Monday, February 15, 2010

Memories of a Ruler When He Was Just a Prince

I remember the first time I saw Roman Ruler but back then, in the summer of 2003, he was an unnamed yearling known only as Silvery Swan '02. I had been hired by a client to "scout" horses for the upcoming Keeneland September Yearling Sale which meant I would travel to as many consignors as I could before the sale and inspect their catalogued yearlings in an effort to get a leg up on the competition. One of my last stops before the sale was at Bill Betz' Needham-Betz Thoroughbreds. As I recall it was a typical mid-summer "scorcher" here in Central Kentucky, the kind where your shirt gets drenched with sweat just standing there. Bill must have shown me around 15 yearlings that day and they were all straight forward, easy to categorize types. No, No, No, Yes, No, Yes, No, No, etc. but I just couldn't wrap my head around that darned Silvery Swan '02. If I had spent 5 minutes apiece inspecting the other horses I must have spent 20 with him. I made him walk on the asphalt, then on the grass, then in a circle. I looked at him from the side, watched him walk head-on, stood him up square, stood him up in a conformation pose, etc. The groom went through 3 bottles of water and was becoming visibly frustrated.

The problem was in his front limbs. My client was a real stickler for leg conformation and there was no way around it - he wasn't perfect up front. I couldn't scratch him off the list though. He had a body to die for and moved like a leopard stalking its prey. Offset knees, base narrow be damned I was putting this horse on the short list.

In the end my client's didn't purchase Silver Swan '02 and like so many other hip numbers he faded from my memory until...

The next time I heard about him his name was Roman Ruler and he had just taken a MSW at Hollywood Park with ease, stopping the clock in a track sizzling :57.1. The bay son of Fusaichi Pegasus failed to disappoint his ever growing fan base throughout the summer and fall of that year by taking both the Norfolk S.-G 2 and Best Pal S.-G 2 by a combined 11 1/2 lengths. At 3 Roman Ruler won the most important race of his career - The Haskell S.-G1. The most important, not so much due to the race's Grade 1 status or $1,000,000 purse but its 9 furlong distance. What Roman Ruler proved in this race was that he was more than just a brilliant speed ball. He was a horse that continued to develop from 2 to 3 and a horse that could carry his speed over a route of ground.

Just like his racing career did 6 years ago Roman Ruler's stud career is getting off to a spectacular start.

Now it's 2010 and Roman Ruler is the leading 2nd Crop Sire in North America and he is represented by no fewer than 5 legitimate Kentucky Derby contenders. I believe that he first showed glimpses of the prowess he would have in the breeding shed in the 2005 running of the Haskell S.-G 1, as brilliantly fast 2-year-olds that carry their speed over a route of ground in Grade 1 competition are a rare breed and are usually the kind that make it big in the breeding game.

I have seen him several times since he was retired to stud at Hill 'n' Dale Farm and you can tell that as he matured and broadened through the chest a lot of the minor front limb conformation flaws I was hung up on in 2003 have gone away. Seeing this horse at such an early stage of his life and seeing what he has gone on to do has been a great learning experience. I am definitley looking forward to watching his sons and daughters rule the track for years to come.

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