Breeders’ Cup Presents Connections: Pearl Tiara Brings Her Small-Scale Breeders Full Circle

When Loren Hebel-Osborne needed a moment to get her emotions in check, she did what she’s always done: she leaned on her horse.

Pearl Tiara gracefully allowed her co-owner and co-breeder to press a kiss to her forehead as they stood in the winner’s circle. Perhaps the 3-year-old filly was enjoying the extra attention after she dominated her competition by 8 ¾ lengths in last Wednesday’s $75,000 Hoosier Breeders Sophomore Stakes at Indiana Grand.

“I was holding back a really ugly cry,” Hebel-Osborne said Saturday from her home at Deerfield Farm just outside Louisville, Ky. “It was like the release of a pressure valve; some people will understand that. It was this happy, exhausted, just full-circle moment of overwhelming emotion.”

Pearl Tiara’s win was so extra-special because she is the first stakes winner for stallion Majestic Harbor, whom Hebel-Osborne and her husband, Kentucky Speaker of the House David Osborne, also campaigned on the racetrack with a group of friends. The couple has worked diligently to support in his burgeoning stallion career, and from a first crop of just 15 foals, Majestic Harbor was the leading first crop sire in California last year.

Of those first 15, the Osbornes foaled out and raised eight babies on their farm. For an operation that typically bred two to three mares in a year, making the jump to eight was a significant financial, emotional, and physically arduous undertaking.

“With all that we’ve done to support him, seeing him get that first stakes winner, it was just like, ‘Oh my gosh, it actually worked,’” Hebel-Osborne said. “Being a small-time breeder, you never know if there’s a place for us in this business anymore. It’s certainly hard to compete, and we’re still fishing in a pretty small pond, but winning that race felt absolutely incredible.

“We have invested over 10,000 hours from planning to utero, etc., and it all came together for this one moment.”

It was also emotional for more personal reasons, Hebel-Osborne acknowledged. This was the first major racing victory since the passing of her father, Charles Hebel, in September of 2020. 

“Racing has always been a family affair for us,” she said. “He was a horrible handicapper, the consummate two-dollar bettor, but he loved the family aspect of the game. He was one of the partners in Majestic Harbor so we got to ride the very top of the wave together, and I know he would have loved to have been there for this.”

In fact, Hebel was one of the partners who encouraged his daughter to go out and buy yearlings at the 2009 Keeneland September sale. In hindsight, it was a brilliant idea: the economic crash meant nice horses were selling for rock-bottom prices, and they’d been able to buy horses they could never have afforded otherwise. 

At the time, however, going to that sale seemed like a really big risk. 

Hebel-Osborne had just lost her job when Visa pulled out of the Triple Crown sponsorship, and the state of the economy meant the prospect of new employment was much more challenging. Still, both her parents and her husband helped put together a group of friends to buy some horses, and off they went to Keeneland.

They would end up buying six yearlings that year, including a colt by Rockport Harbor for $20,000 and a filly by Mineshaft for $22,000. Years later, those two would become the parents of Pearl Tiara.

All six were brought home to Deerfield after the sale, where they enjoyed lush pastures, personalized attention, and careful mentorship by the Osbornes’ retired racehorses.

The Rockport Harbor colt was nicknamed “Rocky,” and was later registered as Majestic Harbor. He flashed talent as a 2-year-old, enough that a potential sale was brokered, but on the morning of his veterinary exam Rocky got loose at the Fair Grounds and slid into a dumpster, winding up with enough road rash and bumps and bruises to negate the sale.

The Osbornes would be glad he did, even if it took a few more years to achieve his maximum potential. 

It wasn’t until 2014, at the age of six, that Majestic Harbor achieved the pinnacle of his career when triumphing at 14-1 odds in the Grade 1 Gold Cup at Santa Anita. Majestic Harbor continued to race until age eight, compiling a record of 10 wins, eight seconds, and seven thirds from 42 starts with earnings over $1.2 million.

