'First Lady of Cutting' made right call on racing filly

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — And Why Not.


It’s the kind of name that catches attention when attached to a race horse, because the conclusion is that there’s a story worth telling as to its origin. To prove this axiom, as it applies to a striking bay filly primed for Friday’s Kentucky Oaks, the pages of time must be turned back roughly two years.

It was decision time – to sell or not to sell. And the opinions of the three ladies who had bred and owned the attractive yearling, then unnamed, were at variance. The younger generation, consisting of sisters Helen Alexander and D.D. Matz, wanted to sell. Their mom, Helen Groves, thought otherwise, wanting to keep the filly to race.

This family possessed some knowledge with earlier members having provided a colt named Assault that won a Triple Crown; Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes winner Middleground; and a number of other high-class stakes horses.

These three ladies represented a distaff branch of the Klebergs, whose home was the famed King Ranch of Texas.

The current group was highly successful with thoroughbreds on the race track and Groves’ other equine pursuits included the breeding of quarterhorses and a place in the Hall of Fame for riders of cutting horses. Among her achievements was victory in a 1995 Augusta Futurity event and the ultimate designation as the “First Lady of Cutting.”

“Mom is very fond of Augusta,” Matz said. “She has many close friends there and some have been her guests at the ranch.”

Usually in matters such as the decision whether or not to sell a horse owned by multiple partners, majority rule applies. And it did here, with the result that the filly was consigned to the prestigious Saratoga Yearling Sale.

The filly catalogued well but was very early in her session of the sale. Things were a bit disorganized in the seating section, with latecomers seeking seats, and the two sisters failed to notice the absence of their mother as the hammer dropped.

The bidding was brisk and the auctioneer and his announcer coaxed a price from the buyer – $775,000.

“We scurried down to the sales office and, on the way, heard that the purchaser was a lady from California,” Matz recalled. “We were discussing who it could be when, all of a sudden, Mother breezed in, holding a sales slip in her hand, and, hearing the gist of our conversation, announced, ‘Well, it’s me.’ We were totally surprised because she had given us no warning that she might be about to buy us out.”

And Groves wasn’t quite through. She had the needle sharp when she announced to her daughters that she was submitting the name “And Why Not” for the filly.

And Why Not certainly wasn’t finished either, winning at first asking at Saratoga and following up that triumph by placing in the Grade I Spinaway and the Grade II Pocahontas Stakes, the latter raced over the Churchill Downs strip where she will compete Friday.

An Oaks win would be great, but might not be the final chapter in this story. Alchemist has a yearling half sister to And Why Not and discussions are ongoing among the owner triumvirate as to whether to sell.

“We asked Mother recently if she would buy this one if we put her in the sale,” Matz said. “She said that she just might and if she did, she would name the horse ‘Because I Can.’ ”



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