‘Grammer’ Lessons–Part II

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES — Bloodstock agents are equal parts pedigree analysts, money managers and equine recruiters for those audacious (crazy?) enough to dabble in Thoroughbred ownership.

Few have followed the trajectory of the career of Country Grammer (Tonalist) more closely than the well-respected Peter Bradley, who went to work on behalf of the late Paul Pompa, Jr. at the 2019 OBS April Sale. It was Bradley’s name on the docket when the hammer fell in the first 20 minutes of the final day of the auction, having parted with $450,000 for the :21 flat breezer who was bred in Kentucky by Scott and Debbie Pierce.

Not Exactly A Buyer’s Market

As it turned out, the record-setting 2019 OBS April Sale proved a sensational market to sell into. The overall sales-topper, a $1.3-million colt by Into Mischief–Dixie Song (Fusaichi Pegasus), sold during that final day of trade in Central Florida and was one of three to fetch seven figures. Colonel Liam was the second-priciest horse, a $1.2-million purchase by Robert and Lawana Low.

“That was one of those years when everything was selling really well, and I was trying to kind of look for a support system where it’s slightly under the radar,” Bradley explained. “Colonel Liam had sold like 20 hips before this horse did [during the latter stages of the penultimate session]. And I really liked him, but I also kind of knew that he was going to be out of my price range.”

Still, the Tonalist colt had plenty of action and was unlikely to come cheap.

“I had some money to spend. I mean, I spent $450,000 on this horse, so it wasn’t like I was trying to find a bargain-basement horse,” he said. “’Obvious’ always stands out and, you know, the two kind of–and they weren’t really knocks–but one was his sire was not the hottest thing in the world, and, two, he was a May foal. And even though he did everything right, he was pretty immature. He had a great frame on him, but he was a bit on the narrow side. He worked every bit as well as Colonel Liam if I remember correctly. He really leveled out and I don’t remember him being pressed  on the gallop out. He looked like he liked his job.”

Country Grammer let down following the sale at WinStar Farm and “the horse pretty much went through his 2-year-old blues,” Bradley reported.

“He was a little wound up, so they took a little more time with him than not, which you know when to do if you’ve spent time with horses,” Bradley said.

Making Up For Lost Time

Country Grammer was therefore a late-debuting juvenile for Chad Brown, finishing a close fourth on the turf before breaking his maiden when switched to the dirt for the first time in November 2019. Never a factor after losing his footing at the start of the 2020 GII Fountain of Youth S. a short time before COVID-19 changed the entire racing landscape, he was third in a salty Belmont allowance–one spot behind ‘TDN Rising Star’ and future Dubai World Cup winner Mystic Guide (Ghostzapper)–then was up late to win the GIII Peter Pan S., with Mystic Guide back in third. Country Grammer was fifth to GI Belmont S. hero Tiz the Law (Constitution) in the GI Runhappy Travers S. that August and was sidelined before tragedy intervened.

“Chad thought he was a seriously nice horse, thought he might potentially be a Derby horse for him and that didn’t quite work out of course,” said Bradley. “He was maturing and he kept going along. He came up with a little problem and we put him on the sideline and went back to WinStar. Then, sadly, in the interim, Mr. Pompa passed away. Eventually WinStar bought him from for a song.”

Part of the Pompa dispersal at the 2021 Keeneland January Sale–a draft topped by the $925,000 future Eclipse Award winner Regal Glory (Animal Kingdom)–Country Grammer was hammered down for a comparatively paltry $110,000.

“We were prepared to go to $250,000 or so for him and were very surprised we got him for $110,000,” WinStar’s Elliott Walden said in a pre-World Cup interview this time last year. “We felt he could be a good handicap horse and we bought him with the intention of sending him to Bob Baffert in California because that division out there seemed a little short on numbers and it’s worked out well.”

That is possibly the understatement of the century. Country Grammer’s runner-up effort in the 2022 G1 Saudi Cup and subsequent World Cup success netted him better than $10 million. He parlayed a dominating victory in the GII San Antonio S. Dec. 26 into yet another $3.5-million payday in Riyadh behind the reopposing Panthalassa (Jpn) (Lord Kanaloa {Jpn}) last month and would surge past $21 million in earnings with a win this weekend.

Pete Bradley will be watching Saturday’s race with keen interest, hoping that the horse he took a chance on nearly four years ago continues to validate his high opinion of him.

“That’s what I do for a living–I’m a talent scout when it comes right down to it,” Bradley said.

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