Friday, January 15, 2016

One Fine Day ( Part 1 )

Maybe the cool and distant reception our tour received at Winstar Farm had something to do with our bus driver squeezing into a place he shouldn't have and plowing into one of the large flower pots standing outside the door of the stallion complex.  Or, as it is in most companies, attitude is a reflection of ownership or management.  Giving the benefit of the doubt, I'll excuse Winstar and blame it on the youth of our tour guide, the marketing manager and her assistant.  There is more but I'll skip the details.

Winstar itself is a very young company, founded in 2000 with the acquisition of the 400 acre Prestonwood Farm by current owner Kenny Troutt and his partner.  The farm's history dates to the 1700's, then owned by the Williams family of Virginia.  Their bank barn and several other buildings remain and are on the National Historic Register.  Along with the purchase of Prestonwood came two sires: Kris S and Distorted Humor.  Before his death in 2002, Kris S sired 5 Breeder's Cup winners and 3 Eclipse Award winners.  Distorted Humor, foaled in 1993, remains an active sire to this day, commanding a six figure fee.  More about him later.

There are three viewing areas in the new stallion barn, 18 stalls, 2 breeding sheds and 22 three acre paddocks.  The first horse to be ushered into the viewing area was the incredible Tiznow, once both American Horse of the Year and California Horse of the Year.  He is the only back- to- back winner of the Breeder's Cup Classic and winner of $6.2 million dollars.

His progeny have won the Belmont, Travers Stakes, Dubai World Cup, Santa Anita Derby, the Wood Memorial and others.  My Sweet Addiction won the 2015 Vanity Stakes, Colonel John the Santa Anita Derby, Well Armed won the Dubai World Cup by a record 14 lengths and Da'Taro beat Big Brown in the 2008 Belmont.  It should be remembered that Big Brown finished dead last in the race for an unknown and still suspicious reason.  His trainer has had his license lifted in some states.

All of the photos taken at Winstar, with one exception, were taken in predominantly natural light under a dome in one of the viewing areas.  The light illuminates the best of the horses physical characteristics and if they were not elegant enough, well just take a look.

Tiznow, foaled in 1997

Tiznow ranks in the top 2% of sires by average earnings.

Still rowdy and sure of his supremacy, Tiznow.

Super Saver won the Kentucky Derby in 2010.  Just another big, fast bay horse, no not really, just the fulfillment of a lifetime dream to see a Derby winner up close.  And I was not disappointed.

Super Saver was sired by Maria's Mon who sired another Derby winner, Monarchos, the 2001 Derby champion.

Super Saver

Begging for a peppermint.

I'm exhausted, can't you see my tongue's hangin' out?

Super Saver is all man too, covering 165 mares in 2015.  His most notable achievement is as the sire of Runhappy, the 2015 sprint champion and winner of the 2015 Breeder's Cup sprint.  Runhappy posted a 113 Beyer speed figure in 2015.  Very fast.

Runhappy winning the 2015 Malibu Stakes with Gary Stevens up.
Runhappy looks like his sire Super Saver.

Pioneer of the Nile was a 2006 foal sired by Empire Maker x Star of Goshen by Lord of War (Arg ) and is now an up and coming third crop sire.  

His was a successful racing career finishing second to Mine That Bird in the 2009 Kentucky Derby with wins in the Santa Anita Derby, San Felipe Stakes and Robert B. Lewis Stakes as a three year old and the Cash Call Futurity G1 as a two year old.

Pioneer of the Nile, his groom and Stallion Manager Larry McGinnis in the background.

In Pioneer of the Nile's lineage are:  Empire Maker, Fappiano, Mr. Prospector and Northern Dancer on the top or sire side and Lord of War, Key to the Kingdom and Bold Ruler (Secretariat's Sire) on the bottom or dam side, but Winstar would like to introduce broodmares with Seattle Slew or Storm Cat (Sire of Empire Maker) breeding to his progeny.

Pioneer of the Nile

On October 26, his fee was $110,000.00 and five days later on Saturday it was raised to $125,000.00.  Why?  Because of this guy:

American Pharoah 

We may never in our lifetime see another horse like American Pharoah, record setter and winner of American horse racing's grand slam:  The Derby, The Preakness, The Belmont and The Breeder's Cup Classic.  Unlike many thoroughbreds, American Pharoah is not a brat, but a sweet and gentle champion.  My wife and I have tickets to Coolmore America, Ashford Stud to see AP on January 27th.  That's the good news.  The bad, we're not guaranteed to see him.  You pay your money and take your chances.

