Jim Sapara

Sadly we recently lost great friend and supporter Jim, for whom and with whom I have bought and sold horses, argued and laughed, been fired and always reinstated, for over 20 years.

A larger than life character, Jim was a great judge of horses and pedigrees, and a self-made businessman who was single-minded in his pursuit of excellence.

He was always very fair, and after a right royal dressing down which I usually deserved he was always back on the phone come the next sale.

He was blessed with a saint in his wife Alice whose calm and cheerful presence was always on hand, with her glass of Merlot, to keep everything cool.

God bless you, Jim. I am missing you already.

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Such a host of highlights from Keeneland that I wonder where to begin! Credit must go to Keeneland Assoc. for achieving the impossible task of putting a quart into a pint pot. Staging the Breeders Cup at Keeneland was a very bold and far sighted project which many (including me) doubted. Sadly it involved sacrificing the Keeneland polytrack, a retrograde step in horse welfare terms, but every other aspect of the planning and administration of the two days, indeed the week, was seamless and faultless.

I remember reading in various WWII reminiscences how impressed our UK forces were with the “can do” attitude of the US military when you eventually came to help us kick Hitler out of Europe. Well “can do” must have been the motto of Keeneland and the B.C. committee, and they did. It was a privilege to be there.

My only criticism is that everyone would have benefited from a breathing space between the racing and the sales. I am told Keeneland hoped that the punters who came in the many executive jets assembled on Bluegrass Airport would stay for the sales. Sorry boys, those things are all on charter and they’re not going to hang around for 2/3 days while the occupants go shopping. As one knowledgeable and experienced buyer commented – when I’m spending a million dollars or more, I like to see the horse more than once.   How right he is.

Fasig Tipton should have held their nerve and held their sale on Monday evening, forcing Keeneland to start on Tuesday morning. Everyone would have benefited, particularly the fillies that ran in the Breeders Cup.

I was lucky enough to be involved in five $1.0m plus transactions during the week, two as agent to the vendor, and three as purchaser’s agent.

Two years ago I recommended Bobby Flay to buy DOUBLE TAPPED as a 3 y.o. off the track for $340,000. Her family did quite well in the interim and it was pleasing to see her sell at F-T for $1.3m to Bridlewood Farm. Her first foal, a nice MEDAGLIA d’ORO colt is back at Stone Farm and should sweeten the deal some more next September. Pinhooking mares is not really part of the Flay business plan, but the cards had fallen so fortuitously on this occasion that it seemed prudent to take some money off the table. I hope she will do very well for her new owners.

Earlier that evening I paid $1.4m on behalf of Pursuit of Success LLC for Hip 159, a charming 2 y.o. filly (pictured below) by BERNADINI out of BETTER THAN HONOUR. Drop dead gorgeous and 2nd dam BLUSH WITH PRIDE – I doubted, going in, if my budget would be adequate, but it was one of those nights when my luck was well and truly in. I hope the new owners will try her on the track before breeding her. She looks very racy, and Elliott Walden was rumoured to be among the underbidders.


Across town at Keeneland the next day I watched Bobby Flay purchase MODERNSTONE for $350K. She is a direct descendant of one of my original purchases for Juddmonte, namely MOFIDA. MOFIDA came in a package deal from Robert Sangster which included SOOKERA, the grand dam of HASILI, arguably the only mare recently to give URBAN SEA a run for her money as a producer. MOFIDA founded her own dynasty which still resides at Juddmonte. MODERNSTONE had recently won a stake at Kentucky Downs and will hopefully progress from there.

Later that day I was again successful for Pursuit of Success in purchasing SUNSET GLOW (pictured below) for $1.375m from Wesley Ward. I saw her run an excellent race at Royal Ascot last year when second in the Albany Stakes, Gr III, since when she has achieved Gr I success at Del Mar and set a course record at Belmont Park. Not many 3 y.o.’s could match her air miles.


Ten years ago I purchased a FASLIYEV filly foal for Jim and Alice Sapara for $290,000. The cards fell right again as RAGS TO RICHES  and PEEPING FAWN popped up as champion fillies in their respective jurisdictions, adding further lustre to an already sexy page.

