Promise Keeper Flying The Flag For Up-And-Coming Breeder Rock Ridge Thoroughbreds

Woodford Thoroughbreds, WinStar Farm and Rock Ridge Racing’s Promise Keeper posted a 2 1/4-length score in Saturday’s Grade 3, $200,000 Peter Pan, proving himself a top contender for the Grade 1, $1.5 million Belmont Stakes presented by NYRA Bets on June 5.

Trained by Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher, the Constitution chestnut, piloted by Luis Saez, stalked the early pace of Wolfie’s Dynaghost before taking control at the stretch call and fending off Nova Rags and stablemate Overtook’s charge.

Out of the Curlin mare Mira Alta, Promise Keeper was bred in Kentucky by Rock Ridge Thoroughbreds, which was established in 2013 and is located in Versailles, Kentucky.

Rock Ridge Thoroughbreds is owned by Kerry Smith, proprietor of Smith Contractors, Inc., his wife Lou, their son Joe and his nephew Codee Guffey.

The 30-year-old Guffey, who oversees the operation with his wife, Hailey, makes his primary living with the family-owned construction business.

“We’re new to the industry. We bought the farm in 2013 and I went to my first Keeneland sale that fall,” said Guffey. “The mare, Mira Alta, we purchased in our second year in the industry. We’re still learning and to be able to get a mare like her early was a blessing.

“We keep 12 to 15 mares,” continued Guffey. “This is a family affair. My family owns a construction company and that’s our livelihood. We decided to get into this as something we could all enjoy together. I work for the family business and my wife and I live on the farm and oversee the operation here. We never had horses before. We had some cattle. But being in the construction industry, we’re not afraid to work. We just try and use a common sense approach and it’s been very rewarding.”

Mira Alta was purchased for $200,000 at the 2015 Keeneland November sale. In addition to Promise Keeper, she has produced the stakes-winner and graded-stakes placed mare Wicked Awesome and the graded-stakes placed colt War Stopper, who is in training with Pletcher for owners Salerno Stables and Madaket Stables.

Guffey said Mira Alta made a tremendous first impression.

“Her page is what made me mark her down, but it was her looks that got me hooked,” said Guffey. “She’s a gorgeous chestnut mare with a blaze face. I like to say Promise Keeper got his looks from her. I know Constitution can throw some good-looking foals, but she’s a gorgeous mare and she has a respectable pedigree in her own right.

“A sister to Mira Alta produced Owendale and he’s a very nice colt,” added Guffey. “She’s out of a nice mare that Stonestreet owns but I guess Mira Alta didn’t earn a place in their band because she’s unraced. Stonestreet has some very nice mares and they can’t keep them all.”

Multiple Grade 1-winner Tiz the Law is currently the most famous son of Constitution. The New York-bred captured last year’s Grade 1 Belmont Stakes for trainer Barclay Tagg and owner Sackatoga Stable.

Guffey said the farm has been a strong supporter of Constitution with the mating to Mira Alta priced at $15,000 before the stallion’s runners elevated his stud fee to $85,000. Promise Keeper was purchased by Woodford Thoroughbreds for $160,000 at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale, where he was consigned by Warrendale Sales.

“He was a super nice foal and yearling. He was always a standout,” said Guffey. “Unfortunately, the year we sold him, Constitution didn’t have Tiz the Law or 3-year-olds at the time and just didn’t have that hype about him yet. We were about a year early on that. But Woodford bought him for $160,000 and anytime you can get 10 times the stud fee, you best take it.”

Promise Keeper graduated at second asking when stretched out to one mile on February 6 over a sloppy Gulfstream Park main track ahead of a troubled stakes debut in the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby on March 6.

He redeemed himself with a dominant 5 1/2-length score in a nine-furlong optional claiming score on April 8 at Keeneland and proved his class with Saturday’s graded triumph which garnered a career-best 89 Beyer.

“We were really excited for the Tampa Bay Derby because we felt like he fit with those horses and was a top quality 3-year-old,” said Guffey. “But he literally fell to a knee coming out of the gate. He lost a shoe. He got bumped in the turn. It was just a bad trip. We just decided to forget about that – it’s horse racing.

“We were all there for his Keeneland win and that gave me the reassurance that he’s the horse we thought he was,” he added.

Guffey said the farm bought back into Promise Keeper after his maiden win.

“We were fortunate to get back in on him after he broke his maiden and we were really proud of his effort yesterday,” said Guffey. “It’s different when you raise these horses, you get a lot of emotional ties to them.”

Guffey said the farm generally breeds to sell, but bought back into Promise Keeper with an eye to supporting their star pupil at stud.

“We take everything to the sale and put a price on it, but we do tend to keep our homebred fillies and get blacktype and make mares out of them,” said Guffey. “We don’t have a lot of desire to own the colts, but we always felt highly about this one.

“From a breeding standpoint, we’d love for him to become a stallion and be able to support him in that process.”

Guffey said Mira Alta, who has a 2-year-old by Shanghai Bobby, has again been covered by Constitution.

“We have an Honor Code filly that’s a yearling. That one may not make the sale if Promise Keeper continues to improve,” said Guffey. “The mare has a really nice Mastery colt at her side now. It’s early, but we like to say it’s her best one yet. He’s a chestnut and has not quite the markings that Promise Keeper has, but he’s a pretty colt.”

Rock Ridge Thoroughbreds is also the breeder of Hit the Woah, a dark bay daughter of Vancouver out of the More Than Ready mare Christie’s Ready.

Trained by Christophe Clement, the stakes-placed Hit the Woah is nominated to Saturday’s Grade 3 Soaring Softly at seven furlongs on the Belmont turf for sophomore fillies.

Guffey said he is proud of the farm’s early success from their young broodmare band.

“We only had eight foals from Promise Keeper’s crop and he’s now a Grade 3 winner,” said Guffey. “If we could get two graded stakes winners out of an eight-foal crop that would be a huge accomplishment for our breeding program. Hit the Woah is by Vancouver. He stood for $15,000 and we sold her for $150,000.

“I bought all young mares, so we have to be patient,” he added. “Hit the Woah was that mare’s first baby. We have a Malibu Moon colt from her and she’s back in foal to American Pharoah.”

While hope springs eternal in the breeding business, Guffey said his family is enjoying their foray into racing and would dearly love to be at Belmont Park on June 5 for the “Test of the Champion.”

“We sure have enjoyed it so far and hope to for many years,” said Guffey. “We have a great group here that works for us. If Promise Keeper is there June 5, we’ll be there. I promise you that.”

The post Promise Keeper Flying The Flag For Up-And-Coming Breeder Rock Ridge Thoroughbreds appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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