“Dad, can I name this horse?”
Standing in trainer Rusty Arnold’s barn, peering down the shedrow at dozens of eager equine faces, Glenn Bromagen of Ashbrook Farm paused to consider the query. After decades of working in the industry and running his own racing stable, he is accustomed to being asked that question by his family. While the answer, his son Bo Bromagen will tell you, has often been “no,” sometimes finding the right name is a matter of finding the right horse.
For more than 30 years, Glenn Bromagen and Arnold have worked in tandem as owner and trainer. Involved in the Thoroughbred industry since the early 1960s, Glenn first began working with Arnold after founding Ashbrook in 1983. Arnold eventually moved to New York, and Glenn took a hiatus from racing to focus on family and the demands of his career before the pair renewed their working relationship in 2007.
“I decided to move back to Kentucky, and I got a phone call from Glenn,” Arnold said. “He said, ‘I want to get back into racing. Go buy me a horse.’ I called a friend of mine, (bloodstock agent) David Ingordo, and said, ‘I’m looking to buy, and if you can find anything at the sale that would work for us, send me the pedigree.’ He sent three options, and we decided on one. We bought him and he became Wicked Style, a grade 1 winner. So the first horse that we got back in with was a grade 1 winner. It’s different this time around because the whole family is involved.”
With the addition of Bo Bromagen, now a bloodstock agent, the winning pair has become a winning triumvirate, working with a kind of symbiotic familiarity to find, develop, and campaign Thoroughbreds at the highest level.
“It’s a work in progress,” Arnold said, laughing. “We’ve had our moments. But we get right back to working together.”
“It’s easier to do when you work with people who want to see you do well,” added Bo. “It makes it easier to keep going. I’ve bought some bad horses.”
“And I’ve messed some up,” Arnold interjected. “But I think the end result is that we’re looking for the same thing. That’s one of the things that I’m very proud of. That I’ve worked for Glenn all these years, and now I work with Bo. You don’t have a family relationship like that in our business very often. Very few people are fortunate enough to have that. It’s been a long haul. They’re a great family to work for.”
After graduating from Trinity University with a business degree, Bo worked as a hot walker for Arnold before he eventually decided to pursue a job in the bloodstock side of the industry. It was Arnold who connected the younger Bromagen with Ingordo, who helped form the foundation Bo still relies on when sourcing the sales grounds for Ashbrook’s next runner.
Since striking out on his own, Bo has sent Arnold a steady string of top-class performers, including Central Bank Ashland Stakes (G1) victress Weep No More, Winning Colors Stakes (G3) winner Southern Honey, and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1T) contender Concrete Rose.
Purchased for $61,000 by Ingordo as agent from the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic 2-Year-Olds in Training Sale from Justin Wojczynski’s White Pine Thoroughbreds consignment, the filly that would become Concrete Rose first caught Bo’s eye during the under tack show.
“At the sale, her breeze wasn’t that good, and she came around the turn and cocked her head and was looking at the grandstand,” Bo said. “She was just really green and inexperienced. She didn’t know what she was doing. But I was sitting past the wire in the jockeys’ room elevated up, and once she hit the wire, her stride changed and she settled into a rhythm. I caught her moving past me, and she was moving good. Then we saw her in the barn, and she’s beautiful. You could see there was something there.”
Bred in Kentucky by Ron Patterson, out of the Powerscourt mare Solerina, the filly’s pedigree left something to be desired, but Glenn put in a call to Arnold anyway.
“He called me about her and said, ‘Will you take a Twirling Candy ?’ I said one of the best fillies in my barn (grade 3 winner Morticia) is a Twirling Candy, so absolutely,” Arnold recalled. “She came off the trailer, and I said that does not look like the Twirling Candy I have. She’s drop-dead gorgeous … but that doesn’t really mean anything. We get a lot of pretty, slow horses. I had her at Churchill Downs, because I usually go to Saratoga and leave the horses that aren’t going up out there. I went down and watched them breeze about a week before I went to Saratoga, and I called Bo and said, ‘We’re taking this filly to Saratoga. She’s one of the better fillies I have.’ We got her up there, and she never missed a beat.”
Concrete Rose broke her maiden on first asking at Saratoga Race Course Aug. 20 going 5 1/2 furlongs on the turf. Following her win, the team was approached by BBN Racing, which now owns the filly in partnership with Ashbrook.
“We traditionally don’t partner much,” Bo said. “But there is something really satisfying about being able to bring people in and welcome them and showcase the sport in the best possible way, so that they hopefully stay in the business for as long as possible. In any other sport, it’s almost impossible to win a world championship, but with this game, you can buy in and compete against the very best.”
Shipped back to Kentucky for her next start, the filly was entered in the Oct. 10 JPMorgan Chase Jessamine Stakes (G2T) at Keeneland, a Breeders’ Cup Challenge race.
“This one was more pressure for me because I really thought I had the right horse,” Arnold said. “I needed this to go right because we didn’t have time to develop her, and she had one shot to get in. So everything needed to go right.”
Not one to disappoint, Concrete Rose broke sharply in the 1 1/16-mile turf test, settled in to stalk the pace, moved out into the four path as the field entered the lane, and swept past the leaders to cross the wire three lengths ahead of her competition and earn her spot in the $1 million Juvenile Fillies Turf Nov. 2 at Churchill Downs.
“Did we expect this? Obviously, no,” Arnold said. “But Bo pulled a diamond out of the rough.”
And for once, the younger Bromagen was allowed to name that diamond. Inspired by an autobiographical poem penned by recording artist Tupac Shakur, Bo floated the name Concrete Rose for four years to his father and family. The name finally found a home in the team’s winning filly, who has come to exemplify the beauty, strength, and tenacity of the verses for which she was named.
Did you hear about the rose that grew
from a crack in the concrete?
Proving nature’s law is wrong, it
learned to walk without having feet.
Funny, it seems, but by keeping its dreams
it learned to breathe fresh air.
Long live the rose that grew from concrete
when no one else ever cared.
Concrete Rose will not be the first horse born of the Ashbrook/Arnold partnership to attend the Breeders’ Cup, but Arnold said there is something different about this filly that makes him think his confidence is not misplaced.
“I don’t think I’ve had this live a horse before,” Arnold said. “So much with 2-year-olds (is) about which one improves with the next race. But our filly hasn’t missed a beat. Her work was good, she acts excellent, and I’m extremely excited to take her over there. That’s what’s different.”
The Juvenile Fillies Turf has drawn a field of 14 from around the globe, and Concrete Rose will face her toughest competition yet. She will break from the rail under jockey Jose Lezcano, who partnered for the filly’s two wins.
“I don’t judge the field because there is nothing I can do about it,” Arnold said. “I try to make sure I get her to where she’s as good as she can be and then get her over there. It’s up to her.”
No matter the outcome, the Bromagens and Arnold are sure to find their way back to the winner’s circle for many years to come. Whether the elder Bromagen will one day step back and allow Bo to name all the horses, only time will tell—but the father seems content with what is likely inevitable.
“I don’t think I really have a choice,” he said with a laugh.