Now, they’re hoping My Adonis will take them on a similar journey beginning in Saturday’s Grade 1, $1 million Resorts World Casino New York City Wood Memorial, New York’s final stop before the spring classics.
My Adonis, most recently second to Hansen in the Grade 3 Gotham at the Big A, is out of the Hall’s Elusive Quality mare, Silent Justice. Unraced, the Halls decided to keep her and in 2008 bred her to 2003 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Pleasantly Perfect, who stands for $10,000 at Lane’s End. The match, said Hall, was based on body type and pedigree with the ultimate goal of getting a distance horse.
“Basically, it’s what our farm manager, Dale Holly, will think is viable and Kelly [Breen] is willing to train,” said Hall with a laugh. “Of the three of us, I had the steepest learning curve. George grew up with racing, but I never saw a race until our third date, when he took me to Saratoga. I loved it.”
In 2004, the Halls bought four thoroughbred yearlings for $182,000, and turned their 385-acre Annestes Farm in Kentucky into a home for their broodmares. They won their first stakes in New York in 2005, when Fagan’s Legacy – named after George’s grandfather, who introduced him to racing – won the Pilgrim, and in 2008 won the Astoria with Bold Union. In 2009, they earned their first trip to the Derby with West Side Bernie and Atomic Rain, who were second and fourth behind I Want Revenge in the Wood Memorial. The two subsequently finished ninth and 16th at Churchill Downs.
More exciting than having a horse in the Derby, says Lori Hall, is having a homebred on the Triple Crown trail, and the family ties to My Adonis make it even more special. The handsome bay colt was born a few months before George’s father was diagnosed with lung cancer.
“He pledged that if he were to survive this disease he would turn over a new leaf – stop smoking, eat better, and ultimately become ‘an Adonis,’” said Hall. “I looked at this colt out of Pleasantly Perfect and thought for all of his faults, George Hall, Sr. was “Pleasantly Perfect” and so I named the colt My Adonis with the caveat that George, Sr. stick around long enough to see him run. After his second victory [the Jean Laffite Stakes at Delta Downs], I called my father-in-law, who reassured me, ‘You see, if you name them appropriately, they will respond.”
George, Sr. died on October 28, and each start since then has been highly emotional for the Halls. The colt was off the board in the Grade 3 Delta Downs Jackpot Stakes on November 19 but launched his 3-year-old campaign with a good-looking third behind Algorithms and Hansen in the Grade 3 Holy Bull at Gulfstream Park. Now, with $130,000 in graded stakes earnings, My Adonis is 28th among Derby-minded 3-year-olds and a top three performance Saturday could pave the way back to Kentucky.
“He’s a strong, good-looking horse, and he’s still improving, which is what you want,” said Hall. “I would have liked to meet Hansen again, but I strongly believe we have the horse to beat in the Wood. It would be a wonderful tribute to my father-in-law.”