This is Part 3 of 5 in a series about Irap who will start in the Kentucky Derby on May 6.
Part 3: The Cash Register and the Ugly Duckling
Silken Cat was named Canada’s two-year-old champion in 1995. After her three-year-old campaign, Silken Cat was retired to Taylor Made to start her career as a broodmare where she was destined for greatness. Silken Cat was bred to a new stallion named Gone West from the Mr. Prospector line of sires. (Mr. Prospector was an influential sire and Gone West was a descendant of Mr. Prospector). Gone West would go on to produce Breeders’ Cup winners and nearly a hundred stakes winners and, although no one knew it at the time, his baby with Silken Cat would be among the best.
Silken Cat’s first foal was born on February 1, 1998. In September of 1999, he would sell at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale for $2,000,000. That’s right. Two Million Dollars. During his racing career, he would go on to win more than $1 million at the track and take home the 2004 Breeders’ Cup Sprint. His name is Speightstown and, today, he stands at WinStar Farm in Versailles, KY, for a stud fee of $100,000.
Speightstown set the trend for Silken Cat’s yearlings. Her next yearling, who hit the sales ring in 2003, sold for $1.4 million. A full brother to Speightstown sold for $1.5 million in 2007. A foal by Unbridled’s Song sold for $1.7 million in 2008. A foal by two-time Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Tiznow sold for $1.75 million in 2013.
By 2013, Silken Cat had sold eight yearlings for nearly $9 million.
“That mare sold more dollars’ worth of yearlings,” Taylor said. “She was like a cash register. She just kept pumping them out. She had good looking foals.”
On a cold February 11, 2014, Silken Cat foaled what would turn out to be her last baby at Taylor Made. The mare who had arrived a Canadian champion and given birth to an American champion was now nearing the end of her career. The good news was this foal was a full brother to her previous foal in 2012. That was the one by Tiznow who brought $1.75 million at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale. Silken Cat, it seemed, was about to pull the lever on the cash register one last time.
Except nature had other ideas. This foal may have been a full brother to that Tiznow yearling, but he sure didn’t look it. He had a big belly and didn’t look like a winner. High-end yearlings are supposed to look like the stud athlete in the letter jacket. This guy looked more like a pudgy teenager with braces and pimples at the junior high dance.
“He was at an ugly duckling stage,” Taylor said.
It didn’t help that Silken Cat was 23-years-old by this time and nearing the end of her life. Some horse buyers stay away from foals produced by older mares. The combination of Silken Cat’s age and the young yearling’s ugly duckling appearance were too much to overcome. Despite his brothers’ and sisters’ success in the sales ring, Silken Cat’s last foal walked out unable to secure an acceptable offer.
The ugly duckling had a reserve of $150,000 (meaning that was the lowest acceptable price) and there weren’t any takers that day. So Taylor bought the yearling back and made a call to a couple guys who had looked at the Tiznow yearling before the sale. That call would make all the difference.