The Bargain Buy or the Seven-Figure Stunner: Take Your Pick in San Felipe

Confidence Game (Candy Ride {Arg}) gave another vote of confidence to the bargain shoppers when the $25,000 yearling made a splash on the Derby trail last weekend in the GII Rebel S. The week before, Angel of Empire (Classic Empire)–a $70,000 Keeneland September buy–proved best in the GII Risen Star S.

This weekend there is potential for another big win by the underdog in the GII San Felipe S., but there is also the likely possibility that the owner of one of those sensational seven-figure purchases will be rewarded.

The San Felipe’s sizeable field of 11 includes two homebreds, three contestants purchased for less than $50,000, four bought for six figures–including $500,000 yearling and morning line favorite National Treasure (Quality Road) and $700,000 yearling Fort Bragg (Tapit)–and then that remarkable, pricey son of Bernardini known as Hejazi.

Bred by Chester and Mary Broman, Hejazi was bought by Zedan Racing for $3.55 million at the 2022 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Sale, setting the mark for the highest-priced Thoroughbred sold at public auction in the state of Maryland and the highest-priced offspring of the late Bernardini at public auction.

Recalling the purchase, agent Gary Young said that the record-breaking colt was exactly what Amr Zedan was looking to add to his stable.

“Mr. Zedan has made it perfectly clear that his goal is to have good 3-year-old colts for the Classics,” Young explained. “This horse fit the bill. By Bernardini and out of a Medaglia d’Oro mare, he was really well-balanced and his conformation was correct. His work was terrific and Baffert loved the horse physically. Did we think he was going to go for that much? Not really. Baffert, my friend Charlie Boden and I stood in the back and Mr. Zedan was on the phone with us. One thing led to another and it got to $3.55 million. I don’t think anyone in the group had foreseen it going that high, but when you get two players in the game these days, anything can happen.”

On the other end of the spectrum, Chase the Chaos (Astern {Aus})) is the bargain buy of the San Felipe field. The gelding was bought after receiving considerably less in-person scrutiny than his competitor Hejazi when he was purchased for just $10,000.

Chase the Chaos gets his first stakes win in the El Camino Real Derby | Vassar Photography

Buyer and co-owner Bill Dory purchases a few weanlings for under $10,000 every year to raise and break at his farm and then race at his local track, Century Mile.

“I didn’t even go to the sale,” said Dory, recalling the 2020 Keeneland November Sale. “I went through the book numerous times and I picked out horses that I thought would fit in that $10,000 price range for Alberta. I really liked the Medaglia d’OroUncle Mo cross on him. I got the vet report from the repository. He had some OCDs, but they were very minor and the vet thought he would grow out of them. When he didn’t achieve his RNA, I asked the consignor how much they wanted for him and at $10,000, it was a done deal.”

From there, Chase the Chaos developed at Dory’s farm in Canada and spent his early days under saddle there along with Dory’s other November purchases.

“I bought five weanling colts that year and I had them all in one pasture that wasn’t far off the road,” Dory recalled. “They would get to playing and people would stop and watch. They would show off for them. It was so cool to watch. Now all of them are winners and two are stakes winners.”

Dory recalled how he thought Chase the Chaos was one of the most promising colts of the bunch, so he called a 2-year-old consignor in Ocala. He named a price he said he thought was fair, but the consignor said that with the colt’s inactive pedigree, Dory probably wouldn’t get any takers. So Dory brought in partner Adam Ference and decided to race the colt himself.

Chase the Chaos already has free entry to the GI Preakness S. after his win in the El Camino Real Derby and now looks to add a third race to his win streak on Saturday.

Young has plenty of experience purchasing both types of horses–the seven-figure jaw-droppers and the value plays–and has been successful with each in recent years while working with Zedan Racing. Hejazi was bought the same month that Medina Spirit (Protonico), a $35,000 juvenile, won the GI Kentucky Derby. Last year their $1.7 million 2-year-old buy Taiba (Gun Runner) was a top Derby prospect and this year, along with Hejazi, Zedan’s Derby hopefuls include the TDN’s Derby Top 12 kingpin Arabian Knight (Uncle Mo), a $2.3 million 2-year-old.

“All of this run recently is fueled by Mr. Zedan’s passion for the game,” said Young. “Baffert has the final say, which he should, and the team also includes Dr. Pug Hart. It’s a team effort and it’s very satisfying to see them make it into the Grade I races. It really doesn’t matter if they cost $3.55 million or $35,000. Obviously there is more pressure with Hejazi and the seven-figure horses. We all realize that some of them will turn out and some will not, but we’ve been really lucky over the past few years.”

No matter what the final sales price will be, Young said he focuses on finding athletes at the 2-year-old sales.

“Horses have body language and you want to see them go back to the barn [after a breeze] looking like they’re thinking, ‘That was fun. I want to do it again.’ Sometimes you like a horse and when you look at their pedigree page, you realize that it’s not exactly a blue blood, but if they check the boxes for you, you go for it.”

So on Saturday, will the underdog streak continue or will the seven-figure prodigy run to his price tag? Maybe the answer lies somewhere in between. However the race shakes out, it makes for exciting viewing.

“[Bargain buys] give people an idea that you don’t have to be a multi-millionaire to compete for the top running of the game,” Young said. “Yet Hejazi is a positive for the big money spenders. Let’s face it, for the people that want to think ‘Oh, they’re just spending money,’ if you look up the seven-figure horses through the years, the strike rate of those horses is very, very ordinary. That’s not lost on us. We realize that.”

Switched from Baffert’s barn to Tim Yakteen for Saturday’s race, Hejazi enters the San Felipe coming off his maiden win, where he earned a 99 Beyer Speed Figure, but will now have to prove his ability going two turns. Young said that the colt’s last work, where he went 5 furlongs in :59.20 on Feb. 19, speaks to his potential.

“It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to watch his last workout and know that he worked terrific,” Young explained. “We’re hopeful for a very big effort this weekend, but there are some very tough horses in the race. There are more horses I can see betting on than those that I can’t.”

The weather at Santa Anita over the past month that has disrupted training, Young said, will be an added question mark for all of the race’s entrants.

Chase the Chaos, who will be saddled by Ed Moger Jr., will be trying dirt for the first time since his debut last August at Canterbury.

“It was a muddy track and he got a huge lesson,” Dory recalled. “He was behind horses and then went between horses to run second. I was so proud of the way he ran in that race. He likes the synthetic, so now we’re going to find out how much he likes the dirt.”

Dory is under no illusion about their competition on Saturday, but he said he plans to enjoy the ride knowing that Chase the Chaos has taken him and his partner much further than their initial goal of the winner’s circle at their hometown track in Alberta.

“We talked about it, Adam and I, and said, ‘You know, do you realize we’re going up against a $3.55 million horse?’ It’s crazy. I think it makes people realize that sometimes you do get lucky and you can get the right horse for a decent price. Hopefully it brings more people into the game. My high is still as high as possible. I’m going to enjoy this for as long as I can. I think he’s going to run very well against these horses and I’m hoping he goes off at 65-1 again.”

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