Monday, March 25, 2013

Back to The Shed ~ On to Ramsey Farm

Guest blogger, Lindsay Hunter delivers a mare to Talent Search at Ramsey Farm and recounts some of the rich heritage of the area.

For pictures and more, visit Lindsay on her FB page.

Ramsey Farm 3.22.13

Friday morning dawned crisp and clear, and by noon the sun was peaking through the tufty clouds. Trailer freshly bedded in blonde pine shavings, I set off towards Danville to collect a mare from a farm close to Herrington Lake..
The big bay mare stepped happily into the gooseneck, and we set off back up the highway. Bailey rode shotgun, sniffing the clean country air, Solo curled into his hamster position, rear end on the arm rest, his head across my shoulders.
Destination: Ramsey Farm. Date for the day : Talent Search.
Talent Search , a strapping chestnut with a white blaze ,earned $603,360, placing second in the Vosburgh Stakes, and third in the Breeders Cup Sprint, behind Midnite Lute. By Catienus, also a Ramsey Farm stallion popular in New York, and out of Mrs. K by Mr. Prospector, he has stood previously in Pennsylvania, but is now home in Kentucky.
Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s farm is bordered by four well traveled roads in Jessamine County, just slightly south of Lexington, on land formerly known as Almahurst Farm, which in it’s heyday spanned 3335 acres, and was the largest combination Thoroughbred and Standardbred farm in the world. The Knight family had settled on the land, and for his service in the Revolutionary War, James Knight (1750 - 1831 ) was granted the deed to the land in 1778 by Gov Patrick Henry and it remained as a premier horse breeding nursery through five generations of Knights. The farm was established before and is older than the City of Lexington (1779 ) the State of Kentucky (1792 ) and The Constitution (1789 )
Exterminator, foaled on the farm in 1915, won the Kentucky Derby in 1918, earning $252,000 in 100 starts, was voted the greatest ‘cup ‘ horse in American history. Horses racing under the Knight family name were respected all over, and the farm became synonymous with quality bloodstock.
Claude, foaled in 1900, perhaps Mr. Henry Knight’s favorite Thoroughbred, raced coast to coast, starting 108 times, winning 32 of those races. Crowds would turn out to see “Old Bones “ run.
In 1935 Mr. Henry H. Knight , fifth generation, named the farm “Almahurst “ for his wife, Alma Horine (married in 1914 ) and added land, constructed new barns and rebuilt fencing. Everything was painted in light cream, trimmed in red, with green roofs.
The World Champion trotter , Greyhound, out of the grey mare, Elizabeth by Peter the Great, who was taken to Calumet Farm to be bred to Guy Abbey, was foaled in 1932, raised and broken at Almahurst. Purchased as a yearling for $900, he held 15 World Trotting Records, and as a 4 year old trotted a mile in a then unbelievably fast 1.57 ¼. He also made history trotting the fastest mile under saddle at the historic Red Mile in Lexington, with Francis Dodge van Lennep, who had never ridden him before, in the irons. Other great Standardbreds raised by Almahurst were Peter Volo (Greyhounds’ half brother ) who founded a great trotting family, and Nervolo Belle.
In 1950, all of the Standardbred breeding stock was purchased by Castleton Farm, of Francis Dodge van Lennep.
In 1963 Almahurst was purchased by P.J. Baugh, who continued to breed exceptional horses, primarily Standardbreds, and as I recall, stood as many as eight stallions, under the watchful management of Albert Adams, but when the focus on Standardbreds shifted to the Northeast, in the late 80’s, many of the premier Kentucky Standardbred stallions were sent to stand in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
In 1994, the farm was sold to the Ramseys who had sold their cell phone network franchises for a reported $39 million. Mr. Baugh moved across the road to the former Copeland Farm of Dreabon Copeland, taking the name with him.
The Ramsey’s homebred stallion, Kitten’s Joy (Sarah ‘s nickname is ‘Kitten ’ ) and the exceptional Roses in May, among others racing under the Ramsey banner, have contributed to the Ramsey’s having earned the distinction of being the most successful owners of the decade, with over two dozen awards. Mark Partridge, an English former show jumper from a long line of horsemen, manages the farm and is personally involved in all aspects of operation, including every breeding.
We are first in line, which is good, because I knew Talent Search would be quick. He bounded into the shed, gleaming in bronze chestnut, muscles rippling. The mare was cooperative, and we were soon following the tree lined lanes, past the Kitten Spa , back out to the highway and south to Danville.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Back to The Shed ~ Historic Gainesway and Hat Trick

The second half of a busy day, finds Lindsay Hunter delivering a mare to Hat Trick. A great read about the history of Gainesway Farm.
Gainesway 3/19/13

