Cheyenne Yoder’s first yearling pick is an inexpensive trotting filly named May Baby born on Yoder’s birthday that has already exceeded her purchase price by more than $110,000 in just six starts.
by James Platz
Picking out horses at the fall yearling sales can be somewhat of an art form. Every horseman has their own method for evaluating babies and selecting horses that they hope will make it to the races. James Yoder and his wife, Cheyenne, picked trotting filly May Baby out of last year’s Hoosier Classic sale using what could be viewed as a slightly unorthodox process. Their gamble has paid off handsomely, though, as the Guccio lass has won five of six starts and earned $123,240 to date competing in Indiana Sires Stakes at Harrah’s Hoosier Park.
“It was the first sale I wanted to pick something out,” said Cheyenne. “She was the last one in the book and she was a Guccio. I asked James, ‘Can I have a little bit of an allowance?’ I wanted to try.”
James added that Cheynne picked May Baby out, “because the filly was born on her birthday. Before she picked her, I had noticed her. She had a decent video and a decent family. I just liked the way she held herself in the video. She looked fairly clean gaited, but it’s so hard to tell.”
The couple budgeted $6,000 in hopes of buying the filly, foaled May 13, 2017 and cataloged as Hip 374 from the Oakwood Farms consignment, the last yearling to pass through the ring. The dam, Credit Winner mare Free Wheeling, had produced a pair of six-figure earners, but Guccio’s first two crops had not met expectations, so the appetite for the Yankee Glide stallion’s progeny was waning. May Baby was also a smaller filly, even smaller than they had expected when viewing her in person. Despite that, Yoder, 25, and his wife, 23, found themselves bidding beyond what they had hoped to spend.
“We set a budget, we’ve gone over, it doesn’t seem like the other guy is going to stop, and he looked at me and we went one more time,” Cheyenne said. “It got quiet, and I thought, ‘I think we did it.’”
May Baby was hammered down for $8,500, and James Yoder signed the ticket. Cheyenne had her filly, but back home in Bell, FL, the relationship got off to a rocky start. The trotter quickly took to her trainer, but for Cheyenne, it was a different experience.
“This winter we brought her home and she wanted no part of me. I brought home my filly, and I wanted to be the one to get her ready and send her out, and she hated me. I wasn’t allowed in the stall, she would rear up and strike. She didn’t want any part of that,” she said. “At that point, I remember stepping back and just saying, ‘Listen, she doesn’t like me.’”
May Baby also posed challenges on the track. As they trained her down over the winter, the filly turned out to be anything but a model pupil. Some of the characteristics she continues to display today.
“The first two or three months we struggled with her a lot. She showed a lot of trot, but she wouldn’t trot until she was going about a 45-second quarter, then she would finally hit the trot,” said James. “Once she hit the trot and she was going fast enough, she was fine. Until then, she would just pace, gallop and play around. And she’s still kind of the same way.”
Her demeanor would change once they headed to Indiana for the Harrah’s Hoosier Park meet. The filly is now friendly with anyone that pays her any attention. While she is still playful on the track, when it comes to racing, she is all business. Consider her first time behind the starting gate at Hoosier Park. The filly made a break at the three-quarter pole as the starter guided a field of four to the start, but Yoder was able to get her back on task and wire the field, winning by four and one-quarter lengths in 1:59.3, trotting a last quarter in :27.4.
“At that point we thought he might be something special,” James said.
Making five starts in Indiana Sires Stakes, May Baby has racked up four trips to the winner’s circle. What is most remarkable is not that she is winning, but how she is winning. In the first leg, her second career start, she took command from post five and received every call, distancing the field by seven lengths at the wire, kicking home in :26.4 and stopping the clock in 1:57.1. The second leg was another gate-to-wire victory, this time by two lengths in a time of 1:55.4.
May Baby made it three straight on Aug. 20, this time drawing the second tier with the rail horse breaking stride before the start. Yoder steered the filly through a mile where she was off the pylons most of the time, but managed to clear the field by three and one-quarter lengths, tripping the timer in 1:56.1. In the midst of the streak, May Baby raced through an issue with an abscess.
“The third lifetime start, two days prior to it she tried to blow an abscess. I came in two days out and she couldn’t walk in the stall. She was on three legs. I got her out, and Sunday night I put a window bar on her to take pressure off. I went out and jogged her on Monday and thought maybe she can race tomorrow,” said James. “I came back in and I had to change the other side because it was completely different, she had aluminum with a pad on it. I put a full swedge bar on that. She hates bars, I’ve tried them and she just hates them. The day of the race, I took her out and she jogged good. She ended up racing that night and she won in 1:55.4. At the time I thought, ‘Wow, she’s got a big heart.’”
The shoeing would catch up to the filly, however, in the fourth leg of sires stakes. May Baby had gotten by without her aluminum and pad configuration due to soft and muddy track conditions in each start. The surface was fast on Aug. 27, and the filly made a break before the start as the track stung her feet. Seventh at the quarter, the freshman rebounded to salvage a third-place finish. That night James found relief in knowing his charge had the resilience to fight through challenging conditions.
Back to the comfort of her aluminum shoes, May Baby responded Sept. 10, establishing a lifetime best 1:54.4 clocking while winning by five and one-half lengths to take a fifth leg of sires stakes action. One last round remains, slated for Tuesday, Oct. 1, before the lucrative Super Final. May Baby has drawn into the $63,500 first division, assigned post five in the six-filly field. This spring, James and Cheyenne decided to make the trotter eligible to the Breeders Crown, more for next year when the event returns to Hoosier Park. If the filly finishes her Indiana program strong, they could take a shot with her yet this fall. Whether or not they take the gamble in Canada, this bargain purchase has changed their lives.
“She has exceeded our expectations,” said Cheyenne. “I’m just taking it day by day.”