 Pioneer of the Nile appears to have the same sweet disposition as his son.  In the two pictures that follow he seems anxious for company.

Pioneer of the Nile at home.

The cleanliness and beauty of Pioneer's surroundings in the new stallion barn

Oddly, though we might have been able to pet Pioneer of the Nile, or at least be photographed near him, no one tried.  I will say that as we walked through the barn we were tightly shepherded by the stallion manager and other staff.  It was probably just as well.

Lane's End has AP Indy and Winstar has its own star, Distorted Humor, now 23 and still active in the breeding shed.  His 2016 fee, a mere $100,000.00  Why?   Because this smallish sire (15.3 hands) has sired over 130 stakes winners.  He has sired more G1 winners than all but two North American Sires. His progeny have won each of the Triple Crown races and he is a grandsire of a Kentucky Derby winner.  You'll recognize these names: Funny Cide, Commentator and Drosselmeyer, winners all. 

At the 2015 Keenland September sale a Distorted Humor colt sold for $1,525,000 to Goncalo Torrealba of Three Chimeys Farm.  

Distorted Humor's own race record of 8 wins, 5 places and 3 shows in 23 starts is an enviable one.  He was still winning at the advanced age of five.

Distorted Humor was not on display the day we visited Winstar, but wandering up and down the aisles I was able to get this picture, not the best, but interesting.

Distorted Humor behind bars.

You can see that there are bars preventing Distorted Humor from reaching outside his stall and nailing a passerby.  The hand on the right had just tapped on the piece where Distorted Humor is chewing on the bars.  Obviously he is a biter and best left to his leisure.  They can't all be Pioneer of the Nile.

While I love horse racing, I know that many people do not share my enthusiasm.  Horse racing has been its own worst enemy and deserves much of the criticism it has received.  But the industry has begun to clean up its act, even to the point of its concern for retired race horses.  Of course, the minor leagues of racing, the claimers, race on and on, I recently read of a retired race horse that had raced every two weeks for nine years without a break.  Nine years!  This is the type of abuse that has caused many, myself included, to question the industry and its neglect, mistreatment and its discarding of animals like chewing gum wrappers.  Still, there are unscrupulous trainers who watch their horses run until they cannot run anymore.  Let's not even talk of the drugs masking chronic injury, milkshaking tired or sore horses to reduce the lactic acid in their system and then there are the catastrophic injuries to consider.  But as long as two people have two fast cars, or two fast horses, they will race them and when they do, we have their beauty and grace to take our breath away.  It is the nature of man to answer a challenge and the nature of the thoroughbred to run.

Please see One Fine Day (Part 2) which follows.

Copyright January 15, 2016
All Photos by the author, Copyright, January 16, 2016 except Runhappy and American Pharoah in the public domain or

Monday, January 11, 2016

One Fine Day (Part 2)

Decreasing fertility made AP Indy's last years as a sire a struggle, yet so revered is he that a life size statue of him occupies a place of honor within sight of the stallion barns at Lane's End farm in Versailles, Kentucky.

AP Indy's statue at Lane's End.  I believe that it will also be his headstone.

Indy is the oldest living winner of the Breeder's Cup Classic at 27 years of age.  Although he's now a pensioner living off the fat of the land, he is still an imposing figure.  He is a bit sway backed now but still, as his long time groom Asa Haley said with a smile,  "Indy has his days."

Indy's broodmare sire was Secretariat and his sire was Seattle Slew x Weekend Surprise, one of Lane's Ends three Blue Hens.  Blue Hens are broodmares that consistently produce winners at the races and in the breeding barns.

Indy and Haley seemed to rise up from the bluegrass acres that surround the stallion complex at Lane's End, where our tour group was warmly welcomed by Lexi, a twenty-five year employee of the farm, and Chance Timm, Director of Stallion Seasons and Shares.

Rising Up. AP Indy and Asa Haley.

As a yearling Indy brought the top price for his generation at auction-$2.9 million dollars.  At the age of two, Indy won the Hollywood Futurity and in 1992, at three, won the Belmont and the Breeder's Cup Classic.  He was scratched from the Derby and the Preakness due to foot problems that plague him to this day.  Also in that same year he was named Horse of the Year and retired to Lane's End to begin his second career, the career that he is perhaps most famous for as a sire.

