‘We’re Not Here Trying To Re-Invent The Wheel’: Kirkwood Stables’ Gulfstream Gallop Consignment Returns For Second Year

Kip Elser’s Kirkwood Stables is far from the first consignment to gallop its horses through a juvenile sale’s breeze show instead of going all-out under the clock. It wasn’t even the first consignment to do it at the Fasig-Tipton Gulfstream Selected 2-Year-Olds In Training Sale.

Still, there was something about the notion that felt novel when the Camden, S.C., operation debuted its “Gulfstream Gallop” consignment in 2018, consisting of horses acquired as yearlings for the sole purpose of turning in an untimed gallop during the South Florida auction’s under-tack show.

The intentions of Elser and his partners to return to the sale in 2019 were made clear during last year’s yearling season, when Elser signed a handful of tickets as agent for “Gulfstream Gallop” and “Midway Gallop.” After sending five horses galloping through last year’s Gulfstream sale, Kirkwood Stables returns with nine gallopers under multiple entities.

“We did it with a small group of horses last year,” Elser said. “This year, we have a slightly larger group, and you’re always hoping to improve your stock. I hope the public thinks we’ve upgraded a bit.”

The Gulfstream Gallop program was born two years ago when Elser and an anonymous partner secured a draft of yearlings to point at the 2018 sale, with the goal of demonstrating that a quality 2-year-old does not have to go through the rigors of preparing for and executing an eighth-mile drill to prove its worth. Three of the five horses that were offered sold in the ring at the Gulfstream sale, led by a colt from the first crop of Noble Mission who went to Caves Farm for $120,000.

After the initial class of gallopers, Elser said others expressed interest in joining the program. The other half of the Gulfstream Gallop team did not want to take on partners, but he believed there was room in the market for more horses in a similar program, so Elser and Joe Miller of bloodstock agency Kern Thoroughbreds bought a second set of yearlings in 2018 under the “Midway Gallop” banner.

Kirkwood Stables consigns at major 2-year-old auctions throughout North America, and its horses entered elsewhere go through the usual regimen of training for the breeze show. Why is the Fasig-Tipton Gulfstream sale targeted for the gallopers? Elser said it’s a combination of timing and surface.

“I don’t think it would work on synthetic, and I don’t think it would work later in the year after people started running 2-year-old races,” he said. “That’s how we got to Gulfstream. Something would have to change for me to change my thinking.”

Of the five members of the original Gulfstream Gallop class, four have raced, two are winners, and the other two are placed.

The standard-bearer among the group is Splashy Kisses, a Blame filly who finished second in the Grade 2 Pocahontas Stakes and third in G3 Sweet Life Stakes. She was purchased for $100,000 by bloodstock agent Dennis O’Neill, on behalf of Erik Johnson’s ERJ Racing. Phoenix Thoroughbreds and Dave Kenney later joined the ownership group, with Doug O’Neill handling the training duties.

“They were very happy with the way she looked in the gallop, and they liked the stallion, Blame, as well, and just liked her as an overall athlete,” Doug O’Neill said. “I think you can see a lot by watching them gallop and seeing how they look individually, so I don’t think you necessarily need to see them fly down there an eighth of a mile. At the same time, I can see how you can fall in love with one that’s flying down there in :10-flat, so I can see both sides.

“On that particular filly, she’s such a big filly, it was probably in her best interest [to gallop in the breeze show],” O’Neill continued. “I’m glad they ended up not breezing her and just galloped her.”

Elser obviously felt vindicated that one of the Gulfstream Gallop horses had made a dent at the graded stakes level, but he stayed realistic about how much it would help the current class of gallopers when their time comes in the sale ring.

“It’s never easy,” he said with a laugh.

Defying the stopwatch at one of the country’s highest-stakes juvenile sales has generated a fair number of inquiries from curious horsemen and media members, and Elser has had to be the mouthpiece for the program from its inception. He’s not worried about being shoehorned as “the gallop guy,” though. In fact, he welcomes the discussion, and what it could lead to in the future.

“I’m not sick of it at all,” Elser said. “It should generate interest. It should generate questions. That’s why we’re here, to present the case. We’re not here trying to re-invent the wheel. I’m not trying to train or sell anyone else’s horse. I’m showing how I think we can do it, and still give the buyer a representative look at the horse.”

The post ‘We’re Not Here Trying To Re-Invent The Wheel’: Kirkwood Stables’ Gulfstream Gallop Consignment Returns For Second Year appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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