Fetching $5.75 million, Round Pond set auction record

Was Round Pond really worth the $5.75 million she brought at a Fasig-Tipton auction back in 2007?

There were two bidders that were embroiled in the heated exchanges that quickly led to that record figure. They were heavily-financed rivals. And not friendly ones at that.

Michael Matz trained Round Pond when she won the Breeders’ Cup Distaff.

Michael Matz trained Round Pond when she won the Breeders’ Cup Distaff.

The quick-paced bidding was between John Ferguson, the bloodstock manager for a sheikh from Saudi Arabia and Ireland’s equally-funded Coolmore Stud.

Ferguson had Round Pond for the sheikh’s and Darley’s Jonabell Farm when his bid of nearly $6 million was not topped by Coolmore, owned by a competing Saudi sheikh with equally deep pockets.

Round Pond had raced only 13 times before being retired with earnings of $1,998,700. Not making the $2 million figure might have been assuaged some by the gilt-edged $5.75 million auction number.

One of the trainers of the gentle bay was none other than Michael Matz, who had guided the ill-fated Barbaro to the 2006 Kentucky Derby championship . . . before the disaster in the Preakness Stakes had the nation captivated by the nightly news and those presentations of how the thoroughbred was doing in his struggle for survival against the effects of his shattered leg that was always threatened by laminitis.

Round Pond became such a celebrity when she won the Breeders’ Cup Distaff in 2006. Any thoroughbred whose arsenal of wins contains a Breeders’ Cup success gets the attention of breeders and owners across racing’s spectrum.

As the Fasig-Tipton auction neared, Round Pond’s attributes were placed in the sales guides for anyone interested to see.

Topped by the mention of the Breeders’ Cup Distaff win, her other important stakes victories included four others — one of those being the 2005 Grade I Acorn Stakes.

Ferguson told of his $6 million interest in Round Pond. “Any mare that wins a Breeders’ Cup is very special, and a mare by a top stallion (Awesome Again) out of a half-sister to three Group I or Grade I winners is obviously a really top prospect.

“It’s a lot of money to pay, but if you want to buy the best mares you have to bid more than everybody else thinks they’re worth.”

When she was competing in those 13 lifetime races, Round Pond, was owned by Rick Porter at Fox Hill Farms and trained by John Servis and Matz.

Even with her showy success in winning the four graded stakes before the Breeders’ Cup Distaff, Round Pond’s competition that afternoon was such stiff stuff that she was sent out at odds of 14-1, handsomely repaying her backers for their trust in her and trainer Matz.

Rick Porter had purchased her in 2003 at a Keeneland auction of yearlings for $105,000.

Porter and his consultants had studied her family tree and seen such esteemed colts as Northern Dancer, Mr. Prospector, Nijinsky, Native Dancer, Nasrullah, Raise A Native, and Blushing Groom in her background. In fact, Northern Dancer appeared as a sire on both her father’s and mother’s family tree.

After a messy maiden debut where she had to deal with heavy traffic and a wide trip, Round Pond won in her second race. It was at Oaklawn Park in Hot Springs, Arkansas in a $32,000 heat at six furlongs.

Without mishap in that second outing, she pulled away to win comfortably by eight lengths. She was being trained by Jefferson County’s John Servis at that time in her just-beginning career.

Servis was also her trainer when she prevailed in the Acorn Stakes at age three.

Matz became her trainer along the way and in 2006 he had guided her path through the win in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff.

Barbaro had to flash into Matz’s mind as he watched Round Pond win the Distaff . . . because two horses in the race “broke down” with leg injuries and one had to be euthanized on the track.

In the winner’s circle that day, Matz saids, “Nobody here wants to see such a tragic circumstance. You feel heartbroken for it.”

Then the questions began to settle more on Round Pond’s performace. “She came in to this race better than any other for me. She’s a really good filly. She’s a champion.”

The well-behaved and demure bay was retired to Fox Hill Farms in April of 2007. Her career record showed 13 races with seven wins, two seconds, and three thirds. Along with her victory in the Acorn at age three, there were also wins that year in the Fantasy Stakes and Honeybee Stakes.

Ferguson had outbid his rivals because his bosses at Darley Stud speculated on her value as a broodmare.

If her progeny inherit her willing disposition, cooperative ways, and on-track talents, then Darley will have made a sound investment.

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