There is still loyalty in racing, just as there are still horses that distinguish themselves as diamonds in the rough. Ashbrook Farm in Versailles, Ky., can attest to both.
Ashbrook began a relationship with trainer George “Rusty” Arnold more than four decades ago that continues to thrive. Concrete Rose, a $61,000 purchase as a 2-year-old in training who enters Friday’s $750,000 Saratoga Oaks at Saratoga Race Course as a solid favorite, is the latest star produced by their teamwork.
When Arnold reflected on his long and fruitful relationship with Glenn Bromagen and now his son, who has the same name and is known as “Bo,” he said simply, “It doesn’t get any better than that.”
Their association transcends that of trainer and client. Arnold provided Bo with an insider’s look at the industry by employing him as a hotwalker after Bo graduated from Trinity University in San Antonio.
“There’s a lot of mutual respect and it turned into friendship,” Bo said. “Rusty is a no-nonsense individual. He’ll tell it to you straight.”
When Bo told Arnold he thought Concrete Rose was a promising prospect, Arnold never doubted him. When the trainer thought the Twirling Candy filly was developing into something special, everyone grew excited.
Bo leaves no stone unturned in his effort to unearth talent. When others saw a raw juvenile that might never get it together mentally at last May’s Fasig-Tipton Midlantic 2-year-olds in training sale, he spotted something else.
“She breezed and her head was cocked to the side,” Bo recalled. “She just didn’t know what she was doing. Obviously, it turned a lot of people off.”
With a couple of assistants positioned elsewhere, Bo stationed himself just beyond the finish line. He saw a youngster that was no longer looking around.
“She had settled into a rhythm,” he said. “She was moving fantastic when she went past me.”
Arnold said of Bo’s eye for a horse: “He’ll ask for an opinion now and then and I’ll give it, but that’s totally his job. He’s brought me a lot of good horses. He’s had very, very high success on a limited budget.”
Bo typically limits his bidding to between $75,000 and $150,000. Weep No More, a $120,000 find as a 2-year-old in training, went on to spring a major upset in the Central Bank Ashland Stakes at Keeneland Race Course the following spring at 30-1. Graded stakes winners Southern Honey and Skeptic offer two more examples of reasonably priced horses that yielded ample return on investment.
“We don’t have an unlimited budget when we go to the sales,” Bo said. “I’ve got to find horses that get overlooked, projects, something that can be developed and are not something everybody else is on.”
Concrete Rose could not have progressed any better under Arnold’s great care. She enters the middle leg of the New York Racing Association’s Turf Tiara having won the $750,000, Grade 1 Belmont Oaks Invitational by 2 ¾ lengths for Julien Leparoux, her regular rider.
She is perfect through three starts this season and owns five victories in six career starts. Her ability may have been compromised by a yielding turf at Churchill Downs when she finished a disappointing eighth to victorious Newspaperofrecord in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf last Nov. 2.
She launched her 3-year-old campaign by taking the Grade 3 Florida Oaks by half a length at Tampa Bay Downs on March 9 before turning the tables on Newspaperofrecord in the Grade 3 Edgewood Stakes on May 3 at Churchill. She blew past her pace-setting rival by 3 ¾ lengths in that race on a turf course rated “good.”
Concrete Rose is slightly built, leading Arnold to carefully space her races before the Turf Tiara, which concludes with the $750,000 Jockey Club Oaks on Sept. 7 at Belmont Park.
The filly’s willpower compensates for the lack of an imposing frame.
“I think a lot of it has to do with attitude, that competitiveness. She loves her job,” Bo said. “She goes out there and she just loves to run.”
The Bromagen family was delighted to add BBN Racing as a partner in Concrete Rose. Glenn Bromagen, 87, typically heads a large contingent that attends the races. The group includes Bo, his sister Ashley and his brother, Tyler. There are three grandchildren.
Concrete Rose could not have come along at a better time for Bromagen, who remains sharp and has been known to cash a ticket or two on his horses.
“He gets to share this experience with his family and grandkids,” Bo said. “With these races, we all get together.”
It may be that Concrete Rose, clearly a standout among 3-year-old turf fillies, will take them all the way to the Breeders’ Cup World Championships on Nov. 1-2 at Santa Anita Park. The task would be daunting since it is hoped that international superstar Enable will return to the United States to defend her title in the Turf.
Then again, the formidable Bromagen-Arnold team has overcome long odds before. Few gave Weep No More any shot in the Ashland
“The Breeders’ Cup is an incredible event, so you wonder,” Bo said, adding, “You’d love to go to the Breeders’ Cup and win one those races.”