Sayonara Sweet Rose

Author: 
Adam Hickman
Month Published: 
March 2006

ONE FOR ROSE WILL ALWAYS BE A WINNER. EVEN IN RETIREMENT, THE THREE-TIME SOVEREIGN AWARD CHAMPION IS STILL FINDING WAYS TO MAKE HEADLINES AND DISPLAY HER BRILLIANCE.

To kick off 2006, the seven-year-old mare didn’t need a stakes race to show off her greatness. In fact, it was just the opposite.

Upon entry into the sales ring at the January Horses of All Ages Sale at Keeneland, sporting hip #320, she carded a race of her own – a bidding war between two Japanese owners.

Using six-digit figures as ammunition, the pair engaged in a fiscal fight to the finish for the right to take the great mare home. Once the gavel fell, One For Rose had attracted a bid of $875,000 from Aki Kato, on behalf of owner Isami Nakamura.

Tucci Stables principal Lou Tucci, who operates the family stable with nephew Carlo Tucci, didn’t know what to expect, but he wasn’t shocked to see her go out with such a bang.

“That’s Rosie,” he said, “She always has to do something special.”

While the Tuccis have mixed feelings about letting go of a mare that won 11 stakes races, three Sovereign Awards, and banked $1,380,298, in their hearts they know they did what's best for the mare and for the livelihood of their stable.

“At the end of last year, we had three options. We could sell her, breed her ourselves or race her again in 2006,” he said, explaining that she went through the ring completely sound and was only shut down last fall as a result of a splint.

These options created hours of philosophical discussion amongst the Tuccis, as they weighed the various advantages of each scenario.

With the Tuccis standing stallions and operating a modest breeding operation, turning One For Rose into the anchor of their broodmare band was an obvious option – one, that would allow the Tuccis to maintain ownership and keep the dream alive.

But the Tuccis wondered if One For Rose was too valuable for the operation, necessitating a greater stud fee investment to make her successful and carrying the type of risk that was tantamount to placing all of their eggs in one basket.

Meanwhile, at one point last year, the Tuccis were privately offered $650,000 for the two-time Maple Leaf Stakes winner. Indeed, a ballpark figure of the mare’s value was beginning to emerge, once again sparking more discussion about how or whether to end their three-year relationship with the mare they claimed as a maiden for $40,000. “We didn’t take it because we wanted to see what the market would bear,” said Tucci.

The Tuccis shipped their stable star to Lexington, entering her in the sale with a $600,000 reserve. If bidding didn’t reach the reserve price, the Tuccis would bring her back home for a 2006 campaign at Woodbine.

From his discussions with his consignor at Three Chimneys, Tucci said achieving the reserve price could have gone either way. “They thought there was a 50-50 chance,” said Tucci.

While some notable buyers showed interest up to a half-million, in the end it came down to the two Japanese bidders.

“I think the Japanese looked at her as a North American champion, whereas the Americans considered her a Canadian champion,” suggests Tucci.

For One For Rose, there was perhaps some personal redemption in being the opening day sales topper at Keeneland. Fifteen months earlier, the Tejano Run mare had shipped on to the same hallowed grounds, where she competed in the Gr. 1 Spinster Stakes and ran fourth to Azeri.

Clearly, this time, One For Rose wasn’t going to play second fiddle to any other equine.

This is the winning attitude that One For Rose showed up in post parade with before every race. Whether it was against the boys or the girls, the mare knew how to get the job done. She could assume command early and gallop away by many, or lose the lead nearing the top of the stretch and rally back bravely to win by a short head, just to test the faith of her backers. One For Rose leaves behind a legacy.

She’s the first filly or mare to win a Sovereign Award as Canada’s top older mare for three straight seasons and the first mare to three-peat in a category since Carotene (top grass horse from 1986 to 1988). Like a true champion, she retires as a winner, albeit by a slim margin with a gutsy score in the Algoma Stakes.

For the Tuccis, One For Rose vaulted the small stable from 42nd in earnings in 2002 to top-ten status on the Woodbine owners leaderboard for the past three years. “She put us on the map,” says Tucci. And, ultimately, the proceeds from her sale will go a long way towards redefining the operation, opening up new doors to higher-priced yearlings, broodmares and claimers.

“This allows us to invest in some quality Canadian-breds,” affirmed Tucci.

While the Tuccis, trainer Sid Attard, assistant trainer Chris Simpson, jockey Emile Ramsammy and her legion of Canadian fans, already know it, ultimately, a sales figure of $875,000 U.S. shows, almost right to the dollar, that One For Rose is one in a million in Canada.