Woods the man for Big Brown

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Eddie Woods remembers the first time.

October 2006 at Fasig-Tipton Kentucky. Barn 6. All he needed was one look.

“Jeeeeeez . . . ” Woods said.

“We can’t afford him,” Woods’ wife Angela replied.

“Sure we can, two blank dams, Boundary, I’m going to buy this horse,” Woods said.

Afraid to tip his hand, Woods never went back to see Hip 589. He watched from afar, just to see if the big, bay colt kept his composure through the days leading up to the sale.  

“He’s a lovely horse,” Woods said. “Every time I looked at him, I thought, ‘Man, I hope I can buy this horse.’ “

Insert “And the rest is history” here.

Woods put up $60,000 for the only son of Boundary in the sale, from the Monticule consignment. Six months later, Woods consigned the colt to Keeneland’s 2-year-old sale.

“He always worked good on the dirt at home, then I worked him on the turf at home and he worked awesome, I said we’re going to Keeneland,” Woods said. “He worked good on the Polytrack (before the sale) and I said, ‘Everyone knows he’s a turf horse, let’s just work him on the Polytrack.’ He worked well, a second slower than the fastest horse but that doesn’t add up to anything at the end of the day.”

Out of a Nureyev mare (who was out of Lear Fan mare), the colt was bred and built for turf. Add on the low-profile Boundary, an average breeze over Keeneland’s Polytrack (yes, 21.20 is average) and most potential buyers skipped past the page like it said audit.

Jack Brothers and his Hidden Brook team paused, however, and bought the massive colt for $190,000 on behalf of Paul Pompa Jr. Aptly named Big Brown (you may have heard of him), he made his debut at Saratoga last summer. He didn’t look like any 2-year-old, he towered over his competitors and strolled home to an easy victory on the turf.

Pompa sold a majority interest to IEAH Stables, who transferred him to Richard Dutrow Jr. Big Brown ripped through an allowance race washed off the turf this winter which primed him for a shot in the Florida Derby. In his third career start, he decimated the key Kentucky Derby prep and now he stands tall as the Derby favorite with less than a month to go.

For Woods, it’s mainly business, partly bragging rights and a little luck.

“It’s just one of those things. I’ve done that before, and I’ve bought a bad, bad horse,” Woods said from outside his Keeneland consignment Sunday. “He’s a lovely horse, with that white spot on his side. Very simple horse, uncomplicated, quiet, classy, never knew he was there, showed up every day, did think he was a grass horse, why not, with that pedigree.”

But that’s why he cost $60,000 and why Woods owned him first and not anybody else. By a freshman sire, with a little more dirt on the mother’s side and this article would be about somebody else.

“If he was by a freshman sire in that sale, I never would have bought him,” Woods said. “And the hardest thing about selling him was the Boundary, that’s what stopped him from bringing more than the $190,000, if he was by Mineshaft, it would have very different.”

Woods credits the horse for going the right way and doing everything the right way. Woods simply drove the bus for the first part of the route.

“It’s great to buy a nice horse, it’s what we do for a living, you have to sell good product that go on to the next level,” Woods said. “We all think we’re geniuses and we spend most of our lives proving that we’re not. I was right that time, cancels out all the times you were wrong and you go back to the genius status, at least until the next one runs. Nice to know I still haven’t lost it. You can’t go off your program, you’ve got to stay on what you like.”

Like all consignors at Keeneland this year, Woods brought a product that he thinks fits. Some will sell, some won’t. Some will breeze lights-out, others will breeze like the they haven’t seen the light.

Woods pointed to Hip 62, a bay colt who just finished being looked at on the walking ring.

“I love this horse, the Giant’s Causeway, but he won’t work nearly quick enough for anybody around here,” Woods said. “He’s more a two-turn grass horse, maybe should go to Europe. You could ride him all day. He’ll work OK.”

Just like Big Brown. He worked OK.

Asked if he ever sold a Derby winner, Woods thought about Pollard’s Vision, Borrego and other graduates, then shook his head.

“A Kentucky Derby winner?” Woods asked. “Lots of other Derbies, but no, never a Kentucky Derby winner.”

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