'He Is Something Special': Catching Up With Kentucky Derby Runner-Up Ice Box In Indiana - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report

‘He Is Something Special’: Catching Up With Kentucky Derby Runner-Up Ice Box In Indiana

Ice Box

Ryan Campbell couldn't have known how important the 2010 Florida Derby would be to his career in the Thoroughbred business, even if he thought he did at the time.

His professional interests were tied to Pleasant Prince, the son of a stallion he stood in Indiana, Indy King. Getting a Grade 1 winner in a major Kentucky Derby prep would have been a huge boost for his recent acquisition.

His personal interests were with Lentenor, a full-brother to the ill-fated Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro who he'd followed closely since the colt's earliest days. A solid effort in the Florida Derby would have given one of his favorite horses in training a clear path to the Kentucky Derby.

Ice Box beat them both, catching Pleasant Prince by a nose at the end of a screaming late drive, with Lentenor in fourth. Another deep-closing effort saw Ice Box finish a gaining second at Churchill Downs in his ensuing start.

Over a decade later, Campbell would have ties with all three horses.

Ice Box and Lentenor, both 16 years old, reside today on opposite ends of the barns at Indiana Stallion Station in Anderson, Ind., both owned by Campbell. Indy King was later sold to stand in New Zealand.

Standing Lentenor was always the dream for Campbell, who was one of many to fall for the horse after following Barbaro's convalescence from a broken leg suffered in the 2006 Preakness Stakes. Campbell had grown up loving dual classic winner Swale, and the crushing news of his sudden death in the days following the 1984 Belmont Stakes was a familiar refrain as he followed Barbaro and his younger siblings.

Ice Box was a welcome member of Campbell's stallion portfolio, but that same bond just wasn't there. How could it be when Lentenor tapped into a core memory from when Campbell was eight years old?

That changed when both stallions moved to Indiana Stallion Station and Campbell, an Anderson native, got to have his hands on Ice Box every day.

“Ice Box had a lot to come into, because Lentenor was hands-down my favorite,” he said. “Lentenor's meant a lot to our family, but Ice Box is my buddy. We go out and mess around. When you see him walk across to get to his paddock, he just hangs his head and you can reach out and pet him as he goes along.

“When we first started seeing him, we never would have dreamed that we would have gotten him,” Campbell said. “I've had many stallions before, and I never would have said before he moved back to Indiana that he would have been my favorite, just from a handling standpoint. Some horses, you make a connection with and they can be kind, they can be mean, whatever, and you still have a connection with them. Ice Box is one that he's a mild-mannered, good-brained stallion.”

Campbell purchased Ice Box in 2020, but their paths had crossed frequently before the ink was put on the paper.

He recalled watching Ice Box in the 2010 Kentucky Derby, where he broke from the second post and spent the entire first mile of the race eating mud in second-to-last place under jockey Jose Lezcano. He searched desperately for a seam at the top of the stretch and was forced to check repeatedly, eventually swinging widest of all and making up tons of ground, but he was unable to catch a rail-skimming Super Saver before reaching the wire.

“You watch him come up and he gets stopped on the rail, and he has to pull back and swing out, and he gets stopped again, and then he gets stopped one more time, and he has to pull back and swing way out,” he said. “Then, one last time, he stopped and he had to swing out, and he was still half a length from getting Super Saver. You go another 30 yards, and he's there. We think if he'd not been stopped one of the three times, or if he'd gotten the rail ride that Super Saver got, there would have been a very interesting difference at the end of the Derby.”

The way he gained ground in the stretch, many bettors pegged Ice Box as their Belmont Stakes horse, and they sent him postward as the heavy favorite. However, he was never able to unfurl his signature late run, and he finished a non-threatening ninth.

The colt never quite found his stride after the Derby, racing through the end of his 4-year-old campaign, but never winning again after the Florida Derby. Ice Box retired with three wins in 16 starts for earnings of $948,068 for owner Robert LaPenta and trainer Nick Zito.

Ice Box retired to Calumet Farm in Lexington, Ky., for the 2012 breeding season, and Campbell was among the breeders that inspected the new arrival to consider for his mares. He ended up sticking closer to home to support the stallions he owned in Indiana, but he continued to follow the horse's career with interest when he relocated to Three Chimneys Farm the following season, and later when he moved across town to Millennium Farms in 2015.

He stood at Millennium for five seasons, his longest stint at a Kentucky farm, before his path crossed with Campbell once again.

