Breeder's ties run deep in female line
By Glenye Cain Oakford / Barbara D. Livingston
5/8/2009 - Judy Needham, one of the partners who bred Mine That Bird, holds onto
his dam Mining My Own's newest foal, an Even the Score colt.
LEXINGTON, Ky. - Peter Lamantia, Jim Blackburn, and Needham/Betz
Thoroughbreds not only bred Mine That Bird, they also bred his dam,
Mining My Own. And Lamantia's connection goes back even further,
because he bred and raced Mine That Bird's second dam, Aspenelle, and
also raced her dam, Little to Do, in the early 1990s.
The various partners first got together in 1984, when Lamantia sent
Little to Do to Arlington with plans to run her in the Arlington Oaks.
Little to Do fractured a pastern in a workout for that race, but the
gathering of friends and acquaintances who got to know each other in
Chicago gradually solidified into a breeding partnership. Little to Do
retired from racing and went on to a broodmare career, but that didn't
last long, either. She hemorrhaged and died 36 hours after foaling her
fifth foal, a Vice Regent filly, in 1990.
The filly, Aspenelle, won 2 of 4 starts and finished second in the
1993 Canadian Oaks before injury cut her career short. She then turned
into a profitable broodmare for Lamantia and his partners. They still
board the 19-year-old mare with Bill Betz near Lexington. Her most
recent foal was the 2007 Lion Heart colt Pacha. She survived colic
surgery after his birth and was given a year off in 2008, and this
year she's been bred to Forest Danger.
Aspenelle's yearlings generally have sold for between $100,000 and
$300,000, peaking with Sheikh Mohammed al-Maktoum's $475,000 bid for
her Mr. Greeley colt Antero in 2001. But Mining My Own, who eventually
became Mine That Bird's dam, was an exception. Consigned to the 2002
Keeneland September yearling sale, the Smart Strike filly was a
$25,000 buyback for the partnership. One reason likely had to do with
Mining My Own's unusual face, Lamantia theorizes. The mare's left ear
points outward rather than forward, and her mouth is slightly
asymmetrical, the result of an unusual accident.
"When she was a suckling, she somehow got her head caught between the
rungs of a feeder," Lamantia explained. "We thought maybe Aspenelle
might have body-checked her and knocked her into the railings. But she
got her head caught, and in struggling to get out she fractured her
mandible on the left side of her face, but she recovered. So she had
courage from the very beginning."
When she didn't sell, the partners decided to race Mining My Own.
Trainer Josie Carroll told them she thought the filly was
stakes-caliber, but nagging physical problems finally prompted
Lamantia, Needham/Betz, and Blackburn to retire her.
"We brought her home," Lamantia said. "We knew she was quality. Yes,
she was unraced, but she was by Smart Strike, and her dam had been
second in the Canadian Oaks and had already produced a stakes winner
in Golden Sunray."
The partners chose Birdstone, who stood for a $10,000 fee, as Mining
My Own's first mate. They sold the resulting colt, Mine that Bird, for
$9,500. Two years later, they decided to sell Mining My Own, too, and
put her in the 2008 Keeneland January sale. But when bidding stalled
early, Phil Needham couldn't help himself. He bid $8,000 and got
Mining My Own for himself and wife Judy; Needham later sold a
half-interest in Mining My Own to his cycling partner, Bena Halecky,
Not surprisingly, the Needhams had what Phil called "two very nice
offers" for Mining My Own last year, when Mine That Bird became
Canada's juvenile champion. Since the Derby, those offers have
multiplied and gone up. But the Needhams and Halecky haven't decided
yet whether to sell Mining My Own, who boards at Bona Terra Farm in
central Kentucky. The mare currently has an Even the Score colt by her
side and is in foal to Tapit.
"The phone's been pretty active," Needham said. "I know the best time
to sell is when the skillet gets hot. She has a nice Yonaguska
2-year-old we sold for $72,000 that just sold as a 2-year-old for
$100,000. In a down market, the resale of a 2-year-old for a profit is
good, and it means he held up to the rigors of a 2-year-old sale
"It's almost impossible to replace her," he concluded. "She has many,
many years left, and there's always a consideration of the risk
factors and ongoing expenses. But, you know, it's something you don't
have the chance to own very often. So there are a lot of different
thoughts going through my mind. We're not going to make a hasty