For trainer and co-owner Bill Kaplan, this year’s Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint will prove a bittersweet moment for the longtime conditioner who will likely bid farewell to his Eclipse Award winning female sprinter Musical Romance following her attempted title defense in this year’s race.
“She’s made my job a whole lot more fun these past few years,” Kaplan said. “It’s going to be really difficult saying goodbye. She’s really a unique mare; she’s the ‘Iron Horse of America.’”
One quick glance at the career race history of Musical Romance would prove that moniker accurate. The daughter of Concorde’s Tune has competed 40 times in her career, winning stakes on dirt, turf, and synthetic tracks, while prevailing at distances ranging from 5 ½ furlongs to 1 1/16 miles.
“She is just an amazing animal overall,” Kaplan said. “Not only is she a Breeders’ Cup champ, she has run so many times and is a world-class sprinter. That just doesn’t happen. Horses like that don’t usually last.
“And she is as sound today as she was back in her first race. That’s one of the hard things about selling her; she is 100 percent sound. She is as sound today as she was back in her first race.”
That first race came at Calder on September 19, 2009, with the curtain currently scheduled to close on the mare’s career following the Filly & Mare Sprint on Saturday, two days before the daughter of Concorde’s Tune will pass through the sales ring as Hip 118 at the Fasig-Tipton November sale.
“There she is right there winning the Princess Rooney,” Kaplan said, pausing to watch a highlight reel of Musical Romance that played in the corner of the Fasig-Tipton hospitality tent as an advertisement in advance of the sale. “Juan (Leyva) says that she loves getting in tight spots; she thrives on it. She gets in a tight spot and she wants to get in there and fight it out with them. If he points her for a two-foot hole, she’ll try and go through it. She has no hesitation whatsoever.”
In order for Musical Romance to end her career with a successful title defense in the Filly & Mare Sprint, and perhaps as a repeat Eclipse Award champion, she will have to take down current divisional leader Groupie Doll, who enters the race having won four straight stakes.
“For any horse to go out there and win those races the way she has, by daylight, is impressive,” Kaplan said of his rival. “We’ve faced her three times this year and she’s beat us twice (in the Vinery Madison and Humana Distaff) while we got her once in the race at Gulfstream (Inside Information).
“But they did meet again, you know? Groupie Doll flew here with us from Keeneland and was in the next stall over; they were side by side on the flight. And my assistant Freddie (Guzman) told me that for much of the flight, Musical Romance was eyeballing her. So who knows, maybe she put the evil eye on her.
“All kidding aside, I believe my mare is better this year than she was last year, and we have no excuses at all going into the race."
Following the race, Kaplan will travel to Kentucky where he will be present at the Fasig-Tipton sale, leaving open the slight possibility that Musical Romance could return to her longtime home at Calder.
“I’m flying directly to the sale from here on Saturday night, and if she doesn’t bring the price she deserves, I’d say there is a chance she could come back to Florida,” Kaplan said. “The partnership is leaving it up to me, and I’ll make any decisions that need to be made there.
“But whoever buys her is going to have to pay me some money for her.”
Exactly what that dollar value would be could become a little clearer as sale time nears, but Kaplan feels that Musical Romance possesses a unique blend of qualities that would be highly valuable to any potential purchaser.
“She’s versatile, sound, fast, and she has amazing heart and courage,” Kaplan said. “She’s just that kind of a strong filly. And that’s why I think she’ll be so valuable as a broodmare, because she’ll pass that on. And that’s what everyone looks for; speed and soundness. That’s a very hard combination to get.
“She’s also a little arrogant; she lets you know that she’s there. But she is arrogant in a regal way. She’s an iron horse; she’s a throwback. That’s what makes her so unique.”