“When he went to Millennium, we've historically had a good relationship with the people there,” Campbell said. “We bought Swagger Jack off of them. They contacted me and said 'Ice Box's owners are wanting to do something with him. Would you be interested?' We'd always liked him, and love sons of Pulpit, and he produced.”

At that point, Ice Box had established himself as a sire of durable runners, but he was still looking for a breakout U.S. runner. He scraped graded success with the likes of Grade 3-placed Dubby Dubbie, who has earned over $667,000 over seven seasons, while his international runners included Puerto Rican Group 1 winner Heladero and Panamanian Group 2-placed El Ajustador.

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Campbell, a network architect for a major plastic packaging company, purchased Ice Box from an ownership group that included country music star Toby Keith's Dream Walkin' Farms and LaPenta, and the original owners still maintain a share of the breeder's awards.

Ice Box debuted for his new owner at Cabin Creek Farm in Pennsylvania for the 2020 breeding season. Campbell said interest was strong from breeders before the opening of the breeding shed, but restrictions tied to the COVID-19 pandemic led to none of the contracts being filled, and the stallion's standing didn't recover in the seasons that followed.

Campbell moved Ice Box to Indiana Stallion Station in mid-April of this year, and he said the response from breeders was immediate. In an abbreviated season, he's expected to cover 10 to 12 mares.

“We pretty much chalked up that moving him here in the middle of April was a wash,” Campbell said. “Surprisingly, within a week and a half of people finding out he was here, the phone started ringing. For coming in April, he's had really good support from Indiana, and probably is going to cover the same amount of mares that half the stallions in the state of Indiana cover, period, whether they've been here five years or six months.

“I see next year being much better for him in number of mares from the people that are reaching out already for next year's breeding season,” he continued. “Several people were upset that he came in so late, because they'd contracted their mares to somebody else, they would have bred to him to this year.”

The spring move from Pennsylvania to Indiana also included Lentenor, continuing the close link between him, Campbell, and Ice Box. Lentenor retired to Calumet Farm in 2013, the year after Ice Box's lone season there, and he later stood at Indiana Stallion Station as Calumet property. Campbell got plenty of face time with Lentenor in Indiana, and he bought the stallion from Calumet in 2022 to stand in Pennsylvania.

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Horses that have been through the Triple Crown spectacle gain a degree of experience around crowds and media unlike anything most horses will see in their lifetimes. Though it's been 12 years since Ice Box competed on the racetrack, Campbell said he's still got the “big horse” routine down.

“When he got here, he stepped off the trailer, stopped, took a step, raised his head, looked around like 'I'm here,'” he said. “Never made a sound, and just walked himself in.

“I think all the good horses know they're special,” Campbell continued. “You can definitely tell the difference between a racehorse that was a big deal and the ones that weren't. You can tell it when you grab the lead. When you grab his lead, there's just class that comes through the lead. You know who you have. I've led tons of horses my entire life. There are very few where when you grab the shank, you know. He is something special.”

Ice Box resides at the end of the row in the Indiana Stallion Station barn, with a view of the indoor arena. He'll occasionally be joined in the rafters by P the peacock, belonging to farm owner Joyce Baker. The bird's high-pitched cry can echo from one stud barn to the other.

With the summer months making the evenings a cooler option, Campbell said Ice Box is on night turnout, which fits perfectly with his own schedule.

“I like it better for him at night, because I work a normal job, so I get to handle him,” he said. “He loves his bath. It's no different than any stallion that's in Kentucky. He gets groomed every day, he gets his bath every day, and he gets his turnout every day. It's not like Kentucky where you breed every day, but things are picking up.”

Introducing a stallion to a new regional market can be tricky if there's not a large offering of foals and runners already appearing nearby for breeders to get an impression of what he has to offer, but Campbell has ensured that potential customers have all the photos and videos they need to make the connection.

However, he said what makes Ice Box a contender in the Indiana stallion ranks are the things that don't show up on a camera.

“There have been a lot of mediocre-level mares bred to Ice Box throughout his career that have not produced anything until they got their Ice Box,” Campbell said. “Babies don't know where they're born. Whether they're born in Indiana, or Kentucky, or New York, he still has the ability to throw that big horse. Over the years, when we first started in Indiana, the mare quality was really, really poor. It's a totally different game in Indiana now. We have mares that come in that made half a million dollars, stakes-winning mares.”

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