Greg Martin had a bit of a shock waiting for him one day when he came home from work.
The pro caddie was greeted by wife, Kathleen Sands Martin, a Johnstown High School graduate who retired from General Electric’s financial services, with this news: “Oh, by the way, we’re in the horse racing business.”
Funny Cide had won the first two legs of the Triple Crown, and Sands Martin saw an ad in the paper for Sackatoga Stables. While her husband was away for a tournament, she got in touch with managing partner Jack Knowlton and bought into a horse.
“At first, he was not happy,” she said. “Now, he’s happier than I am.”
That must be thanks, in no small part, to the excitement the couple has experienced following one of their more recent investments, Commanding Curve, which they co-own through West Point Thoroughbreds. The couple still co-owns horses through Sackatoga Stables, too.
Pointing now toward the $1.25 million Grade I Travers on Aug. 23, West Point Thoroughbreds and trainer Dallas Stewart had initially entered Commanding Curve in the Curlin on Friday’s card as a prep race, but after his workout last Saturday — he went five furlongs in 1:003⁄5 over the main track, sixth best of 27 at that distance that day — they started considering today’s Grade II Jim Dandy.
“He’s born to run,” Sands Martin said. “He’s a great horse. I spent time with him Saturday, and he just had his workout that morning, so I couldn’t get up close and feisty with him, but he’s a beautiful horse, and he knows it.”
West Point Thoroughbreds bought a piece of Commanding Curve, a grandson of A.P. Indy, for $75,000 at the Ocala Breeders’ Sale of 2-year-olds in training in March of last year. He was being trained by Stewart, who a couple months later finished second in the Kentucky Derby with Golden Soul.
Later that summer, Commanding Curve made a less-than-spectacular debut at Saratoga Race Course, finishing 23 1⁄4 lengths back after seven furlongs on a sloppy track.
“I don’t remember those races that well,” Sands Martin said.
There haven’t been all that many of “those races” since. In his second race as a 3-year-old, he was third in the Grade II Louisiana Derby, then he was second in the Kentucky Derby by 1 3⁄4 lengths before finishing ninth in the Belmont.
The last couple of weeks before the Kentucky Derby were almost as exciting as the race itself. Commanding Curve had 20 points and was on the waiting list.
“We’re waiting, we’re waiting, we’re waiting, and horses were starting to drop out,” Sands Martin said. “We were 24th two weeks before the Derby, and up until that Friday, we were still 24th, then horses started dropping out. That Sunday before the Derby, we were 21st. Then Ring Weekend, who is also owned by West Point Thoroughbreds, spiked a fever. So they pulled Ring Weekend out, and Commanding Curve got in.”
Future wins, in today’s Jim Dandy or later in the Travers, or later this year and beyond, would be great, but Sands Martin said the colt has already given her the thrill of her life.
The couple flew to Louisville, weighing the option of boxing the exacta of the two “C.C.” horses (Commanding Curve and California Chrome), she said, and got to the barns around 4 a.m. Several long hours later, Sands Martin said walking with Commanding Curve along the main track, in front of a massive crowd, paid for their investment, with interest.
“There is nothing that I’ll ever do in my life that is that spectacular,” she said. “Oh, you walk out on the dirt with your horse. There were, I believe, 164,000 at the Derby this year. People are standing up, clapping. You’re walking with your horse, waving to the crowd. It was unbelievable.”