Virginia Breeder Backer’s Legacy Endures At Saratoga

The following piece appeared on August 1st and was written by Ron Mitchell.

When the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga selected yearling sale takes place next week, it will feature three horses that represent the lasting legacy of the breeding program put together by the late William M. “Bill” Backer.

Backer and his wife Ann, established Smitten Farm near The Plains, Va., after his illustrious career in the advertising industry. A member of the Advertising Hall of Fame, Backer was best known for creating the “I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke” jingle in 1971 for Coca Cola and for the “Miller Time” slogan for SABMiller Brewing.

From the time he developed his Thoroughbred operation until his untimely death last year at 89, Backer pursued his passion for Thoroughbred breeding with the same zeal that had taken him to the upper reaches of Madison Avenue. He was a member of The Jockey Club, served on the boards of the Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation and National Sporting Library board and took an active interest in helping better the sport on a national level and in Virginia, as well as conservation programs.

William Backer (left) with Wayne Chatfield-Taylor (right) at the 2015 VTA Awards Reception.

The quality of the broodmare band that Backer maintained at Smitten is reflected in the three yearlings consigned to the Fasig-Tipton sale by Taylor Made Sales Agency on behalf of Smitten Farm and the Estate of the William M. Backer Revocable Trust.

Two yearlings in the consignment trace back to Applause, a daughter of Shecky Greene who was one of Backer’s blue hen mares.
Purchased for $30,000 out of the 1981 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky yearling sale, Applause won or placed in 31 of 35 starts and earned $362,437. Included among her 14 wins were seven stakes.

Hip 204 is a Virginia-bred Violence   filly produced from the Capote mare Hepburn, whose two stakes winners to date include Her Smile, the Prioress Stakes (G1) winner who was subsequently sold for $1.5 million at the 2014 Keeneland November sale in foal to Tapit  .

Snit, a Maryland-bred daughter of Fit to Fight who won the 1997 Cotillion Handicap (G2) at Philadelphia Park and three other stakes while racing for Backer, is the dam of Hip 61, a Bodemeister   filly bred in Virginia. The filly is a half sister to Backer homebred and grade 3 winner Blind Date and to multiple stakes winner Sales Tax.

Princess Roberta and Queen Ribot, the yearling filly’s second and third dams, respectively, were also stakes winners for Backer. Princess Roberta won four stakes in 1982-83, while Queen Ribot annexed the 1977 Fairway Fun Stakes at Latonia.

The third yearling offered on behalf of Smitten Farm is Hip 78, a First Samurai   colt out of the Cryptoclearance mare Talent, the dam of stakes winner Mr. Keeper.

Applause is the second dam of Hip 78 and third dam of Hip 204.

“We’ve known Mr. and Mrs. Backer for some 30 years and have always admired their program,” said Taylor Made’s Mark Taylor. “He was an incredible guy with so much passion for horses.”

Taylor said Backer had been planning to reorganize his bloodstock holdings, as he and his wife had winnowed their broodmare band in recent years.

“It was a big loss,” Taylor said of Backer’s death. “Last year they had a reduction and cut back on their number of mares and sold quite a few yearlings. But Mrs. Backer enjoys it and still wants to participate. She loves going to Saratoga and we are taking three lovely foals up there for them.

“She loves the horses and they have a beautiful farm. When you go there, it’s like going back in time. I’m very happy they are going to try to add on to Mr. Backer’s legacy.”

The Fasig-Tipton sale takes place in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., Aug. 7-8, with sessions beginning at 6:30 p.m. daily.