Two years ago inside the back ring of the Keeneland sales pavilion, the experience Gatewood Bell gained while working under trainer Kiaran McLaughlin officially became invaluable.
Had Bell not spent three seasons with the Lexington native's operation, he might not have noticed the bay filly by former McLaughlin trainee Daaher that was going through the ring at the 2010 Keeneland September yearling sale.
The $27,000 purchase now known as Gypsy Robin has gone from obscurity to drawing attention whenever she enters the Keeneland grounds.
Four generations of Bell's family flooded the winner's circle on Saturday as Gypsy Robin earned her fifth career win and remained unbeaten in three starts at Keeneland, running off to a 4-length, gate-to-wire score in the Grade II, $250,000 Lexus Raven Run over a dozen rivals.
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With just 31 foals from his first four crops, Grade I winner and Shadwell stallion Daaher has had a limited commercial presence. Bell had the fortune to be around the winner of the 2007 Cigar Mile when he was racing, so he knew enough to take a second look when Gypsy Robin came across his path.
"I sat there for four hours and nothing caught my eye and ... I turned the page and said 'That's a Daaher filly,' who I'm sure no one had heard of," recalled Bell, who co-owns the filly along with his brother-in-law Bret Jones, trainer Wesley Ward and NFL star Wes Welker. "Luckily I worked for Kiaran for three years and we had Daaher when he was there. I thought, 'This (filly) is beautiful,' and I went up there and started bidding."
Keeneland has been good to Gypsy Robin to say the least. The bay filly broke her maiden over the main track by 71/2 lengths first time out last April and earned her first graded score when she captured the Grade II Beaumont Stakes this past spring.
After running second to Contested in the Grade I Test Stakes at Saratoga, Gypsy Robin went to the front and stayed there Saturday, clicking off fractions of :22.17 and :45.30 under John Velazquez before drawing clear as the 6-to-5 favorite.
"Johnny knew he could go to the lead, he found a spot and got our filly happy," Jones said. "It was one of those where you got to smile all the way down the stretch."
Sacristy, second to Gypsy Robin in the Beaumont, had to settle for silver again in the 7-furlong Raven Run, with Drama Drama another half-length back in third.
Gypsy Robin, who completed the distance in 1:21.79, is entered in the upcoming Fasig-Tipton November sale but is now giving her connections pause.
"She's entered but we're kind of thinking of going to the (Grade I) La Brea at Santa Anita Park (in December)," Bell said. "You never know."
Wise Dan shines at Keeneland
Though he barely appeared to be extending himself, Morton Fink's Grade I winner Wise Dan completed another freakish workout Saturday, covering 5 furlongs in 1:00.40 over the Keeneland polytrack in his first move since winning the Grade I Shadwell Turf Mile on Oct. 6.
With trainer Charlie Lopresti looking on, Wise Dan appeared out for a strong gallop — though his splits told otherwise. The 5-year-old Wiseman's Ferry gelding galloped out 6 furlongs in 1:13.40, confirming to Lopresti there isn't much fine-tuning needed in advance of the Breeders' Cup Mile.
"That's the way he breezes," Lopresti said. "That's why the clockers shake their heads. You saw how he does it, he just looks like he's loping along and that's just the way he is. He's perfect, he's where I want him to be."