It’s easy to remember Rachel Alexandra’s manhandling of the 2009 Woodward Stakes field at Saratoga Race Course – “She is indeed Rachel Alexandra the Great,” saith Mr. Durkin – but odds are you don’t have the same recall of the winner of the sixth race on the Monday of Travers Week in 2015.
Jess’s Dream, one of only two horses ever foaled by Rachel Alexandra (2015 Spinaway winner Rachel’s Valentina was the other), by fellow Hall of Famer Curlin, was making his debut in a 9-furlong maiden special weight. Sent off as the 3-1 second choice, Jess’s Dream – named for Stonestreet Stables’ late founder Jess Jackson – was off a step slow and languished in last down the backstretch, 12 lengths behind the sixth-place horse.
Watch the replay and you won’t see him enter the picture until the leaders hit the 1/4 pole. But once he got rolling in the gold Stonestreet silks, he conjured up memories of the brilliance of his parents, somehow getting up in time.
“I didn’t think he had any chance until the eighth pole,” said Kiaran McLaughlin, who could not recall another time in his training career that he ran a first-time starter 9 furlongs. As it turned out Jess’s Dream needed every inch of racetrack.
Two weeks after that smashing debut, Jess’s Dream returned from a routine gallop a little off behind and was found to have a cracked cannon bone. After some time off he returned to training, but McLaughlin said a series of minor issues led to a premature retirement and new role as a stallion.
Jess’s Dream covered 310 mares in his first three years in the breeding shed, according to statistics from The Jockey Club. Thus far in 2020, there have been 19,677 live foals reported to The Jockey Club, with 429 born outside North America, spread out over 13 countries. There was exactly one live foal in Barbados. Just one – a colt by Jess’s Dream out of Pass Me The Salt.
Barbados? There has to be a story there, right?
Turns out there was horse racing in Barbados almost two decades before Saratoga opened in 1863. There is only one track – Garrison Savannah, a 6-furlong grass oval – on the Caribbean island that has a population of less than 300,000. The biggest race of the year is the Sandy Lane Gold Cup, sponsored by a 5-star resort whose ownership group includes high-powered horse owners Derrick Smith, John Magnier and Michael Tabor.
Nicholas Mouttet owns horses on a much smaller scale, with a stable of six. He was a big fan of Rachel Alexandra – who required surgery after the birth of Rachel’s Valentina and was not bred again – which made him interested in how Jess’s Dream would fare. He saw his maiden race and was predictably impressed. When Jess’s Dream was retired to stud, Mouttet made up his mind.
“I knew I had to have a foal,” said Mouttet, who bought a mare that was in foal to Jess’s Dream, Pass Me The Salt, a daughter of Salt Lake out of a Seattle Slew mare, whom Mouttet said he purchased from Palm Beach Racing. Mouttet’s plan was to ship her from Hallmarc Farm in Ocala to Barbados so the foal could be classified as a Creole (i.e. state-bred), but his veterinarian pointed out the risk of her delivering while she was in a month-long quarantine.
Pass Me The Salt had the weanling in Florida and Mouttet sent the mare back to Jess’s Dream for a return breeding. She was shipped to Barbados last November and on March 7 delivered the weanling that will forever be an answer to a trivia question. The plan is for both colts to be trained by Robert Peirce, who conditions Mouttet’s other horses.
“I was hoping to have a filly, but I have two colts (by Jess’s Dream) and I’m happy to have them,” said Mouttet, who grew up in Trinidad and graduated from Florida International University. He is a senior executive with Goddard Enterprises Ltd., directing the manufacturing sector of the conglomerate.
Mouttet started going to the track with his father when he was 6. That sealed his fate.
“With horse racing, once your family is in, it gets into your blood,” he said. “It’s hard to get out.”
He said when he moved to Barbados, “the first thing I did was buy a horse.” He owns a 4-year-old named Sing Sing that was rated No. 30 (as of Sept. 8) by the Barbados Turf Club among all older horses running in Barbados, and a 2-year-old filly that is close to debuting. He has high hopes for his Jess’s Dream progeny, considering the pedigree.
“Jess’s Dream is the only sire in North America that is by a Horse of the Year out of a Horse of the Year,” said Mouttet, whose uncle, Paul, owns horses running in Canada, Florida and Jamaica. “He has terrific breeding and I wanted a piece of him. Now I have two.”
Though Jess’s Dream’s first crop of runners are off to a moderate start (1-8-2 from 20 starts through Sunday) as 2-year-olds, Mouttet does not expect his stallion fee to stay at $5,000.
“I looked at it like buying stock,” he said. “I’ve watched every race of his offspring and they are all runners. They show tremendous ability.”
The leading earner thus far is Restofthestory, out of the Harlan’s Holiday mare Holiday Flare, who has banked $135,400 in three starts at Gulfstream Park.
Mouttet would love for it to be more than coincidence that his Jess’s Dream-Pass Me The Salt foal was born on the day the Sandy Lane Gold Cup was run this year, just before racing was interrupted by the pandemic.
“I’m hoping it’s an omen for things to come,” he said.
We’ll be watching.