Change is the name of the game these days in Central Kentucky's Bluegrass region. The dull, muted tones that dot the rolling hills and picturesque landscapes during the winter are quickly giving way to the bright, vibrant colors of spring. Dogwood trees and flowers are in bloom, grass is growing and turning rich green. The thousands of horses in the region are in the midst of significant change, too.
The yearlings at Alfred Nuckols Jr.'s Hurstland Farm, including the group of five nominated to the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga sale and profiled in the Saratoga Yearling Diary No. 1, are also charting their own paths as they adjust to a new life apart on the farm in Midway.
"We went ahead and separated the fillies and colts," Nuckols said in mid-March. "The weather was nice and it seemed like a good time to go ahead and do it. The colts probably need to split up soon in pairs."
The yearlings, those nominated to the Saratoga sale and others on the farm, had been in a big field together since they were weaned last summer. Nuckols went ahead and made the decision to separate them even though "nobody was acting studish" a few weeks ago. Call it a case of preparation for boys being boys, if you will.
"They were all real good so I just decided it was time, the weather was nice," Nuckols said. "When you're small, you maximize your facility and do what you can do when you can do it."
(Check out our slideshow from March 15 at Hurstland Farm)
In addition to the adjustment of being separated into smaller groups the yearlings went through a preliminary X-ray process, which produced some results that along with his decades experience and natural horsemanship will help guide Nuckols' decision on which of the five he will still point to the Saratoga sale.
The colt by Lonhro out of the Lemon Drop Kid mare Kiss With A Twist that was co-bred by Hurstland will not make the trip to Saratoga this summer and the colt by Stormy Atlantic out of the Not For Love mare Love Cove most likely will get a little more time to grow and be pointed to the Keeneland September sale instead.
Nuckols said the tall and leggy Lonhro colt will need a little more time and won't quite make the Saratoga sale. He also hoped for a bit of a pedigree push, both from the sire and dam.
"I was hoping the Lonhro's would be doing a little better, they started off kind of strong this year and he hasn't done much," Nuckols said.
Kiss With A Twist is the dam of a 2-year-old Broken Vow filly named Kissformymissus, a "great big thing" who hasn't been rushed and was expected to get started at the end of March. She was offered at last year's Fasig-Tipton Kentucky July sale of selected yearlings but bought back on a bid of $49,000.
"We'll keep her around here, probably give her to Alex Clarkson," Nuckols said. "So you know, hopefully if we do that, he'll have a pedigree update by the time (of the September sale) if we give him more time."
The Stormy Atlantic-Love Cove colt (right, with Nuckols) is another that could use some extra time despite good size for an early May foal. Inquisitive during an impromptu photo shoot in mid-March, the colt could still go to Saratoga with Nuckols waiting to hear the opinion of Fasig-Tipton's inspection team.
The colt's full sister, the 4-year-old Bibby, won an allowance race March 12 at Delta Downs before finishing eighth in last weekend's New Orleans Ladies Overnight Stakes on the Louisiana Derby undercard. He's another that Nuckols said could use an update to his pedigree page.
"Nice colt; I want to see how he develops," Nuckols said. "He's got a couple of little issues. I'll wait until they look at him. I'll go over it with them. Wasn't anything serious, just afraid once you get up there, if you have any little thing they'll pick you apart pretty quickly."
The lone filly of the group, a daughter of Giant's Causeway out of Cayuga's Waters, by Langfuhr, is doing her best to get noticed as many from her grandsire's line tend to. She was in the barn on a visit to Hurstland in mid-March, a result of a minor accident that left a big knot on her chest after running into a fence. Nuckols said the injury was minor.
"She's good if you don't push her," Nuckols said. "If you fight her, she fights back. She's got a lot of the Storm Cat thru Giant's Causeway in her. Plus her mother is kind of a tough mare, all her foals are kinda ..."
Hurstland's John Holbrook, who showed the yearlings along with Gene Masters, agreed.
"Really she just wants to be loved on," Holbrook said, patting her on the head after the filly showed how good she was at not getting caught in her stall. "You just have to take your time with her."
The other two colts - a son of Bernardini out of Glorious View, by Pleasant Tap, and a son of Broken Vow out of Critics Acclaim, by Theatrical - are also on target for Saratoga.
The Bernardini colt was a bit pushy while he was being shown, but showed off a nice high hip that indicated he's got room still to grow.
"He's kind of a typical Bernardini, (and) he's got a lot of length to his hip," Nuckols said of the first foal out of the Grade 2 winner and $307,190 earner.
The Broken Vow colt is marked just like his full sister, Grade 1 winner Rosalind, and wasn't all that interested in standing for photos. Nuckols said the chestnut colt's X rays were "real good" and he's also hoping for an update or two from the pedigree before the Saratoga sale Aug. 8-9.
The yearlings should go through the inspection process in the coming weeks, with Fasig-Tipton's team hitting farms throughout the country from early March through early May.
Even though he whittled the prospective list down from five to three in mid-March the number of yearlings Hurstland would wind up consigning at the Saratoga sale still could skew toward a handful. Nuckols said longtime Hurstland client Tommy Town Thoroughbreds nominated yearlings to the sale.
"I think I've got three nice ones, three to four good ones, its just depends on Tommy Town, they nominated two," Nuckols said. "Hopefully I'll take four to five (to Saratoga."
In the meantime the yearlings will continue to enjoy the warmer temperatures - most of the time, it is Kentucky in the spring after all - and the time outside. They come in mornings and afternoon to eat and are turned out the rest of the time.
"I'm trying to keep them out as much as possible," Nuckols said. "Feeding them twice a day and letting them go on their merry way."
Editor's Note: This is the second in a multi-part series that tracks the progress of a group of yearlings at Hurstland Farm in Midway, Ky., to the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga sale of selected yearlings in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. The series started in February during the nomination period and will continue through the spring and summer up to the Saratoga sale.
Slideshow from March 15 at Hurstland Farm