It was a hot day at Indiana Grand Race Course and The Black Album was already glittering with sweat as he crossed over to the turf and loaded into post position two for the Jonathan B. Schuster Memorial Stakes. He waited calmly in the gates as the rest of the field was loaded in, one by one. The final gate closed and all was silent, though only for a moment.
The starting gates opened with a clang and The Black Album shot out of the gate like a rocket. His jockey Luis Saez urged him to the front for a few strides and then allowed a longshot named Argentello to slip up the rail and command the pace. The Black Album ran smoothly in second place, allowing Argentello to kick off by about a length and a quarter.
Saez gave his horse some rein as the field began their trek around the far turn. Near the top of the stretch, Saez angled The Black Album out and he quickly made his move. The colt was charged up and ready to run; he unleashed a furious drive towards Argentello, his speed quickening with every stride.
Saez pushed The Black Album along, encouraging him to go all out. That he did - The Black Album blew past Argentello and hit the wire first. It was his first victory in over a year.
The French Years (2016 - 2018):
In 2015, racehorse breeder and owner Mr. Didier Bouquil paired his Irish-bred mare Model Black (Trade Fair) with the stallion Wootton Bassett. The resulting foal, a beautiful colt so dark bay that he sometimes appeared black, was born in France on March 14, 2016.
The colt would grow up to be named The Black Album and would start his career sporting Boquil’s orange silks with black and white checkered sleeves. The Black Album had a promising start to his career - he finished third in his career debut at La Teste De Buch and then broke his maiden in his following start. He then won an Allowance before trying his hand at Deauville RaceCourse in the Prix Francois Boutin, where he finished fourth. The Black Album’s fourth place finish in the Prix Francois Boutin could be blamed upon a dental issue that was found (and fixed) after the race. The loss and dental issues didn’t matter in his next start; he rebounded in September with a brilliant victory in the Prix La Rochette, a Group 3 race at Longchamp.
The win was so impressive that he was promptly purchased by Team Valor International, a renowned racing stable that had previously raced a plethora of successful horses (Animal Kingdom, Irridescence, and Pluck to name just a few). Their goal was to point him towards the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) over in the United States.
"This colt is just the right size for American racing, with tremendous athleticism,” Team Valor’s CEO Barry Irwin said in a press release. “He has the ability to lay handy, pounce instantly when asked and moxie to hold off all challengers the length of the stretch. What’s so darn exciting about this guy is that he has top form already. In fact in all the years we’ve been doing this, we have never bought a European colt that was so highly ranked or accomplished as a juvenile. It’s pretty darn exciting."
The colt had won three of his four starts for trainer Jane Soubagne in France. He was surely a star in the making - it was time for him to move to his new home in the United States.
A New Face in the United States (2018 - 2019):
The Black Album made his next start as planned in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Churchill Downs, but the race didn’t go quite as well as his connections had hoped. The colt didn’t get the best start and had to settle near the back of the pack, a much different position than he had won from in the past. He tried diligently to get to the leaders in the stretch, but had instance after instance of holes closing and horses ending up in his way. He ultimately crossed the wire in eighth place. Though his finish looked bad by the numbers, those who watched him carefully during the race knew that he had something in store.
The colt didn’t race again until April of 2019. He had grown into a more mature three-year old and was ready to find somewhere to showcase his talent. The Black Album made his season debut in the Kentucky Utilities Transylvania Stakes (G3) at Keeneland and finished third, the winner beating him by just over a length.
He raced next on the Kentucky Derby undercard in the American Turf Stakes (G2), but again had a rough start and finished a disappointing seventh. The French colt was shipped up to Pennsylvania for the Penn Mile Stakes (G2) and once again had a rough start and finished sixth.
By this point, The Black Album had suffered through a string of really tough losses. Trainer Rodolphe Brisset and owners Team Valor International knew that the colt needed to get a win in him. They were all certain he had talent - he had displayed that clearly over in France - but he hadn’t been able to show the American public what he was truly made of.
They decided to drop him down in class for the Charlie Barley Stakes up in Canada at Woodbine. He relished in the class relief; this time wearing new co-owner Gary Barber’s pink silks as well as a set of blinkers, The Black Album prevailed by just a nose in a grueling stretch battle with Inventing Blame.
[Video: Watch the Black Album (#3) win the Charlie Barley Stakes]
The colt then shipped to New York for the Mahoney Stakes during Saratoga’s prestigious Summer meet. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to show the same form he had at Woodbine; he fought with jockey Jose Ortiz for most of the race and didn’t have the energy to finish any better than fifth.
The race foreshadowed another upsetting losing streak - he was almost last in his next race, the Nevada State Bank Franklin-Simpson Stakes (G3). He showed more promise however when he ran in the Showing Up Stakes at Gulfstream Park in November, but still finished second by a nose. It was his final start of the year.
The colt was offered at the Fasig-Tipton Horses of Racing Age Sale in July 2020, but RNA’d at a price of $240,000. He will be staying with Team Valor International and Gary Barber for now. The Black Album is now four-years old. He looks more gorgeous than ever and has been training nicely at Keeneland.
The race detailed at the beginning of the article, the Jonathan B. Schuster Memorial Stakes, has been his only start of the year thus far. Thankfully for his connections, it was an exceptional result. Hopes are high that it was a hint at many more victories to come.
The Black Album has a record of 14: 5-1-2 and earnings of more than $232,000.
[Video: Watch the Black Album (#2) win the Jonathan B. Schuster Memorial Stakes]
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