Half-Sister To Derby Winner Always Dreaming Sells At Saratoga In Dilger’s Memory

One of the enduring images of the 2017 Kentucky Derby didn’t come between the rails.

It was a cell phone video from inside McCarthy’s Irish Bar in Lexington, Ky., where praise and cheers rained down upon on Gerry Dilger as he watched the colt he co-bred win the biggest race of his life.

Always Dreaming’s triumph at Churchill Downs was a career highlight for Dilger, who bred the colt in partnership with bloodstock agent Mike Ryan under the moniker Santa Rosa Partners.

It was a powerful pairing, combining one of the industry’s top consignors, in Dilger’s Dromoland Farm, and one of the keenest buying eyes in the business, in Ryan; and the mare that made Always Dreaming, the Grade 3-winning blue hen Above Perfection, was their ace in the hole.

On Tuesday, when Hip 160 goes through the ring, it’ll be a reminder of the good times, but it’ll also be a curtain call for those who couldn’t attend.

The Quality Road filly wearing the “160” sticker on her hip was the last foal out of Above Perfection, whose mating was planned by Ryan and Dilger in tandem. Dilger died in March 2020, a month before the filly was born.

A year later, on April 20, Above Perfection had a Justify colt, but she developed laminitis in the weeks that followed and soon succumbed at age 23.

Whether the reasons are physical, economic, or personal, every horse that goes through the ring in Saratoga Springs does so because they are special. Needless to say, this one carries a bit more weight for Ryan than the garden-variety special horse.

“It’s very emotional,” Ryan said. “Gerry was my best friend. It’s tough.”

Above Perfection had been a revelation for Ryan and Dilger. They bought the mare for $450,000 at the 2006 Fasig-Tipton November Sale, carrying a Dixie Union foal that would become Grade 1 winner and graded stakes producer Hot Dixie Chick.

Always Dreaming, by Bodemeister, was the seventh foal bred by Santa Rosa Partners. Two foals later, the mare produced the Pioneerof the Nile filly Positive Spirit, who won the Grade 2 Demoiselle Stakes.

The mare’s final Justify colt was the 12th bred by the Santa Rosa operation, and her 14th overall. Ryan said he was aware that the mare’s age was catching up with her, and he’d taken steps to ease her load by putting her foals on nurse mares in recent seasons. The plan had been to pension Above Perfection after her latest foal was weaned, but she went from healthy to laminitic without warning.

“She was one of these mares that put everything into her foals,” Ryan said. “She always had good muscle and strength herself. She was a powerful mare, and she was an easy doer. She took care of herself, and she never disappointed us. She dropped a very good foal.”

The mare’s age was also on Ryan and Dilger’s mind when they planned the mating that produced the Quality Road filly on offer Tuesday.

“He had a terrific year at the time,” Ryan said. “We wanted a proven horse, and he’s a horse that we bred to early in his career. He’s one of the top horses around. The mare had some age on her, and Lane’s End were gracious enough to take her.”

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The ensuing foal fit the bill of another successful filly on the page.

“This filly actually reminds me a lot of Hot Dixie Chick,” Ryan said. “She’s a similar shape, similar size and stature, good length, good depth to her. She’s got the same mind. All of them have a good mind. Hot Dixie Chick had the most unbelievable temperament – she was like a sheepdog, but when you dropped her on the rail, she was extremely talented.

“I’d say there’s more of the mare in this filly than Quality Road,” he continued. “She’s bred to go two turns, but she gives me the impression she’ll have plenty of pace.”

Fillies with pages this deep don’t often enter the commercial market, especially when the matriarch of such a strong family tree has recently died. Under normal circumstances, a filly like the one on offer Tuesday would be kept to join the breeder’s broodmare band.

Ryan said the filly’s entry in the sale was part of the process of moving on.

“To finalize Gerry’s estate, this was the appropriate way to do it, to put her through the sale,” he said. “Obviously, a filly like this, you’d love to keep her for the long term as a racemare and a broodmare, because it’s a pedigree we’re familiar with. These kinds of fillies are hard to come by.”

The post Half-Sister To Derby Winner Always Dreaming Sells At Saratoga In Dilger’s Memory appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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