His yellow and black silks no longer show up in winner’s circles around the country, but Virginia owner/breeder Edward P. “Ned” Evans continues to make a major impact on Thoroughbred racing. And, though Evans died in 2010, he added plenty to 2017.
First, former Evans runner Quality Road sired the year’s champion 2-year-old filly Caledonia Road and champion 3-year-old filly Abel Tasman. Second, Horse of the Year and champion older male Gun Runner is out of former Evans broodmare Quiet Giant. The achievement was not lost on Chris Baker, the former manager of Evans’ Spring Hill Farm in Casanova, Va.
“His unspoken goal was to have a champion racehorse who left a mark on the breed,” said Baker, now the chief operating officer at Kentucky’s Three Chimneys Farm, where Gun Runner begins his stallion career this year.
Consider it done.
Evans bred and raced Quality Road, who won eight of 13 starts and earned more than $2.2 million. His Grade 1 wins include track records in the Florida Derby and Donn Handicap, as well as the Metropolitan Mile (in 1:33.11) and Woodward. Retired to Lane’s End Farm for stud duty, the son of Elusive Quality and the Strawberry Road (Aus) mare Kobla has produced a long list of standouts including millionaires Abel Tasman and Caledonia Road, Grade 2 winner Blofeld, Royal Ascot winner Hootenanny and Grade 1 winners Klimt and Illuminant.
Tenth on the 2017 stallion list nationally with just shy of $11 million in progeny earnings from four crops to race, Quality Road got a strong push from champions Abel Tasman and Caledonia Road. The former emerged from a crowded group of 3-year-old fillies to take the Eclipse Award thanks to
Grade 1 wins in the Kentucky Oaks, Acorn Stakes and Coaching Club American Oaks. At the Breeders’ Cup, she finished second to older mare Forever Unbridled in the Distaff-G1. Her year-younger peer broke her maiden at Saratoga, finished second in the Grade 1 Frizette and then made off with the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies-G1.
Evans would have loved it, but would be even more proud of Gun Runner. Evans bought a Quiet American filly for $75,000 at Fasig-Tipton’s Saratoga yearling sale in 1994. Named Quiet Dance, she raced for trainer Mark Hennig, winning six times (including a small stakes at Pimlico) and placing in a Grade 2. Added to the broodmare band at Spring Hill, she became a star – producing (among others) 2005 Horse of the Year Saint Liam, Grade 3 winner Congressionalhonor and five-time stakes winner Quiet Giant. Racing for trainer Todd Pletcher, the latter won a stakes 19 days before Evans died (on New Year’s Eve 2010) and another 16 days after. The Virginia-bred sold for $3 million at Keeneland November 2011, and may have been a bargain.
Purchased by Besilu Stable, Quiet Giant delivered Gun Runner as her first foal in 2013. He earned $15.9 million on the track and enters stud at Three Chimneys as a leading sire prospect. Quiet Giant’s 2014 foal, Quiet Flirt, finished second in her only start thus far while the pipeline includes Tapit fillies born in 2015 and 2016.
It could have easily happened at Spring Hill.
“He’d be over the moon,” said Baker of Evans’ reaction to how it all turned out. “Physically he’d like the horse, appreciate the horse. Outside of that, if Mr. Evans were in Florida [in February for the Eclipse Awards ceremony and Gun Runner’s romp in the Pegasus World Cup] and saw Quality Road, who was a personal favorite, sire two champions and saw Gun Runner earn two titles and then come back and win the richest race in the world, his feet wouldn’t have been on the ground.”
Baker thought about it some more, and added a bit of what it all might have meant at the farm.
“He’d be looking to buy another 1,000 acres and another hundred mares so he could breed them to Gun Runner.”
For Baker, his career in racing has come full circle around one family of Thoroughbreds. He foaled Quiet Giant at Spring Hill and worked with her dam Quiet Dance and even her dam Misty Dancer (purchased as a broodmare by Evans in 1996). After Evans died, Baker became part of the Besilu team and then the general manager at WinStar Farm. He was there the night Gun Runner was born in 2013. And now, Baker is at Three Chimneys which bought into the Besilu horses and later purchased Gun Runner in partnership with Winchell Thoroughbreds before he headed to a 2-year-old sale.
“I knew his dam and granddam and great-granddam,” Baker said, a hint of wonder in his voice. “All three generations were there at Spring Hill when I was. I couldn’t have planned a strategy to stay on this branch of the family, but it happened. The job opportunities I’ve gotten. . .
there’s got to be some amount of luck or chance in there. It’s not divine providence, even being raised a good Catholic boy, but somebody was looking out for me.”
His silks were yellow and black.