Split-Second Decision Opened Breeders’ Cup Door for 2-Year-Old Dakota Gold and His Owners

The Life
Dakota Gold as a foal, left, and preparing for the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Nov. 5 at Del Mar. (Photos by New Hill Farm/Lili Kobielski and Eclipse Sportswire)

Sometimes you just look at a horse and you know. That’s it. In the horse racing business, one must often trust their gut instinct. In 2010, Dean Reeves was reviewing a race and his instinct told him to invest not in the horse who won but in the horse who came in second. That horse was Mucho Macho Man, who had a very exciting career and won the 2013 Breeders’ Cup Classic in a dramatic photo finish.

Dakota Gold as a foal. (Courtesy of New Hill Farm/Lili Kobielski)

In 2019, Dean and his wife, Patti, had just arrived for the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Fall Sale. He decided to head to the sales ring for a quick look. Reeves said, “When I walked in, Jimmy Gladwell was already looking at horses. I walked up right when he was looking at the colts. I looked at the horse and said, ‘Jimmy! We have got to buy this one!’

“It was that quick. It didn’t take me five seconds to say I like this one. This is what we are looking for. Then we looked over and saw a filly. Jimmy said what about her? I said, ‘We will take her too!’ That is exactly the kind of horse we want to buy. So, it’s still that way for me. I get a feeling for them.” Reeves has continued to hone his ability to select future talent. The weanling that he purchased for $83,000 is Dakota Gold who will be racing Nov. 5 in the 2021 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf.

Bred in New York by Sequel Thoroughbreds and Ron Bowden, Dakota Gold is by Freud and out of Bowden’s mare Dakota Kid. Bowden says with great pride that there is a lot of depth to Dakota Gold.  His dam “was destined to be a great runner but was sidelined. I have proved her value through breeding. I think that Dakota Gold is going to be more than a surprise. I wouldn’t underrate him.” He continued to expand enthusiastically that “Dakota Gold is proving the value of this mare. The table has been set; Dean Reeves has bought all four of her foals. One after another! They are gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous!”

Dakota Gold as a foal. (Courtesy of New Hill Farm/Lili Kobielski)

Dakota Gold was foaled, raised, sales-prepped and consigned through the New Hill Farm in Hoosick Falls, N.Y. It is a boutique Thoroughbred operation founded by Lili Kobielski’s parents in the early ’80s. Now the owner and manager, Kobielski said they average 50-60 horses, including Dakota Gold’s dam, Dakota Kid (who has produced a Mucho Macho Man foal this year.)

She is naturally proud of Dakota Gold. “From day one, we knew he was nice. He has always been beautiful. He came out looking like a rocket ship. You can see the hind end on him. He was absolutely the boss in the field at a very young age. His mama is an alpha mare. So, he followed suit. He’s also very smart. He took everything in stride as we started sales-prepping him. We sold him at the Saratoga Fall Sale as a weanling. That’s a stressful environment especially for a little baby. He was so popular. He was shown all the time; often with a big crowd around him. He completely ate it up! He got better during the sale. He has a great presence about him. He really seemed to feed off the attention. I’m not at all surprised that he has turned out to be a star already. He has a beautiful walk, and he travels in an athletic way. It’s not a surprise that he can run given his presence, intelligence, and movement.”

Reeves is enjoying his business model of purchasing the nicest weanlings he can buy. “It gives us a chance to groom them as we see fit while they are brought along and trained while we watch them. We get them started early and see if they have any talent. This has been fabulous.”

Dean and Patti Reeves at the 2014 Breeders' Cup. (Julie June Stewart photo)

Reeves relationship with trainer Danny Gargan started with Tax in a partnership between Reeves Thoroughbred Racing, R. A. Hill Stable, and Hugh Lynch. Tax won the Jim Dandy Stakes at Saratoga in 2019 and the Harlan’s Holiday Stakes at Gulfstream in 2020. In addition, he competed in 2019 in the Wood Memorial Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets, the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve, the Belmont Stakes, and the Runhappy Travers Stakes.

“Danny is a good trainer and fun to be around. I divvy up my horses in the Spring [to various trainers] and I thought this horse [Dakota Gold] was the right one for Danny. As he got ready to race, we knew he was good on the turf. He ran open company on the dirt and won that race. I was thinking of another dirt race, but Danny said, ‘He is better on the turf’ and mentioned the $500,000 Nownownow Stakes for 2-year-olds at Monmouth.” Dakota Gold won by 2 ½ lengths. Gargan had asked Reeves if he would let him run in the Breeders’ Cup. Reeves responded, “Danny – if we win this race, I will put him in the Breeders’ Cup.”

Reeves is thrilled with Dakota Gold. “He has developed into a really nice 2-year-old. He is built well with good physical structure and has a pretty blaze. He is a very determined horse. We started to see that in some of his breezes. He made it look easy. He really wanted to outwork the horse he was with.

“He doesn’t get too riled up about anything. He does his job, and he likes to get out there to compete. He’s been a fun horse. He is great to be around. You can get up to him and pet him. He is laid back until he gets on the track and then he is really determined. He’s ready to run.”

Morning Breeders’ Cup preparations for Dakota Gold under assistant trainer Carol Fisher, with Mary Ellet ponying. (Eclipse Sportswire)

Danny Gargan grew up in horse racing. His father was a jockey (also named Danny Gargan) who won the Kentucky Oaks in 1973 on Bag of Tunes for the C.V. Whitney Stables. Gargan was a jockey’s agent for eight years. He started as a trainer only eight years ago with two horses. In addition to his success with Tax, Gargan trained Divine Miss Grey who won the Chilukki Stakes at Churchill Downs in 2018.

“It feels good to be at the Breeders’ Cup!” You can hear the pride in Gargan’s voice as he talks about Dakota Gold. “We are excited to be here. He’s a pretty straight-forward horse. He’s more a fiery type and a little spunky. He’s like a little boy. He wants what he wants when he wants it. Training-wise, he’s always been pretty good. He’s real athletic with a burst of speed when he needs it.”

Is it intuition or years of experience that drives success in horse racing? It is often a combination of both. The beauty of the Breeders’ Cup is the talent and depth of the fields. The horses are exceptional. They have owners and trainers who believe in them. They are nurtured by their exercise riders, grooms, and jockeys. It starts with the late-night dreams of a breeder who studies nicks and potential sires. Sometimes, it takes a glance from a potential owner to know that a horse has a future in their racing stable. It’s the beauty of horse racing where anything can be possible. One wise look and the door is open to the future, especially for a young horse named Dakota Gold.

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