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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Pretty Amazing

Claire Novak

Horse racing is all about seasons and cycles. Foals are born, become weanlings, grow up to yearlings, go off to training, turn into two-year-olds, hit the racetrack, do what they may. The successful retire to life as stallions or broodmares. The cycle begins again.

The same thing happens in life, especially for those of us who are connected to the racing industry. We know we’ll always be at Churchill in the spring, Saratoga in the summer, Belmont in the fall. We plan our schedules around events like the Classics, the Breeders’ Cup, certain racing seasons. It becomes our way of marking time – “the Saturday after the Preakness,” or “a week before Saratoga opens …”

In 2007, I became friends with the wife of the broodmare manager at Hidden Brook Farm. We were workout buddies, and often hiked the farm’s rolling driveways while the mares trotted along the fenceline next to us. It was spring, and every time I visited the farm, there were new foals to admire.

Discreetly Mine was one of them.

I remember being in awe over the fact that Pretty Discreet, the dam of Discreet Cat, was right there at Hidden Brook. It’s an unassuming place, rather off-the-beaten path outside of Paris, Ky. Yet from approximately 600-acres of limestone-rich black-fenced Bluegrass, four Kentucky Derby starters have made their way to the post. It’s a long way to go ‘till the first Saturday in May, but Discreetly Mine, winner of the Feb. 20 Risen Star Stakes, could be the fifth in seven years – and first for a talented racemare whose foals hit the racetrack with remarkable success.

Discreet Cat put his mamma on the map as a broodmare. The 2006 Cigar Mile (gr. I) winner, he equaled the track record at Aqueduct with that score and his other victories include the U.A.E. Derby (gr. II) and the Jerome Handicap (gr. II) at Belmont Park. Godolphin Stables purchased him privately for a pretty penny after he broke his maiden first time out in 2005.

But Pretty Discreet is no slouch on her own; a daughter of Private Account out of the Believe It mare Pretty Persuasive, her race record includes a third in the Frizette (gr. I) and a second in the Matron (gr. I) at Belmont. In 1995 she won the Alabama (gr. I) by eight lengths, wiring the field in the 1 ¼-mile race to win on the sloppy track in 2:02 at odds of 42-1.

Although the accomplishments of her early foals may seem modest at first glance (her first foal, Private Boundary, visited the winner’s circle just one time in four starts as a 3-year-old) , both Pretty Boundary and Lady Discreet (her second and third foals of 1998 and ’99) are stakes producers. Her next foal, Pretty Wild by Wild Again, finished second in the ’02 Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga at the ’02 Futurity at Belmont and won two stakes at Monmouth Park en route to career earnings of $398,280. Her ’01 foal was a bit of a disappointment – Pretty Wild Again only won once in five starts – and her ’02 foal, Discreetly Awesome, never made it to the track. But Discreetly Awesome’s first foal is Awesome Maria, winner of the 2009 Matron (gr. II) at Belmont. And in 2003 along came Discreet Cat, and everything was all right.

“She came with me in 2003 when we opened the farm,” said Sergio de Sousa, managing partner at Hidden Brook. “She had been with me at Indian Creek before that and she came here in foal to Forestry, and that foal was Discreet Cat.”

The next foal, a 5-year-old son of El Prado, ran second in Belmont’s Westchester Stakes (gr. II) last year and is back in training at Ocala Stud after a winter off, and although her ’06 filly by Empire Maker, Discreet Empire, only won once in seven starts, Discreetly Mine was next.

“Horses like this are what we wait for,” de Sousa said.

Big Brown, Desert Party, Liquidity, and Musket Man all have ties to Hidden Brook Farm.

Pretty Discreet’s Bernardini foal was born dead last year, and she was barren this year after being bred to Street Sense. Friday, she’ll be bred to Street Sense again. The cycle continues.

And I’ve added a trip to Hidden Brook to my itinerary this spring – about a week before the Derby – to see the old girl. For old times’ sake.

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