'I Was Basically In Disbelief': Breeder Elizabeth Merryman Celebrates Caravel's Breeders' Cup Upset - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report

‘I Was Basically In Disbelief’: Breeder Elizabeth Merryman Celebrates Caravel’s Breeders’ Cup Upset

Breeder of Caravel, Elizabeth Merryman gives the thumbs up after winning the Goldwood Stakes at Monmouth Park Racetrack in Oceanport, NJ on Friday June 25, 2021. Photo By Bill Denver/EQUI-PHOTO

One year after congratulating her older sister, Laurel Park-based trainer Katy Voss, on breeding a Breeders' Cup winner, Elizabeth Merryman got a turn on the receiving end. A member of one of Maryland's most prominent and successful racing families who now resides in Pennsylvania, Merryman watched with Voss from the grandstand at Keeneland as Caravel sped to a stunning 42-1 upset in the $1 million Turf Sprint (G1).

“We were all in a big group and there was a lot of cheering and hugging going on, so we didn't see much. It was all a blur,” Merryman said Sunday. “It was pretty amazing. I wish I bet on her.”

Caravel broke sharp and led from start to finish in the 5 ½-furlong Turf Sprint, returning $87.78 for her half-length decision over European shipper Emaraaty Ana. Favored Golden Pal, the defending champion, broke poorly and was never a threat in finishing 10th.

“It was incredible. When Golden Pal broke like that and then [Caravel] settled into what, for her, were relatively easy fractions, I was like, 'They're going to have trouble catching her,'” Merryman said. “I was basically in disbelief. I was just like, 'I can't believe this is going so well.'”

A 5-year-old daughter of Mizzen Mast out of the Congrats mare Zeezee Zoomzoom, Caravel made her first eight starts with Merryman as the breeder, owner and trainer. Six of those races were wins, four in stakes, including her first on the grass in the 2021 The Very One at historic Pimlico Race Course.

Merryman sold a majority interest in Caravel to celebrity chef Bobby Flay following a victory in the Goldwood last June at Monmouth Park. She won the Caress (G3) at Saratoga in her first start for the partnership but went winless in three subsequent tries including a last-place finish in last year's Turf Sprint, beaten 9 ½ lengths.

“I was so excited to see her run this year in the Breeders' Cup as opposed to last year, because last year she came into it really not doing well at all and not really training well,” Merryman said. “This year she just seemed like she was at the top of her game and, even though I don't own any more of her, I was so excited to see her run just because I thought she was really doing well. I was thinking the is probably way too tough and everything but I was just excited to see her compete on this stage when she's really at the top of her game. It was very cool.”

Following the Breeders' Cup, Caravel fetched $500,000 at Fasig-Tipton's fall mixed sale on behalf of new owners Qatar Racing, Marc Detampel and Madaket Stables, who sent the mare to two-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Brad Cox. Merryman and a new partner attended the sale with designs on purchasing Caravel, but were outbid.

This year Caravel has won five of eight starts, all in stakes, including the Intercontinental (G3) at Belmont Park and Franklin (G3) at Keeneland in her Breeders' Cup prep. Saturday's victory pushed her over the $1 million mark in career earnings.

“We bid on her at the sale to try to get her back and regroup her, but we didn't go high enough to buy her back,” Merryman said. “I'm just really happy for the partners that have her now and the way Brad has managed her and worked to figure out her different idiosyncrasies and quirks. He's done an exceptional job of treating her as an individual even though he has such a big stable. Everything he's done with her, I can tell he treats all his horses as individuals and figures out the different things that make them tick. I just have so much respect for him as a trainer because of that. His outfit is incredible.”

Zeezee Zoomzoom was in Florida when Merryman acquired her and sent the mare to her cousin, Laura McKinney, in Kentucky to be bred to turf specialist Mizzen Mast. Foaled in neighboring Oxford, Pa. by now-retired Betty Miller, Caravel was broken and raised on Merryman's farm, part of the old King's Ranch located between Coatesville and Unionville, Pa. She went unraced as a 2-year-old and was entered in a sale the fall of her 3-year-old season with Wanamaker's – the online auction company founded by Merryman's daughter, Liza Hendriks – but did not meet her $330,000 reserve.

“My cousin saw Zeezee Zoomzoom before I did. I got her, sight unseen, and shipped her to Laura. Then I booked her to Mizzen Mast, and she sent her to me in foal,” Merryman said. “[Caravel] was the only foal I had that year. When she was a yearling, I went to the yearling sales and thought I'd buy her a companion to train with her and bring along. Looking at the yearlings I thought, I just like my own yearling so much I just can't raise my hand. She's going to have to go it alone.”

Merryman is the youngest of six children to the late John and Katherine 'Kitty' Merryman. The oldest is Voss, who with her late life partner Bob Manfuso bred in Maryland the 2021 Breeders' Cup Sprint (G1) winner Aloha West, who was 11th in his title defense.

As a trainer, Merryman has won 158 races and more than $5.7 million in purse earnings from 1,340 starters since 2004. Her best horse, Roadhog, ran in the Maryland Million Turf five consecutive years, winning in 2012 and 2013 and finishing second in 2015 and third in 2014.

Caravel's 2021 Caress was Merryman's first graded-stakes win as a trainer before subsequently being moved to Graham Motion, her neighbor at the Fair Hill Training Center in Elkton, Md., for the duration of last year. Merryman has continued to follow Caravel's career.

“She's very talented. We always thought very highly of her. She was a beautiful baby. She was great to break. As a yearling she was just so smart and clever and a lovely mover,” Merryman said. “You never think you've bred a Breeders' Cup winner, but I was pretty excited about her.”

Caravel, ridden by Tyler Gaffalione, streaks to victory in the G1 Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint at Keeneland
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