The Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale features some of the stud book’s most recognizable bloodlines collected in one place, especially in its early books.
The venerable Claiborne Farm is itself responsible for some of the most popular Thoroughbreds in the history of the breed as a nursery, sales consignment, and stallion operation.
Those two facts are indisputably true. However, those two facts also produced the most asked question outside Claiborne’s Barn 19 consignment on Wednesday and for months before the Keeneland sale: “Who’s Snow Trouble?”
The question has been so prevalent ever since Claiborne Farm’s Jill Gordon brought the pregnant broodmare Little Hidden Gem to Kentucky from upstate New York, that she named the ensuing foal “Who’s Snow Trouble.”
That weanling colt will go through the ring Thursday at the Keeneland November sale as Hip 524, providing the biggest spotlight that his sire, namesake Snow Trouble, has ever seen.
“When you talk about a mare and say she’s got a nice quality foal by her side, the first question is always, ‘well, who’s the foal by?’” Gordon said. “Every time you tell them he’s by Snow Trouble, the only response I’ve ever got has been ‘who is Snow Trouble?’ So, we came up with the name, and he came by it honestly, but he certainly exceeded our expectations in terms of quality.”
The answer to the question, “Who is Snow Trouble?” requires a bit of digging.
Snow Trouble, a 10-year-old Pennsylvania-bred son of Tapit, began his racing career in Europe, breaking his maiden at Goodwood as a 2-year-old.
In the summer of his 4-year-old season, he returned to the U.S. to race for new owner Matthew Schera and trainer Todd Pletcher and he won in his second domestic attempt at Gulfstream Park West. He was eventually relocated back to his native Pennsylvania, where he remained an allowance-level runner until his retirement at the end of 2016, finishing with three wins in 23 starts for $108,975.
Snow Trouble is a son of top commercial sire Tapit, out of the stakes-producing Storm Cat mare Smara, with a page that includes notable sire Bernstein, meaning he was ripe for a regional stallion station to take a chance on him. He entered stud in Arkansas for the 2018 breeding season, moved to New Mexico a year later, and settled at Foggy Bottom Farm in Geneseo, N.Y. in 2020 for owner Anthony Basquez.
Who’s Snow Trouble is one of six registered foals by his sire, with the oldest being 2-year-olds of 2021. None have raced.
Foggy Bottom Farm’s Gary Least was not aware that Snow Trouble had a weanling cataloged in the Keeneland November sale, or what he’d been named, but he erupted with laughter when he first heard it.
“I love it,” he said, catching his breath. “That’s perfect.”
Geneseo is near Finger Lakes, and Least said Basquez brought the stallion to Foggy Bottom to breed runners for that track and take advantage of New York’s lucrative state-bred incentive programs.
The mares have been unspectacular in population so far, and Least was not at all defensive about the fact that the stallion is not a household name, but he was confident that tide would turn once the first New York-sired runners by Snow Trouble hit the track at Finger Lakes.
“He’s a son of Tapit with modest aspirations, standing in a modest niche market, and he’s probably going to get a piece of it,” Least said. “He’s got good bone, and they’ve got good bone. They’re conformationally correct horses. They’re not china dolls. The rest of it is really on the dams.”
With that question answered, the next question becomes “How did a Snow Trouble colt make it into Book 2 of the Keeneland November sale?”
That thread starts in the classifieds section of The Blood-Horse magazine.
In an issue late last year, Basquez offered Little Hidden Gem, a placed Bodemeister mare whose claim to fame was being a half-sister to Jackie’s Warrior. At that time, Jackie’s Warrior had recently completed his multiple Grade 1-winning juvenile campaign, giving the mare an active page. She was pregnant for the first time to Snow Trouble.
“I actually found her in a classified ad, and I called this guy out of the blue,” Gordon said. “I always surf those kinds of things, and always figured eventually maybe I’d find a diamond in the rough, and what a diamond in the rough she’s been.
“We called and kind of went back and forth,” she continued. “It was the week of Christmas that we were trying to figure out a way to get her bought, and the only videos the farm was able to send me looked like they were shot on a 1990s Nokia flip phone. There had recently been an ice storm, and you could barely make the horse out from the background. We kind of just decided to take a leap of faith and buy her.”
Gordon bought Little Hidden Gem in partnership with Claiborne Farm, and they shared the credit as breeder when Who’s Snow Trouble was born on Feb. 26 of this year.
The commerciality of Jackie’s Warrior was what got Gordon and Claiborne through the door with Little Hidden Gem, but that runner’s ascent into becoming one of North America’s top sprinters made the mare a candidate for the Keeneland November sale to capitalize on that success. She was bred to City of Light for the 2022 foaling season, and both Little Hidden Gem and Who’s Show Trouble were cataloged.
“She’s a very well-made mare,” Gordon said about Little Hidden Gem. “From the side, she’s very pretty. City of Light should suit her. He’ll give her that little bit of size she might want. In terms of buying something that you have no idea what it’s going to look like, and hoping for the best, she was another ‘little hidden gem.’”
The mare was the draw, and Gordon freely admits it, but how does one convince Keeneland’s sales team to place a weanling by such an obscure sire so high up in the book order, just one day after the multi-million dollar titans of the elite Book 1?
“You send them a picture of him,” Gordon said.
“He’s as good a foal as we’ve got in this sale, he just happens to be by a stallion that nobody’s heard of,” she continued. “Our idea with bringing him up here was to help support and promote the mare, and he’s done all that and more. He’s got the best attitude, he goes out there and puts his head down and marches around. He’s having a big time up there at Barn 19. He thinks this is great.”
Who’s Snow Trouble is having a BIG time showing off for all his fans @keenelandsales. 12/10 he recommends being a sale horse, very fun. Sells with @claibornefarm tmrw as hip 524 behind mom who’s a 1/2 to Jackie’s Warrior IF City of Light 👀 pic.twitter.com/OsZHYkdvvy
— Jill Gordon (@jillgordon91) November 10, 2021
On the high end of the bloodstock trade, the name at the top of the page is one of the ultimate gatekeepers. Being by the right sire can set a general price ceiling and floor that one can expect to meet, as long as the vet report checks out, while being by a less fashionable sire puts a heavier emphasis on the ceiling.
If the top of his pedigree read “Tapit” instead of his son, Who’s Snow Trouble’s calm, willing demeanor and stout frame would make him less of a curiosity and more of a threat to bring top dollar in the ring.
As it stands, Gordon admitted that the weanling has had to sell himself, because is sire is so far off the beaten path. Fortunately, she had the right horse for the job.
“He was out 80 times today,” Gordon said. “That’s as much traffic as you can ask for a foal in November.”
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This entry was posted in Bloodstock, NL Article and tagged Anthony Basquez, Claiborne Farm, Gary Least, Horse Racing, Jill Gordon, Keeneland, keeneland september yearling sale, Little Hidden Gem, Snow Trouble, Stallions, Who’s Snow Trouble by Joe Nevills. Bookmark the permalink.