Bob Feld starts with the oldest line known to the tellers of horse tales. "It's a long story, but I can shorten it for you." And thus begins the fable of Miss Temple City, an American hopeful in Friday's Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot in England.
Feld was born and raised in Temple City, California and was at Santa Anita in February 2009 when a colt named Temple City won. The bloodstock agent remembers thinking the son of Dynaformer and Malibu Moon's half-sister Curriculum was impressive on the track - and even more so off it.
"That is an absolutely gorgeous animal," Feld said out loud as the Spendthrift Farm 4-year-old entered the winner's circle. "He is stunning."
Temple City went on to win the 2010 Cougar II Handicap and was beaten a head in the Grade 1 Hollywood Turf Cup before retiring to join the Spendthrift stallion lineup for the 2011 season. By then, Feld's son Sean was working for the Kentucky farm and had a deal for his father.
"Hey, do you want to buy into Temple City?" said Sean, who then explained the farm's unique sales pitch. In short, a breeder would obtain a free lifetime breeding right by sending a mare to the stallion in each of his first two years at stud.
"Dynaformer was getting old and I thought this would be a great segue," said Bob. "If this horse happens to hit . . . Dynaformer has a lot fans out there."
Feld was in, and signed the deal. Small problem. He did not own a mare to send to the new stallion. At Keeneland January 2011, Feld told Spendthrift's Mark Toothaker about the idea. Toothaker listened, supported the concept - in theory anyway - and said he'd go halves on the right mare.
"What about this mare?" Sean Feld interrupted. In the ring stood Glittering Tax, a daughter of Artax with three wins on the track and one winner on her produce record. She was carrying a Tiz Wonderful foal, and when the bidding stalled at $3,000, Toothaker bid $4,000. Someone else bid $5,000, Toothaker bid $6,000. And Feld had a mare.
The new partners figured the future foal was worth more than the mare's auction price and proved it by selling the Tiz Wonderful colt, later named Paganol, for $40,000 as a yearling. Feld sent the mare to Temple City in 2011 and that foal is Miss Temple City.
"I signed a contract and didn't have a mare," Bob Feld said of his hasty leap into the breeding game. "There was no nicking involved, nothing. We bred to Temple City for my deal, and this is the result."
Miss Temple City won her debut at Laurel Park last fall for a group Feld put together, Allen and Georgia Rosenblum and The Club Racing. She backed up that effort with another win, at Gulfstream Park in December, and Feld brought in another partner in Sagamore Farm. The Maryland farm of Under Armour founder Kevin Plank always scouts for horses to run on Preakness Weekend and employs Feld to be the scout. This one, a 3-year-old turf filly, fit the shopping list.
"She's what we're looking for, the problem is I bred her and the other problem is I own a piece of her," Feld told Sagamore's Tom Mullikin. "I don't want to look self-serving."
Feld solved the issue by putting the Rosenblums in touch with Mullikin. Sagamore bought 25 percent from the Rosenblums - adding another partner to the ownership listing. Miss Temple City did her part, placing third in the Grade 3 Sweetest Chant at Gulfstream and second (to budding star Lady Eli) in the Grade 3 Appalachian at Keeneland.
The Sagamore connection nearly guaranteed a start on Preakness Weekend, and Miss Temple City blasted six rivals in the $100,000 Hilltop Stakes on the Black-Eyed Susan undercard.
After the hometown win, trainer Graham Motion hinted that an even bigger test might be on the horizon and that becomes a reality this week as Miss Temple City flew to England. She will be part of an 11-horse American force aiming for Royal Ascot.
First run in 1840, the 1-mile Coronation is worth £375,000 and annually draws the best 3-year-old fillies in England, Ireland, France and beyond. The 14 entries this year include Group 1 winner Found, second in the Irish 1,000 Guineas; Godolphin-owned Lucida, second in the English 1,000 Guineas; and French standout Ervedya, a winner of her last two including a Group 1 in her most recent run May 10.
Miss Temple City races without Lasix, has run well at four tracks and - perhaps as importantly - won't have to face Lady Eli. Motion used the Fair Hill turf course, better known as the home to an annual steeplechase meet, for her final preps - two galloping sessions and a half-mile workout last Sunday. Called "the Sherman Tank" by one Motion staffer recently, the dark bay Kentucky-bred powered through the 49-second work - outrunning Grade 3 winner Rusty Slipper in the final yards. No American course mimics Ascot, but Fair Hill does a pretty fair job with a steady climb from the backside and a long finishing straight.
Motion liked the workout, complimenting Miss Temple City's stride and push in the final stages. The trainer, who ran Animal Kingdom at Royal Ascot two years ago, has liked Feld's filly since she arrived in the barn last year.
"She's such a nice filly and Graham's always been very high on her in his own quiet way," said Feld. "You can read between the lines with trainers that don't want to say too much. They don't pop off. You have to really listen though and you can tell when they like one. I got that vibe."
- Royal Ascot starts Tuesday and runs through Saturday. In addition to Miss Temple City, the American contingent includes 2014 Horse of the Year California Chrome in the Princes of Wales Wednesday.
Frequent Royal Ascot participant Wesley Ward runs a phalanx, including Hootenanny in Friday's Group 1 Commonwealth - against trainer George Weaver's recent Presque Isle Downs stakes winner Cyclogenisis among others.