For a small breeder, having one foal make the Breeders Crown final is exciting.
Paul “Pete” Spears’ Windsong Stables came to prominence in 2004 when Windsongs Legacy captured the Triple Crown of trotting for trainer Trond Smedshammer.
The Windsong name will be in focus on Saturday night with two foals from the late Bax Machine figuring prominently in both the $250,000 Crown Mare Trot and the $500,000 Crown 3-year-old filly trot.
“I recall we purchased Bax Machine in 2001 at the Harrisburg Sale,” said Spears. “She was in foal to Muscles Yankee and I think we paid either $18,000 or $19,000.”
While the daughter of Earl seemed to have a nondescript pedigree, Spears actually favors that approach.
“I especially like to purchase hard-hitting mares that race in Canada,” Spears said. “It really doesn’t matter to me what the sires name is.”
Diversity has been the watchword at Windsong and it has helped cultivate a brand that continues to perform at a high level.
Bax Machine has been a model of consistency no matter what cross Spears chose for her. With 10 foals on the racetrack, Bax Machine was the proverbial sure thing in the breeding shed.
“It doesn’t show up on the USTA site, but her 2005 foal by S Js Caviar (Bring Me Back) was a top colt in Sweden,” said Spears.
What does show up under her pedigree is an extraordinary array of talented trotters from diverse stallion pairings.
Her first colt by Muscles Yankee, named Q Forty Five, was exported and raced well overseas. She was then bred to Angus Hall, Dream Vacation, S Js Caviar, Broadway Hall, Cantab Hall, Windsongs Legacy, Kadabra and Credit Winner.
On Saturday night Bax Of Life, the true Windsong-bred mare—being a daughter of Windsongs Legacy and Bax Machine—appears to have the best chance of success.
The 5-year-old mare, trained by Jerry Duford and driven by John Campbell landed post three fresh off an impressive 1:52.4 victory in last week’s Crown elimination. The gritty mare has improved with age, earning more than $300,000 over the last two years, a far cry from the just under $90,000 she banked as a 2- and 3-year-old combined.
Trainer Jim Raymer entered Bouncing Bax in the Crown because he believed the daughter of Credit Winner deserved a chance. She entered last week’s Crown eliminations on the strength of a five-race winning streak that included the $225,000 New York Sire Stakes final at Yonkers. Though that streak ended with a fifth place finish in her Breeders Crown elimination, driver Howard Parker seemed undeterred.
“I thought she raced very well,” said Parker. “She got a little fumbly on the final turn and I had to steady her. She’ll race better next week.”
The New York Sire Stakes program has helped Bouncing Bax earn $367,713 in her first two years of racing.
“She’s very good gaited and she’s very comfortable on the half-mile track,” said Raymer. “I think she’ll be a little better next year.”
While Bax Machine has yet to produce a world champion, she’s given more to the sport in the longevity her foals have had on the racetrack. Just look at Never Bax Down, her second foal by Ontario-sire Angus Hall who raced 180 times between 2007 and 2011.
Baximum, Bax Machine’s 2007 foal by Cantab Hall, was a Grand Circuit winner as a 2- and 3-year-old and is approaching $400,000 in career earnings.
The saga for owner Spears came to an end last year when Bax Machine was injured prior to foaling her Muscle Massive-sired colt.
“She foaled on three legs,” said Spears. “Mares generally don’t get better after that.”
Bax Machine did her motherly duty and nursed her foal until the youngster was weaned some three months later.
“We could have done a procedure on her,” said Spears, “But it was risky with no guarantee of success.”
Bax Machine ultimately was humanely put down and her final foal—Fighting Bax—goes on the auction block Nov. 4 at the Standardbred Horse Sale at Harrisburg.
Spears says he’s had fun naming the foals of Bax Machine, who was named as a tribute to Ontario horseman John Bax, who trained the $2.1 millionaire Goodtimes.
Spears is grateful for the success of Windsong Stable mares, having had the good fortune to do well with mares others cast aside. He’s bred a diverse group to a wide range of stallions and come up with solid stakes trotters.
Triple Crown winner Windsongs Legacy’s dam Yankee Windsong died prematurely after her champion was born. Bax Machine’s greatest accomplishment, producing two exceptional Breeders Crown finalists, comes a year after her passing.
On the positive side, the bloodlines of Windsongs Legacy and Bax Machine will be around for some time, especially if two of Windsongs Legacy’s more famous sons —Chapter Seven and Lucky Chucky—turn out to be successful in the breeding shed.
Win, lose or draw, Windsong Stables has carved out quite a niche on the trotting breed.
By Jay Bergman for the Breeders Crown