Saturday marks a huge day for Fox Hill Farm with the U.S. debut of Bal a Bali in the American S (G3) at Santa Anita. It has been a long road to get here, and we will be nervous and anxious to see what Bal a Bali shows us.
The first part of the journey was acquiring the colt which in itself was no easy task. Bal a Bali was a superstar in Brazil and he quite intrigued us so we put out feelers to see if he could be purchased. He could and we made a deal, but unfortunately that deal fell through. Afterwards, he was reported to have been sold to Besilu Stable and on his way to join Bill Mott, but that deal also fell through. Team Valor was next up at the plate but that deal fell through as well. We tried again, and this time agent John Fulton secured us the colt.
We were very excited when Bal a Bali stepped off the plane onto American soil, but the excitement turned to anxiety within 48 hours. The agent for the government quarantine reported him as ill, and fairly quickly we decided that he must leave quarantine and get to a clinic. We got the clearance to leave the quarantine facility though the horse had to remain in quarantine. Bali was shipped by private van to the Palm Beach Equine Clinic, and the clinic cordoned off an entire barn for Bali which was certainly an inconvenience for them and their clients.
Palm Beach’s Dr. Westin Davis spearheaded the treatment of Bali in consultation with Dr. Meg Turpin, who had originally treated Bali at the quarantine facility. We brought in Rood & Riddle podiatrist Dr. Vern Dryden and later brought in Hagyard’s internal medicine specialist Dr. Nathan Slovis nearing the time of the colt transitioning from Florida to Kentucky. All did magnificent jobs and we will forever grateful for the expertise and dedication they brought to making Bali well.
Bali was finally declared stable enough to travel from Florida to Kentucky. We decided the best place for Bali to continue his treatment was at Siena Farm who is our partner in the horse. Farm manager Nacho Patino and his team took excellent care of Bali until it was finally time to get him legged up for a return to training. Nacho drove Bali over himself to WinStar Farm where we were awaiting his arrival. Nacho stepped out of the truck and told us of what we’ll call a “positive ruckus” that ensued when they drove through the WinStar gate. Bali was looking out and saw horses training on the track and got very excited. He bounced out of the van and we saw it as a positive sign that he seemed to be signaling that he wanted to get back out onto the track.
Dr. Dryden continued to work on Bali’s feet while at WinStar, and Richard Mandella consulted with WinStar’s trainer Richard Budge in getting the colt ready to return to the track. Finally, after a journey that started in the previous July, Bali boarded a Tex Sutton plane to California on January 30 of this year.
Bali was a superstar in Brazil, winning the Brazilian Triple Crown in exhilarating fashion and sporting 11 wins in 12 starts. What could be most exciting about Bali is his versatility. He won at distances from five furlongs to 1 1/2 miles, and did so impressively.
Bali nearly set a world record for 1600 meters (6 meters short of 1 mile) when he recorded a time of 1:31.36 in the G1 Estado do Rio de Janeiro. It’s believed two horses have run faster — Candy Ride in recording a 1:31.01 and Riton recording a 1:31 flat.
Bali also recorded an excellent time going 1 1/2 miles in 2:23.1. To compare, Secretariat’s Belmont stakes record time was 2:24 flat, and the record-holder appears to be Twilight Eclipse who stopped the clock at 2:22.63.
To top things off, Richard Mandella has thought that Bali has trained fabulously over dirt so the colt may not be limited to just a turf surface.
All this said, foreign form doesn’t always translate to the United States. In addition, Bali has every right to not win this race coming in off nearly a year layoff and fighting off laminitis. He’s also meeting a stern test as there are some very nice horses scheduled to line up beside him on Saturday. But we are very hopeful, not just for ourselves as owner of the horse, but for the horse himself. If it can be said that a horse deserves to achieve stardom, then Bal a Bali is such a horse. — Rick Porter