It’s mid-afternoon and Patricia Purdy is back in the house after taking care of some chores around Ivy League Farm. Late fall in upstate New York - Ithaca to be exact - and that means its cold, sometimes wet and more often than not windy. Snow, if it hasn’t come yet, will be there soon.
Purdy, New York’s breeder of the year in 2002 and a native of Michigan, is unnerved by the cold and gray gloom on this day. She admits the socks inside her boots are in need of a change, but otherwise is in great spirits.
Not surprising, considering the events of the last week.
“It was pretty exciting, regardless of everything we heard, all the ‘he should have been scratched’ talk and things like that,” Patricia Purdy said Thursday by phone from the farm. “One thing we did know was that he at least was a stayer in that group of horses.”
The stayer Purdy refers to is London Bridge, winner of last week’s Breeders’ Cup Marathon at Santa Anita Park and the latest high-profile winner for the successful Ivy League Farm breeding operation.
London Bridge was one of five European imports to win over the two-day, 14-race Breeders’ Cup. He notably became the first registered New York-bred to win at Breeders’ Cup race and with that is the first Breeders’ Cup winner bred by Purdy.
Purdy bred one other Breeders’ Cup starter, Grade 1 winner Carson Hollow, who finished 13th against the boys when a female option didn’t exist in 2002 at Arlington Park. Purdy, who was educated as a dentist but never practiced, runs Ivy League Farm with her husband and retired dentist Dr. Chris Purdy. She’s also bred a Kentucky Derby starter, Grade 2 winner Sharp Humor, who she raced in partnership in the name Purdadel Stable with WinStar Farm.
The Breeders’ Cup and Kentucky Derby, two of the world’s biggest racing events. That’s heady stuff for a small breeder in Central New York with a broodmare band of between 12 and 15 mares, most of which are kept at the farm located within the Central New York community with a thriving and eclectic arts culture that is perhaps best known as the home of Cornell University.
Producing horses like London Bridge, who won the 1 ¾-length Marathon by a length to open the Breeders’ Cup card last Friday, that could compete in racing’s marquee events was a goal of the Purdys as they built their farm and breeding operation in the late 1980s. Their goals were as sensible and practical as they were lofty and ambitious.
“The simplest dream I guess was to raise good racehorses,” Purdy said. “We all think of winning the Kentucky Derby. That still is a dream. And I have to admit, watching the Breeders’ Cup from its start, when we were in dental school, and thinking ‘Wow that’s a whole different level there, with the worldwide participation.’ We did have one run in it, Carson Hollow, but she didn’t fare very well at that time. But our goals were, again, to raise a good animal and get to the Kentucky Derby.”
London Bridge didn’t make the Kentucky Derby, but came back the U.S. with an interesting story and of course left with his fourth career victory and a $275,000 payday that inflated his bankroll to $307,969.
London Bridge is the third foal produced by the English-bred Indian Ridge mare Kindness. Purdy purchased Kindness out of the 2005 Tattersalls Ltd. December mare sale, exported the mare to the U.S. and learned an interesting tidbit while looking at the then 5-year-old mare’s papers.
“Brian Grassick, who is now deceased, was a bloodstock agent we had contact with through the years, helped us buy her,” Purdy said. “He thought she could be interesting and go fairly reasonable, and we did get her. Only after we got her foal papers did we see who she was bred by. All it says is ‘The Queen.’ ”
Queen Elizabeth II is indeed the breeder of Kindness, who is out of the Easy Goer mare Kissing Gate and won just one race from 36 starts. Purdy bred Kindness first to Consolidator, producing a colt in 2007 eventually named Easy N Free that was unraced. Kindness produced the Flower Alley filly English Ivy in 2008 and she was winless in four starts racing for Sackatoga Stable and trainer Barclay Tagg. London Bridge, by Arch, came along in 2010 and in 2011 Purdy sold him for $130,000 on a bid from Cecil Seaman, agent, at the Keeneland September yearling sale.
“She’s been a bit of a quirky breeder,” Purdy said. “She’s not a yearly type of mare. She needs time off now.”
Letterfromamerica, a 2-year-old filly by Ghostzapper co-bred by Adena Springs and a $30,000 yearling at last year’s Keeneland September sale, is the second winner out of Kindness. A colt by Rockport Harbor out of Kindness brought $40,000 at this year’s Fasig-Tipton Saratoga New York-bred yearling sale and the mare is in foal on to Paddy O’Prado.
The Purdys watched the Marathon, which London Bridge won at 9-1 odds for owner Waratah Thoroughbreds and owner Jo Hughes, on television from the den of their home. They’ve followed London Bridge that way for a while, ever since the colt he was sent to Europe after they sold him.
“We’d been following him the best we could off the computer at the beginning of his racing career, then hearing bits and pieces about how he was doing through some agents we’ve dealt with,” Purdy said. “Then we were hearing some speculation that he would be pointed to the race, then that he was sold to some Australian people, then to see he was a contender. It was all pretty interesting.”
“London Bridge was always a real easy individual, I remember him very clearly. It was an expensive stud fee for us. We’re a smaller farm, but we felt we wanted to give the mare, Kindness, every opportunity to produce a good horse. We were trying. And he sold for $130,000, that was a little bit better than we hoped. You’ll have to check it, but better than the average price (the September average in 2011 was $76,511). He was a nice looking individual, not exceptionally robust, but conformationally nice.”
Watch London Bridge win 2013 Breeders' Cup Marathon.