Sunday, November 20, 2011

Drosselmeyer: From Racehorse to Stud

I can list them easily: Animal Kingdom, Awesome Feather, Blind Luck, Drosselmeyer, Euroears, My Miss Aurelia, Shackleford, Uncle Mo, Weemissfrankie, and Winter Memories. These are the horses of 2011 that captured my heart and had me screaming at the top of my lungs throughout the year. Some of them never got to show just how good they were, some of them couldn’t quite live up to expectations, and some of them flaunted their brilliance when it counted most. Drosselmeyer could be categorized in the latter group.
Photo by Mary Cage
It took Drosselmeyer a while to get going, but he finished up the year better than one could imagine by winning the Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI). As a two-year-old, Drosselmeyer broke his maiden in his fourth start, winning by six lengths at Churchill Downs. He then won an allowance by nearly two lengths at Gulfstream Park, defeating future grade one winners Prince Will I Am and Stately Victor, multiple graded stakes-placed Guys Reward, and stakes-placed No Shenanigans.
Kentucky Derby dreams had formed and the colt made his way to Louisiana for the Risen Star Stakes (GII). I’d heard of the colt and was eager to see how he would do. He made a rally on the inside to finish fourth behind Discreetly Mine. I wasn’t discouraged at all, as it didn’t seem like he’d enjoyed his trip along the rail.

Photo: Terri Cage
Yet that’s exactly what he had to deal with next out in the Louisiana Derby (GII). He rallied along the inside yet again and finished third. I still could tell he was still very talented and I hoped that he would have enough earnings to enter the Kentucky Derby. However, he fell short on the earnings list and was excluded from the Run for the Roses.

Prepping for the Belmont Stakes (GI), Drosselmeyer finished second behind Fly Down in the Dwyer Stakes (GII). Drosselmeyer may have been defeated by six lengths, but he also broke slowly and had traffic problems.
Four weeks later, the Belmont was a different story. Ridden by Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith for the first time, Drosselmeyer emerged late on the outside to score a win in the Test of the Champion. Finally, the colt had been able to show the world just how talented he was.
After his Belmont win, Drosselmeyer injured his ankle and was out indefinitely. It broke my heart that the colt would be out, but I hoped that he would come back strong as a four-year-old.
While visiting Kentucky for the Breeders’ Cup last year, we stopped by WinStar Farm for a stallion tour. We were informed that Drosselmeyer was across the street at WinStar’s training facility. I ached to go over there to see the colt, but I knew I couldn’t and instead I just remained glad that he was doing well.

Photo: Terri Cage

After exactly nine months off, the striking chestnut son of Distorted Humor returned in the Challenger Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs, finishing fourth. After a disappointing fifth in the Skip Away Stakes (GIII) at Gulfstream Park, Drosselmeyer returned to his winning ways in the One Count Stakes at Belmont Park. Though it was just a $60,000 stakes race, he defeated eventual grade two winner Birdrun, grade three victor Inherit the Gold, multiple stakes winner Alma d’Oro, eventual Breeders’ Cup Marathon (GII) winner Afleet Again, and stakes-winning Edgewater.

Birdrun got revenge on him next out in the Brooklyn Handicap (GII), defeating him by nearly four lengths. Drosselmeyer then returned to the surface he’d run his first two career starts over: turf. In the Sword Dancer Invitational Stakes (GI), Drosselmeyer didn’t show much affinity for the grass and finished seventh.
Drosselmeyer returned to the dirt in his next race, the Jockey Club Gold Cup (GI). Having run mostly against marathon horses – which nowadays are not considered to be of the same class as horses that run a maximum of ten furlongs – prior to the prestigious race, not much attention was on Drosselmeyer. However, Drosselmeyer closed impressively on the outside to finish second, relishing being on the dirt again.
Photo by Mary Cage
As the 2011 Breeders’ Cup approached, I was mostly drawn to the star power. Attending morning workouts, I kept my eyes peeled for horses like Flat Out, Havre de Grace, and Uncle Mo. But when a gleaming golden chestnut stepped into my view and I read the name Drosselmeyer on the yellow saddle towel, my love for Drosselmeyer was renewed.
I was riveted by him once again. It was my first time to ever see him in person, so my eyes locked on him as he jogged alongside a pony horse. My heart thudded in my chest, my head turned as I followed him, and my camera clicked as I took pictures of him and videoed him. He looked spectacular. He carried himself with tremendous class, his coat shining liking a brand new penny and his legs moving so smoothly he could pass as a show horse. Sure, I was picking Flat Out on paper, but from appearances on the track in the morning, Drosselmeyer was my Classic horse.
So, as I stood along the rail near the winner’s circle and finish line during the Classic, my heart soared as Drosselmeyer flew along the outside, eclipsing the talented Classic field. I punched my fist into the air, letting out a shout of joy as Drosselmeyer, reunited with Mike Smith, galloped into the history books. I turned around to face my family, cheering one word with bliss: “Drosselmeyer!”
The colt soon jogged up with my favorite jockey, Mike Smith, aboard and I felt a grin stretch across my face as I recorded the horse entering the winner’s circle on my phone. Just feet from me, the stunning horse entered the winner’s circle under the Twin Spires. Not only was the Classic a story of redemption for Mike Smith (Drosselmeyer Dances Home in the Classic), but it was a story of redemption for Drosselmeyer.

