December 4, 2020

American expat Con Te Partiro might come full circle for Breeders’ Cup at Keeneland

Con Te Partiro winning the Sandringham Handicap at Royal Ascot 2017 (Frank Sorge/Horsephotos.com)

The career of American expat Con Te Partiro can be summed up as a remarkable odyssey, one that might bring her back full circle to where it all started. Once a Wesley Ward debut romper at Keeneland and Royal Ascot winner, the daughter of Scat Daddy just turned a Group 1 double in Australia, and connections are reportedly mulling a Breeders’ Cup venture back in her native Bluegrass.

Con Te Partiro was bred by K. C. Garrett Farm, the husband-and-wife team of Daniel Kessler and Cathy Cordes. Kessler had claimed Con Te Partiro’s dam, Temple Street, for just $15,000 out of a win at Churchill Downs on Nov. 27, 2008.

The Dell Ridge Farm-bred Temple Street had much better bloodlines than that suggests. By Street Cry and out of a Pulpit mare, with Pleasant Colony as her second dam’s sire, Temple Street hails from the deep family of champion Pleasant Stage and Marsh Side. A current celebrity from the same line is unbeaten Rebel (G2) winner Nadal.

Temple Street progressed for her new connections and trainer Brad Cox, graduating from allowance to graded stakes competitor. Her highlight came in the Humana Distaff (G1) on 2009 Kentucky Derby Day, when finishing a close second to champion Informed Decision.

As a broodmare, Temple Street didn’t take long to produce a graded-stakes quality runner. Her second foal, Donworth by Tiznow, was runner-up in the 2015 Lexington (G3) right off his winning premiere at Gulfstream Park. Donworth then placed third in the Sir Barton before dominating the off-the-turf Stanton S. at Delaware Park, and in later years, he’d add placings in the San Antonio (G2), Charles Town Classic (G2), and San Diego (G2).

Con Te Partiro, her third registered foal, was a yearling when Donworth burst onto the scene. Raised at Crestwood Farm and consigned to the 2015 Keeneland September Yearling Sale by Taylor Made Sales Agency, as agent, she sold to Gatewood Bell’s Cromwell Bloodstock for $130,000.

Con Te Partiro as a juvenile at Saratoga (NYRA/Coglianese Photos/Susie Raisher)

Keeneland would also be the launching pad for her racing career on April 13, 2016. Campaigned by the Hat Creek Racing team put together by Bell, Con Te Partiro went off as the 8-5 favorite. The Ward debutante was bumped at the break of the 4 1/2-furlong dash, but it made no difference as she pounced from a stalking position and rolled by 5 1/2 lengths.

Promptly tabbed a “TDN Rising Star” by Thoroughbred Daily News, Con Te Partiro made her first stakes appearance in the Kentucky Juvenile but tired to fourth behind stablemate Silvertoni. Another Ward entrant was scratched – future Royal Ascot superstar Lady Aurelia.

Con Te Partiro wasn’t spotted again until Saratoga. Switching to turf for the 5 1/2-furlong Bolton Landing, the 9-1 overlay closed with a rush to win handily. (The 6-5 favorite Lull, who clipped heels and went down, came right back to capture a Kentucky Downs stakes.)

Shipped out to Santa Anita, Con Te Partiro was a troubled fourth as the 19-10 favorite in the Surfer Girl over a mile. Ward shortened her up to about 6 1/2 furlongs for the Juvenile Turf Sprint against males (the predecessor to the contest on Breeders’ Cup “Future Stars Friday”), and she rallied for second to Kitten’s Cat.

Con Te Partiro kicked off her sophomore season back on the East Coast at Belmont Park. Resuming in the 7-furlong Soaring Softly, she closed fast to snatch fourth, in a blanket finish, to Morticia and old foe Lull.

That set her up perfectly for her tilt at Royal Ascot 2017, although only in hindsight. Con Te Partiro had shown an effective kick, but the listed Sandringham H. represented a completely novel experience of a straight-track mile. She also had to tote 131 pounds, more than most of her 23 rivals. Accordingly lacking market support at 20-1, Con Te Partiro exceeded expectations with a stirring last-to-first charge engineered by Jamie Spencer at his finest.

The runner-up, Aidan O’Brien’s 133-pound highweight Rain Goddess, would next finish second in a pair of Group 1s at the Curragh. Her placing to the older Nezwaah in the Pretty Polly (G1) isn’t as memorable as her best-of-the-rest behind Enable in the Irish Oaks (G1).

Ward praised Spencer in the postrace quotes while alluding to Con Te Partiro’s trickiness:

“That was an unbelievable ride. I wondered what he was doing for the first part of the race, but he had the magic at the end. I told him she comes from behind and left it to him. It was a fantastic ride. He did it all on his own, no instructions, he took upon himself to do that. That was crazy. She’s got some antics to her and I thought he’d be the right man for the job and he was.”

Now with a higher profile upon her return stateside, Con Te Partiro stepped up to 9 furlongs in the Del Mar Oaks (G1) and did her best work a trifle late in fourth. She ended her productive campaign with a tame ninth in Keeneland’s Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup (G1).

Con Te Partiro’s 4-year-old season was anticlimactic. Winless from six starts in 2018, she managed to place third twice, including in the Arlington Matron (G3) on Polytrack. Turning back from routes appeared to help in the Kentucky Downs Ladies Sprint (G3), where she just missed in fourth. But an ensuing ninth in Keeneland’s Franklin County (G3) implied that the sprint option was no panacea.

