Starlight Racing and Mark Grier’s Fulmineo drew post position 10 for Friday’s $1 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf-G1 at Santa Anita Park. The 2-year-old son of Bolt d’Oro will try to put his name in the books as the seventh Maryland-bred to win a Breeders’ Cup race.
Bred by Country Life Farm and Starr of Quality LLC, Fulmineo enters the Breeders’ Cup with a career record of 1-1-1 from three starts and earnings of $80,180. He most recently finished second after being bumped and blocked near the wire of the Pilgrim Stakes-G2 at the “Belmont at the Big A” meet at Aqueduct on Oct. 4. In his prior start on Sept. 2, he broke his maiden going away at Colonial Downs.
Fulmineo’s dam, Starr of Quality, was purchased for $72,000, carrying Fulmineo, at the 2020 Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale. “Scott Mallory, who sold her, said he had some partners who raced her in California. She had the California speed, which is so powerful, you need that in a mare.” said Mike Pons, who owns Country Life with his brother, Josh.
The California-bred daughter of First Dude won six times in her 26-race career, including the 2019 Dream of Summer Stakes at Santa Anita, and retired with earnings of $307,529. She foaled Fulmineo, her first foal, on April 1, 2021.
“He was a pretty good boy from day 1,” recalled Country Life general manager Christy Holden. “He was a pretty uncomplicated kid, no issues. He always had a good attitude, a good brain on his shoulders. He was one of the easy ones out of the crop.”
“[Starr of Quality] is what they call a ‘blank mare’,” said Mike. “She throws the sire. Fulmineo’s handsome and well-behaved with a big body, like all the Bolt d’Oros.Fulmineo was purchased by Starlight and Grier for $90,000 at the 2022 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Selected Yearling Sale, and joined Arnaud Delacour’s string at Fair Hill this spring. He made his debut going five and a half furlongs on dirt at Delaware Park on July 26, and finished third, beaten nine and a half lengths. The winner of that race, Nutella Fella, went on to win the Hopeful-G1 at Saratoga.
Next out, Fulmineo stretched out to a mile and a sixteenth and switched to grass at Colonial. It proved to be a winning idea, as he rallied from off the pace to win by two and a quarter lengths going away.
“I think he could be versatile,” Delacour said of any future dirt prospects, “but at that time of year, there was nothing going long on dirt. We thought five and a half furlongs on dirt was too short, but we thought that race might be a nice stepping stone. He broke very well and was a little bit outrun. We regrouped and decided to try him on turf, to give him a little more ground. He did so well [at Colonial] that we decided to keep him on the turf.”
The Pilgrim marked his stakes debut. Despite being bumped in the last sixteenth while trying to split rivals, he closed for second, securing his place in the Breeders’ Cup starting gate.
“He came back well from the race,” said Delacour, “and he’s had two breezes since then. He looks good and I’m very happy with how he’s coming into the race.”
Delacour will also send out Laurel Futurity winner Air Recruit. In contrast to Fulmineo’s closing style, Air Recruit likes to set the early pace.
“Air Recruit is more tactical, so he’ll be close to the pace, without the intention of setting the pace for Fulmineo,” said Delacour. “I don’t want to see Fulmineo too far back; if he breaks well and puts himself in the race, I’ll be happy, but it’s going to be up to the race.”
“I think they fit very well in the race,” said Delacour on his horses’ chances. “I don’t put too much pressure on myself, just hope they run their race.”
Starr of Quality’s second foal, a filly by Gun Runner, sold for $775,000 at the Saratoga sale this August, making her the highest-priced Country Life-bred horse to sell at auction. Starr of Quality also has a weanling colt by Improbable born May 6.
“This the first horse that we’ve bred to run in the Breeders’ Cup,” said Mike, “so that’s a big thrill for us. He could be the kind of horse we’re talking about next spring.”
“It’s huge for us,” said Holden. “We’ve sort of fine-tuned our breeding theories and partnerships over the past five or six years, and to see it coming to fruition and everything we kind of hoped we could do is really exciting.”
“We’ve supported our stallions with our racing and breeding partnerships, and that works to get your regional sire off to a strong start, but when you want to start playing the game in the commercial market, you’ve got to go with the Kentucky stallions,” said Holden. “We changed the focus a little bit to buying younger mares in foal for the first time or with only one or two foals on the ground, where the mare was kind of an unknown with her producing ability. That seems to be paying off for us now.”
“We bought one mare [Make Amends] in foal and sold her foal for $140,000 at last year’s Fasig-Tipton November sale,” recalled Holden. “He just turned around and pinhooked for $500,000 at Keeneland September, so that’s two six-figure yearlings for us since we changed our breeding model, and it’s really exciting to see it working the way we hoped it would.”
Tyler Gaffalione has been named to ride Fulmineo, listed at 20-1 on the morning line in the 14-horse field. Post time is scheduled for 7:40 p.m. EDT. The race will be shown live on the USA Network and on FanDuel TV.