Saturday, January 5, 2013

After the Auction: Lemon Belle

As an avid fan of sales with possible aspirations to become an adviser/bloodstock agent, auctions are one of my favorite topics to write about on Past the Grandstand. This is the ninth edition in a blog series called "After the Auction" that will feature horses I selected in sales that have found success after the sale. 

Victory is especially sweet when it supersedes disappointment. This proved true when Lemon Belle coasted to victory in her fourth career start and initial start as a three-year-old. Once a very promising filly, Lemon Belle had finished off-the-board and well-beaten in her previous three races, but had finally learned how to win.

Consigned by de Meric Sales to the 2012 Keeneland April Two-Year-Olds in Training Sale under the pending name Beyond Belle, Lemon Belle became one of my selections in the auction due to her remarkable pedigree and her impressive breeze in the under-tack show. Sold as hip 44, Lemon Belle was purchased for $400,000 by trainer Chad Brown on behalf of Martin Schwartz, a team that would later that year win the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Turf (GI) with Zagora.

With a high price tag and a famous sibling in Unrivaled Belle, high hopes were placed upon the bay filly. But when she debuted at Belmont Park in October, Lemon Belle finished mid-pack, running sixth in a twelve-horse field, though she did show some late acceleration. The disappointment only continued when the Chad Brown trainee finished fifth and ninth in Aqueduct and Gulfstream maiden special weights, respectively.

Lemon Belle had gone her entire juvenile campaign without even one on-the-board finish. But in her first start as a sophomore, the filly faced state-bred company for the first time, which served as a likely easier level for her. Facing four rivals in a six-furlong maiden special weight for Florida-breds at Gulfstream Park, Lemon Belle, as she had in her earlier races, displayed minimal early speed, quickly dropping several lengths off the leader as she trailed the small field. With little space separating her four rivals, who all ran ahead of her, Lemon Belle dropped multiple lengths behind.

But around the far turn, jockey Joel Rosario began to urge the filly and the newly-turned sophomore picked up the pace, gaining ground on her opponents as the track began to curve. By the quarter pole, Lemon Belle had passed a pair of her adversaries, swinging to the outside of the two leaders as the field turned for home. With the same imposing stride she displayed in her 10-second breeze in the preview show of the Keeneland April sale, Lemon Belle swept past her rivals en route to an easy 5-length victory.

Perhaps it was the easier state-bred level that allowed Lemon Belle to finally garner a win, or maybe the filly finally learned how to win. One can only hope that, with her triumph, Lemon Belle has found the confidence to perform well from now on.

Another tool that could be used to possibly assist Lemon Belle in being more successful would be a stretch-out in distance. A filly that has yet to race beyond one mile, Lemon Belle has the pedigree to go farther.

Lemon Belle is a daughter of Lemon Drop Kid, a five-time grade one winner that is best known for winning the 1999 Belmont Stakes (GI). The Champion Older Horse of 2000 has sired the grade one winners Citronnade, Christmas Kid, Lemons Forever, Richard’s Kid, and Santa Teresita. A son of the multiple group one-winning sire Kingmambo, Lemon Drop Kid has been among the top fifty sires in North America every year since 2006.

Out of the graded stakes-winning mare Queenie Belle, Lemon Belle is a half-sister to 2010 Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic (GI) victress Unrivaled Belle. Lemon Belle descends from a strong tail female family, which is largely influenced by Thoroughbreds from the British Isles. In fact, the bay filly is a direct descendant of the Reine de Course mares Admiration and Pretty Polly, the latter of which is viewed as one of the greatest racemares and producers of all-time. Winner of 22 of her 24 lifetime starts, Pretty Polly won some of Europe’s most prestigious races, including the 1000 Guineas, the Oaks, and the St. Leger Stakes, the latter in which she defeated males. Other direct descendants of this great mare include the greats Brigadier Gerard and Nearctic.

Lemon Belle’s racing career may have commenced in disappointing fashion, but the filly surely gained confidence when breaking her maiden and could certainly progress. If the potential she displayed in her breeze prior to the Keeneland April sale and her spectacular pedigree are any indication, a bright future could be ahead for Lemon Belle should she continue to improve. 

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