Derby Excitement At Lane's End Farm

Kentucky’s famous Lane’s End Farm will cast a giant shadow over this year’s Kentucky Derby with the nursery putting its stamp on up to 30 percent of the final field of 20.   

GAME WINNER  Picture: (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

At least six horses in contention for America’s premier classic were part of the Lane’s End program at one point or another in their youth.

Three hopefuls were born and raised there, one arrived as a weanling and two others were sent to Lane’s End to be consigned at auction.

Code Of Honor, Vekoma, War Of Will, Country House and Game Winner were all part of the farm’s 2017 Keeneland September yearling draft and Improbable was consigned by Lane’s End as a weanling in 2016.

“We are looking forward to it, a little more than a normal year,” said Lane’s End’s Bill Farish.

“It’s what we try to do every year. We try to breed top horses, raise top horses, and sell top horses.”

Not surprisingly the homebred Code Of Honor has the most support from the Lane’s End camp as the Farish family has never owned a Kentucky Derby winner.

A son of resident stallion Noble Mission, Code Of Honor was offered at the 2017 Keeneland September yearling sale but was retained after bidding stalled at $70,000.

To date he has earned $478,820 after winning the G2 Fountain of Youth Stakes and finishing third in the G1 Florida Derby.

The day before Code Of Honor was born another future Derby hopeful arrived at Lane’s End.

Vekoma was born and raised there on behalf of his breeder Jon Clay’s Alpha Delta Stables.

He won the G3 Nashua Stakes as a 2YO and finished third behind Code Of Honor in the Fountain of Youth before a victory in the G2 Blue Grass Stakes.

Vekoma is a son of the Lane’s End stallion Candy Ride and was offered at the same sale as Code Of Honor where he was sold to R.A. Hill Stable for $135,000. He has now earned $788,850.

As Reunited and Mona de Momma, the dams of Code Of Honor and Vekoma, had similar foaling dates they were kept in the same barn and their sons were born a day apart they were paddocked together as foals.

“They spent time in the same field,” said Farish. “It’s fun when things like that little twist of fate work out that way.”

Todd Claunch, Lane’s End’s assistant manager, is excited to see the pair in the Kentucky Derby as live chances.

“They were pretty good and stayed out of trouble. I wish I could say back then I knew they were going to be Derby horses, but I can’t,” Claunch said.

“You never really know where the next Derby horse is going to come from, so we try to treat them all the same and give them all the same opportunities.

“We would all love to see Mr Farish win one, though.”

War Front colt War Of Will was bred at Lane’s End’s Oak Tree division by the Niarchos family’s Flaxman Holdings and was also offered at the 2017 Keeneland September yearling sale.

Like Code Of Honor, War Of Will failed to meet his reserve when bidding stopped at $175,000.

He was then sold privately, sent to Europe where he was bought at auction by Justin Casse, and returned to North America to become multiple Graded stakes winner earning $501,569.

“He was a really good sized colt for a War Front,” said Claunch.

“He had a lot of scope and substance. We couldn’t understand why he didn’t sell at the September sale.”

The other Lane’s End trio in the Derby arrived at th farm at various points after they were foaled.

Country House was born at nearby Three Chimneys Farm but relocated to Lane’s End as a weanling.

The son of Lookin At Lucky was raised there with the intent to sell him at the Keeneland September sale as a yearling but was ultimately withdrawn from the sale and kept by his breeders.

He comes into the Derby off of a third in the G1 Arkansas Derby.

Another member of the Lane’s End consignment at the 2017 Keeneland September sale was Game Winner, the 2018 2YO champion colt and another son of Candy Ride.

The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner most recently finished second in the G1 Santa Anita Derby where he was beaten by Roadster, by another Lane’s End stallion Quality Road.

Game Winner, who has won more than $1.8 million, was consigned as a yearling by Lane’s End on behalf of his breeder Summer Wind Equine and was sold for $110,000 at Keeneland.

The G1 winner Improbable, second in the Arkansas Derby, was also part of a Lane’s End yearling consignment after he was offered as a weanling during the 2016 Keeneland November sale.

The City Zip colt sold that day for $110,000 and was consigned on behalf of his breeders, St George Farm and G. Watts Humphrey Jr.

Lane’s End is taking a great deal of pride in the fact that the six horses cover the gauntlet of ways the farm is involved in raising thoroughbreds and the fact that four are by resident stallions.

“It’s neat that so many of them are by our stallions,” said Farish. “That’s what you hope for when you stand any stallion — that he could have a Derby horse.

“To have so many of them represented is great.

“It’s fun to have City Zip represented even though he’s not with us anymore.

“Candy Ride has a very strong hand and it’s amazing when you have a first-year horse like Noble Mission having a Derby starter in his first crop.

“To also have Roadster there by Quality Road is a special thing, too.

“Everyone on the farm is excited, and now we have to wait and see what happens.”

Thoroughbred Racing Commentary