Indy has sired more than 150 stakes winners and among his prestigious offspring are: Malibu Moon who stands at Spendthrift Farm and has himself sired a Kentucky Derby winner, Orb and G1 winner Declan's Moon among others. Bernandini and Honor Code winner of the Breeder's Cup Dirt Mile.  Honor Code was retired at the end of 2015 to Lane's End along with speedy Breeder's Cup champion Liam's Map.  And last but not least, AP Indy is the grandsire of Tapit.

Even as Indy's fertility decreased, owners of  well bred mares booked him until the bitter end, hoping to catch the lightening in his genes just one more time.  But after only 36 of 150 mares brought to him in 2011 became pregnant, AP Indy began his life of leisure.

Indy and Asa, with Chance Timm in the background.

Lane's End was begun with a two hundred acre purchase by businessman and later ambassador to England, William Farish.  So respected are Ambassador Farish and son, Bill, that HRH Queen Elizabeth stays at Lane's End when she visits the United States to look at horses.  The farm itself now exceeds two thousand acres divided into several complexes: training, yearling, stallion and broodmare among them.  The most famous of the broodmares, Zenyatta, was not on display the week of the Breeder's Cup at Keenland in October of 2015 when our tour took place.

The cemetery at Lane's End speaks of the respect and reverence the Farish family has for the horses in their care.  Quiet, simple elegance and respectful  are words that came to mind as I walked among the rows of headstones arranged in a semicircle with the fabled bluegrass paddocks in which they once capered as a backdrop.  Each of the horses had been cremated.

The grave of AP Indy's dam and Blue Hen, Weekend Surprise.

Candy Ride ( Arg)  1999 16 1/2 hands

Candy Ride, not just your average horse in a plain brown wrapper.  His racing career consisted of just six races, all wins and four of them Grade 1 or Arg 1 races.  His $60,000 fee has produced 43 stakes winners including Twirling Candy, who also stands at Lane's End and whose own progeny seem to appear in nearly every race and the ill fated Shared Belief. 

 Shared Belief died December 3, 2015 of colic after every attempt to save him failed.  A smallish thoroughbred he was a winner in 10 of his 12 career starts including the 2015 San Antonio Invitational Stakes G1, where he defeated California Chrome.  He had won two other Grade 1 events in 2015.  He was an Eclipse Award winner as a two year old in 2013.

Shared Belief 

Candy Ride, not just a plain brown horse.  Lexi stands to the right.

Last but not least, the flashy seven year old Union Rags, a beautiful bay with three white socks, a white blaze, and a powerful, sculpted physique which made him by far the most appealing of all of the horses seen.  

 Union Rags was successful on the track winning 5 of his 8 career starts with one second and one third place finish as well.

Alert and full of himself, Union Rags.

His toothy grin.


Wealth can be gilt, garish and off-putting, cheapening the risk, sweat, effort and acumen of its creators, but that is not the case at Lane's End farm.  The look, the geometry, the attitude, the attention to detail and the success all pay tribute to the Farish families planning and the execution of their vision by their staff.  Lane's End is as much about the dignity of its animals as it is making their guests, whether investors, buyers or tour groups, feel welcome and appreciated.

Each horse, whether in its stall or not, was turned out as though it were a day to go racing.  Most of the horses had just been fed and groomed after a night spent in their paddocks and we all know how much horses love to roll in the nearest dirt or mud.

After being fed and groomed each of the horses spend hours resting in their stalls, lounging in knee deep, clean straw should they choose to lie down.  At 3 pm they are turned out for the night.  Surprisingly some of the horses are actually ridden to their paddocks.  

The next picture  was taken outside the stall of Langfuhr, sired by Danzig.  Langfuhr, now twenty four years old has the second lowest stud fee of the eleven horses standing at Lane's End at $7500.00, But his stable environment is exactly the same as the most expensive sire, Smart Strike.

Lane's End:  leather and wood, saddle soap and polish.

The biggest disappointment, aside from the cold blustery weather, not seeing Curlin, who no longer stands at Lane's End.

Copyright 1/11/16 by Loren Schumacher
All photos Copyright 1/11/16 by Loren Schumacher except Shared Belief from the public domain or