'He's Part Of The Family': Breeder Nygaard Takes Stakes Winner Moretti Home At Fasig-Tipton Sale - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report

‘He’s Part Of The Family’: Breeder Nygaard Takes Stakes Winner Moretti Home At Fasig-Tipton Sale

Moretti wins the 2020 Flat Out Stakes.

Pavla Nygaard didn't arrive in Lexington, Ky., last weekend expecting to buy a horse.

She was in town from San Diego, Calif., to watch her daughter Keira compete in the Real Rider Cup, raising money for off-track Thoroughbreds. After the event, she learned that Moretti, a Grade 2-placed graduate of her Thor-Bred Stables breeding program, was cataloged as a stallion prospect across town at the Fasig-Tipton July Selected Horses of All Ages Sale, so she decided to stop by.

Moretti had represented Nygaard well over the course of his life. He sold to Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Mike Repole for $900,000 at the 2017 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Selected Yearling Sale, then went on to win a pair of listed stakes and hit the board in a couple Grade 2 races over a four-year career.

Nygaard was happy to see an old friend when she visited the Highgate Sales consignment at Fasig-Tipton on Monday morning, but she still wasn't expecting to leave the property with a new horse. She didn't expect it when Moretti was in the back ring Monday evening, and she still didn't when the auctioneer's chant began.

Then, Nygaard flagged down a bidspotter from her spot in the back ring. The hammer fell, and a $30,000 ticket was rushed her way in need of a signature.

“I wasn't going to be in the market, but I found he was in the sale, and wanted to see whether he was going to be going at a price where someone really, really wanted him, and if not, I'd be here as the backup,” Nygaard said.

“Being a backup position at $30,000 might not sound like a great thing to do, but that's what's important to me,” she continued. “Sometimes, it's about jumping off the cliff and hopefully growing wings on the way down.”

Nygaard had the horse, and a place to put him. Those were the important parts. Collier Mathes of Chesapeake Farm in Lexington, Ky., boards her mares and said there was a stall waiting for Moretti. Everything else would come together as they went.

“I have no idea,” Nygaard said about future plans after signing the ticket. “The best case might be that we just breed two or three mares to him, and if there's anybody else that has any interest, we would look at it, but he's part of the family.”

If it was a surprise to Nygaard herself until the last minute, it was certainly not on the radar for consignors Jacob West and Jill Gordon of Highgate Sales.

“She had come by the barn and seen him, and told us how much she loved him,” West said. “I saw her bidding next to the pole over there, and I thought to myself, 'That looks like Pavla Nygaard.' Then, sure enough, Jill came back from over there and said it was her.”

West selling Moretti to Nygaard completed a five-year circle that began when Nygaard sold the colt to West at Saratoga, as agent for Eclipse and Repole, through the Gainesway consignment.

Moretti was one of West's first purchases on behalf of Eclipse as the partnership's vice president of bloodstock, after joining the company in the summer of 2017. He no longer works for the company in that capacity, but he maintains professional relations.

A son of Medaglia d'Oro out of the Grade 1-winning Concerto mare Rigoletta, Moretti's yearling stock was boosted by the success of half-brother Battle of Midway, who would later win the G1 Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile. Moretti was the most expensive purchase by the powerful duo of Eclipse and Repole at that year's elite Saratoga sale.

“The first second we saw him in Saratoga, we knew we'd have to give a lot of money for him,” West said. “He filled out into a beautiful horse, and grew up exactly how you'd imagine when you buy them as a yearling.”

Moretti sold to Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Mike Repole for $900,000 at the 2017 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Sale.

Moretti won four of 16 starts over the course of his career with trainer Todd Pletcher, and he earned $367,250. His best running came in the summer of 2020, when he tallied victories in the listed Flat Out Stakes and Birdstone Stakes, with a runner-up effort in the Grade 2 Suburban Stakes sandwiched in between those two wins. He started the following year's campaign with a third in the G2 Brooklyn Stakes.

Injuries started to pile up for Moretti as he got older, and his comebacks were constantly thwarted after making what would be his final career start in the Grade 3 Greenwood Cup Stakes at Parx in September 2021, finishing fifth.

Summer is a tough time to retire a stallion prospect from the racetrack; especially one that's likely headed for a regional market. With the Northern Hemisphere breeding season recently concluded, any potential U.S. buyer would have to pay to keep the horse for half a year before getting a chance to recoup their investment, and the commercial buzz that a new stallion can generate upon his retirement will have long since fizzled.

“We put him in here to market him to see if there was going to be any South American interest, because they could get him down there before the start of the Southern Hemisphere breeding season, but nobody would have ever guessed Pavla would buy him and stand him herself,” West said.

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Moretti will join his dam Rigoletta at Chesapeake Farm, where Nygaard has boarded her mares and foals since 2012. Rigoletta most recently produced a Nyquist filly in February, and she is currently in foal to Speightstown.

“I live in California, so I don't always know them as well as I would like to know them, but I've known all of her foals,” Nygaard said about Rigoletta's offspring. “Most of them are very energetic and lively, and he was a little different than that. He had plenty of class, but he was a little bit more laid back. He'd just kind of look at you from the other side of the field and go, 'Okay, what's my incentive to go your way?' Whereas, Battle of Midway, his ears were always up, and he wanted to be part of whatever action may be going on.”

In addition to being a licensed attorney in New York, Nygaard holds a degree in molecular biology and genetics. She has proven able to harness Thoroughbred genes to create successful racehorses, but proving out a stallion – especially on her own in a market that's often hostile toward non-commercial sires – will be an entirely new challenge.

Even if he never advances past the level of being a backyard stallion, that was never the point. What was important to Nygaard in the moment she raised her hand in the back ring was that he had a backyard at all.

“He sold for $900,000 in Saratoga. From that, it makes more than enough sense to take some of that back, and put it into bringing him home and make sure he's doing fine,” she said. “We have more patience than most, and we have more craziness than most. Most of the time, it doesn't work out, but when it does, it works out great.”

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