Mikki Isle victory so apt as Brant returns

Mikki Isle (left): lands the Group 1 Mile Championship at Kyoto on Sunday

PICTURE: Japan Racing Association Mikki Isle victory so apt as Brant returns
By Nancy Sexton 3:38PM 24 NOV 2016

THERE was a certain symmetry to the fact that the sole Group 1 race last Sunday fell to a horse from a family once associated with Peter Brant, less than 24 hours after the once-influential industry figure confirmed his return to the business by acquiring the majority of the Wildenstein stock on offer at the Goffs November Sale.

The horse in question was Mikki Isle, brave winner of the Mile Championship at Kyoto in Japan. It was the five-year-old's second Group 1 win for trainer Hidetaka Otonashi following the NHK Mile Cup in May 2014. Sunday's success may have come off the back of a Group 1 drought but he has acquitted himself well this year by running second twice at the highest level, thereby demonstrating the kind of quality and consistency we have come to associate with Deep Impact's progeny.

One of 27 Group 1 winners by Deep Impact overall and the ninth to score this year, Mikki Isle is a great-grandson of the top American filly Stella Madrid. The daughter of Alydar was trained by D Wayne Lukas on behalf of Brant, for whom she swept up the Spinaway, Matron and Frizette Stakes during the summer of 1989.

She ended her juvenile season by running third in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies and returned at three to win the Acorn Stakes at Belmont Park. Campaigned in typically tough fashion by her trainer, she won six of 16 starts.

Stella Madrid was one of a number of high-class horses to carry Brant's colours. Outside of racing, the Connecticut-based Brant counts Donald Trump as a childhood friend and is a powerful figure in business, primarily through his position as chairman and chief executive officer of White Birch Paper, one of the largest newsprint manufacturers in the US.

He is also an influential figure in the art world as a collector, publisher (as the majority owner in Artnews) and founder of the The Brant Foundation.

Businessman, publisher, art collector and even film producer (he won an Emmy Award for his 2006 production of Andy Warhol: A Documentary), Brant has also found time to indulge his passion for polo – he founded the Greenwich Polo team – and horseracing.

Stella Madrid's period in the limelight came during the height of Brant's involvement in racing and not long after the retirement of his brilliant filly Triptych, who had been purchased from Alan Clore following her five-year-old season.

Previously, he had also played an influential role in the decision to transfer Mr Prospector from Florida to the Hancock family's Claiborne Farm and later partnered with Claiborne among others to campaign the ill-fated 1984 Kentucky Derby winner Swale.

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Brant was involved in another Kentucky Derby success in 1995 as breeder of Thunder Gulch. He also bred the colt's sire Gulch and his dam Line Of Thunder and remains the only person to have bred both parents of a Kentucky Derby winner.

A decade before, he had joined forces with Carl Icahn to purchase Miss Oceana out of the Newstead Farm dispersal at Fasig-Tipton.

The pair paid $7 million for the multiple Grade 1 winner, then a record for a mare at public auction. They also paid $4m for Grade 2 winner Larida, whose foal at the time was European champion Magic Of Life.

In 1987, Fasig-Tipton itself came under the possession of Brant and a group of investors, among them JT Lundy, then at the helm of Calumet Farm. One of the celebrated graduates during their controversial tenure was Stella Madrid.

The filly was bred by Calumet Farm and was a true representative of their operation as a daughter of their ill-fated Alydar and champion sprinter My Juliet. Calumet catalogued her to the 1988 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Sale, where she was knocked down for $600,000 to Lukas on behalf of Brant.

Brant has been an absentee from the sport in recent years but his interests in business and art as well as his personal life have ensured the general media are never short of words on him. This industry has a habit of attracting its share of colourful characters and, by all accounts, Brant would give them a run for their money.

NOW he's back in the sport on a prominent scale. On the racing front, Brant and his cousin Joseph Allen have teamed up to buy several prospects out of Europe, among them the former Jeremy Noseda-trained Nemoralia and Prix de Diane fourth Azaelia, who was successful in an allowance race at Aqueduct on Saturday.

Her win came just hours after Brant had completed an aggressive play for the Wildenstein horses. His White Birch Farm was very active at Goffs in September when coming away with four lots worth €1.32m and again last week, where he secured 15 lots worth €6.19m.

They included Beauty Parlour, the Poule d'Essai des Pouliches heroine who cost €1.6m, her half-sister Blue Kimono, who cost €675,000, and Peintre Celebre's Group 2-winning half-sister Peinture Rare, who cost €410,000.

He also made his presence felt at the Fasig-Tipton November Sale, where he paid $1.1m for Grade 2 winner Paid Up Subscriber, and at Keeneland a few days later as the purchaser of a Tapit filly for $975,000.

That Mikki Isle should win his first Group 1 in 18 months just hours after the final Wildenstein horse had passed through the ring ties in nicely as a reminder to Brant's former influence within racing.

He bred three foals out of Stella Madrid before her transfer to Japan in 1996. The last one, the Nureyev filly Isle De France, was sold by Brant for $600,000 as a yearling to Demi O'Byrne and sent to Andre Fabre, won the Prix Minerve and ran second in the Poule d'Essai des Pouliches for the Coolmore partners.

Isle De France was later sold to continue her stud career at Northern Farm in Japan, where she was accompanied by her Irish-bred Rock Of Gibratlar filly Star Isle, a dual winner and subsequently dam of Mikki Isle.

Mikki Isle is the second foal bred by Northern Farm out of the mare, one of ten stakes-producing daughters of Rock Of Gibraltar this year. Others include recent Grade 1 winner Photo Call and Eyrefield Stakes winner Dubai Sand.

Stella Madrid's own stud career in Japan was headlined by champion Diamond Biko but in recent years she has also featured as the granddam of 2011 Ashland Stakes winner Lilacs And Lace, another mare now with Northern Farm.

Mikki Isle's win further underlines the dominance of Deep Impact in Japan, who is on course to land the country's fifth consecutive sires' championship.

The son of Sunday Silence also looks set to gain further prominence in Europe next year through the exciting juvenile Akihiro, who beat National Defense when successful in the Prix des Chenes in September.

    Read More at Racing Post Bloodstock

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