Orphaned At Birth, Gunnevera ‘Probably Extra Spoiled’

On Feb. 28, 2014, breeders Pam and Jim Robinson sprung into action to save the life of Unbridled Rage when the 19-year-old broodmare began to hemorrhage while delivering a healthy, leggy colt.

The daughter of Unbridled seemed to be rallying over the next few days before suddenly passing away, orphaning the colt who would go on to become Gunnevera, who will enter Saturday's $1 million Xpressbet.com Florida Derby (G1) at Gulfstream Park as the leading candidate for this year's Kentucky Derby (G1) on the basis of qualifying points-accrued.

“She hemorrhaged and after about three days we had her stable,” said Pam Robinson, who owns and operates Brandywine Farm in Paris, Ky. with her husband, Jim. “She was doing quite well, but 10 days after foaling, she dropped dead from a heart attack. It was so unfortunate.”

The Robinsons brought in a Paint mare to nurse Gunnevera, the orphaned son of Dialed In.

“Most of those nurse mares produce so much milk, lots of good rich milk,” Robinson said. “They're kind of like milk cows, so he got plenty of nutrition early on, that's for sure.”

Gunnevera flourished under such abundant nourishment and extra attention.

“He was probably extra spoiled,” Robinson said. “He was always at the gate wanting to be played with – almost like a big puppy dog.”

Gunnevera was very much the colt she had envisioned him to be when she decided to breed Unbridled Rage to Dialed In.

“Dialed In, when I saw him, is a big, good-looking horse. You couldn't ask for a better conformation horse,” said Robinson, who purchased two breeding rights to the 2011 Florida Derby winner. “The two, physically, I thought should produce a big strong horse, which they did. Gunnevera has always been a big colt, a very athletic colt.”

The Kentucky-bred colt didn't attract much attention at the 2015 Keeneland September Sale, bringing a top bid of $16,000 from South Florida-based trainer Antonio Sano for Peacock Racing Stables.

“We were very disappointed. We thought he'd bring a lot more than that, but we're in the business of breeding, so we can't just accumulate them,” Robinson said. “I think he was the second yearling going through the ring that day, and there was nobody there. Personally, if I'm trying to buy something, I take a very good look at the first horses going through the ring. Usually, the first horses and the last horses – people tend to get there late and leave early – that's when you seem to get your best bargains, your best buys.”

Gunnevera has gone on to amass more than $1 million in purse earnings while becoming a multiple graded-stakes winner with victories in the Saratoga Special (G2), the $1 million Delta Downs Jackpot (G3) and, most recently, the Fountain of Youth (G2) at Gulfstream March 4.

“It's a wonderful feeling seeing one of our babies go on to accomplish things. I also follow my horses that run in claiming races, maiden special weights and allowance races,” Robinson said. “They're all kind of our kids. Whenever they can perform at the top of their ability, you're always happy.”

Stephen Upchurch, the former Brandywine farm manager and longtime employee before venturing out on his own, is a co-breeder of Gunnevera.

“We gave him a third of the mare,” Robinson said.

The Robinsons were considerable more successful at the 2015 Keeneland September Sale while selling a son of Uncle Mo for $300,000. Royal Mo has gone on to capture the Robert  B. Lewis (G3) at Santa Anita in February. They've also bred 2011 Belmont Stakes (G1) winner Ruler On Ice, 2013 Arkansas Derby (G1) victor and Kentucky Derby third-place finisher Danza, multiple graded-stakes winner and 2013 Preakness (G1) runner-up Itsmyluckyday and multiple graded stakes-winning millionaire Majestic Harbor.

“When Ruler On Ice, who was our first Classic horse, won the Belmont and then ran third in the Breeders' Cup Classic, I'm not sure we really understood what an accomplishment that was,” Robinson said. “It's becoming more and more apparent that these are great treats. When we got to Danza, it started to hit home a little bit. He got such a bad trip in the Derby.”

Robinson is the retired director of the graduate program for sports medicine at UNC-Chapel Hill and she served on the U.S. Olympic physiological testing committee.

“I worked for elite athletes for 25 years, so you'd think some things carry over [to Thoroughbreds],” said Robinson, whose husband is a retired engineer at General Telephone and Electronics.

The Robinsons, who operated a farm in North Carolina, moved to Kentucky and purchased the 600-acre Brandywine Farm in 1998.

The post Orphaned At Birth, Gunnevera ‘Probably Extra Spoiled’ appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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