Fresh off a brilliant Kentucky Derby (G1) as co-owners of victorious Justify and third-placer Audible, Kenny Troutt’s WinStar Farm marches on to Pimlico with a similarly strong representation for the May 19 Preakness Stakes (G1). WinStar homebred Quip will join Justify and make for a one-two punch for the Versailles, Kentucky, nursery.
Although the two standard-bearers have different backgrounds and profiles, the common thread is patience. WinStar and partners did not rush Justify to race at two, and Quip affords another example of reaping the rewards of giving a horse time.
Quip is by WinStar’s elder statesman, Distorted Humor, who famously sired 2003 Kentucky Derby and Preakness champion Funny Cide in his first crop. The popular New York-bred gelding was the first Derby hero bred by WinStar, but he was sold as a yearling. The second WinStar-bred Derby winner, Super Saver (2010), was retained as a homebred and sported the farm colors. Thanks to Justify, WinStar has now raced two Derby winners as well.
Quip’s dam, Princess Ash, has Derby connections of her own. Sire Indian Charlie was third as the favorite in the 1998 running, suffering his first loss in what turned out to be his final career start. Princess Ash is also a half-sister to Normandy Invasion, who launched a bold bid in the 2013 Derby before flattening out in fourth.
Princess Ash was originally purchased for $150,000 as a yearling by Zayat Stables (later known for American Pharoah) at the 2010 Keeneland September Yearling Sale. Sent to Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, Princess Ash couldn’t break her maiden in Southern California. But she kept placing four times in six starts, mostly on the circuit’s old synthetic surfaces. After shipping to New York trainer Rudy Rodriguez, Princess Ash promptly won a maiden race on Aqueduct’s dirt.
That breakthrough came on April 7, 2013, the day after half-brother Normandy Invasion finished a close second in the Wood Memorial (G1). Princess Ash’s value was enhanced by his exploits, so it made good business sense to sell her.
WinStar seized the opportunity to buy Princess Ash for $200,000 at Fasig-Tipton Kentucky’s Summer Selected Horses of Racing Age Sale. She never raced for her new connections, instead retiring to the WinStar broodmare band.
Princess Ash visited Distorted Humor, and her first foal, Quip, was born on February 19, 2015.
“A standout all along,” was how Jeff Danford, WinStar’s broodmare manager, described baby Quip.
“We were very impressed with his balance and movement. Quip was well behaved, one of the favorites of everyone at the barn. His dam, Princess Ash, is also a crew favorite.”
Quip spent his early childhood at the Widow’s Watch Barn. Situated atop the highest elevation on the farm’s core property, the barn is so called from the architectural feature of the same name. The widow’s watch (or walk) consists of a cupola surrounded by a viewing platform, a design evocative of light houses. Word from the farm has it that when conditions are favorable at the right times of the year, downtown Lexington is actually visible from that outpost about 10 miles away.
Still nearer to home is Keeneland, where Quip was slated to be sold as a September yearling. After he was cataloged, however, the WinStar brain trust – led by CEO/President and Racing Manager Elliott Walden – decided to withdraw him. Walden explained to the Blood-Horse’s Eric Mitchell in April that Quip was the type who’d benefit from more time, and accordingly WinStar kept the bay colt.
The decision paid off handsomely as Quip has developed into a smart colt for WinStar and partners China Horse Club and SF Racing. He was among the juveniles allocated to up-and-coming trainer Rodolphe Brisset, who set out on his own just last year. Brisset learned the craft from two of the most respected horsemen in the business – Alain de Royer-Dupre in his native France, trainer of such luminaries as unbeaten 2008 Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe (G1) champion Zarkava and 2010 Melbourne Cup (G1) hero Americain, and U.S. Hall of Famer Bill Mott, whose honor roll includes fellow Hall of Famer Cigar.
Under Brisset’s tutelage, Quip earned his way into Derby 144 as the winner of the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) and runner-up in the Arkansas Derby (G1). But once again, WinStar opted for the patient route instead of pressing on to Churchill Downs. The team already had Justify, Audible, and homebred Noble Indy in the line-up, and with Quip’s similarly forward running style, he may not have been suited by how the race unfolded. The Preakness figured to set up better for Quip, but the clincher was the team’s judgment that the extra two weeks between races would be a definite help.
Brisset still had rooting interests in the Derby, albeit indirect. He had been involved in the early education of Justify before the future Derby winner was ready to join Baffert.
Precisely because Justify now has the potential to sweep the Triple Crown, observers might wonder if WinStar would be tempted to rule Quip out of the middle jewel. But Walden is sticking to the game plan formulated for Quip. Not only has Quip merited his chance to take the Derby winner on in the Preakness, but Walden trusts that Justify will come through if it’s meant to be.
That belief in letting things play out providentially has worked for WinStar, and for Quip.
Photo courtesy of WinStar Farm