Donegal Racing

Danny Boy on Pitch for Breeders' Cup

October 18, 2014


Article by Blood-Horse, Lenny Shulman. Photo by Keeneland Photo.

As he and his seven foes were on the racetrack warming up for the Oct. 5 Dixiana Bourbon Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Keeneland, Danny Boy got a little push from track bugler Steve Buttleman. While Jerry Crawford, principal of Donegal Racing, made his way down the tunnel to the apron, Buttleman serenaded him with the Irish anthem for which Crawford named the son of Harlan’s Holiday.

“That was a surprise arranged by the Keeneland sales team,” Crawford noted, chuckling. “I had no idea it was going to happen, but was delighted it did.”

Danny Boy went on to run a strong second, beaten a half length by Lawn Ranger in the Bourbon, and has already shipped to Santa Anita Park. There, he will contest either the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (gr. IT) or Juvenile (gr. I), depending on how he works over Santa Anita’s main track for trainer Dale Romans leading up to the event.

Purchased by Crawford for $260,000 at last year’s Keeneland September yearling sale from the consignment of co-breeder Ashview Farm, Danny Boy won his maiden at first asking, taking a one- mile turf test at Ellis Park by three lengths. He next ran over the main track at Churchill Downs, finishing fourth in the Iroquois Stakes (gr. III), before being returned to the grass in the Bourbon. The latter two races were at 1 1/16 miles.

“He was easily the most athletic-looking horse we bought at the sale last year,” Crawford said. “He had a great eye and we thought he would be precocious, which has proven to be correct.

“But he’s not a big, strong, rugged horse; he’s pretty refined. Asking him to go two turns in his first race knocked him out a little and he didn’t go into the Iroquois at full strength. He was better for the Bourbon but sill not perfect. He’s come out of the race in the best of shape since he’s been at the racetrack. It’s no certainty with his breeding but we think he can get a mile and a quarter.”

Out of the Unbridled’s Song mare Unbridled Beauty, Danny Boy represents another in a nice string of top runners for Donegal, a partnership formed by Crawford, an Iowa attorney whose goal is to find and race classic horses. Formed six years ago, Donegal has enjoyed success with grade I winners Paddy O'Prado   and Dullahan, grade II winner O'Prado Again  , and grade III winners Finnegans Wake and Cleburne.

“We’ve been blessed to have a group of partners who enjoy spending time with each other and have enjoyed the success we’ve had,” said Crawford. “With spending a limited amount on horses, we’ve sent off three stallions in six years. It’s amazing. We do one partnership a year and put all the horses into that partnership. We don’t want to have partners left out on a big horse. These partnerships fill out within a week without me having to do anything except answer the phone and read emails.”

Despite being associated with Irish wakes, the song “Danny Boy” was not written with that intention, and its first two stanzas are upbeat.

“If Danny Boy catches lightning in a bottle and wins a Breeders’ Cup race, you can expect the owners to be singing (the song) in the winner’s circle,” Crawford said.

Although they are not likely to compete with Breeders’Cup performers like Tony Bennett, the Donegal partners will make it a rousing good time should Danny Boy hit the right notes.


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