Alex Lieblong has learned to trust his instincts when buying yearlings, a strategy that has led the owner and his wife, JoAnn, to soar into the leading owner ranks in North America with such stable stars as The Big Beast and Embellish the Lace.
During the Sept. 16 session of the Keeneland September Yearling Sale, Lieblong went to $475,000 to purchase a filly by WinStar Farm stallion Speightster , who is represented by his first crop of 2-year-olds this year. A son of Speightstown who stood for $10,000 this year, Speightster has had 93 yearlings average $56,533 through Sept. 15, according to The Jockey Club Information Systems.
"It kept catching my eye, and I learned a long time ago when one catches my eye … " Lieblong said, his voice trailing off, noting that he bought grade 1 winners The Big Beast and Embellish the Lace based on gut instincts. "It's kind of like they say, when you walk into a bar and the girl that catches your eye. It's about the same way—she got me."
Consigned by Bluewater Sales, agent, the filly (Hip 629) was bred in Kentucky by Cobalt Investments out of the unraced Medaglia d'Oro mare Hot Water and is a half sister to stakes winner and graded-placed Tracksmith and stakes-placed Tortuga. The third dam is champion 3-year-old filly Xtra Heat.
Lieblong said the filly cost more than he thought he would have to pay but noted in addition to her looks, the filly has a 2-year-old half brother by Nyquist named Scalding, who cost $400,000 as a yearling and is training well.
"It was way too much, but the mare has thrown pretty good babies so far, and this one looks like it's got everything it needs," he said. "I was looking at some horses with Bo Hunt, who shortlists for me, and this one came by and caught my eye. She is one I kept coming back to."
A $500,000 Keeneland September Yearling purchase, Wicked Whisper won the Frizette Stakes (G1) last year and finished second in this year's Charles Town Oaks (G3).