Here’s some background on G2 Risen Star Stakes entrant Gold Hawk’s pedigree. He’s from the last US crop of Belmont Stakes winner Empire Maker, who was sold to Japan for the 2011 breeding season. Empire Maker is a son of Derby winner Unbridled and is the sire of 45 black type winners to date, including 11 G1 winners. One of them is the outstanding champion Royal Delta. Another is Pioneerof the Nile, who ran second in the Derby and now is represented by his first crop of 3-year-olds, which includes G2 Holy Bull Stakes winner Cairo Prince and G3 Sam F. Davis winner Vinceremos.
Gold Hawk‘s dam is champion juvenile filly Caressing (Honour and Glory—Lovin Touch, by Majestic Prince). In 2000, Caressing won the G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies at Churchill Downs for Carl Pollard, the former chairman of the board of Churchill Downs who’d owned historic Hermitage Farm in Goshen, Kentucky, until recently. Gold Hawk was bred in the name of Hermitage Farm, LLC and is owned by Winchell Thoroughbreds LLC, the racing entity of mother and son Joan and Ron Winchell, who have restructured and carried on the racing and breeding operation of patriarch Verne H. Winchell since his death in 2002 at age 87. Ron Winchell purchased Gold Hawk for $450,000 from Hermitage Farm at the 2012 Keeneland September sale, where at the same venue Winchell Thoroughbreds sold the Tapit colt Harpoon for $500,000 to Todd Pletcher. Owned by Let’s Go Stable, Harpoon was beaten a nose by Pioneerof the Nile’s Vinceremos (also trained by Pletcher) in the Sam F Davis.
See the last few posts on this blog for more information on Tapit, Harpoon, and others by the ascendant Gainesway sire, who was purchased by the Winchells for $625,000 at the 2002 Keeneland September sale. Tapit’s Winchell homebred Untapable races on the Risen Star undercard at Fair Grounds in the G3 Rachel Alexandra Stakes. From the same female family as Harpoon, Untapable is a G2 winner and G1 placed from four starts and is trained, like Gold Hawk, by Steve Asmussen, who trained some horses for Verne H. Winchell as far back as at least 1992 and more recently has had such as G2 Louisiana Derby winner Pyro and the recent G3 Southwest Stakes winner Tapiture for Winchell Thoroughbreds.
Like Pyro, Untapable and Harpoon, who descend from the same Carols Christmas family of Olympio developed over generations by Verne H. Winchell, Gold Hawk is also from another old Winchell family, this one descending from Donut Queen and responsible for multiple G1 winner and Derby starter Sea Cadet in addition to Caressing. This must have appealed to the Winchells in purchasing Gold Hawk, who has won two of three starts and last out was the beaten favorite when third in the G3 LeComte Stakes at Fair Grounds Jan. 18.
Verne H. Winchell made his money as a donut maker from California in the late 1940s—Winchell’s Donut Houses, later sold to Denny’s Inc., where Winchell became CEO. He got into racing in the late 1950s, and in 1961 he owned two purchased 2-year-olds named Donut King and the aforementioned Donut Queen, presumably named for his wife. Donut Queen was winless from three starts and was bred at 2 but Donut King won the Champagne Stakes at 2 in New York and was trained by Ron McAnally, who would train most of Winchell’s major winners over the years, including Sea Cadet.
Donut Queen is the 5th dam of Gold Hawk. From her, Winchell bred Gold Hawk’s 4th dam Queen Hostess (1962); 3rd dam Forest Princess (1973); and the 2nd dam Lovin Touch (1980). Winchell sold Lovin Touch for $40,000 to Brereton Jones in 1991 after breeding her first five foals. Jones bred Caressing, who was Lovin Touch’s 10th foal, and he sold the future champion for $180,000 at the 1999 Keeneland September sale.