Con Te Partiro at Keeneland in October 2018 (Coady Photography)

As a stakes winner at Royal Ascot and Saratoga, with a strong pedigree, Con Te Partiro had obvious broodmare appeal. So when she was offered at the 2018 Fasig-Tipton November Sale through the Ashview Farm consignment, and purchased by SF Bloodstock and Australia’s Newgate Farm for $575,000, it was a logical inference that we’d seen the last of her on the racecourse.

But after arriving in Australia, Con Te Partiro was given a chance to gild her resume for legendary trainer Gai Waterhouse and Adrian Bott. She opened the new phase of her career in most pleasing fashion. Her Australian premiere came in the about 7-furlong Dark Jewel Classic (G3) at Scone on May 11, 2019. Off the seven-month layoff, Con Te Partiro looked beaten in the stretch, only to surge in the final yards to prevail at 17-1.

Waterhouse remarked that Con Te Partiro’s temperament had left her uncertain how she might behave:

“She is quirksome. Before the race I said she’ll either blow her brain in the mounting enclosure or she’ll win the race. But she stood quietly and full credit to the girls and boys who looked after her and kept her quiet.”

Her training tandem reportedly wanted a shot at the Stradbroke H. (G1), but Con Te Partiro couldn’t get into the Eagle Farm feature. Instead she ran in the Dane Ripper (G2) on the June 8 undercard and wound up sixth. Withdrawn from the June 22 Tattersall’s Tiara (G1), she was spelled ahead of the Australian spring.

Although a useful fourth in her comeback in last August’s Show County Quality (G3), Con Te Partiro was a gate scratch when acting up prior to the Sept. 7 Chelmsford (G2). She had three race entries over Sept. 20-21, including the George Main (G1), and connections ultimately opted for the Cameron H. (G3) at Newcastle. Unfortunately, Con Te Partiro ended up 10th through no fault of her own, buried behind a wall of horses and forced to accept her bad luck.

Her team hoped to regroup in the Sept. 28 Shannon (G2) at Rosehill, specifically as a stepping stone to the Epsom H. (G1). After Con Te Partiro finished fifth, though, her retirement was announced.

The decision made sense given that it was during the Southern Hemisphere breeding season, and her first opportunity to begin the broodmare life in her new home. Con Te Partiro visited leading young sire Zoustar.

Then came the twist of fate: she didn’t get in foal. Bott reportedly seized his opening to lobby her owners for another preparation, believing that they’d yet to conjure the best from her.

Thus Con Te Partiro was put back into full training. The time off had worked wonders. Returning to the job refreshed, renewed, and in the right frame of mind, she turned in a pair of barrier trials at Randwick (“winning” the second of them Feb. 17). The 6-year-old mare needed her first real race back in the Feb. 29 Guy Walter (G2), fading to sixth after pressing the pace at Randwick.

Con Te Partiro was a different proposition second off the layoff in the March 14 Coolmore Classic (G1) at Rosehill. As at Royal Ascot, the betting public was a bit skeptical, but the 20-1 shot rose to the occasion. Coping with the heavy course adroitly, she pounced entering the stretch and held sway to the line.

That still wasn’t the storybook ending. With the Coolmore Legacy (aka Queen of the Turf) (G1) presenting a valuable target on Day 2 of The Championships at Randwick, Waterhouse and Bott circled it on the calendar. Her intervening run in the April 4 Doncaster H. (G1), over the same track’s metric mile on Day 1 of The Championships, resulted in a decent sixth of 20.

On Saturday, Con Te Partiro wheeled back to turn the double in the Coolmore Legacy, again sluicing through the heavy going. It’s a nice touch that her two Group 1 wins have come in races sponsored by the stud home of her much-mourned sire, Scat Daddy.

Con Te Partiro has the right to rest on her laurels. In the immediate aftermath, both regular rider Tim Clark and Bott mentioned that retirement could be looming on the horizon.

Yet Newgate Farm’s Henry Field revealed a new plan since Con Te Partiro has earned Group 1 glory. In a March 16 interview with TDN Australia & New Zealand, Field observed that the mare now has serious commercial value for Newgate and the SF Bloodstock team. The preferred option is to repatriate her for breeding, and sell the resulting offspring in the lucrative Northern Hemisphere market.

“A mare like Con Te Partiro has built a record that is very unique,” Field told TDN’s Bren O’Brien. “With her pedigree and her very unique race record, she is the sort of mare that they are very keen to get back to North America.”

Of course, changing hemispheres again also means flipping the breeding seasons. Con Te Partiro wouldn’t be bred until early 2021 on Northern Hemisphere time. So on that timetable, she can keep racing. And if she’s due to ship north for her broodmare life anyway, why not conclude her career back in the United States?

That’s where the Breeders’ Cup idea comes in. According to a Saturday report in the Sydney Morning Herald, Field is seriously considering it:

“She is Breeders Cup eligible and Gai Waterhouse is always up for a challenge, and I would love to see her and Adrian (Bott) take this mare to Kentucky in October.”

SF Bloodstock’s Tom Ryan, who along with colleague Gavin Murphy played the key roles in acquiring Con Te Partiro, is enamored of it too.

Waterhouse can rely on a good friend of hers based at Keeneland – none other than Wesley Ward. Indeed, she has publicly credited Ward for giving her so much information on Con Te Partiro’s history and character. Considering her idiosyncrasies, it’s a tribute to the horsemanship of Ward and the Waterhouse/Bott team, including her work rider Alana Pearson, that she’s overachieved.

Whether Con Te Partiro can add another chapter to her gripping page-turner in the Breeders’ Cup or not, there would be no more fitting time to say goodbye, leaving us with memories of a career unlikely to be replicated.