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Kentucky Derby winner Grindstone's babies make their Oregon Championship debuts on Sunday

Kentucky Derby winner Grindstone's babies make their Oregon Championship debuts on Sunday

Morning at Oakhurst Thoroughbreds in Newberg, Oregon isn’t very quiet. Walking into the barn area, you’re greeted by four dogs barking, dozens of chickens squaking about and horses in their stalls lining the rows of the barn. In the office, Dr. Jack Root goes over some x-rays with his assistant before taking me into the stud barn to meet the big horse, Grindstone.

Grindstone became a household name back in 1996 when he won the most important race in the country, the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby. He was bred and owned by the famous Overbrook Farm and trained by D. Wayne Lukas and rallied from way off the pace under the great jockey Jerry Bailey to get up and win by a nose in the last stride. He was found to have a bone chip in his knee shortly after the Kentucky Derby and retired to a stud career at Overbrook. His most successful offspring was 2004 Belmont and Travers Stakes winner Birdstone. Grindstone was purchased by Root in 2009 and bred his first mares in 2010. So his Oregon-bred babies hit the ground in 2011, and now two years after that, we’re seeing the first of them run at Portland Meadows.

Grindstone is brought out of his stall by Augustine, one of Oakhurst’s employees who works with him each day. Even at 20 years of age, he prances excitedly as he comes out of the stall and it’s clear he knows he’s the boss around this farm. His age is showing a little bit, but he certainly doesn’t act and look like a twenty year old horse.

“He bred about 80 mares that first year,” said Root. “We haven’t seen as many hit the track yet as we’d thought at this point, but a few will be making their debuts on Oregon Championship Day.”

Six of the eleven two year-olds in the Bill and Janet Wineberg Stakes are sons or daughters of Grindstone. Five of those six Grindstone runners will be making their career debuts.

“Both of those races have tough favorites that have already won,” said Root. “But I think a couple of those firsters will be able to run well, so we’ll just have to see.”

Harbor the Gold has been the hottest sire in the Northwest in recent years, siring numerous stakes winners not only at Portland Meadows, but at Emerald Downs in Seattle as well. Harbor the Gold stands in Hermiston, Oregon at Bar C Racing Stables for a fee of $5,500 per live foal. Grindstone currently stands for $2,500.

“They’ve had great success with Harbor the Gold and deservedly so” said Root. “I’m really most excited about this next year’s crop of two year-olds.”

Dr. Root drove us out into the pasture where many of his current Grindstone yearlings are residing. They were lined up all eating some alfalfa that had been set down for them. These are the males that will hit the track in 2014 as two year-olds, as the fillies are in another field. 

“I’m pleased with the two year olds we have now, but I’m really excited for next year’s horses,” said Root. “We had Tom Roberts come stay with us for a couple months and he broke them for us. Tommy is one of the best trainers in the country in my opinion, and he’s really high on them as well.”

One thing that is indisputable is how much Grindstone’s babies look just like their dad. They all have that dark bay color and most have very little to no white hair patches on their faces.

“If Augustine ever left us, I’d have no clue who my horses were,” said Root, referencing how much they look alike.

Grindstone is the only Kentucky Derby winner to ever stand stud in the state of Oregon and it’s clear his offspring will have a big say in the future of racing in the Beaver State.

Many of Grindstone’s babies will be running on Oregon Championship Day, coming up at Portland Meadows on Sunday November 17th.