Photo: Terri Cage
Just days prior to Drosselmeyer’s victory, I had visited WinStar Farm for the third time. We were told that the colt would go to New York for his stud career. My heart sank, knowing I’d better relish seeing him at the Breeders’ Cup, as I likely wouldn’t get to see him if he stood in New York.

But after his spectacular Classic win, WinStar faced a decision: should Drosselmeyer go to New York as planned or should he stay in Kentucky now that he’d won the Classic? A win in America’s richest horse race added another question: should he retire or should he continue racing?
I knew that if he was retired, he would go to stud in Kentucky. After all, he was a Belmont Stakes winner that had just won the Breeders’ Cup Classic. However, I didn’t want him to retire just yet. My love for Drosselmeyer had just escalated even more and I wanted to see him run another year.
But that wasn’t the case. On Friday, it was announced that Drosselmeyer was retired to stud at WinStar Farm in Kentucky. Understanding that right after winning the Breeders’ Cup Classic was a good time for him to enter stud, I was disappointed to know racing fans wouldn't get to enjoy him for another year. Yet, I look forward to visiting him at WinStar someday so I can reminisce on watching him race and can see that beautiful gleaming chestnut coat again.

Now Drosselmeyer will begin his new career alongside his sire, Distorted Humor, who is the leading sire in America. Distorted Humor has sired 42 stakes horses, including 17 stakes winners and 9 graded stakes winners. Ever since his first crop, he has sired at least 10 stakes winners a year and has produced an incredible 9 millionaires and 12 grade one winners. Big names he has sired include Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Funny Cide, two-time Whitney Handicap (GI) winner Commentator, and Travers Stakes (GI) winner Flower Alley. Clearly, Distorted Humor is an incredible racing sire, but he is one of the best commercial sires at stud as well. In fact, he holds the highest three-year yearling average in the nation. Standing for $100,000, Distorted Humor is most definitely a force to be reckoned with.
Drosselmeyer’s dam side is definitely not lacking talent. His dam, Golden Ballet, is a multiple grade one winner and earner of $732,145. She obviously is a good producer, having produced Drosselmeyer, but he is not her only talented offspring. She has also produced Stage Luck, who won the Affectionately Handicap at Aqueduct prior to finishing third in the Rare Treat Handicap, fourth in the Next Move Handicap (GIII), and third in the Ruffian Handicap (GI).
A photo I absolutely love by Terri Cage
Tracing back to influential sires such as Northern Dancer, Seattle Slew, and Mr. Prospector, Drosselmeyer looks to be a successful stallion. His stud fee is set for $17,500. Before we know it, we’ll see little Drosselmeyers collecting prestigious victories.
And for now, as we wait for the breeding season to begin, we can muse over Drosselmeyer’s Classic victory. It was a race that will always be dear to my heart, a race that showed me redemption is possible, a race that evoked feelings of joy for me, and a race that I can always watch and say, “I was there. I was right there.”
Drosselmeyer on the track the Thursday before his Classic win
Video by Mary Cage
Drosselmeyer after winning the Classic
Video by Mary Cage

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1 comment:

  1. Great post and videos thanks! I feel honored that I was there to see Drosselmeyer's Breeders Cup win and his Belmont Stakes win the year before. As a New Yorker, of course I wanted him retired to New York, but the thought of him standing next to his sire Distorted Humor is awesome and gives me all the more reason to come visit him in Kentucy! Thanks again, Barbara