Jim Sapara raced his filly, now named LACADENA, as a 2 y.o., and consigned her as a winning, stakes placed filly to Fasig’s 2007 November Sale. She was not sold in the ring, and I suggested to Bobby Flay that he should purchase her. She disappointed as a  3 y.o. but her second foal AMERICA won a Gr. III at Belmont to add to her Gr. I placings on Breeders Cup Friday, 3 days before her dam was due back in the ring.

LACADENA realised $1.3m on her third appearance in a sale ring (pictured below), leaving her proud owner with three daughters to carry on the line. Good business.


Later the same day I was sitting with Barry Weisbord when the lovely Christina Jelm joined us. In the course of the conversation she mentioned SAM’S SISTER, the obscurely bred but very talented Gr I winner trained by Jerry Hollendorfer. I went off to investigate the physical while Barry worked on the pedigree. We both liked what we saw and bought her for Richard Santulli for $1.150m. How often does something good come out of old men meeting a young girl in a bar?

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Jack Hobbs Wins Irish Derby

Congratulations to Willie and Elaine Carson for breeding the Irish Derby winner JACK HOBBS from the mare SWAIN’S GOLD which I selected and purchased for them.

She cost $180,000 at Keeneland’s January sale in 2007, and she has tried their patience (and mine) in the interim. But she has now vindicated my judgement and produced a magnificent specimen who can run like the wind.

Willie and Elaine work their farm hands-on every day and fully deserve this success.

Well done guys!

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Bobby Flay’s beautiful BERNADINI filly DAME DOROTHY put in her trademark workmanlike performance to win the Gr. 111 Bed of Roses Stakes at Belmont on June 20th. She had missed her intended target in a Gr. 1 on Belmont Stakes day due to a head cold, but bounced back in style to give weight all round and put the opposition firmly in their place. Go girl!

Now it is off to Saratoga and the Gr. 1 Demoiselle in August.

Excitement mounts here as Irish Derby day approaches. Derby 2nd JACK HOBBS, whose dam SWAIN’S GOLD I purchased for Willie and Elaine Carson at Keeneland January 2007, is trading at odds on for the Curragh classic.

More details of this transaction will follow if he wins!

Big party w/e in Ireland – I will be amazing the locals with my dance moves at the Co.Kildare celebration of Henrietta Michael and David Egan’s recent marriage in London.

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Another Win For Dame Dorothy

In 2012 Keeneland staged a 130 hip evening session on the Monday of their September Yearling Sale. It failed to ignite, many buyers were not focused and most vendors were disappointed. I had arrived in good time with my trusty foot soldiers Dr. Jennifer Harbison and little bro Matt Delahooke, to be joined by Josee Allain (as I always think of her).

We liked two fillies in that opening session and Bobby Flay purchased both. Hip 22 was a TIZNOW filly out of SHOP AGAIN. She looked good value at $200,000, particularly when her half-brother POWER BROKER  won a Gr I shortly after. Named FIERCE BOOTS, the filly won a minor stake as a 2 y.o. and joined Wertheimer et Frere’s broodmare band for $700,000 in Keeneland November 2014. Credit goes to Dr J who dragged me back to review FIERCE BOOTS and eventually convinced me that she was right. She was!

Hip 47 was an eyeful of magnificent thoroughbred that mesmerised me every time I saw her. By BERNADINI out of VOLE VOLE MONAMOUR and half-sister to Gr I winner on both sides of the pond MRS LINDSAY, she was bred by old friend Bettina Jenney, widow of the legendary Marshall. Her first four maternal grandsires raced exclusively in Europe which probably helped Bobby secure her for $390,000. Her win in the Gr. I Humana Distaff Stakes at C.D. on Derby Day undoubtedly added to her value.

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Dame Dorothy Wins Again

Dame Dorothy, purchased as a yearling by James at the 2012 Keeneland September Yearling Sale, added another stakes win to her impressive record in the Florida Sunshine Millions Distaff Stakes at Gulfstream Park last Saturday, for owner Bobby Flay.

This was the filly’s 5th win from only 6 starts which include victories in the Malvern Rose Stakes and the Gr. 3, Turnback the Alarm Handicap. Her trainer Todd Pletcher has suggested her next outing may be in the Gr.1 Santa Margarita Stakes in March.

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My quest to find serious pedigrees attached to serious individuals, with the goal of becoming foundation mares for Bobby Flay, continued in Newmarket at the October Sale Part One.

