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The Wine Steward Flies New York-Bred Flag At Breeders’ Cup World Championships
The Wine Steward (NYRA / Chelsea Durand)

The Wine Steward Flies New York-Bred Flag At Breeders’ Cup World Championships

Paradise Farms Corp. and David Staudacher’s Grade 1-placed New York-bred The Wine Steward will represent the Empire State in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile on November 3 at Santa Anita Park.

Trained by Mike Maker, the Vino Rosso colt is the leading progeny by earnings [$370,260] for his freshman sire, who captured the 2019 Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita.

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The Wine Steward, who initially sold for $70,000 at the Fasig-Tipton New York Saratoga Preferred New York-bred Yearling Sale, was acquired for $340,000 at the OBS March Sale of 2-Year-Olds in Training where he breezed in :10.2.

Peter Proscia, proprietor of Paradise Farms Corp., noted that the partners decided to extend their budget in order to bring home The Wine Steward, who was one of two New York-breds pre-entered Wednesday for the Breeders’ Cup along with Brocknardini, who is on the outside looking in for the Grade 1 Juvenile Fillies Turf.

“We’re attracted to the New York-bred program and he was a bit high priced, but we decided that we would go up to a certain amount and I was able to push it up a little bit,” Proscia said. “There was a bit of a bidding war and we paid a little more than we wanted to, but it looks like it paid off.

“We liked the Vino Rosso angle with him being a new stallion and an unknown and we took a chance,” added Proscia. “Mike loved the way the horse traveled and here we are.”

The Wine Steward, a dual stakes-winner, finished a game second last out in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity on October 7 at Keeneland and will mark the sixth Breeders’ Cup starter owned by Proscia following:

  • Special Reserve, who was fourth in the 2021 Grade 1 Sprint
  • Horologist, who was ninth in consecutive years in the 2020-21 Distaff
  • A trio of starters last year in Gaslight Dancer [6th, Juvenile Turf], Artemus Citylimits [5th, Turf Sprint] and Really Good [12th, Juvenile Turf]

Proscia, a Long Island native and Founder and CEO of Plaza Marine Group, said his continued success in the game goes back to humble beginnings with the claim of Impersonator, a Sham gelding that won 12-of-28 starts, including nine in his silks with trainer Pat Quick.

“I started my company back in 1989 and that same year I bought my first racehorse – Impersonator,” recalled Proscia. “That first horse is what kept me in the game all this time. He was my first and favorite horse. The first win in this game sticks with you.

“He went on to win a lot of races,” continued Proscia. “It hooked me into the game. He was special. I figured the game was easy after we got that horse, but we got an education after that it wasn’t as easy as we thought. But it’s been a good ride.”

Proscia connected with Maker nearly five years ago and has enjoyed tremendous success since, notching his first graded win in the 2020 Grade 2 Pan American at Gulfstream Park with Bemma’s Boy, who he owned outright.

He credits Maker with introducing him to Staudacher and the pair have connected with a number of successful horses, including Grade 2-winner Temple, the multiple stakes-winning New York-bred Barese, and the aforementioned Special Reserve and Gaslight Dancer to name a few.

“When I met Mike I was flying solo for a while and he said he had a partner for me that would be a perfect fit and he was right,” Proscia said. “Dave and I became family friends and it’s been a good run. We pretty much discuss things together and place the horses and claim the horses along with Mike. Hopefully this horse [The Wine Steward] will take us over the top.”

The Wine Steward won his first three starts in stalk-and-pounce fashion, graduating on debut in May traveling five furlongs in a state-bred sprint at Belmont Park with a six-length romp in a race that included eventual stakes-winner El Grande O in third.

He followed with a 2 3/4-length score under Luis Saez in the six-furlong Bashford Manor in July at Ellis Park.

“We gave him the time he needed and ran him when he was ready,” Proscia said of the debut score engineered by Irad Ortiz, Jr. “We decided to go outside the New York box for his second start and try that race in Kentucky and that proved positive.”

The Wine Steward returned in state-bred company to best El Grande O by a head after a troubled trip in the six-furlong Funny Cide presented by Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital on August 27 at Saratoga Race Course.

The talented bay stumbled twice at the start under Manny Franco and eventually settled in fifth position on the outside before taking aim at the pacesetting El Grande O and prevailed by a head after a tenacious stretch duel.

“I didn’t think he would get up,” Proscia said. “He was on the outside and he just dug in and caught that horse and galloped out very well after. It was impressive that he was able to get up at that distance – which is probably not his best distance – but he was game enough to do that.”

The Wine Steward made his two-turn debut last out in the 1 1/16-mile Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity on October 7 at Keeneland where he raced closer to the pace than previous outings to finish second, a half-length back of the well-regarded Locked.

With Saez back in the irons from the inside post, The Wine Steward saved ground from fourth position through a half-mile in 47.80, made a three-wide move into the final turn and stayed on strong to the wire in battle with Locked, who stopped the clock in a final time of 1:44.62. It was a further 3 3/4-lengths back to third-place Generous Tipper.

“Although the rail is a nice place to be saving ground, he was a little compromised inside there when the other horse came alongside him,” Proscia said. “All these races are giving him a good education moving forward – each one had a learning curve.”

Proscia, who noted Saez will retain the mount, said a better post position might be the key to turn back Locked in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.

“He might have hesitated around the quarter pole which might have broke a little momentum for him, but nothing against the winner – he was wide in the first turn, wide in the second turn and still ran us down once he changed leads,” Proscia said. “Our guy showed a lot of guts and he came back on the rail. He wasn’t giving up, but it was a little tight in there. If he has the outside this time, maybe we can turn the tables there.”

Bred in the Empire State by Sequel Thoroughbreds, Lakland Farm and Mark Toothaker, The Wine Steward is the first foal out of the To Honor and Serve mare Call to Service, who is a half-sister to dual graded stakes-winner Isotherm and graded stakes-winner Giant Game – both Isotherm and Giant Game competed in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, finishing 13th [2015] and third [2021], respectively.

Win or lose, Proscia said he will celebrate the Breeders’ Cup experience to the fullest.

“There will be friends and family. It’s a fun weekend and it doesn’t get better than that,” Proscia said. “It’s an all-star day of racing and we look forward to it every year. It’s a big day, a big pot and this time with a New York-bred. Hopefully, he gets his due.”