This is a happy story about a passion for Thoroughbreds, racing, and breeding. Sara Collette planned the mating between her homebred stallion Xenodon and homebred mare Jordani that resulted in the 2010 chestnut colt, Zanclus, named for a gorgeous fish by her ichthyologist husband, Bruce Collette. On May 5, Zanclus won the Virginia Gold Cup, his third consecutive triumph this season.

His first start took place in the Rokeby Challenge Bowl, 3½ miles over timber, at the Piedmont Foxhounds Point-to-point on March 24. Zanclus, piloted by Darren Nagle, crossed the line a good 12-lengths in front of Old Timer, winner of the previous year’s running. Will O’Keefe summed up the performance on “Zanclus was impressive running and jumping on the front and was never challenged.”

Spectacularly impressive. A minor injury kept Zanclus from racing in 2017 but proved no problem when he put in another season as a field hunter with Orange County Hounds. His trainer Neil Morris is a Master of Foxhounds, so he and his horse are right up at the front of the first flight. Lots of timber horses go hunting because it’s great training and builds endurance – a fun mixture of slow, standstill, and go-like-blazes when hounds are in full cry. Leading the hunt probably sharpened Zanclus’ competitive nature as he likes to set the pace.

“Zanclus is turning into a good field hunter,” said Sara. “He’s learned to make good executive decisions racing, based on his experiences in the hunting field.”

His second outing on April 14 was his first sanctioned meet, the $30,000 My Lady’s Manor Timber Stakes (3 miles), again with Nagle in the irons. Zanclus bested the field of six by 25¼ lengths “showing no signs of rust after more than a year on the sidelines” as Don Clippinger phrased it in his NSA race report. With two starts and two wins to his credit, Zanclus was proving he had the caliber to contend for the Virginia Gold Cup.

For the big race, Zanclus was reunited with his regular jockey, Kieran Norris, 2016 NSA champion jockey (races won). Zanclus cruised to an early lead and held it throughout the Gold Cup’s testing 4-mile course, crossing the finish line almost four lengths in front of Michael Smith’s Le Chevalier, trained by Julie Gomena. Irvin S. Naylor’s Super Saturday finished third, one length in front of his Ebanour, winner of the last two Gold Cups.

Sara and Bruce capped an already brilliant day at Great Meadow with a second trip to the winner’s circle when their homebred Eryx won the 8th and final race on the card, the $35,000 Virginia Sired or Bred Flat. Nine horses went to the start of the 1¼-mile contest and Eryx, under Kieran’s guidance, prevailed by a nose over Bruce and Edie Smart’s Officer’s Oath.

This all got underway back in 1977 when the Collettes moved to Pageland Farm in Casanova. Bruce (Ph.D. Cornell) is a dedicated ichthyologist (he names the foals after fish) and senior staff member at the Smithsonian Institute; his work was honored in 2014 with the Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award. Sara used to ride to hounds with Casanova Hunt on a wonderful palomino gelding named Midas who was worth his weight in gold. Sara’s first homebred was born in 1984 and became her foundation mare: Melantha, by Vast Empire out of Flower Bow, by *Zabeg.

The Collettes have three full brothers in training: Zanclus (2010), Balistes (2012) and Eryx (2014). The concept is to breed the best to the best and hope for the best, but you never know what you’re going to get. Sara’s program tends to produce big – as in 17-hands-plus big – equine athletes endowed with ground-eating strides. But being super-sized can mean they require more time to reach full maturity, physically and mentally.

The Collettes had already bred a two-time Gold Cup winner, Salmo (1996) by Northern Baby out of Melantha by Vast Empire. But their homebred won for Naylor, who bought Salmo in time to win his debut over timber at a Maryland point-to-point, then going on to harvest the 2007 and 2009 Gold Cups.

On May 5, the dream came tre for Sara and Bruce and they experienced the full blast of priceless glory as Zanclus, bearing their green silks with white circling dolphins, showed his great heart and galloped into the record books. They also harvested the lion’s share of the $100,00 purse for the Virginia Gold Cup.

When asked if she had special plans for the money, Sara said, “I’m going to pay off his mother’s vet bill from her last foaling.”

Zanclus is blissfully unaware of his equine family’s financial needs. He’s a horse, after all, currently enjoying some time off. No plans have been made, but you can bet, come fall, that he will be hunting and/or racing. It’s in his blood.   

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