Chicken Broke: Travel Column learned her early lessons

- -

After opening her career with three wins in five starts, including a victory in the Grade 2 Fair Grounds Oaks in March, Travel Column is a player in the discussion about the Kentucky Oaks. A couple years ago, she was just a yearling who spent time with chickens – no really. TIHR’s Tom Law caught up with breeder Chris Welker after the Frosted filly sold for $850,000 at Fasig-Tipton’s select yearling sale at Saratoga in 2019 and it’ll make you laugh.

Story by Tom Law from the Aug. 8, 2019 edition of The Saratoga Special.

Chris Welker didn’t leave anything to chance when it came to preparing her Frosted filly to sell at the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga sale of selected yearlings.

Cataloged to sell the second night of the sale as Hip 130, the filly went through of the usual sales prep and much more on the way to bringing $850,000 from owner Larry Best’s OXO Equine.

“She’s like a tough filly,” said Welker, who bred and sold the horse with her husband Bayne through the Denali Stud consignment. “We knew we were going to fly her up here so back in January I started loading her, doing my due diligence like the old school. “I’d load her in a trailer, take her for a ride. I got to where I’d take her when I’d take eggs. I have chickens, a flock of chickens and I’m delivering eggs with a filly in my trailer. That’s true. So she’s chicken broke, dog broke, trailer broke and airplane broke. Now she’s Saratoga broke.”

The filly, foaled by Chris Welker late in the evening of April 10, 2018 at the couple’s Spring Ridge Farm in Versailles, Ky., handled all phases of the presale and sales night experience. She wound up the co-fourth most expensive filly in the sale and the highest price ever for the Welkers.

Chris Welker said she wasn’t shocked at the price, knowing the strength of the Saratoga market, the filly’s pedigree and her presence as an individual at a sale where yearlings are under more scrutiny than an MIT science project.

“We always knew she was a good filly,” she said after watching the sale with her husband, Fasig-Tipton’s executive vice president, from the balcony of the sales pavilion. “Satisfaction. You’re satisfied because you put so much into it and sometimes you get something back. A lot of times you don’t. This is for all the times you don’t.”

Welker purchased the filly’s dam, the now 15-year-old stakes-winning Victory Gallop mare Swingit for $50,000 at the 2016 Keeneland November breeding stock sale. Welker was scouting prospects for a client and found Swingit, in foal to Bodemeister, at Denali’s consignment on a recommendation from Donnie Snellings.

Swingit had produced four foals when she went through the ring in the fourth session. Three of the foals raced and were winners, including a 3-year-old by Harlan’s Holiday named Neolithic. He’d won just once in five starts to that point – a maiden race late in his 2-year-old season at Gulfstream Park. Neolithic finished second in the Grade 2 Discovery at Aqueduct shortly after the sale, then won an allowance race at Gulfstream Park in December.

Neolithic’s connections thought enough of that effort to throw him in deep for his next two starts in early 2017 and he finished third in the Grade 1 Pegasus World Cup and Grade 1 Dubai World Cup, earning $1 million for each of those efforts. Born between those two starts, Swingit’s Bodemeister colt brought $310,000 at last year’s Fasig-Tipton Saratoga select sale.

“She had kind of a spotty produce record, but was in foal to Bodemeister, who I loved,” Welker said of Swingit. “If you look at her sale history, horses out of her did well at the sales. Bayne went and looked at her, and he liked her a lot. Just looking at what she’d done we thought she was worth a shot at $50,000 and we got her for that. The day after we bought her, Neolithic was second in his first Grade 3.”

Neolithic raced three times after returning from Dubai, winning an allowance at Saratoga and placing in two graded stakes. He never earned a Grade 1 win, but Welker thinks that could come for the mare they still own and have in foal to 2019 Pegasus World Cup winner City Of Light.

“The best is yet to come with her because this filly, hopefully, she’ll be able to accomplish what Neolithic should have,” she said. “He definitely was a Grade 1 caliber horse, he just ran out of time. He’s Harlan’s Holiday’s leading money earner. Is the money that he earned worth the trade off for a Grade 1 for us? Probably not, but people recognize him as a really good horse. Hopefully this filly can go on and get the mare a Grade 1. She makes me think she could.”

Best hopes the filly turns into a Grade 1 winner in his red and white colors. He came away impressed with her ability to handle the inspection process at Saratoga and said she “was a good buy” for $850,000.

“She looks the part and I don’t think you can lose on her long-term,” he said. “I love Frosted and I love Victory Gallop. She’s a beautiful filly so the physical matched the promise. I expected her to go in this range. She was never in her stall. I’m surprised she’s still standing.”

Welker wasn’t surprised a bit. After all, the filly came to upstate New York prepared.

“She’s the type of filly if you go in there to give her a shot, if she doesn’t want a shot you’re not going to give her a shot,” she said. “The day she was getting X-rayed she wasn’t going for the shot. So she got X-rayed, no tranquilizer. All along I’m like ‘Oh my God am I going to be able to get her ears clipped?’ You just didn’t know with her. It had to be her way. She had rules and as long as you follow her rules you’re good. She came up here with an email of her rules. We were ready.”

Travel Column laughs it up at Fasig-Tipton in 2019. Tod Marks photo

HIP 130 6