This is Part 4 of 5 in a series about Irap who will start in the Kentucky Derby on May 6.
Part 4 - All the Right Parts
When the yearling didn’t sell at the Keeneland sale, Frank Taylor made a call to a couple guys who had been interested in the horse before the auction. Brad Grady and Bobby Dodd had been in the horse business for a while. Grady grew up in West Texas and always liked horses, but he was more interested in rodeo-type horses, not thoroughbreds.
Grady was a businessman who had success in the quintessential Texas way – the oil and gas industry, specifically on the service side of the industry. More than just a Texas Oil Man, Grady also had business interests in the drug and alcohol rehabilitation business.
“I’m pretty diverse,” he said in a recent phone interview.
Grady was introduced to thoroughbreds through a friend and started pinhooking. (Pinhookers are the house flippers of the horse industry. They buy young horses, take care of them as they mature over the course of several months, then sell them again – hopefully at a profit). Bobby Dodd was Grady’s thoroughbred expert who understood how to pick and choose the right horses.
On that September day at Keeneland, Taylor convinced Grady and Dodd to come back to the barn and take another look at the ugly duckling.
“We went back to the barn with Frank,” Grady said. “(The colt) was potbellied. He had all the right parts. He was plenty correct. He had all the makings of a nice horse, but he wasn’t there that day. He was out of sorts. A lot of times those yearlings will do that. He was not peaking at the right time.”
Grady and Dodd bought the yearling for $100,000. Was it a steal, considering the colt’s full sister brought $1.75 million? Or was it a gamble, considering the colt had an unflattering appearance?
“I’ve seen the $1.75 million filly,” Grady said. “He didn’t look like that at the time.”
Then the horse headed to Grand Oaks, Grady’s horse farm near Ocala, Florida, where they hoped he would mature into a better-looking colt. It was the job of Dodd, the farm manager, to tighten up the colt and get this potbellied yearling into shape.
“It’s a lot harder to tighten one than a man thinks,” Grady said.
March 10 would be the date to determine whether Grady and Dodd’s bet had paid off. At the Ocala Breeders Sale, the colt (now two-years-old) would actually run on a track with a jockey on his back. It’s called an “under tack” show. It wasn’t a race, per se, but more of a time trial. While the yearling sales feature horses walking around a sales ring, the two-year-olds breeze (run hard with a jockey aboard) an eighth of a mile to show off their actual running ability.
When colt #256 took his turn, he didn’t look like the same ugly duckling from September. He looked tight and strong. He was a beautiful bay-colored stream of muscle bursting across the dirt with a green saddle cloth flapping in the wind. His time of 10 and 1/5 seconds was good. It wasn’t great, but it was clear this colt had come a long way in a short period of time. More importantly for Grady, it was good enough to attract a buyer at $300,000 at the sale a few days later.
“He breezed good,” Grady said. “Not near the fastest (at the sale) by any means, but it was respectable.”
The buyer was Dennis O’Neill whose brother Doug is one of the top horse trainers in the United States. Team O’Neill, and owner Paul Reddam, have won the Kentucky Derby in two of the past five years. With Reddam on the phone, Team O’Neill made the call to buy colt #256.
It was a bittersweet day for Taylor Made Farm. While the ugly duckling had performed well and sold for a hefty sum in Florida, there was bad news back at the farm in Kentucky. Silken Cat, the grand old dam who had meant so much to the farm, had passed away peacefully in her paddock. She was 23 years old.
“She had a big impact on the business and the breed altogether,” Taylor said. “She was a special mare. (Her death) was tough. She was an old mare – 23 years old. She had a long, good life.”
While Silken Cat’s career had ended, Irap’s career was just beginning.