We had lost out in Keeneland, to Sheik Mohammed’s representative, on the best filly in that sale. But now the ammunition loader was topped up by the sale of two million dollar fillies, and the Sheik’s Coolmore boycott was a further blessing.

My best in show was lot 318 (see below photo and pedigree). By a Derby winner, half-sister to a Derby winner, and as an individual on a scale of 10, she was an 11!


Sadly Bobby had to leave before she came into the ring on the third day. I was convinced that we had a chance, but equally convinced that it would be close. My last bid of 1,250,000 gns, authorised over the phone by Bobby speaking to Barry Weisbord, brought no response from Ed Sackville, and to my great relief the hammer fell in our favour. Phew!!

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It is a huge investment for a young man who pays his taxes to Uncle Sam and doesn’t have an oil well, a bank or a trust fund. His determination to succeed is wholly admirable.

Happily he received further encouragement that we are somewhere near the right path when his 3 y.o. filly Dame Dorothy recorded her 4th consecutive win, and her first success in a graded stake, in Belmont’s Turn Back That Alarm Stakes, Gr III on Sunday. She remains undefeated.

Good luck to all at the Breeders Cup – I shall be at the coalface in Keeneland!

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Exciting times at Keeneland September Yearling sale. Client and friend Bobby Flay sold two yearling fillies for $1.0m and $1.1m. Both were the first produce of their dams.

A filly by Tapit out of Super Espresso was a gorgeous individual, and justified the considerable sum (but less!) that we paid privately for her dam at the 2008 renewal of this sale. She raced successfully in Bobby’s colours and looks set for a meritorious broodmare career.

Countess Lemonade was purchased in Tattersalls December Sales in 2010 and went on to add some black type in USA before visiting Tiznow as her first mate. The fact that her half-brother Ruler Of The World won the Derby last year did no harm to her already stunning page. The Tiznow filly from this immediate family of A.P. Indy ticked all the boxes and brought a final bid of $1.1m. The dam is now in foal to Galileo, and probably returns to him, so watch this space.

After some years of bold and intelligent investing it was good to see Bobby reap a dividend. It will not be the last.
Both fillies were well prepped and well presented by Arthur Hancock’s Stone Farm, where the broodmare band now resides.

My most loyal and long-standing patrons in North America, Jim and Alice Sapara from Edmonton, Alberta, returned to Kentucky for the umpteenth time and took home two lovely fillies including hip 81 by Unbridled’s Song for $320.000. Good luck Jim.

On to Goffs, Tattersalls, Arqana and hoping to be home in time for Christmas!

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It is now 12 years since my daughter Rorie persuaded me that I should have a website. I had been an ostrich while the IT revolution rolled over me like a tsunami. I am still very unsure of myself in the world of cyberspace (whatever that is), but I am now convinced that Rorie was right and the website she designed has stood the test of time.

Indeed, many of my competitors’ websites bear striking resemblance in layout to Rorie’s original design. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery!

I used to write what I believe is called a blog (why?) but it caused so much controversy that I gave it up. I am however bringing my website up to date to reflect where my business is and where it is going. Retirement is not on the agenda.

North America

I have been fortunate to enjoy the patronage of some wonderful clients in USA and Canada for many years. For which reason I continue to visit regularly, and unlike some Europeans, I have no reservations about North American bloodstock.

I am saddened by the intransigence of some elements of US racing regarding medication, and the failure to adopt synthetic surfaces, but those horse welfare issues do not detract from my admiration of the tough, sound, durable and fast thoroughbreds which I find in America.

Jim and Alice Sapara of Winsong Farms have been my longest standing clients and friends, and we have enjoyed success at the top level with their Josie Carroll-trained runners.Edmonton residents Jim and Alice purchased a much admired Mizzen Mast filly at Keeneland September 2013, now named Kinley and in pre-training in Florida. The sire is a son of Kinema, one of the few yearling fillies I purchased for Juddmonte (Razyana, dam of Danehill, was another) and he is earning deserved respect on both sides of the Atlantic.

A more recent association, through the good offices of my friend Barry Weisbord, has been with Bobby Flay. The celebrated chef and restauranteur is accumulating an enviable band of quality pedigrees. The mares are based at Arthur Hancock’s Stone Farm, and their owner represents a welcome addition to the depleted ranks of owner breeders, looking to racetrack success rather than the sales ring to establish his credentials as a serious player.

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