B.c., 2014, Bullsbay—Great Hostess, by Great Notion.
Bred by Sycamore Hall Thoroughbreds;
owned by Kathleen Willier; trained by Hamilton A. Smith.
Foaled at Sycamore Hall Farm, Chesapeake City.

His 2-year-old season started off hot and, appropriately, Greatbullsoffire continued to burn through overmatched competition through the end of 2016. Therefore it was little surprise to trainer Hamilton Smith when the son of Bullsbay took home Maryland-bred honors as champion 2-year-old male.

“We thought we had a pretty good shot at it,” Smith said. “He accomplished a lot last year for us.”

After winning on debut in July on Laurel’s turf course, Greatbullsoffire won the $50,000 Strike Your Colors Stakes on the main track at Delaware Park in his second start. Following a third in the Laurel Futurity going 5 1⁄2 furlongs on the turf, Greatbullsoffire returned to the dirt and captured the $100,000 Maryland Million Nursery in October. Greatbullsoffire also finished third in the Christopher Elser Memorial in October at Parx and a month later capped off his freshman campaign with a 6-length score in the $100,000 Maryland Juvenile Futurity.

“He didn’t run a bad race for us at all, so we’re really proud of him,” Smith said.

Greatbullsoffire is out of the Great Notion mare Great Hostess, and was bred by Sycamore Hall Thoroughbreds. The unraced dam also produced multiple stakes-placed Jump Start filly Table Jumper.

Table Jumper and Greatbullsoffire are owned by Kathleen and Donald Willier of Lindenwold, N.J. The couple has raced horses across the Mid-Atlantic since 1980. The owners notched their first stakes victory 34 years later when Miss Bullistic won the 2014 Selima Stakes at Laurel.

After the success of that daughter of Bullsbay, a $30,000 purchase at the 2013 Fasig-Tipton Midlantic fall yearling sale, the Williers were back looking for more of the same at the sale in 2015. Greatbullsoffire, Hip 73 in the Northview Stallion Station consignment, immediately drew their interest.

“The main factor was the fact that he was by Bullsbay,” Willier said. “I only looked at maybe four or five horses at that sale. That was the only one we bought.”

The bidding went a little higher this time, to $50,000, but the investment has already proven plenty prudent. Greatbullsoffire ended 2016 with three stakes wins and four victories overall, racking up $190,390 in earnings.

The 2-year-old champion wasn’t expected to see action for the remainder of the winter and into early spring. He’s getting some time off with what Smith described as a minor bone bruise.

Smith said when he brings the colt back the goal will be to stretch him out over longer distances. His sire didn’t win his first race until his 4-year-old season, and won the Grade 1 Whitney at 1 1⁄8 miles.

If Greatbullsoffire responds well and continues to mature, there’s the potential for him to shoot for tougher targets later this summer.

“We want to be careful,” Smith said. “We’re hoping he can carry himself further. His last races have indicated he can go a little further than what we’ve been running him. That’s the long-term plan. We’ll start him off in Maryland, he’ll tell us where we should go with him after that. If we can get him in the better races in New York, Kentucky, wherever, we’ll take a shot.”

Dan Tordjman

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