River Bend Farm manager Larry Weeden arrived at the Keeneland April Horses of Racing Age Sale April 9 with a specific purpose in mind: Bring home the 3-year-old filly Sweet Diane.
Standing in the back of the Lexington pavilion signing the $500,000 ticket on a sunny Tuesday afternoon, Weeden was all smiles, having completed his mission.
“We’re really excited,” Weeden said. “We’re basically a broodmare farm and we’re going to branch out and go in a new direction and try and do some racing. Eddie Kenneally is our trainer and he’s going to get the horse. We have high hopes that this will turn into something fun.”
Weeden, who attended the sale on behalf of River Bend owner Ina Bond, came prepared to spend big for what he said is the farm’s second racing prospect. The farm currently races a 3-year-old homebred gelding named Island Song with Kenneally, but hope that Sweet Diane can lead them to a higher level of success.
“We knew she would go that high,” Weeden said. “We were prepared. We have a colt that has been running on the lower end and we’ve been having some fun with it. So we decided rather than buy an expensive broodmare, let’s try to make our own. Not that she was cheap, but if you get a really good racehorse and she can make offspring that run, that costs a lot of money.
“This is a new direction for us. We’ve been selling yearlings here for over 30 years. We’re a small broodmare band, usually 12 horses or smaller, and we just try to focus on quality more than quantity. But we’re going to go racing. ”
A multiple stakes-placed daughter of Will Take Charge, Sweet Diane was consigned as Hip 90 by ELiTE Sales, agent, and came ready-made for River Bend with an impressive pedigree and racing résumé. Bred in Kentucky by Eurowest Bloodstock Services, the filly is out of the stakes-placed Tiznow mare Inside Passage, a half sister to six stakes winners including grade 3 winner Take the Ribbon and Glinda the Good, the dam of champion 2-year-old male Good Magic.
Sweet Diane earned her maiden win on second asking at 2, and followed that effort with a second in the Hut Hut Stakes Dec. 8 at Gulfstream Park. Most recently third in the March 23 TwinSpires.com Fair Grounds Oaks (G2) at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots for trainer Mike Stidham and previous owner Stallionaire Enterprises, Sweet Diane also posted a third in the Feb. 9 Suncoast Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs. The combination of the two placings afforded the filly 22 points toward the May 3 Longines Kentucky Oaks (G1) and she currently ranks 19th on the leaderboard.
“She’s got the pedigree and she’s got the looks; she had Kentucky Oaks points,” said Liz Crow of ELiTE Sales. “I think everyone was thinking that her residual value was around $200,000, so it wasn’t that much of a risk to buy a filly, not even halfway through her 3-year-old year, that could go on and win graded stakes. She’s already proven she can hit the board in stakes and graded stakes. It’s only a matter of time before she breaks through and wins one.
“We really appreciate the job that (assistant trainer) Hilary (Pridham) and Mike Stidham did in getting her ready, because she looked tremendous when she came here.”
Stidham, who attended the sale, was pleased with both the price and with the filly’s progress and looked forward to her future performances on the track.
“You never know, but we were hoping somewhere in the $400,000-$500,000 range and she certainly made it, so we are delighted,” Stidham said. “We started her as a 2-year-old and watched her go through the races she’s been in and she’s been a sweetheart. She’s developed nicely and we hope she continues on to grade 1 status.”