Champions 2011: Top 3YO Wanganui home grown

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Tom and Mimi Voss went back to the meadow. On a quiet Sunday in late November, oldtimers Shoot Back, Petroski, Sennacherib and Malagash picked their heads up, made sure the Vosses weren’t coming for them and went back to eating.

The husband and wife team slipped a halter on Distant Drumroll, walked her to the barn, cut her shaggy mane with a pair of scissors and reunited her with daughter Guelph and the mother/daughter Fractious and Rowdy.

Back to the broodmare band, mom. Back to the kitchen, cook.

That’s what producing a champion will do.

Distant Drumroll’s son Wanganui, owned by Betty Merck’s The Fields Stable, emerged as champion 3-year-old with two dichotomous wins this fall; slogging through the Far Hills bog to win the Gladstone and skipping over the Camden sand to win the Raymond G. Woolfe. The two wins earned another championship for Distant Drumroll (her daughter Guelph won filly/mare championships in 2005 and 2008). Now 18, Distant Drumroll produced Guelph in 2001 – quick as a hiccup, she jumped like a jaguar and topped her division. Distant Drumroll produced Wanganui in 2008 – long as a yawn, he churns like a train and topped his division in 2011. In between came Raider Brigade, Sally Williams, Hold Your Fire and Teak; some showed promise but couldn’t stay sound, others showed psychosis, others showed nothing. Mimi Voss and her partner Merck gave up breeding Distant Drumroll after she produced a Louis Quatorze colt (now 2) in 2009.

A full-brother to Merck’s hurdle stakes winner Brigade Of Guards, Distant Drumroll began her racing career with Billy Turner and breeder Audley Farm. Mimi Voss tracked her down after Brigade Of Guards emerged as a prolific hurdler in the late 1990s and bought her in partnership with Merck.

“Billy Turner said that at one point he thought she was going to be the nicest filly in his barn, but she just didn’t have enough speed,” Voss said. “She’s absolutely beautiful. I bought her inexpensively.”

Running for The Fields Stable, Distant Drumroll broke her maiden in her 12th start on the flat (at Pimlico in 1997), finished fourth in the Waya at Saratoga that summer and broke her maiden at Oxmoor in her jump debut that fall. By spring, she was part of Voss and Merck’s breeding program. Mimi Voss chose stallions with stamina and turf in mind, the likes of Sky Classic, Not For Love and Waquoit.

Guelph, a daughter of Sky Classic, was born in 2001. Small and flighty, she forced Voss to change her approach.

“As small as Guelph is, I started breeding Distant Drumroll to bigger studs and I got monsters,” Mimi Voss said. “Raider Brigade had speed but was too big, he’s hunting in New Jersey. I bred her to Waquoit and got (timber winner) Hold Your Fire, who is like an elephant but has talent, he just started hunting again. Sally Williams was gigantic, a lovely jumper and had no speed, she died. Teak was a mess, she was nutso. Because they were all so big, I kicked (Distant Drumroll) out in the meadow.”

Distant Drumroll met 1996 New York Turf Writers Cup winner Petroski, eight-time winner Shoot Back and other Voss alumni, destined to live out her days with the boys. Wanganui changed all that.

Sure, he’s big, but he’s sound (mentally and physically) and he can run. That’s why Voss went back to the meadow.

“Although Wanganui might not be the most beautiful horse in the world, you have to like his body because he’s big and athletic-looking,” Voss said. “I went up to see Love Of Money when Northview was having their stallion show, he was very athletic looking, he wasn’t a really heavy horse.”

A Virginia-bred daughter of Eastern Echo, Distant Drumroll will make another trip to Northview Stallion Station to be bred to Love Of Money. Hey, if it ain’t broke . . .

Already a two-time winner over jumps and placed on the flat, Wanganui will aim to become the next dual-purpose horse in the Voss string, following John’s Call, Dreadnaught and others.

“Both. Both. Both. Both. Both,” said Mimi Voss when asked if she considered him a jumper or a flat horse. “Thomas is well known for doing both and I’m sure he’ll do both. Unlike Guelph, who was really high-strung, he’s very, very laid back and does everything right. Always been like that.”

Wanganui began to come around at Saratoga this summer. The solid, long-striding gelding breezed well over the Oklahoma turf course and even produced a sharp breeze over the main track while honing his gate work.

“He went 5 (furlongs) out of the gate in 1:01,” exercise rider Paddy Young said. “He worked really well, like really well. That was the first time on the main track.”

Tom Voss unveiled him at Belmont Park Sept. 21 where he finished sixth, beaten 11 lengths to eventual Hollywood Derby runner-up Imagining. Wheeled back in two weeks, Wanganui finished second in a Delaware Park turf maiden. Seventeen days later, he made his jump debut at Far Hills, staying on while his freshmen compatriots emptied out. He won by 24 lengths for jockey Peter Buchanan who picked up the ride when Young opted for Darkwatch.

“For him to go to Far Hills and do what he did without having had that run like the others and do it that easily,” Young said, “that was pretty impressive.”

A month later, Young was back aboard and Wanganui used another club from his bag, winning the Woolfe from the front end.

“He’s winning because he’s a nice horse, because he still doesn’t quite know what’s going on,” Young said. “Obviously a lot can happen from 3 to 4 but there’s nothing to say this horse shouldn’t go on. He’s not one of those horses that you jumped on in April and thought, ‘Oh my God, this will be 3-year-old champion.’ Some of the (3-year-old champions) I’ve ridden, you know it was going to be their best year where this horse, anything he did this year was a bonus.”


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Ch. g. 3, Love Of Money-Distant Drumroll, Eastern Echo
Bred by Mimi Voss in Maryland. Owner: The Fields Stable. Trainer: Tom Voss. Jockeys: Paddy Young, Peter Buchanan.

Won only two starts, stakes at Far Hills and Camden, to rule division with $30,000 earned. Half-brother to champion mare Guelph. Named for a New Zealand city (the word means big bay or big harbor in Maori).