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Emilie Fojan Breeds Kentucky Derby Promise with Dortmund

Emilie Fojan Breeds Kentucky Derby Promise with Dortmund: Collecting less than five hours of sleep in a week is worth it if it’s for something you love, or at least it is to Emilie Fojan.

Within a few minutes, the passion of the Bona Terra Stud owner for Thoroughbred breeding and racing is clear. Fojan is able to live out her days in pursuit of her passion on her 200-acre farm near the Kentucky Horse Park in Georgetown, Kentucky. “It’s a labor of love really. When you’re so passionate about it, it’s really not work; it’s a lifestyle.”

Dortmund Kentucky Derby Emilie Fojan

The creation of top Kentucky Derby hopeful Dortmund is Emilie Fojan’s current claim to fame. “It worked out really well, but instead of getting a refined horse, he was a huge baby as a foal!” Photo: Bona Terra Stud

Fojan accounted for a total of 70 horses on the farm, 25 of which are broodmares and 16 of which are new foals. In describing her own breeding philosophy, Fojan tends to stick to breeding for April and May foals for the sake of the young horses avoiding the frigid Kentucky winters, but doing so does make for rough voyages through the sales rings as buyers prefer to buy older horses.

The Austria native’s involvement in horse racing and breeding has been more or less bred into her. The attraction to Thoroughbreds goes back several generations to her great-grandfather, causing Fojan to note, “Horse, horses, horses – it’s in my blood, I guess!”

Of course, the creation of top Kentucky Derby hopeful Dortmund is Fojan’s current claim to fame. Dortmund’s dam Our Josephina is a Bona Terra homebred who was also trained by the multi-talented Fojan.

Upon Our Josephina’s retirement, Fojan had high hopes for her new career as a broodmare, breeding her to top sires Medaglia d’Oro and Fusaichi Pegasus twice. “I really thought sooner or later she was going to have a really good one.”

After breeding Our Josephina to Big Brown, Fojan’s prediction would come true. Fojan was quite high on Big Brown during his racing career but wasn’t able to breed to him until his fee dropped to $30,000. Whereas Our Josephina is a very large mare, Big Brown is the “perfect size,” a fact that, in addition to his pedigree, motivated Fojan to breed her to him. “I wanted to refine the horse, but I also wanted to inbreed to Danzig so I could get very close to Northern Dancer. I’m a big Danzig/Northern Dancer fan.”

Instead of getting the refined horse she envisioned, the product of Fojan’s breeding plans resulted in Dortmund, an extremely large colt. “It worked out really well, but instead of getting a refined horse, he was a huge baby as a foal!”

However, Fojan certainly did not disapprove of Dortmund’s unexpected size, and the colt’s build didn’t seem to detract from his development either. “He was always very well-proportioned; he never got gangly. He was always the perfect package, especially mentally, too. He was a really, really easy baby to craft, and we did a lot of swimming with him. He was just a really kind, easygoing baby.”

Fojan even mentioned her initial feelings of the colt’s potential to Andy Cohen, the majority owner of Big Brown, saying, “I always had high hopes for him because he was just the whole package. I actually told Andy Cohen early on, ‘Andy, this is going to be a really nice horse’.”

Once he hit the track, Dortmund began to back up his breeder’s claims. Fojan did not hesitate to give credit to Baffert’s handling of the big colt, saying it was pure genius of him to ship him to Churchill Downs for his second start in a stress-free allowance optional claiming event. “He could have easily put him in that stakes race, but he brought him along the right way. I thought that was just really brilliant.”

Fojan was on hand for Dortmund’s second start, and her recollection of his performance is simply telling of both his natural talent and her warranted pride as his breeder: “When I saw him at Churchill and the way he annihilated the field and the way he came down the lane, I was sobbing, I was so sobbing because I thought, ‘Oh my God, what a special horse!’ That day in November, my knees were weak because I knew he was going to be there in May!”

The Bona Terra matriarch was also able to travel to California to witness Dortmund’s victory in the Santa Anita Derby, and she had even more to say about Baffert’s great care of the colt after again seeing how well he was doing. “When I saw him in California, I tell you what, Baffert does a brilliant job with him. I give all the credit to Baffert really. He keeps him in the right company, and he’s got a lady on him who loves him and spoils him. He’s really a spoiled brat.”

The proud breeder also couldn’t contain her appreciation of Dortmund’s appearance, saying, “He is absolutely magnificent-looking. When I saw him in the Santa Anita Derby, I could not believe that horse: he’s just majestic, unbelievable.”

Kentucky Derby Dortmund

Santa Anita Derby winner Dortmund worked five furlongs on Santa Anita’s main track in a bullet 58.80 under regular rider Martin Garcia on April 18, 2015 in preparation for the for 141st running of the Kentucky Derby.
Photo: Zoe Metz, Santa Anita Park

As is the case for most horse racing fans, Fojan is unable to pick out who will be Dortmund’s biggest competition in the Kentucky Derby. “It’s hard for me to say because at this point it’s a tremendous field – the cream of the crop. With twenty horses, you simply don’t know.” However, she did mention that personally she visualizes a duel between Dortmund and American Pharoah. “In my mind, I see Dortmund battling with American Pharoah…Coming down the lane, battling, nose and nose, and whoever has the longer nose will succeed.” When I mentioned that would probably be Dortmund due to his large size, she laughed and simply said, “Well you said that, I didn’t!”

Regardless of what happens in the Derby, Fojan has reason to be hopeful, but she certainly recognizes the commonality of her optimism all breeders project. “You know, everybody talks about having a really nice horse. You have to really prove yourself, you know? But you know how we are: we always think we have a good horse. That’s what keeps us going.”

Perhaps this time she’s absolutely right with Dortmund.

The 141st running of the Kentucky Derby is set to take place at Churchill Downs on Saturday, May 2, 2015. Gates open early at 8:00 am ET with post time for the first race at 10:30 am ET. Post time for the Kentucky Oaks is approximately 5:45 pm ET on Friday May 1, 2015. Post time for the Kentucky Derby is approximately 6:24 pm ET. Visit for official information. 

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Santa Anita Derby Dortmund Replay: