Checking In With Big Brown, Paul Pompa’s Biggest Star

The dispersal of the late Paul Pompa Jr. at the Keeneland January Horses of All Ages Sale has given the racing world a chance to reflect on the life of the accomplished owner and breeder, but the most notable monument to Pompa’s success on the racetrack stands in a paddock outside Stillwater, N.Y.

Big Brown took Pompa to the cusp of a Triple Crown in 2008, and he brought home the Eclipse Award as champion 3-year-old male. Pompa bought the son of Boundary for $190,000 at the 2007 Keeneland April 2-year-olds in training sale, and he accumulated partners in the horse following the colt’s 11 1/4-length debut triumph as a juvenile at Saratoga.

By the time Big Brown retired to Three Chimneys Farm in Midway, Ky., for the 2009 breeding season, he had won seven of eight starts and earned over $3.6 million on the racetrack. He stood his first six seasons at Three Chimneys before being relocated to New York in 2015.

Prior to the move, Big Brown was responsible for the most expensive 2-year-old sale graduate of 2012 (the $1.3-million Darwin from his first crop), and the betting public’s second choice in the 2015 Kentucky Derby (Grade 1 winner and classic-placed Dortmund), but the loudest fireworks were spaced too far apart to meet the expectations set upon his arrival in Kentucky.

New York was the site of Big Brown’s only defeat on the racetrack, when he failed to clinch the Triple Crown in the Belmont Stakes, but his full-time residency in the state has gotten off to a positive start on the track and in the breeding shed.

Big Brown will stand the 2021 breeding season at Irish Hill & Dutchess Views Stallions in Stillwater, N.Y., where his oldest New York-sired runners recently turned five.

His first crop of New York-sired runners saw two horses earn points on the Kentucky Derby trail, in G3 Jeff Ruby Steaks winner Somelikeithotbrown and G3 Withers Stakes runner-up Not That Brady. Somelikeithotbrown, in particular, has carried the banner for Big Brown’s first class of New York-sired runners, highlighted by a win in last year’s G2 Bernard Baruch Handicap at Saratoga.

“Big Brown’s been a huge addition to Irish Hill,” said stallion manager Bill Leak. “To have a Kentucky Derby winner stand anywhere is just an honor to be a part of, and we’ve enjoyed every aspect of that. Him being such a classy horse on top of it, it’s just a thrill to work with him every day. It’s why we’re here, to work with horses like that.

“On the business side, he’s been a huge boon for Irish Hill,” Leak continued. “We’ve had some really good mares and really good owners because of Big Brown. We’ve built some really good relationships, and we look forward to building more in the future, all because of him.”

Leak described Big Brown as an easy keeper at his new farm, where he moved in 2017 after Irish Hill Century Farm and the stallion’s previous residence Dutchess Views Farm merged their stallion operations. Big Brown is owned by Andrew Cohen’s Sunrise Stallions.

When Big Brown arrived at the farm, Leak said managing the politics of introducing a new stallion into the ecosystem was one of the biggest challenges, as it is for any stallion.

“You just take your time,” he said. “It is a learning process. It took us a while to figure out he didn’t like being near certain horses, and we needed to alter his turnout schedule, where he got turned out or where other horses got turned out, just to learn his personality. Stallions are so territorial. They’ve really got to be careful about who’s around them, and he’s such a proud horse, we had to be careful about what other horses were near him.”

Though he’s further removed from the spotlight than he was a decade ago, Irish Hill Century owner Rick Burke said Big Brown maintains a fan following in his new digs, especially during the Saratoga meet, when visitors descend upon the area from around the country.

“He loves attention,” Burke said. “Him and Bellamy Road, they know they’re the big dogs on the block. When they walk into that breeding shed, they just know what to do. They have a lot of presence to them.”

Despite having two horses from his first New York crop make noise on the Derby trail, and Dortmund coming into his own shortly after his sire moved north, Burke said those runners didn’t move the needle as much as one might expect in terms of drawing mares. Getting winners in Saratoga, such as Somelikeithotbrown’s Bernard Baruch, grabbed the attention of New York breeders.

“It can make a stallion like him,” Burke said. “It can reinvigorate where people see his name a lot, having a big Saratoga meet.”

Big Brown was also well-represented in 2020 by Funny Guy, whose three stakes wins last year included the John Morrissey Handicap at Saratoga. He also finished second in the G2 Vosburgh Stakes.

Funny Guy and Somelikeithotbrown helped lead Big Brown to the top of New York’s sire list in 2020 by both winners and earnings, notching 57 winners and more than $2.7 million made on the racetrack, respectively.

“He’s a textbook quality horse,” Leak said. “Him being the number-one sire in New York is not a surprise, I don’t think. He’s just shown it throughout his career that he’s just that kind of animal.”

Once Big Brown went off to stud, Pompa’s most successful tie to the stallion came as a breeder. In Big Brown’s second year at Three Chimneys, Pompa’s program produced Coach Inge, who sold to Repole Stables as a 2-year-old and went on to win the G2 Brooklyn Invitational Stakes in 2015. He followed that victory with in-the-money efforts in the G2 Suburban Handicap and G1 Woodward Stakes.

Popma’s biggest triumph with a Big Brown runner of his own was the homebred Send It In, who won nine of 18 starts, highlighted by the G3 Excelsior Stakes in 2017.

The post Checking In With Big Brown, Paul Pompa’s Biggest Star appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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