Venus Valentine Finally Gives Longtime Breeder an Answer

Profile Picture: Ed DeRosa

Ed DeRosa

February 24th, 2016

Jim Eigel has heard the questions ever since he bought his first mare in 1979, and on February 20, 2016, his homebred Venus Valentine finally provided an answer when she won the Rachel Alexandra Stakes at Fair Grounds Race Course.

“Why do you keep spending all your money on the horses,” people would ask for the former energy executive. “Now I finally have an answer for them,” Eigel said through a smile as wide as the gap jockey Corey Lanerie shot through on the rail when Venus Valentine upset the Kentucky Oaks prep at odds of 74-to-1.

Eigel’s 447-acre Rosemont Farm in Lexington is a breed-to-sell operation with Eigel breeding a small group of his mares while boarding others for clients. He initially kept his mares at Alice Chandler’s Mill Ridge before opening Rosemont in 1983.

“It’s a relatively small operation,” Eigel said. “We haven’t raced much, but we decided to have more fun in the business, and you have more fun when you’re racing.”

From 2000-2014, Eigel won 15 of 121 races and earned $347,552 in his Rosemont colors. In 2015-2016, Eigel has won 4 of 12 races and has earned $312,113 with two horses he tried to sell earning the bulk of that.

Both Venus Valentine and Harlan Punch were consigned to the 2014 Keeneland September yearling sale, and neither attained their reserves on final bids of $140,000 and $170,000, respectively.

“If we take a horse to the sale our intent is to sell,” Eigel said. “We take pride in our realistic reserves. [Venus Valentine] was a nice filly who vetted clean, and Harlan Punch looked the part.”

Eigel ended up bringing both of them home and sending them to trainer Tom Amoss, who got a maiden win out of both of them in 2015 at Ellis Park. Harlan Punch ascended quicker from there, finishing second in the Jean Laffit and third in the Delta Jackpot last fall at Delta Downs. He makes the second start of his three-year-old season on Thursday at Fair Grounds after a fourth-place finish at 3-to-5 3 ½ weeks ago.

Harlan Punch is nominated to the Triple Crown, and Venus Valentine tops the Kentucky Oaks standings. It’s still a ways off, but Eigel wouldn’t mind to have something to do the first week in May.

“One of the things I’ve learned about this horse business is not to get too far ahead of yourself,” Eigel said. “Right now plan is to run [Venus Valentine] back in the Fair Grounds Oaks on March 26, and if she would run well there then the next race we’d be looking for is the Kentucky Oaks.”

Amoss said on Wednesday morning that Venus Valentine returned to the track on Wednesday, and that the Fair Grounds Oaks is the target.

“When I run a horse for the first time, one thing I like to do is call the owner and give them a heads up regarding what to expect, and I told Jim, ‘This is a nice filly,’” Amoss said. “What a wonderful win to get with her with a horse he bred.”

Eigel said the Rachel Alexandra victory is the best of his racing career, but Grade 1 winner Habibti is the most accomplished horse among those he bred.

“For an operation of our size to have bred several major stakes winners we feel is pretty significant,” said Eigel.

Venus Valentine has a two-year-old half sister by City Zip that Candy Meadows bought as a weanling for $65,000 at the 2014 Keeneland November breeding stock sale and a yearling half sister by Trappe Shot. Unfortunately, that is where the lineage will end as Venus Valentine’s dam, the stakes-winning Stormin Fever mare Valentine Fever, suffered colic and died last summer.