Majestic Harbor wins the Grade 1 Gold Cup at Santa Anita on June 28, 2014.

“He was so sound for so long, and that’s the kind of horse we want to support as breeders,” Hebel-Osborne said. “We also breed for disposition, and he has the best brain and seems to be passing that on to his foals.”

Majestic Harbor stood his first season in 2017 at Swifty Farms in Indiana, siring 13 fillies from his 15-strong first crop. After his second year, Majestic Harbor moved to Harris Farms in California for the 2019 breeding season. 

Last year, with his first foals racing as 2-year-olds, Majestic Harbor earned the leading first crop sire title in California. He did so without siring a stakes winner in 2020, though Pearl Tiara and another Majestic Harbor filly, Diamond Solitaire, in whom the Osbornes are also co-owners and breeders, both raced well as juveniles.

This year’s statistics seem to show that his runners are getting better with age, as Pearl Tiara and Diamond Solitaire ran one-two in Wednesday’s stakes race. Pearl Tiara is trained by Tim Glyshaw, who also trained the Osbornes’ Unreachable Star, the record-setting Indiana-bred who also has a stakes race named after him.

“Having Pearl (Tiara) and Diamond (Solitaire) finish one-two in the stakes race for Majestic Harbor is a thrill,” said Hebel-Osborne. “And, this is the first time Pearl has beaten Diamond. We saw Diamond start moving toward her and thought she might catch her, but Pearl said, ‘Not today.’”

Hebel-Osborne reflected on the risks they’d taken to support Majestic Harbor. They’d purchased new mares to breed to the stallion. They’d had to build additional stalls to accommodate the increased number of mares and foals, and even borrowed a few stalls and pastures from the sporthorse farm next door. They’d hired additional help, and she and her husband spent countless hours performing barn chores themselves. 

When he moved to California, the Osbornes divided their mares and sent some to Harris Farms along with him, launching their first California-bred operation. Of course, every winter when Indiana Grand shuts down for the season, the Osbornes have brought their racing stock home to Deerfield to give them a vacation.

Pearl Tiara and Diamond Solitaire even spent the winter racing each other around the same paddock.

The risks have paid off, with Majestic Harbor doing his part to make a name for himself in the breeding shed.

“I’m not talking down about our mares, but there’s no Serena’s Song out there in our pastures,” David Osborne said. “If he can do this with the stock that he’s gotten, I just think that says a lot about his ability.”

Looking to the future, the Osbornes are entertaining the idea of bringing Majestic Harbor back to Kentucky, where his racing longevity might be attractive to local breeders. 

In the meantime, things at Deerfield have scaled back a bit. Four yearlings stand in the paddocks from last year’s breeding season, and just one foal is racing around her mother’s legs. 

As it had been for most of the world, the pandemic had been a season filled with challenges both personal and professional for the Osbornes. Besides the struggles of working through a legislative session with COVID-19 restrictions, Hebel-Osborne faced the unknowns of scheduling sporting events through her job as a sales executive for QuintEvents.

This year, the Osbornes lost a mare and her Majestic Harbor foal to a difficult birth in February, while another mare delivered a dead foal. 

Along with the loss of Hebel-Osborne’s father last fall, the couple lost both of their beloved Corgis in just 12 months.

Life circles on, and Hebel-Osborne opened her heart to a beautiful German Shepherd puppy named Kayzie in November. A graduate of the Paws Behind Bars program at Bluegrass Adoption, Kayzie has enthusiastically taken up her role as head of security at Deerfield.

Even Osborne, who said he wasn’t quite ready for another dog, seems to have found plenty of room in his heart for Kayzie’s loveable antics as she learned about farm dog life.

“This can be a tough business,” Hebel-Osborne concluded. “But when you have days like that (Wednesday at Indiana Grand), it makes everything seem worth it. I know my dad was cheering us on.”

The post Breeders’ Cup Presents Connections: Pearl Tiara Brings Her Small-Scale Breeders Full Circle appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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