Two-Year-Olds: The Wine Steward wins Funny Cide; Caldwell Luvs Gold rolls in Seeking The Ante

Sunday, August 27th, 2023

The Wine Steward scores a narrow victory in Sunday’s Funny Cide Stakes. NYRA Photo

Mike Maker finished one interview and interrupted another to make a point.

“I want to make sure you put a note there to thank Peter Proscia for overpaying,” Maker joked with a nod toward Proscia, whose Paradise Farms Corp. co-owns The Wine Steward with David Staudacher.

Proscia and Staudacher did exceed their initial budget of $250,000, along with Maker’s suggested ceiling of $290,000, when they purchased the New York-bred 2-year-old son of Vino Rosso for $340,000 at this year’s OBS March sale. The Wine Steward has almost earned back that hammer price after adding to his ledger Sunday with a victory in the $200,000 Funny Cide Stakes.

“A little pricey, but it fell right in for us,” Proscia said of The Wine Steward, who improved to 3-for-3 with a head victory over El Grande O in the 6-furlong Funny Cide.

The third highest priced New York-bred at the OBS March sale, The Wine Steward added the Funny Cide to his victory last time out against open company in the July 2 Bashford Manor Stakes at Ellis Park and a May 28 state-bred maiden win at Belmont Park. He won those two races by 2 3/4 and 6 lengths, respectively, and grinded out the Funny Cide by a head over the stubborn El Grande O. Watchatalkinabout finished 5 ½ lengths back in third with Works for Me fourth of six. Ridden by Manny Franco, The Wine Steward won in 1:10.92.

“Mike developed the horse really nicely for us,” Proscia said. “He took his time after the last race at Ellis and here we are.”

Maker targeted the Funny Cide specifically to get The Wine Steward back with New York-breds and to allow plenty of time to recover from his win in the 6-furlong Bashford Manor.

“His last race was a hard race, it was hot out that day, so we kind of zeroed in on this one,” Maker said. “He’s more of a feminine-made horse and we thought the time would be beneficial. Having said that we think he’s more geared toward route races anyway.”

Sent off as the 6-5 favorite, The Wine Steward bobbled a few times leaving the gate from post six, while El Grande O also stumbled at the break before recovering to take a short lead heading toward the turn.

El Grande O, runner-up in the off-the-turf Skidmore Stakes behind The Wine Steward’s stablemate Ship Cadet nine days ago, led through the opening quarter-mile in :22.54 ahead of Works For Me and Trust Fund. Always A Warrior and The Wine Steward raced fourth and fifth to that point, the latter a few paths off the rail with only Watchatalkinabout behind them starting the bend.

The Wine Steward continued to advance around the turn and eventually made a four-wide rally at the leader through the half in :45.97. The wide run didn’t overly concern Franco.

“I wanted to be forward and I had to stalk four wide, but I knew I was on the best horse,” he said. “If he’s going to win, he’s going to win from here. I didn’t make things complicated. I just wanted to stay there and made my move when I thought it was the right time.”

Trust Fund and Works For Me yielded into the straight, leaving The Wine Steward and El Grande O to settle things in the final three-sixteenths. El Grande O clung to a 1-length lead at the eighth pole before The Wine Steward wore him down in deep stretch to get up in time.

“Manny rode him great,” Maker said. “He bobbled at the start and had a wide trip . . . The thing is, he wants no part of sprinting. The best we’ll see is when we go a mile or a mile-and-a-sixteenth.”

The Wine Steward collected $110,000 for the Funny Cide, increasing his earnings to $274,010.

Bred by Sequel Thoroughbreds, Lakland Farm and Mark Toothaker and foaled at Sequel Stallions New York in Hudson, The Wine Steward originally sold for $70,000 to Oldham Bloodstock at last year’s Fasig-Tipton Saratoga New York-bred yearling sale. He was consigned at OBS March by Sequel Bloodstock, agent.

The Wine Steward is the first foal out of the To Honor And Serve mare Call To Service, a half-sister to multiple graded stakes winner Isotherm and stakes-placed winners Gio Game and Giant Game. Call To Service sold in foal to Authentic for $350,000 at the 2022 Keeneland January horses of all ages sale. She is the dam of a Louisiana-bred yearling colt by Authentic and produced a filly by Curlin in Louisiana March 6.

Maker said several factors, including a presale workout in :10.20, put the colt from the first crop of the champion and Breeders’ Cup Classic winner on his short list.

“Being a New York-bred for one,” Maker said. “And we loved his work and loved him physically.”

– Tom Law

• • •

Caldwell Luvs Gold becomes a stakes winner in Sunday’s Seeking The Ante Stakes at Saratoga. NYRA Photo.

Caldwell Luvs Gold goes to 2-for-2 in Seeking The Ante

The record shows that Hip 418 sold to Melissa Dicke for $73,000 at the Fasig-Tipton New York-Bred yearling sale Aug. 15, 2022. The reality is it was pretty much a fait accompli well before the gavel dropped.

Dicke, her husband Kevin and their infant son, Caldwell, had met bloodstock agent Josh Stevens at the Saratoga select sale the previous week. They also came across trainer Brad Cox and took a photo with him. At the sales grounds prior to the New York-bred sale, Melissa wanted to have a photo taken with a horse. By pure chance, that yearling happened to be Hip 418, a Goldencents filly at the Taylor Made Sales consignment.

“The sales guys were licking their chops,” Stevens said. “They figured they had to buy him now. So I had my youngest client ever – a one-month old.”

The Dickes returned home to Indianapolis before the sale, but they entrusted Stevens with making the purchase. Having already had success buying progeny of Goldencents – including $2.3 million earner By My Standards and five-time graded stakes winner Mr. Money –  he didn’t need any convincing.

“All the Goldencents have speed, so I tried to buy one with a little leg and a little length,” Stevens said. “I liked that she was out of a Quality Road mare (Snow) to give her some stamina. And I thought the filly would fit their budget.

“We went in looking to buy a $50,000 horse, but as the sale got closer we talked about going to 65 (thousand). I went to $72,000 and I wasn’t sure if they were going to be happy or mad. Then I got a text saying, ‘Tell me we bought her.’ So they were happy.”

Any joy the Dickes felt at buying the horse they would name for their son was eclipsed by the happiness of watching her win her debut at Saratoga July 27, where she closed from eighth to win by 2 3/4 lengths for Cox and jockey Florent Geroux. The euphoria multiplied Sunday when she outlasted a game Stellamaris to capture the $200,000 Seeking the Ante Stakes on New York Showcase Day at Saratoga Race Course.

“I don’t know what to say. It’s unbelievable,” said Kevin Dicke, who came to Saratoga for the first time about 10 years ago when a friend owned a piece of Mucho Macho Man. “Give me a day or two to let it settle in.”

Caldwell Luvs Gold, bred by Jeremiah Desmond and Drumkenny Farm, settled at the back of the pack Sunday as Cara’s Time, Tricky Temper and Concerti scrimmaged through an opening quarter in :22.51. Stellamaris made a wide move on the turn and took the lead heading for home. Caldwell Luvs Gold hooked her at the sixteenth pole, but Stellamaris dug in and battled to the wire, with the winner prevailing by a half-length in 1:11.29 for 6 furlongs.

“It’s pretty incredible,” Dicke said. “The last time I was numb, this time it was more like shock.”

Caldwell Luvs Gold, who sold for $36,000 as a weanling at the 2021 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga fall mixed sale, was the second foal out of Snow. Eminency, by Cupid, has won once and earned $98,143 in 16 starts. Snow also had a filly by Vekoma in 2022 and was bred back to Cupid this year.

– Paul Halloran

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