Racing Post Features Runnymede
Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Runnymede’s unique history in international Thoroughbred breeding and racing was showcased in special report by Racing Post, the most highly regarded and detailed publication in horse racing worldwide, during the Royal Ascot meeting.

"We take a lot of pride in breeding and selling horses who can compete in Europe and around the world," Runnymede general manager Romain Malhouitre, a native of France who has been guiding the farm's bloodstock operations since 2013, states in the report.

The full version of the story follows and also can be accessed via the following link through the headline Undrafted stud reaping rewards for global view.

When the six-year-old Undrafted bids for his second Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot following his upset win last year, he will be the latest in a long line of horses who have fulfilled a unique love affair the Clay family of Kentucky has enjoyed with elite international racing.

From the time Full Extent carried the colours of patriarch Catesby W Clay to Gimcrack Stakes glory 35 years ago, through the exploits of Group 1 winners such as Racing Post Trophy hero Palace Episode, Japanese champion Agnes Digital and now Undrafted, the Clays have raised globally significant runners from a relatively small band of broodmares at their historic Runnymede Farm in Paris, Kentucky.

With an ongoing renaissance of prominent Runnymede-bred racehorses that also includes undefeated Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf winner Lady Eli and the Bob Baffert-trained multiple Graded stakes winner Collected, the Clays are renewing their focus on European racing while looking to enhance their bloodstock.

"We take a lot of pride in breeding and selling horses who can compete in Europe and around the world," says Runnymede general manager Romain Malhouitre, a native of France who has been guiding the farm's bloodstock operations since 2013.

"We're reaching a new maturity now. We've some really good mares but we know we have to invest more," he says.

The story of Undrafted is particularly rewarding for Runnymede, Malhouitre says, as the rather modestly bred son of Purim out of the French Deputy mare French Jeannette was sold as a yearling at Keeneland for $50,000 to agent Gatewood Bell.

"Gatewood has put a lot of trust in buying from us, so for him to go to Royal Ascot and win a Group 1 race with a Runnymede-bred makes it all the better," Malhouitre says.

Bell chose the sinewy chestnut for National Football League receiver Wes Welker, who brought in another relatively new owner, Wall Street hedge fund executive Sol Kumin, to join him in racing Undrafted. Coincidentally, Kumin went on to purchase Lady Eli as a juvenile, and he also has invested in Preakness Stakes winner Exaggerator and dozens of other horses.

In the wake of last year's Diamond Jubilee victory, Bell said: "I love buying horses from Runnymede - they have awesome land and graze them the right way. I always pay a bit more attention to their stock."

The team at Runnymede Farm: Romain Malhouitre (centre) with Brutus Clay (left) and patriarch Catesby Clay

Catesby Clay, who is now 92 and still active on the farm, bred Undrafted after buying six-time winner French Jeannette for $24,000 as a broodmare prospect at the 2005 Keeneland November sale. Sadly, the mare died in 2013 from an episode of colic and left no daughters with Runnymede.

Like all commercial breeders, Runnymede has endured its share of hardships, from deaths of horses to market dives like the one precipitated by the global economic crash in 2008. Today, however, as Clay's son Brutus J Clay III presides over the farm that is America's oldest continually run thoroughbred nursery, the future appears bright.

When Malhouitre introduced Brutus Clay to his longtime friend Nicolas de Chambure, who has run his family's Haras d'Etreham in Normandy since 2011, new possibilities arose that have already resulted in promising business.

Last November at Keeneland, Runnymede and long-time partner Peter Callahan joined with Haras d'Etreham and one of its partners to buy unraced broodmare prospect Esprit De Vie for $500,000. By Street Cry and out of Irish champion Irresistible Jewel, Esprit De Vie is a Moyglare Stud-bred sister to Group 2 winner Princess Highway, who also finished third in the Irish Oaks.

Esprit De Vie, who was bred to Medaglia D'Oro this spring and is in foal, is also a half-sister to Irish St Leger winner Royal Diamond and to Group 3 winner Mad About You, who was placed in four Group 1 races including the Irish 1,000 Guineas.

