By Beverley Smith for woodbine.com
TORONTO, May 14 – Galloping Ami was bred to be a racehorse. But she was born to be a mother.
The 11-year-old unraced mare, a daughter of Belmont Stakes winner Victory Gallop, is Canada’s 2016 Broodmare of the Year. She perhaps won’t get any Mother’s Day cards, or posies, or the luxury of breakfast served in bed. She’s a giver, like many mothers.
She has given owner Ivan Dalos and his Tall Oaks farm a bountiful harvest, year after year, producing her first stakes winner when Aragorn Ami won the Martha Washington Stakes at Oaklawn Park in 2014. And then there was Ami’s Flatter, who in 2015 finished third in the Florida Derby, second in the Tampa Bay Derby and later, won the Commonwealth Stakes at Keeneland. Soon after came Ami’s Gizmo, a colt that Dalos couldn’t sell at the Canadian Select Sale, taking him back when he fell below his reserve when the Canadian breeding business stumbled. And so he raced him in his own purple and green colours.
Galloping Ami’s latest star set a Woodbine track record while winning the Ontario Derby (1:48.30 for 1 1/8 miles) and he also won the Prince of Wales, second jewel in the Canadian Triple Crown and all, told, won more than $1-million. All of this meant that Ami’s Gizmo was chosen as Canada’s top 3-year-old colt last season. Obviously, Galloping Ami raises her foals with care, then when they turn five months old, sets them free into the world to blossom. And so they have.
True to form, Galloping Ami foaled yet another healthy son, a flashy little chestnut by Sky Mesa last Monday, less than a week before Mother’s Day. The cigars are out. She won’t be sticking around for long. In another week, she and her foal will head to Kentucky where she’ll meet up with Frosted, her most upscale boyfriend yet, pricey at $50,000 a foal.
This spectacular grey is the highest priced stallion entering stud this year – higher even than California Chrome ($30,000) or Nyquist ($40,000.) It’s quite an outlay for Dalos, who tends to breed to cheaper stallions, mindful of his budgets. But Galloping Ami has proven to be as swish as they come, in these parts. And Dalos is eyeing the U.S. market to sell the offspring. And he wants to race in the United States, too, and be competitive. He bred Victory Gallop, but sold him for $25,000 before he finished second in the Kentucky Derby. Dalos would like to get to the Derby with his own colours.
As broodmares go, Galloping Ami is a treasure. First of all, she always “catches” at first breeding, something quite unusual in the breeding world. Dalos has had mares that have had to visit their paramours three or four times before they get in foal.
Once she has a foal, Galloping Ami is the ideal mother. She’s attentive to her foals. She views a visitor at her spring home, Norse Ridge Farm, north of Toronto, with healthy suspicion, always putting herself between the stranger and her foal. When he sleeps, she stands watching him, transfixed. When her newest foal took a deep snooze in an indoor arena on a chill spring afternoon, and she figured it was time to move, Galloping Ami gave him a nudge with her foot. Like a teenager, he ignored it at first.
“She’s just a great mother,” said Darlene Ballis-Hunderup, who owns Norse Ridge with her husband, Rene. “She does her job. She’s protective. “
Ballis-Hunderup has cared for many of Dalos’s mares, and at the moment, he’s her only thoroughbred client.
Galloping Ami is athletic enough, but mostly, she’s calm, a blessing for her handlers and her foals. When she had her newest foal, she did it in the wee hours of May 8 without fuss, just lying down. “No fuss, no muss,” Ballis-Hunderup said. The 118-pound foal, all legs, was on the move right away, and quite active. He’s curious and quickly learning about the world.
Galloping Ami is a fourth-generation mare, the result of Dalos’s careful and patient matchups, tracing right back to his foundation mare, Silly Billie. He started his breeding career with a mare, maybe not the best one. He turned a cheap claimer with a habit of finishing last into a broodmare when he didn’t want to see her end up in the meat market. “I kept on breeding her because I couldn’t give her away,” Dalos said. She died after her fourth foal. But Dalos had decided that he quite liked the breeding end of things.
His next broodmare, he vowed to himself, was going to be a mare that he chose to breed. Back in those days, Buckpasser was proving to be a powerful sire of fillies, and then a broodmare sire. But daughters of Buckpasser were just too expensive. Everybody wanted one.
Then one day he spied a filly by Buckaroo, a son of Buckpasser, that was in the stable of his trainer, George Bankuti. Dalos waited patiently for her to become available to sell, and when she suffered an injury on the racetrack, he got his foundation mare. It was Silly Billie, a minor stakes winner. Buckaroo was the sire of 1985 Kentucky Derby winner, Spend A Buck.
“She’s been good to me,” Dalos said. “She’s my foundation mare of all the Amis. (Galloping Ami’s full sister, Victorious Ami is the mother of Ami’s Holiday, winner of the Breeders’ Stakes and now Dalos’s first stallion.) “I have enough Amis now. They are coming out of my ears.” He has a few more broodmares this year, because he’s supporting Ami’s Holiday at stud. “I’m playing games with him and I’ll see what I can do,” he said.
Galloping Ami did not race because she went through a fence as a baby, and did something to an ankle that halted her career on the racetrack. But she has more than made up for it as the mother of stakes winners and champions. She doesn’t look much like her own mother (Secret Ami, a tall leggy mare), and her foals don’t look much like her, either. Dalos likes that about her. “If you like the look of the stallion, and the race style of the stallion, you know what you are going to be getting.”
Silly Billie begat Sybelle Ami, which began Secret Ami. A line of mothers has put Dalos in the position of having 11 horses he owned or bred be up for Sovereign Awards earlier this month. Dalos had two of the four finalists in the Broodmare of the Year category. He lost the award for top breeder by only one vote to Frank Stronach’s Adena Farms. Yet Dalos remains a small breeder, piecing together qualities and strengths to succeed.
And Galloping Ami is one of his jewels, a mother on her own mission.