Sacre Coeur: Our Broodmare of the Year
Thursday, July 28, 2016

When a bay filly by Saint Ballado was foaled at Runnymede in the cold of January in 2000, no one could have forecast how she might influence the future of the farm.

But it was clear she was something special. She was born with a white star on her forehead that looked just like a heart, an unusual marking that both distinguished her and endeared her to Runnymede’s Catesby W. Clay, who is listed on her Jockey Club papers as co-breeder along with the farm.

When the filly was taken to the 2001 Keeneland July selected yearling sale, Clay decided not to part with her, and she was led out of the ring unsold on a bid of $285,000.Sacre Coeur with her Ghostzapper colt in June 2014

As Runnymede Chief Executive Officer and Clay’s son, Brutus, recalls, Clay gave the filly the name Sacre Coeur, which means "sacred heart" in French. As a devout Catholic, Clay chose a name that has deep religious meaning as well as being a clever acknowledgement of the filly’s special marking.

She immediately showed talent in racing, finishing third in a maiden special weight race on grass at Saratoga Race Course as a juvenile and then winning a similar event at Aqueduct over 1 1/16 miles while guided by Edgar Prado. Ken McPeek was her trainer.

Sacre Coeur raced only three times, returning to Runnymede to fulfill a destiny that is still unfolding.

This year, her now three-year-old daughter Lady Eli is a finalist for the Eclipse Award as North America’s outstanding juvenile filly of 2014 after winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1) and the Miss Grillo Stakes (G3) in an undefeated season. And Sacre Coeur’s now seven-year-old daughter Bizzy Caroline, a multiple graded stakes winner in her own right, has joined her dam in producing foals for the farm.Kazadancoa

 What Sacre Coeur gives her offspring that makes them special is nothing less than her heart—not necessarily the white marking, but a determined spirit.

"Sacre Coeur has a mind of her own—she is just strong willed," said Brutus Clay.

She comes by it naturally from her own dam, Runnymede foundation mare Kazadancoa, who became something of a legend around the farm due to the exploits of her many stakes-performing descendants as well as her strong personality. Kazadancoa, a French-bred daughter of Green Dancer, could act so ornery at turnout time that the farm staff eventually just left her stall door and paddock gate open to get her outside without incident.

Kazadancoa lived to be 33, enjoying about a dozen years in retirement at Runnymede.

Lady Eli—who was sired by Runnymede-bred Grade 1 winner Divine Park and thus represents Runnymede breeding top and bottom—also displayed a strong personality from the time she was born. A $160,000 yearling purchase at Keeneland by Peter Bradley, she became known as one of the toughest yearlings to break that juvenile consignor Eddie Woods has ever managed.Lady Eli prior to her Breeders' Cup win at Santa Anita Park

Lady Eli prior to her Breeders' Cup win at Santa Anita Park

Partly due to her tough attitude that worried some potential buyers who otherwise liked her, Lady Eli brought $160,000 again at the 2014 Keeneland April two-year-olds in training sale. She went on to her impressive season for the new ownership team of Sheep Pond Partners and trainer Chad Brown.

Sacre Coeur also gave her strong personality to Bizzy Caroline, her daughter by champion Afleet Alex who, while in training with McPeek, was known for her typically pinned ears that reflected her serious attitude.

"Bizzy Caroline can be a handful—she can be really tough and difficult with her handlers," Clay said.

But Bizzy Caroline, who was named in honor of Clay’s daughter, Caroline, and his niece, Elizabeth "Bizzy" Blee, was always gentle with the girls and still enjoys interacting with the family at the farm, he noted.

In 2014, Bizzy Caroline delivered her first foal, a colt by Ghostzapper, and currently is carrying a foal by Malibu Moon. She will visit Medaglia d’Oro this spring.Bizzy Caroline with her 2014 Ghostzapper colt

Sacre Coeur also had a colt by Ghostzapper in 2014 and is booked to leading sire Kitten’s Joy.

The characteristics that have made Sacre Coeur our very own broodmare of the year, and which she has transferred on to her foals including Bizzy Caroline and Lady Eli, are "desire, heart and a competitive nature," Clay said.

"Certainly Sacre Coeur has instilled those qualities in her offspring. It’s not only their strong physical makeup, but it’s also that spirit, that heart, that make them so special," he said.

For everything she has given us, including the first Breeders’ Cup winner raised on our fields, we salute Sacre Coeur and look forward to many more generations of winners from this family that has meant so much to Runnymede.