While many spent a good chunk of time the last few weeks crowding around television sets and analyzing their March Madness brackets, Robert Manfuso and Katy Voss had different plans. Instead, they've crowded around the television set in their home at Chanceland Farm, watching graduates of their breeding operation to race, while checking breeding charts and waiting on the newest additions to their program.
Voss and Manfuso came to Chanceland nearly 30 years ago after having great success in the Thoroughbred industry. The couple now focuses on training and breeding at their lovely 191-acre farm in West Friendship, Md., and they're excited for the spring foaling season.
"Breeding is a five-year business," Manfuso said earlier this month. "You have to breed the mare and wait for the foal; there's one year. Then you don't start training for almost another two years ... and for most you don't really see the full potential for another couple years after that."
If the next five-year gamble for Voss and Manfuso is as good as the last one, they are going to be doing pretty well.
In the spring of 2012, Chanceland welcomed to the world a bay colt by Fusaichi Pegasus out of their own homebred French Deputy mare Parlez who was eventually named International Star. He was sold along with 10 other Chanceland yearlings at the 2013 Fasig-Tipton Midatlantic Eastern fall yearling sale.
Fast forward three more years and that little bay colt has racked in six wins, two seconds and a career bankroll of $1,151,629. Three of his wins were key Kentucky Derby prep races last year and International Star was second in last weekend's Grade 2 New Orleans Handicap at Fair Grounds.
The 2013 Chanceland crop welcomed a little chestnut filly by Street Boss out of Sheave, by Mineshaft. Named Cathryn Sophia, she is also causing quite a buzz.
Cathryn Sophia is 4-for-4 so far, winning by a combined 41 1/2 lengths, most recently in the Grade 2 Fasig-Tipton Davona Dale Stakes at Gulfstream Park. She expected to start next opening weekend at Keeneland Race Course, in the Grade 1 $500,000 Central Bank Ashland Stakes April 9.
Cathryn Sophia's grand dam is Manfuso's beloved Belterra and he's optimistic for the filly's chances down the road.
"I don't use this term much ... but that horse is a freak," he said. "I don't think anyone really knows what that horse is capable of yet."
Cathryn Sophia was named Maryland-bred champion 2-year-old filly last year.
Chanceland also bred 2015's Maryland-bred champion 2-year-old male in Tizzarunner, a son of Tizway out of Piano Bar, by Carson City. He sold out of the Chanceland consignment at the Eastern fall yearling sale for $95,000 and later as a 2-year-old for $325,000. He won a maiden race last summer at Woodbine and then placed in two stakes there in September and October.
The 2013 crop also included Corvus, a son of Dance With Ravens out of Tanca, by Polish Numbers. He made his career debut in the Maryland Million Nursery Stakes and won by 1 3/4 lengths at more than 25-1.
The products of the Chanceland Farm program have proven themselves to be worth the gamble, and some newcomers are looking for a chance to do so as well.