Renowned Olympic gold medallist Bode Miller, a former skier, has a dream: to return the Mid-Atlantic horse industry to its former glory.
“Pennsylvania and Maryland were the powerhouses of the sport 150 years ago,” Miller explained. “People think breeding is a pipe dream, but I really believe in him.”
The “him” in question is Red Vine, Miller’s stallion standing at Barbara Rickline’s Xanthus Farm in Gettysburg. He has the tools to make it as a stud: pedigree, race record, and demeanor, and those connected with him are pleased with the early results.
Trained by Christophe Clement for Jon and Sarah Kelly, Red Vine earned $775,915 on the track, and although he never obtained a signature graded stakes victory, he knocked heads with some of the best of his generation and finished in the top three 19 times from 23 starts. He broke his maiden going a mile on the grass at Del Mar, won a turf allowance at Keeneland, and won twice on the dirt at Aqueduct before winning the Majestic Light Stakes, also on dirt, at Monmouth Park. Other notable performances for Red Vine were a behind Beholder at Del Mar in the Grade 1 TVG Pacific Classic; a second, by less than two lengths, in the Grade 2 Kelso Handicap at Belmont; a second in the Grade 3 Salvator Mile; and a third in a hotly contested Grade 1 Las Vegas Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile at Keeneland, all in 2015. Red Vine wrapped up his stellar season that year by narrowly missing to Belmont Stakes winner Tonalist in the Grade 1 Cigar Mile.
Miller purchased Red Vine for $25,000 out of the 2017 Keeneland January Horses of All Ages Sale. It was the bay’s pedigree that intrigued him, as sire Candy Ride went unbeaten in six career starts and has developed into a tremendous sire. “We already know Candy Ride has great stuff,” Miller said, “and it’s been cool to see (2017 Horse of the Year) Gun Runner have great success.”
Red Vine is out of the winning Storm Creek mare Murky Waters, who has produced three winners from four starters to date. She is a half-sister to the El Prado sire Fort Prado, a multiple graded stakes winner of more than $1.2 million; and the stakes-winning Giant’s Causeway horse Cammack.
Miller himself has four broodmares, three of whom have visited Red Vine. “That’s the part of breeding that can sink the ship,” Miller said. “I’d be in bankruptcy if I tried to support him all by myself, but that’s the advantage of having lots of people becoming strong believers in him.”
Miller is also fond of homebred runners. “It’s exciting because I find homebreds inspirational,” he said. “It’s different when you’ve been a part of it the whole time watching the foals grow up and develop, versus buying a horse out of the sale.”
Red Vine’s first foals are on the ground this spring, and farm owner Rickline likes what she sees. “I’ve been very pleased. They are all well balanced, athletic, correct, and a good size. They all look nice from a variety of different kinds of mares.”
Red Vine will see between 65 and 70 mares in 2018, slightly up from his numbers in his first season. “He’s getting his mares in foal and everything has gone according to plan,” Rickline said. “We have no problems with him, because he’s real kind, easy to work with, and a fast learner.”
“Being an athlete,” Miller said, “I view horses as athletes. Red Vine’s style was so similar to that of Candy Ride. But he’s also got the intangible things that can make a stallion: attitude and personality. We’ve had good local support, and we appreciate the people that are taking a chance with him. I believe we have a really good shot to hit with Red Vine.”