TOBA: Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association

May Member of the Month

Sam-Son Farm

Sam-Son Farm just keeps racking up the accolades. TOBA’s Canadian Breeder of the Year in 2014, the Ontario-based operation experienced its latest triumph with homebred Deceptive Vision. On April 17, the bay mare, already a graded winner on turf in her native Canada, eked out a head victory in the Hilliard Lyons Doubledogdare Stakes (gr. III) at Keeneland.

Deceptive Vision is yet another star in the spangled Sam-Son firmament. By A.P. Indy, the five-year-old mare is out of 2004 Canadian champion three-year-old filly Eye of the Sphynx, a Sam-Son homebred and that country’s 2014 Broodmare of the Year. “Being out of Eye of the Sphynx, you can’t do much better than that for a broodmare,” said Sam-Son’s president, Mark Balaz.

Balaz entered the Thoroughbred business through his wife, Tammy Samuel-Balaz, daughter of Sam-Son founder Ernie Samuel. Tammy sadly passed away from cancer in 2008, but the Samuel family, including Tammy’s siblings and their children, maintains the Sam-Son legacy. Balaz’s children – Lisa, 23, and Michael, 21, both currently college students – have carried on their mother’s passion for horses. 

Thirteen-year-old Eye of the Sphynx carries Sam-Son success on both sides of her pedigree. She’s by recently deceased grade I winner and twice leading sire Smart Strike, another Sam-Son homebred. For her owner/breeders, the mare has also produced Eye of the Sphynx’s full siblings Eye of the Leopard, a Canadian classic winner now at stud at Calumet Farm, and the über-consistent Hotep. Eye of the Sphynx produced a filly this year to the cover of Bernardini (a son of Deceptive Vision’s sire, A.P. Indy) and is back in foal to that stallion. This stellar female family also includes Canadian Horse of the Year Quiet Resolve, out of a half-sister to Eye of the Sphynx. The Samuels first bought into the family with Eye of the Sphynx’s third dam, Oleana, a foal of 1970.

Balaz described Deceptive Vision as “fantastic.” He added, “She was always obviously a striking individual, and I think our farm people that really do the training were struck with her talent when she was quite young.” Now, “I would say she’s probably our best race filly [today]; we’re hoping to see more out of her this year.” 2015 will be Deceptive Vision’s last year racing. Then, she’ll be retired to Sam-Son to perpetuate her family’s royal legacy. Sam-Son owns 30 broodmares, 20 of which are bred annually. The farm sends its mares to Kentucky to be covered; they’re boarded at its Bluegrass state branch, then brought home to Canada to foal. In addition to its Canada and Kentucky divisions, Sam-Son also has a training center in Ocala, Fla.

Sam-Son is well-known for its successful homebreds. One of its best families traces to foundation mare No Class, whose descendants include Smart Strike; Eclipse champion turf runner and top sire Sky Classic, who died April 30; Smart Strike’s half-sister, Canadian Triple Crown winner Dance Smartly, herself dam of two Queen’s Plate winners; and Dance Smartly’s great-grandson Moreno, a grade I winner who took the April 18 Charles Town Classic (gr. II). Smart Strike’s loss, in particular, was a blow. Noted Balaz, “When you look at his progeny, it’s just such a list of great horses that he sired. [Two-time Horse of the Year] Curlin is a perfect example. How much better can it get, right?”

Balaz marvels at how the farm maintains successive generations of these classic families. “Yeah, I think it’s really quite amazing, if you think about it, but we’re very conscious of trying to preserve the families that we have,” he said. In particular, Dave Whitford, Sam-Son’s broodmare manager, is “conscious of trying to preserve the bloodlines that we have,” which includes culling the less-talented representatives.

Balaz said, “It’s thrilling…you know, you feel like you have a piece of the action when they’re the offspring that we bred and raced. It’s very gratifying, there’s no doubt about it, and that’s why, [although] it’s been a lot of years since we raced Smart Strike…you know, you never lose contact with those bloodline[s], and you’re always watching them.” He quipped, “You’re always pulling for them, that’s for sure.”

The future of Sam-Son looks as bright as its shining past. Balaz is cautiously optimistic about the young guns set to hit the track in the Sam-Son silks. “Our two-year-old crop is very strong,” said Balaz, “and we don’t push them. It will be a while before we really see how good they are this year.” With unparalleled genetic legacies, they are prepped to achieve success on the track and in the breeding shed. As Balaz stated, “the foundation of what we do [is] being able to have great mares like that, that not only produced champions, but were champions themselves.”

Congratulations to Sam-Son Farm, TOBA's May member of the month!

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