Kentucky Derby 149: Early Impressions with Albaugh Family Stable’s Jason Loutsch

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – TDN Senior Racing Editor Steve Sherack catches up with the connections of leading GI Kentucky Derby contenders to get their ‘Early Impressions.’

Albaugh Family Stables purchased a total of nine yearlings either alone or in partnership out of the 2021 Keeneland September Sale for a total of $3.37 million. Two of them have made the 20-horse field for the Kentucky Derby and a third will need a scratch to draw into the body of the field.

Angel of Empire (Classic Empire) punched his ticket to Louisville following consecutive come-from-behind wins for trainer Brad Cox in the GII Risen Star S. and GI Arkansas Derby. The bay, listed at 8-1 on the morning-line for the Kentucky Derby, earned a career-high 94 Beyer Speed Figure in the latter. Bred in Pennsylvania by Forgotten Land Investment Inc. and Black Diamond Equine Corp., Angel of Empire brought just $70,000 from Dennis Albaugh’s operation during the eighth session at KEESEP. He previously RNA’d for $32,000 as a KEENOV weanling.

“When we got done with Books 1 and 2, we were headed home and I just felt like I wanted to add one or two more colts,” said Albaugh’s son-in-law and the stable’s general manager Jason Loutsch.

“It’s a numbers game and I just kept sorting through the books trying to find something that pedigree wise met all of our criteria. Being a Pennsylvania-bred by a young sire with first runners I thought that we could get him for a good price in Book 4 or 5. Obviously, I wasn’t expecting this to be the one to get us to where we’re at today. But he was a great physical and we said, ‘Hey, let’s take a chance.’”

He continued, “There’s a lot of luck involved in this game. We typically don’t buy horses in Books 4 and 5. But it just shows you the reason you do is because you never know where they’re gonna come from. We were trying to offset our average a little bit and get our numbers up and that’s the way we did it.”

The operation knows Angel of Empire’s young sire all too well. Classic Empire (Pioneerof the Nile) defeated the Albaugh family’s Not This Time (Giant’s Causeway) in dramatic fashion by a painful neck in the 2016 GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita. Subsequently retired to Taylor Made Stallions, Not This Time is already the sire of four Grade/Group 1 winners, including last year’s champion 3-year-old colt Epicenter.

Angel of Empire, the first foal out of the To Honor and Serve mare Armony’s Angel, is one of four graded winners for Ashford Stud sire Classic Empire.

“Boy, down the stretch it was a heck of a race,” Loutsch reflected. “We thought we were gonna get there and were just a neck short. That was a stinger. Unfortunately, he came out of race with a soft tissue issue and we had to retire him. It was a tough weekend all around. But it’s come full circle. Not This Time has had some unbelievable success in the stallion barn and Classic Empire is paying us back a little bit by saying, ‘Hey, I’m gonna get you a Derby horse.’”

‘TDN Rising Star’ Jace’s Road (Quality Road) heads to the Derby following a third-place finish in the GII Louisiana Derby. The $510,000 KEESEP graduate is campaigned by Albaugh Family Stables in partnership with West Point Thoroughbreds and is also trained by Cox. Produced by the multiple stakes-placed Silver Deputy mare Out Post, the 2022 Gun Runner S. winner was bred in Kentucky by Colts Neck Stables LLC.

Cyclone Mischief (Into Mischief), a $450,000 KEESEP purchase by Albaugh Family Stables and Castleton Lyons, is one of three also-eligibles entered in the Derby. Trained by Dale Romans, he was third behind champion Forte (Violence) in his last two attempts, including the GI Curlin Florida Derby. Bred in Kentucky by Castleton Lyons and Kilboy Estate, Cyclone Mischief is out of the Bernardini mare Areyoucominghere.

Albaugh Family Stables has had three previous Kentucky Derby starters–Brody’s Cause (seventh in 2016), J Boys Echo (15th in 2017) and Free Drop Billy (16th in 2018).

“My father-in-law Dennis came to us in 2014 and said that we’re gonna start going to the sales and try to buy 10-15 colts every year and the goal is the Kentucky Derby,” Loutsch said. “The Taylor Made boys are good friends of mine and helped me come up with a plan to succeed, starting with helping me find a great guy on the sale’s grounds in Barry Berkelhammer. He is tremendous. He inspects them all with me and also breaks them at his AbraCadabra Farms. We’ve developed a system through pedigree and heart scans and try to find horses that we think can get the distance. We feel like it works. I give my team a lot of credit.”

He concluded, “We’re real excited for the Saturday in May.”

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