April 28, 2020
Meet the Derby Heroes
Preview of “Fantasy Kentucky Derby”, May 2, 2020
by Tom Carley
With the Derby being postponed until at least the first Saturday in September 2020, I just wanted to spend this Derby week looking back on past Derby heroes. Today’s subject is Desert Party, who ran in the 2009 Derby. And were it not for a slight injury, he might have kept the world from ever hearing of the winner, Mine That Bird.
Desert Party was then called Cry of the Cat for his parentage: a Street Cry sire and Sage Cat dam. The yearling had such a positive and distinctive conformation that the owners who had bred him felt they had no choice but to put him in the 2007 Keeneland yearling sale. He exceeded all expectations that day and brought home an amazing $425,000. His purchasing pinhooker watched him continue his phenomenal development. The yearling colt went on to be the highest selling horse in the Fasig-Tipton Ocala two-year-old sale selling for an amazing $2.1 million. Sheik Mohammed thought so much of the horse that he bought into the yearling’s potential, hoping to realize his lifelong dream of winning the Kentucky Derby.
Renamed Desert Party, the developing thoroughbred showed much potential. After breaking his maiden at Arlington Park, he traveling north to the prestigious Saratoga Racetrack to compete against stakes company in the July 2008 Sanford Stakes for two-year-olds. Desert Party won the Grade II Sanford handily and impressively https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IGDFvs0cVd4. Sheik Mohammed and his Godolphin racing team decided on their strategy: winter the horse in Dubai and point toward the Derby.
Desert Party started his three-year-old year wining the Grade II Two Thousand Guineas at Nad Al Sheba. During that race, Desert Party defeated stablemate Midshipman and established himself as the connections best chance to bring the Derby to Dubai. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tJcrWq1fV5Y
With Derby earnings already received, Desert Party next used the UAE Derby as a tune up and ran second to stablemate Regal Ransom. But the jockey had not demanded a full effort of Desert Party that day: his connections had their sights focused on Louisville and the upcoming First Saturday in May.
Desert Party could not have come into Louisville in better shape. He continued to grow, displayed great color and most importantly was working well on the racetrack in the mornings. A large rainstorm left the track muddy for the 2009 Derby. Desert Party drew the 19 hole, which is usually the kiss of death to a Derby entrant. I remember that deluge of rain and the rivers of mud well: I was there at Churchill Downs May 2, 2009.
When the gates opened, Desert Party hit the ground running. He spent the first quarter mile trying to work his way toward the rail. Unable to reach the rail, he circled the first turn in the 4 path, which meant he was running much farther than his rivals. Coming into the backstretch, he settled down and found himself running fifth up the backside passing other horses. This suited well with his running style and at the half mile pole he was still in fifth place within 3 lengths of the lead. The jockey had him placed perfectly to make a stretch run.
Desert Party started his move on the far turn, and began to build momentum. With his nostrils flared and lengthening stride, he was perfectly positioned to make a strong run for the win. Suddenly at the 5/16 pole the jockey veered the horse to his right. He felt a brief hesitation as the horse took a bad step. Later this was found to be where he suffered a slight injury. I have re-watched and re-analyzed that video so many times over the years
Desert Party coming off of his position opened the rail up, and the 2009 winner made his historic rail run. As Desert Party’s jockey realized something was not right, he chose not to ask any more out of the horse. Others passed him in the last furlong. Desert Party and his connections only could ask themselves, what if? Were it not for the injury, he could have hit the board.
Later Racing Career
After taking time off to allow his injury to heal, Desert Party returned to training. He continued his winning ways beating the field in the Derringstown Stud (Grade III) as a four-year-old. His connections realized the best thing for the horse was to pass these amazing physical developments onto his offspring.
Desert Party finished his racing career with an impressive record:
10 starts 6 wins, including a Grade II and two Grade III races 1 second
Career Earnings of $928,467
Amazingly, Desert Party continued to grow, mature and increase muscle. He had a better conformation as five-year-old than he did on Derby Day. This will indicate that as a sire he can pass on durability to his offspring. Original owner Dr. Stephen Sinatra could not pass up Godolphin’s offer to buy back back Desert Party in 2016, and the stallion now stands in Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvania Breeding Program
The Pennsylvania Breeding Fund is one of the most lucrative breeding programs in the sport. The maximum award is 40% of the race purse.
The Pennsylvania breeding program is one of the fastest growing in the country. The number of mares bred in the USA decreased by 3.5% in 2019. But 686 mares were bred in Pennsylvania, representing a 12.5% increase.
The growing popularity of the Pennsylvania program is the result of the establishment of the Racehorse Development Fund Trust in 2017. The trust guaranteed the government could no longer raid the Development Fund and take money away from the Fund for other purposes.
Someone wanting to breed for durability, strength and stamina need look no further than Desert Party. When you combine his stallion ability with the benefits of the Pennsylvania Breeding Fund this an investment which provides a great chance of positive returns both with dollars and roses.