All American: Wagon Train

Wagon Full Of Gold is pulling family history with him.

By Andrea Caudill
Q-Racing Journal
September 1, 2013

wagon full of gold

Wagon Full Of Gold

Wagon Full Of Gold comes into the $2.6 million All American Futurity (G1) pulling not only hopes and dreams – but also an interesting history.

The PYC Paint Your Wagon gelding enters the race with a record of two wins from three career starts and earnings of $5,870. He made his first start in the West Texas Futurity (G1) trials, then won his Ruidoso Futurity (G1) trial and qualified to the Invitational (from which he scratched). In the All American trials, the bay won his trial impressively by 2 1/2 lengths for trainer Wes Giles and jockey Jay Conklin. Conklin knows how to guide an All American Futurity winner – he was at the reins when champion AB What A Runner won a nose decision in the 2002 edition of the race.

Wagon Full Of Gold races for a partnership of co-breeder Ezra Lee, Jill Giles (wife of Wes), and Melvin Neugebauer. Lee bred the horse in partnership with his cousin, Toby Dahl, from a mare in their grandfather’s breeding program.

Their grandfather, Merrill Lee, was a World War II veteran who was captured in the Philippines and endured the horrific Bataan Death March and life as a prisoner of war for 42 months. When he was freed and recovered, he reenlisted in the Air Force and also served in the Korean War. He married his wife, Virginia, in 1948, and upon his retirement took up breeding racing American Quarter Horses. The Billings, Montana, residents bred horses for more than 30 years. Racing horses regionally, they bred 22 winners from 43 starters, with earnings at more than $750,000. Among their runners were stakes winners Jodys Irish Miss, MNV Pack And Dash and MNV Soupandfrackers.

Upon Merrill’s death, the cousins purchased mares from the estate, including the 1992 mare Cheyennes Bullion. A daughter of Bully Bullion out of the Arbeka Jet One mare Cheyennes Huwana bred by Larry Rice of Scottsbluff, Nebraska, the mare was a stakes-placed runner in Montana. She had already produced stakes-placed runners MNV Ms Pure Bullion (by Pure D Dash, $7,584) and MNV Miss Arbeka Jet (by First Wrangler, $21,357), but her 2005 foal by Panther Mountain put the family on the national map. DMNV Mountable would win or place in 13 of 21 starts, including victories in the Grade 1 Texas Classic, Remington Park and Heritage Place derbies and Kansas Jackpot Futurity (RG2), and numerous other placings. He would earn $479,515 and is a freshman sire standing at James Ranch at Wayne, Oklahoma.

Cheyennes Bullion did not have a foal again until 2010, with Wagon Full Of Gold foaled in 2011. The mare died in 2012.

“She comes from a relatively unknown family line, and I think this colt proves that she was something special,” Lee said. “This colt is the spitting image of her.”

Lee, a resident of Bayfield, Colorado, was able to acquire a breeding to PYC Paint Your Wagon and crossed him on the mare. PYC Paint Your Wagon, a son of Corona Cartel, has only had four crops to race but has progeny earnings of more than $10.8 million. He is the sire of two All American Futurity finalists, including fastest qualifier Wagon Tales. The stallion, owned by Michael Pohl, stands at Royal Vista Ranches at Wayne, Oklahoma.

Lee raised Wagon Full Of Gold, and remembers the day when he brought trainer Wes Giles out to see a crop of youngsters that included Wagon Full Of Gold.

“I think I had 15 or so babies in the corral,” Lee remembered. “I didn’t tell him the breeding on any of them, and Wes picked that colt out as his favorite.

“He was a handful as a stud colt, which is why we cut him,” Lee said of Wagon Full Of Gold. “He’s a really well-minded horse, doesn’t get real excited. I went over to the barn after the sale about midnight (on the night of the trial). He’d eaten all of his grain and was eating his hay, looking around like he wanted somebody to talk to.”

The lightly raced colt is now fresh and ready for the biggest race of his life.

“We were maintaining this horse for an All American candidate,” Lee says. “I’m a firm believer that 2-year-olds need to be fresh going into the All American.

“I’ve been trying all my life, and I don’t know that it’ll be the only time I’ll ever do it, but it’s definitely an awesome experience to have one qualify,” Lee said. “And to have it be a homebred is even more special. I foaled him out, I raised him, fed him, and had my hands on him from the time we flushed the embryo.”

Lee, his wife, Brook, and their three boys, Issac, Vaughn, Truman, as well as his partners are all looking forward to watching their special horse run in the finals.

“Our colt’s a little colt, but he’s got a big heart,” Lee said.

And a big heritage to live up to.

Extended coverage of the All American weekend is provided by the Q-Racing Journal. Read the digital Q-Racing Journal at www.aqharacing.com. If you cannot attend the races live, watch them on Q-Racing Video at www.qracingvideo.com.