OLDSMAR — The setting on the third Sunday of 2010 was surreal.
Bob and Christine Vogt had invited the family to their 2-acre farm in Brandon for the first of perhaps many snapshots featuring Cotton Pickin.
With all eyes on broodmare Kats Golden Ways, Bob pleaded for patience as she was close to producing the first newborn foal at Vogt Farms.
"It was 9 o'clock at night, and the grandkids were over," he said. "Everybody was ready to give up. I said, 'No, (Kats Golden Ways) is going to have it.' As soon as I said that, she laid right down in front of us and had (Cotton Pickin). Everything was perfect."
Cotton Pickin can give the Vogts their first stakes win today in the Gasparilla Stakes, one of two $100,000 stakes races for 3-year-olds on Skyway Festival Day at Tampa Bay Downs. The Gasparilla (Race 8, 3:55 p.m.) is for fillies and shares top billing with the Pasco Stakes (Race 10, 4:57), led by Breeders' Cup Juvenile runner Dynamic Sky and undefeated Purple Egg. Both races are 7 furlongs.
Though Bob, 62, says Cotton Pickin is "my wife's baby," he has twice tried to sell the dark bay filly at the Ocala Breeders' Sale. As a 2-year-old in training, Cotton Pickin had her reserve set at $33,000; the bidding stopped at $32,000. As a yearling, her $15,000 reserve failed to be met by $500. "And the story only gets better," he said.
Kats Golden Ways, a career earner of $130,000 for 2003 Kentucky Derby-winning trainer Barclay Tagg, was given to the Vogts by Ocala horseman Joe Hennessy. Bob had her bred to Ocala Stud Farm stallion High Cotton for $2,000 (his fee now is $7,500). High Cotton, a Grade III winner with $462,574 in lifetime earnings, wasn't a popular stud at the time.
"He was a second-year sire without a horse on the track," Bob said. "But I liked his body matching Kats' body."
Cotton Pickin, who was broken by Hennessy, will be making her first start on dirt for trainer Derek Ryan. She drew post 7 with Daniel Centeno in the irons.
In four races on turf, Cotton Pickin has won twice — both by a nose — while earning $33,180. She won at 1 mile in her last start, Dec. 23 at the Downs against allowance optional claimers.
Cotton Pickin broke her maiden Aug. 31 in her career debut, winning at 5 furlongs at Monmouth Park in Oceanport, N.J. She became the first stakes starter for the Vogts on Nov. 10, when she finished fifth in the $100,000 John Franks Juvenile Fillies Turf Stakes at Calder in Miami Gardens. Her next start is expected to be the Grade III $150,000 Florida Oaks on Feb. 2 at the Downs.
"Sooner or later, you're going to have to find out where she really is," Bob Vogt said. "She's training really well on dirt (a bullet 4-furlong workout of 48.40 seconds Sunday). Her strength is 1-1/16ths miles, maybe 1-1/1-8. She's just a total class filly."