Kiss to Remember

Ch.m., 2011, by Big Brown—Taft Lil Queen, by Irish Open.
Bred by Big Brown Syndicate and Mr. and Mrs. Charles McGinnes; owned by Miller Racing; trained by Martin D. Wolfson.
Foaled at Thornmar Farm, Chestertown.

 When you’ve been in the breeding business as long as Cynthia and Charlie McGinnes, there will inevitably be horses that got away. For Thornmar Farm – which the McGinneses have operated in Chestertown, Md., since 1972 – the sale of Kiss to Remember is one they’d like to have back.

“She only brought $15,000,” said Charlie. “It sort of baffled me.”

Right then and there, at the sales ground at Keeneland, McGinnes had a sinking feeling that the chestnut filly might eventually come back to haunt him.

A few years before the sale, Thornmar had sent two of its broodmares to champion and dual classic winner Big Brown at Kentucky’s Three Chimneys Farm.

As part of a foal-sharing deal, along with co-breeder Big Brown Syndicate, the foals were to be sold with Three Chimneys as consignor.

The one foal that stood out to McGinnes was the filly out of Taft Lil Queen. A $48,000 purchase a decade earlier, Taft Lil Queen was already on her way to becoming one of Thornmar’s best broodmares. She’d eventually produce three stakes winners, including El Viento and For Royalty, the dam of 2016 La Brea Stakes-G1 winner Constellation.

But in the days leading up to the 2012 Keeneland September yearling sale, McGinnes realized he had a higher opinion of his Big Brown filly than almost everyone else in the decision-making mix. McGinnes said he reluctantly agreed to a $15,000 reserve, and cringed when the gavel dropped at exactly that price.

“I just thought she was a really racy filly,” he said. “Taft Lil Queen’s other yearling [For Royalty] had brought $250,000. I don’t know, it’s just that I was really caught off guard.”

It didn’t take long for his instincts to be validated. Entered for a $50,000 tag in her second start, Kiss to Remember broke her maiden by 43⁄4 lengths at Fair Grounds in late 2013.

Owner Roy Sturgeon, who bought the filly at the sale, would soon feel the same seller’s remorse as McGinnes. Kiss to Remember was claimed by Maggi Moss and trainer Tom Amoss.

Two races later, Kiss to Remember became a stakes winner in the $60,000 Battle of New Orleans. She was later sold to Miller Racing and transferred to Marty Wolfson and after a strong 2015 season earned Maryland-bred champion older female honors.

The beat went on in 2016. Already on her way to a productive 5-year-old campaign, Kiss to Remember clinched her second consecutive Maryland-bred older female title when she won the Chilukki Stakes-G2 at Churchill Downs Nov. 5. Her first graded stakes triumph pushed her career earnings to $756,191 and also helped raise her value for Fasig-Tipton November, where she brought $500,000 as a broodmare prospect.

The news of Kiss to Remember’s second Maryland-bred older female championship was met with glee at Sunrise Stallions, which acquired full ownership of Big Brown in 2014 and stands him in New York.

“It means a lot,” said Sunrise’s Eric Bishop. “When we did the deal with Three Chimneys, we felt Big Brown never really got a fair shake in Kentucky, and felt that he would be a success in a restricted market, like Maryland, Pennsylvania or New York.”

The other half of Kiss to Remember’s breeding team was delighted, though not completely surprised, by her latest honor.

“She’s a very good horse,” McGinnes said. “We’ve watched every single race she ever ran.”

McGinnes and his wife watched with pride and, even if there’s a little disappointment, there are reminders of her all around Thornmar Farm.

Though her dam Taft Lil Queen died in 2015, Kiss to Remember’s half-sister Boudicca (by Hard Spun) stayed home.

After a short racing career for the McGinneses, she joined the broodmare band.

Her first foal, a filly named Misty On Pointe (by Munnings), sold for $80,000 as a yearling and won her debut at Laurel last September for Sagamore Farm.

When you’ve been as successful as the McGinneses have over the past five decades, there are plenty of reasons to be thankful. Kiss to Remember may have gotten away but in winning her second consecutive Maryland-bred championship and adding to her deep family, the filly has written yet another chapter in Thornmar’s breeding legacy.

Dan Tordjman

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