Adrian Meli admits he was surprised when he only had to pay $7,000 for a yearling he was bidding on at the 2020 CTHS Canadian Premier yearling sale at Woodbine.

Offered by Huntington Stud Farm Corporation, agent for noted breeder Richard Day and his Kingview Farm, the colt’s sire, Mr. Speaker, was a millionaire and Grade 1 winner on the track for Phipps Racing Stable. The yearling’s dam, Casey’s Dreamin, was by the outstanding broodmare sire Unbridled’s Song and she had produced several winners.

“We were willing to go to $30,000 for him,” said Meli, whose mother, Helen Bruno, had picked out the colt as one of a couple to look at during the sale. “So we were shocked.”

Bruno was taken by the colt’s walking video that she watched before the sale. “I liked him and I checked his [pedigree] numbers through a program I follow. He had a [Quality Rating] of Q9 and that is hard to find. I also liked his mare’s bloodline.”

Named Ironstone for a Tennessee lawyer friend of Bruno’s, the colt has taken the family and trainer William Armata on a the ride of a lifetime. In just his third career start, the colt won his maiden in the $201,000 Simcoe Stakes for sales graduates last August at Woodbine. And he didn’t just win the stakes race – he romped by 8 1/2 lengths, providing his human team with their biggest win.

“He’s phenomenal and he’s so good to work with, said Armata following the colt’s Simcoe victory. “Every night when I go to water off, when he hears the Volvo pulling up to the barn, he knows I’m coming. I give him his carrots and then he drinks right out of the hose and I tell him ‘I love you Papa’.”

The colt came right back to win the $150,000 Clarendon Stakes in October and finish second in the Display Stakes and Grade 3 Grey Stakes behind eventual Champion 2-Year-Old God of Love.

Ironstone has been third in all three of his stakes starts in 2022 including the Grade 3 Marine Stakes behind Queen’s Plate favourite Rondure. Ironstone has been training strongly heading into the August 21st Plate and Meli is excited about the colt’s chances. Woodbine’s leading rider Kazushi Kimura is expected to ride.

“He’s a really good horse,” said Meli. “We have a lot of confidence in him [for the Plate] and we look forward to seeing what he can do after the Plate.”

Meli and his Tequesta Racing Stable and Jupiter Leasing, which includes Bruno, have been in racing for about 20 years and the family has frequented the CTHS yearling sale on many occasions.

“Mom is really good at picking out horses from the sale,” said Meli. “We have had Clementis ($300,000 in earnings) and Hurricane Lorraine ($250,000). She goes through the catalogue and has her own methods to pick out a couple for us to bid on.”

Bruno operates Bru-Mel Stable in Freelton where she dabbles in breeding. She is, understandably, excited about Ironstone’s participation in the Queen’s Plate.

“I am nervous,” said Bruno. “I never attend the races, I watch them on my computer. I just want him to do good for himself and have a great future. I am all about the horses.”