SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y.— As a bloodstock agent, Mike Ryan has selected multiple prominent racehorses over the years, including Breeders’ Cup winners and Eclipse Award champions. But the Irishman now appears poised to experience the thrill of high-caliber success as an owner with Be Your Best, an impressive winner of Thursday’s $150,000 P.G. Johnson at Saratoga Race Course.
Bred in Ireland by Ryan’s St. Croix Bloodstock, Be Your Best was a flashy winner on debut for trainer Horacio De Paz when besting a field of 10 over Saratoga’s inner turf on July 31. The daughter of 2015 Champion European Sprinter Muhaarar backed up her maiden coup in the P.G. Johnson, racing along the rail to the inside of the Flavien Prat-piloted second choice Idea Generation before cutting the corner and drawing off to a 3 3/4-length victory under Jose Ortiz. The win garnered a 73 Beyer Speed Figure.
“We were very impressed with her maiden win four weeks ago at Saratoga. She trained with a lot of promise this winter in Ocala with Karl Keegan,” Ryan said. “We had never had her on the grass before her maiden. She hadn’t worked back on the grass. She just trained on the main track at Saratoga, and she always trained like a good horse.
“Her performance was very exciting and super impressive,” added Ryan, regarding the stakes score. “She had to be patient and wait for her time to get the split up the fence. I was a bit worried between the three-eighths and the quarter pole that Jose wouldn’t get room because Flavien had him pinned in a pocket there. Fortunately, the split came. If we don’t get the split, I don’t think we would have won. But once she found some daylight, she accelerated pretty impressively.”
De Paz expressed similar anxiousness when Be Your Best lacked racing room around the turn.
“She came out of her race good. She’s sound and happy,” De Paz said. “It was a nice effort on her part, coming up the rail like that and squeezing through another horse on the outside. That was pretty brave on her part. Jose had me a little worried around the turn until the quarter pole, but he knew what he had underneath him. He’s been working her every morning in her breezes, so he knew her very well.”
Ryan said the P.G Johnson trip was in total contrast to the maiden score.
“She was tipped out wide turning for home, but she was much the best that day and accelerated past them on the outside,” Ryan said of her maiden victory. “This time, she had to be patient and she saved ground. She didn’t give up a lot of ground. She’s a very smart filly. She’s relaxed and she’ll switch off and respond well when you ask her.”
Be Your Best’s sire Muhaarar did his best running as a sprinter, but Ryan recalled a conversation with internationally acclaimed trainer John Gosden, who said one can expect his progeny to get a distance of ground.
“He said, ‘I think they want more ground. People are expecting them to be sprinters, but I think they want to go long,’” Ryan said. “John Gosden was absolutely correct and she’s really rewarded us big time. So, I told Horacio that she was bred for the grass. Muhaarar was a champion sprinter in Europe so I had no doubt she would handle the turf, which she did in her first start.”
Ryan is no stranger to success in selecting future stars at the sale, including Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf winners Rushing Fall and New Money Honey, both owned by e Five Racing Thoroughbreds and trained by Chad Brown. He also bought Breeders’ Cup winners-turned Champions in Good Magic, Bricks and Mortar, and Saint Liam and also bred 2010 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf winner More Than Real.
With Be Your Best stamping herself as a legitimate contender for the Grade 1, $1 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf on November 4 at Keeneland, the filly presents Ryan with a new opportunity to experience the thrill of winning as an owner.
“It would be a tremendous achievement,” Ryan said. “We love the game. We love breeding and we love racing. I’ve been in it a long time and to have a homebred and to still have the mare is very special and extremely exciting. The filly is by a horse that was given great opportunity and had high expectations.”
Ryan, who maintains a string of 35 broodmares at Indian Creek Farm in Kentucky as well as six mares at Ballylinch Stud in Ireland, said he would be delighted to win a race where he has either bred or bought three of its previous winners.
“She’s a quality filly and there will be plenty more that will come out over the next six weeks before the Breeders’ Cup,” Ryan said. “There will be European horses. It’s always a hard race to win. We’ve been lucky to have bred More Than Real and we bought Rushing Fall and New Money Honey. We’ll see, time will tell.”
Hailing from the prestigious broodmare lines of La Troienne, Be Your Best is out of the unraced Medaglia d’Oro mare Kamakura. Be Your Best’s fourth dam Up The Flagpole produced Grade 1-winner Prospectors Delite – the 2003 Broodmare of the Year who produced that year’s Horse of the Year Mineshaft and Grade 1-winner Tomisue’s Delight.
NYRA Press Office
Photo: Be Your Best wins the P.G. Johnson (Chelsea Durand)