"They are very international and it made sense for us to work together," Malhouitre says of the Runnymede link with Haras d'Etreham, noting that Brutus Clay and de Chambure are both fourth-generation guardians of outstanding thoroughbred breeding programmes. "They both want to breed good horses and do right by their horses. Nicolas came to Runnymede and saw our foals with big bone, and he liked the way we raised them and he was keen to go on.

"In the next few years, we will look at investing more in Europe," Malhouitre adds.

Runnymede boards five-year-old homebred mare With Your Spirit at Haras d'Etreham. By Invincible Spirit, she is a half-sister to Palace Episode and to the dam of Runnymede-bred Irish Group 2 winner Laughing Lashes, who finished third in the Irish 1,000 Guineas.

With Your Spirit produced her first foal, a colt by Lope De Vega, this year.

Runnymede also has three fillies in training in France - Lady Katanga, a 120,000gns purchase at Tattersalls October in 2014 by Poet's Voice who is trained by Pia Brandt; La Dauphine, a three-year-old homebred by King's Best out of a half-sister to Agnes Digital who is being sent to Jerome Reynier; and a still unnamed juvenile homebred by Elusive Quality out of a half-sister to Palace Episode who will be trained by Nicolas Clement.

"We're building a new European programme and it seems like France is the place to be right now - it makes sense financially," Malhouitre says, pointing to lucrative breeder and owner awards.

Haras d'Etreham and a few other French breeders board a total of five mares at Runnymede, which is home to 42 broodmares, with 27 of those owned by the farm and its partners and the rest by clients, including Epsom-based Woodcote Stud.

Undrafted as a yearling at Runnymede Farm

Betty Moran's Brushwood Stable also keeps some of its mares at Runnymede during the breeding season, with residents including Breeders' Cup Ladies Classic winner Unrivaled Belle and Laughing Lashes.

Runnymede is open to new partners or clients "who have the same vision we do," Malhouitre said, noting that 50 mares would be an ideal number for the farm's 365 acres.

"We're definitely looking at Europe as a big potential partner - the Europeans really understand that we know what's going on in Europe, that we are talking the same language," he says.

Yet Runnymede is also highly attuned to the US market, and its yearling and foal crops possess potential for just about any region.

"We're excited about them - it's a hell of a group," Malhouitre says of this year's foals, highlighted by a Medaglia D'Oro filly out of the farm's homebred multiple Graded winner Bizzy Caroline, by Afleet Alex; an Empire Maker filly, conceived in Japan, out of Hunter's Mark, a half-sister to outstanding Japanese sire King Kamehameha; and a filly from the first crop by Frankel's multiple Group 1-winning brother Noble Mission who is a half-sister to English Group 3 winner Archbishop.

As to the Runnymede yearlings, Malhouitre believes "we have firepower this year" for the sales.

The colts are led by a robust son of Malibu Moon out of Bizzy Caroline who is nicknamed "The Beast;" an Uncle Mo colt who is a half brother to Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf-placed Sweet Cat, and a More Than Ready colt out of the Danehill mare Josette who is a full brother to stakes winner Woodwin W and a half-brother to the dam of Collected.

Additionally, Runnymede will sell a Novellist colt out of Hunter's Mark at the Japan Racing Horse Association select sale in Hokkaido with the help of Teruya Yoshida's Shadai Farm.

Runnymede's yearling fillies include a Bernardini daughter of graded stakes placed Woodford Belle, by Arch; a Giant's Causeway out of Pinch Pie, and others by Pioneerof the Nile, Scat Daddy, Congrats and Lemon Drop Kid.

As much as fertile land and traditional methods of raising horses are important to the Clays, including Brutus Clay's seven brothers and sisters, breeding at Runnymede is, fittingly, mostly about family.

Runnymede has developed female families that have rewarded the farm and those who have bought its yearlings for generations, and the Clays will continue to mine those families while also trying to discover productive new lines.

"We've always believed in our families," Malhouitre observes of matriarchs such as French-bred Kazadancoa, by Green Dancer, ancestress of Lady Eli, Palace Episode, Laughing Lashes and Bizzy Caroline, and Chancey Squaw, dam of Agnes Digital and current Runnymede broodmares Dame Ursula and Lady Of Akita.

"And we still look closely at broodmare sires, just as Mr [Catesby] Clay always did," Malhouitre says.

"We really don't want to change what has worked."