet Alex, who would eventually be named Ack Naughty.
As a yearling, Ack Naughty failed to sell at the 2013 Fasig-Tipton New York Bred Preferred Yearlings Sale, bringing a top bid of just $20,000. But she would prove her worth on the racecourse – for Brown, who trained her throughout her career for partnerships affiliated with Sol Kumin.
Ack Naughty flashed talent in her debut for Nantucket Thoroughbred Partners and bloodstock maven Michael J. Ryan. After quickening well to beat fellow New York-breds in a Belmont Park turf maiden, she picked up new co-owners, via another Kumin group, Sheep Pond Partners. She would ultimately win or place in 12 of 15 starts while earning $310,450.
Although Ack Naughty did not win a stakes race, she was arguably unlucky to collect only minor awards at that level. A clear second in the 2014 Chelsea Flower S., she twice placed to future Grade 1-winning stablemate Fourstar Crook in the 2017 Mount Vernon S. (spot her in the blue silks below) and John Hettinger S.
Ack Naughty had traffic trouble when fourth in that summer’s Yaddo S. at Saratoga. Indeed, considering her unusually large margins of victory in a couple of her turf allowance romps, 4 3/4 lengths at Saratoga and 7 1/2 lengths at Aqueduct, Ack Naughty had the requisite class.
“She’s just gotten better and better,” Brown told Daily Racing Form going into the Yaddo. “She’s reaching the point where winning a stakes race is well within her reach. She was very impressive in her last race, winning off no pace at all. She just flew home.”
When the time came for Ack Naughty to retire from racing, Kumin wanted to keep her as a broodmare. Brown, mindful of her talent as well as recalling his background with her dam, Dash for Money, was interested in teaming up with Kumin.
“We raced the horse and loved her,” Kumin told Bill Finley in a Thoroughbred Daily News story of Dec. 22, 2022. “She was among one of the first crops of horses that we owned. When it came time to sell her, I didn’t want to. We put a value on her and bought out our partners. Chad loved her, too. She ran a bunch and always tried really hard. We had a little crooked yearling who turned into this big, pretty horse.”
Thus the trainer became the co-breeder, along with Kumin’s Head of Plains Partners, of Ack Naughty’s resulting foals.
In 2019, her second season as a broodmare, Ack Naughty visited her former stablemate, Practical Joke
. Brown held a breeding right in Practical Joke, an Into Mischief colt whom he trained to three Grade 1 wins and nearly $1.8 million in earnings. Practical Joke tried the 2017 Kentucky Derby, finishing a valiant fifth over a 1 1/4-mile distance that was a bit too far for him.
From that union of the Brown alums came Practical Move. Foaled on April 30, 2020, the bay colt was raised at the Justice family’s Dell Ridge Farm near Lexington, Kentucky. Growing up on the same farm, but in a different field, was potential Derby rival Hit Show
Practical Move was a “big, strong colt, a very strong colt, very well balanced,” Dell Ridge manager Des Ryan said. “He was a very nice-looking horse the whole way along.”
The good-natured colt was “laid-back,” yet “very sure of himself, very confident,” Ryan noted.
“He liked to be in charge. He was always forward, ready to take the next step, always ready to roll.”
That leadership was on display when he was turned out in the paddock.
“He would take off from the gate and just go – he wouldn’t mill around.”
The yet-unnamed youngster was offered at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale, through the consignment of St George Sales. He didn’t meet his reserve price when the hammer came down at $90,000, so the next step was to try again at the two-year-olds in training sales.
Practical Move was promptly sent to school at Eisaman Equine near Ocala, Florida. Dr. Barry and Shari Eisaman’s list of famous pupils includes 2012 Kentucky Derby and Preakness
(G1) champion I’ll Have Another. Gotham (G3) romper Raise Cain is among the other Eisaman graduates on the trail this year.
Dr. Eisaman rated Practical Move highly.
“As Practical Jokes go, he’s different from most. He’s bigger than most, with a stretchy body, a two-turn look. Many of the Practical Jokes have speedier frames.”
But the youngster’s mind was particularly noteworthy.
“He was really smart,” Eisaman recalled. “He learned everything he was supposed to learn, and much quicker than usual.
“Nothing rattled him.”
Practical Move’s “mental stability” came through in his early training. When asked for speed, he would turn it on, but then he would come right back to you, and switch off again on cue.
Eisaman summed up the colt’s tractability with a memorable image:
“You could throw Western tack on him and rope cattle with him!”
New Mexico-based connections – Pierre Jean Amestoy, Leslie Amestoy, and partner Roger Beasley – went to $230,000 to buy the colt at OBS last April.
Having matured physically
since the yearling sale, the juvenile attracted more interest. Indeed, the way he breezed one furlong in :10 1/5 at the under tack show, in long-striding fashion and motoring on the gallop-out, underscored his ability to stretch out.
His new owners named him Practical Move. Joining trainer Tim Yakteen at Santa Anita, he posted his first official work on June 15. He was ready to start later that summer at Del Mar, but given his physique, it wasn’t surprising that he blossomed once stepping up to two turns.
Still, Practical Move ran well in tough sprint maidens. On debut, he was a distant second to Eisaman classmate Cave Rock, who went on to ace the Del Mar Futurity (G1) and American Pharoah (G1). Cave Rock was heavily favored to remain unbeaten in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1), only to be outstayed by Forte, subsequently the divisional champion and Kentucky Derby favorite.
In his second start, Practical Move pressed a fierce pace and wound up third to National Treasure, who would go on to place in the American Pharoah, Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, and Sham (G3). Up to a mile for his third try, Practical Move was a hampered second and accordingly awarded the win via disqualification. He cut back in distance for the seven-furlong Bob Hope (G3), where he didn’t get his preferred trip and checked in third.
The combination of 1 1/16 miles in the Los Alamitos Futurity
(G2), and a better passage through the race, put Practical Move in a much better light. Rallying with new rider Ramon Vazquez, he drove 3 1/4 lengths clear. Practical Move built upon that performance in the San Felipe
(G2), showing poise on the inside to dispatch a strong field by 2 1/2 lengths.
After Practical Move jumped into the Derby picture at Los Alamitos, Ack Naughty took on new proportions as a valuable broodmare. Brown told Daily Racing Form’s David Grening that she deserved to belong to a major breeding operation, rather than his more limited group. The partners sold her at Keeneland in January for $500,000 to Chester and Mary Broman, highly successful breeders in Ack Naughty’s home state of New York.
Now Practical Move is on course to pursue the Kentucky Derby that eluded his sire, Practical Joke, and maternal grandsire, Afleet Alex. If Practical Move earns the garland of roses, he would put Brown in august company as a trainer who was involved in breeding a Derby winner.
On a far grander scale, legendary horseman John Madden bred a total of five in the early 20th century, including the first Triple Crown champion, Sir Barton (1919). The great John Nerud was the mastermind behind the breeding of 1990 Kentucky Derby star Unbridled, just one of his extraordinary influences on modern pedigrees from his tenure at Tartan Farms.
But Practical Move’s graded stakes success in itself adds another dimension to Brown’s resume, one somewhat reminiscent of his mentor. Frankel himself bred, owned, and trained Mast Track, the 2008 Hollywood Gold Cup (G1) hero. Mast Track was likewise the offspring of Frankel-trained parents, Mizzen Mast and the mare Nawal. How fitting that Brown’s venture can trace its roots to Frankel’s barn.
Foal photos by Lindsay Kloster/Dell Ridge Farm