On the heels of a campaign earning a Dan Patch Award and possible sweep of sophomore pacing colt honours, 2022 O’Brien Award finalist Pebble Beach will set sail into a stallion career which was not originally planned for his four-year-old year.
Pebble Beach, a colt by Downbytheseaside, was a “perfect” yearling to trainer Noel Daley and a worthwhile $85,000 acquisition who earned $1.9 million through two seasons. His success, as well as the ease he showed beating his peers in the Breeders Crown at Woodbine Mohawk Park, had Daley and connections plotting to keep Pebble Beach in training for a four-year-old campaign.
But an offer rang for Pebble Beach to start stallion duties in a burgeoning jurisdiction, the ever-growing program in Kentucky.
“We’ll miss having him around the place,” trainer Noel Daley told Trot Insider. “To be honest, until he went up for the Breeders Crown, our plan was to bring him back. But in Kentucky, he ended up in a job in a small jurisdiction. And then the offer was made for him...and we had to make the decision to bring him back, but we thought to take it. The people [Joe Sbrocco, Country Club Acres et al.] had good success retiring the other horse; it worked for Downbytheseaside.”
For Daley, Pebble Beach was a bit of an anomaly. For the last 10 years, a majority of Daley’s focus has been on trotting prospects with a few strong pacing fillies.
“He was the only pacing colt we bought that year,” said Daley. “That’s because one particular long-term owner had spoiled me on video and asked me to go look at him. I said alright. I loved him when I saw him and so then I had to sort of call around and find some people to buy and I got a few guys to agree to go to $75,000 and maybe go up to $85,000. I think it turned out pretty good.”
Despite an adventurous debut in an Ohio Sires Stakes at Northfield Park, Pebble Beach demonstrated his talent with every outing to not miss the board in 11 freshman starts. And with his two-year-old finale, a third-place finish in the Breeders Crown, Daley knew the colt needed Lasix.
“I knew he bled at the end of his two-year-old year. When he was third in the Breeders Crown, he bled that night. When he came back, I never ever caught him bleeding, so I just decided to have him on Lasix as a three-year-old and we always just had him on 3 CCs.”
Pebble Beach delivered early in his sophomore season, culminating with a display of force in the $1 million Pepsi North America Cup in 1:50.
Following a third-place finish in the $350,000 Adios, Pebble Beach shipped to Kentucky for its state-sponsored program. But medication laws in Kentucky forced Pebble Beach to race without Lasix – a test he nonetheless overcame to finish no worse than second in his seven Bluegrass State starts, including a win in the $363,500 Tattersalls.
“It’s funny because he was scoping all the time,” said Daley. “He did bleed. I didn't think it would be an issue when I went to Lexington, and every time I scoped him, he was clean. But he just wasn't finishing the races like he should. I’m thinking ‘Huh...is it that or is he not trying?’ But obviously, I took him back to Canada and put him back on and he was just night and day a better horse.”
A return to Lasix brought a familiar sight for the Breeders Crown at Woodbine Mohawk Park. Much like his effortless win in the Pepsi North America Cup, Pebble Beach towered over his peers to stroll to a 1:48.1 win in the $911,250 Breeders Crown final. He then churned victories in the $158,200 Matron Pace and in his Progress Pace elimination before blazing a torrid tempo in the $250,000 Progress Pace final, which led to his only off-the-board finish in 29 starts.
“We nearly didn't go to Dover at all. We won the first race down there and there was discussion whether to race him or not. The race a week before he came out of it, he seemed fine when he won then the next morning he couldn't put his leg on the ground and I thought ,‘Oh my god, what’s going on here?’ It ended up he had a pus pocket in his foot. In hindsight, I probably shouldn’t have started him...but he was sound by the time the final came around there. He’d missed a bit of work or whatever, but I felt he had a strong enough year, he's not going to worry about it...It doesn't matter. We had a pretty good year, so no complaints.”
So Pebble Beach prepares to stand stud at Diamond Creek Farm of Kentucky alongside their only other stallion Gimpanzee. He is one of six active studs in the state of Kentucky and one of four pacing stallions, sharing the state with Boston Red Rocks, Miso Fast and White Bliss.
“He’ll clean up a lot of mares,” said Daley. “As I say, he is spot-on correct. Stands great, good looking horse. He just didn’t have a lot of size, you wouldn't want to be breeding smaller mares to him. He was 15.1 or 15.2 by the end of it. Great attitude and he’s got a wicked turn speed. He was a cool horse to have around. I mean, we miss him in the barn. He's a very likable horse. He just had that little bit of spunk in him, enough that he could be mischievous but not stand there and roar or kick the walls… I think he can make it [as a stallion].”
Daley also said duties as a shuttle stallion down under may be in the cards for Pebble Beach.
“We'll just see how it shakes out here. But I do believe that that's the plan,” he said. “They did a good job getting [Downbytheseaside] good numbers when he went down there to New Zealand. I think the plan is to do the same thing.
“You want to be a part of a successful stallion,” Daley also said. “I’ve had a few successful ones, but nothing big time. I had Explosive Matter, I had a piece of him. He was okay. The only good pacers, we haven’t really had many go to stud to be anything. He’s the first one I think I’ve had that, for a pacer, that’s been commercial. A lot of my better ones happen to be mares for whatever reason.”
As another highlight for Daley’s year, not only did he have a dominant talent in Pebble Beach but he also housed world champion Bulldog Hanover through his residency at The Meadowlands, in which he paced the sport's fastest mile of all time, a 1:45.4 scorcher in the William R. Haughton Memorial.
“It was a lot of fun,” said Daley, who has been friends with Bulldog Hanover’s trainer Jack Darling for decades. “Basically trained him a trip in [2:]20 every week. My biggest issue was getting him on and off the trailer. He was a lot of fun to have.”
Standardbred Canada will present the 34th edition of the O'Brien Awards on Saturday, Feb. 4, 2023 at the Hilton Mississauga / Meadowvale Hotel.