I’ve been going to Gainesway’s breeding shed since 1980. Back then, before the 4 stall stallion barns (that won an Architectural Design Award ) were built, every morning the mares lined up along the long crushed brick walk waiting to be bred to any one of 38 stallions that stood at stud there.
Across the parking lot was the small private stallion barn of Nelson Bunker Hunt , that housed , among others, Vaguely Noble, Exceller and Youth.
John Gaines first raised his Trotters and Racehorses on land on Tates Creek Road south of Lexington.. Back in Taylor Made days, I took care of Kerry Way, that won the Hambletonian for him, and was the dam of Classical Way, another great trotter.
This was land that had produced the winner of the first Kentucky Derby, Aristides in 1875.
Joe L. Taylor (father of Duncan, Ben , Frank and Mark ) had come to work for John Gaines in 1950. During his 40 year tenure as Gainesways’ Farm Manager, Joe saw six Gainesway stallions lead the World’s Sire List, the American Sire List, and the European Sire List , namely Bold Bidder, Vaguely Noble, Lyphard, Blushing Groom , Riverman and Sharpen Up.
In 1963, the land was sold for development (Gainesway Subdivision ) and John Gaines purchased 500 acres on Paris Pike, from Greentree Farm, across the road from the renowned Spendthrift Farm of Leslie Combs II, including the cemetery of Greentree, where, amongst others is buried Regret , winner of the1915 Kentucky Derby, who died in 1934.
Home to as many as 38 stallions in the early 80’s,Gainesway produced both Standardbred and Thoroughbred Champions.
John Gaines was a pioneer before his time, having the enlightenment to found the Breeders Cup program, and helped develop the Kentucky Horse Park, just up the road on famous Iron Works Pike.
In 1989, Gainesway was sold to South African horseman and vintner, Graham R. Beck and his family, who have continued the Gainesway traditions. Under the watchful and excellent guidance of Michael Hernon and Neil Howard, Antony Beck’s Gainesway continues to uphold it’s world renowned reputation.
Today I am bringing the mare, Moolakaya to the court of Hat Trick, the almost black son of Japanese stallion, Sunday Silence, who was foaled at Claiborne Farm in Paris, right along the pike in Bourbon County. Hat Trick, foaled in Japan out of the Lost Code mare, Tricky Code, ran one of the fastest miles in history, in a blistering 1.32.1( 8 furlongs in 92.1 seconds . That‘s 11.51 seconds a furlong ! ) and is the only champion and Grade 1 stallion in the US by Sunday Silence.
His son, Bright Thought, just this past Saturday, set a new track record in the $150,000 San Luis Rey Stakes, clipping off the one and half miles in a scorching 2.22.72. Like father, like son !

 The mare, Moolakaya, by Alzao, a son of Lyphard who stood at Gainesway, unloads quietly and makes herself comfortable in the deep straw of the teasing stall. In the corner overhead, a speaker issues forth the nickering and squealing of a stallion, designed to get the mare ‘in the mood ‘. Meanwhile, the real teaser hangs his head through the teasing hatch, nibbling on her flank and sniffing her tail. Soon she ‘breaks down’ showing her readiness, and we move into the padded wash stocks.
The breeding shed crew hasn’t changed much in 35 years, Carl Buckner has taken over the head position, since long time Stallion Manager, Marion Gross, passed away. Chico and James are still there, Tommy took over Chico’s position washing the mares a few years back. Andre, also from South Africa (like me ) joined the crew after interning at Taylor Made, maybe 8 or 9 years ago. In the staff room still hangs a framed photo from back in the early 80’s and it shows the shed crew that was working when I first started going to Gainesway. James ,Chico,Carl and of course, Marion Gross , were much younger then !
Kim has accompanied me on this trip, and she is busy snapping photos. We are asked not to take any in the shed, but Carl gives permission to snap some of Hat Trick walking over from the Stallion Barn.
James takes the mare and twitches her up. Carl guides Hat Trick, Chico holds the tail, and it’s all over.
Soon we have Moolakaya back in the trailer and headed home to her waiting foal. Maybe she’ll have another speedster !


Back to The Shed ~ Doing a Double / Spendthrift First

Double Header Part 1 ~ A Visit to Arch Arch Arch

Spendthrift March 19

Up before the chickens this morning, rolled onto Overbrook in the pitch dark, and loaded I’m A Goodlooker by the lights of the trailer, taking her away from her pretty chestnut foal. We snaked through the farm along the tree lined lanes, being careful to stay between the large landscaping rocks strategically placed to discoyurage drivers from getting on the grass. Traffic was sparse at this early morning hour, and we made it around Lexington and up Paris Pike in no time at all.
Destination : Spendthrift Farm. Date for the day : ArchArchArch
Bred similarly to Horse of the Year Blame, ArchArchArch is by, you guessed it , Claiborne stallion Arch, and out of a Woodman mare.(Woodman being by Mr. Prospector, so same cross as Blame ). Fast and courageous, ArchArchArch could lay off the pace and with a steady burst of speed, come from behind , which he did to win the G1 Arkansas Derby, with career earnings of $832,744.
Purchased in 1937, Spendthrift Farm was named by Leslie Combs 11 for the great grandfather of Man O War, who was owned by Comb’s great grandfather,, Daniel Swigert, of Elmendorf Farm, just next door. Combs developed a vast stallion operation, at one time standing 26 stallions at Spendthrift. It was the first Thoroughbred farm to be publicly traded on the stock market, until the crash of the Thoroughbred industry in the early 80’s, which led to it’s demise, and it was sold and parceled out. Leslie Combs died in 1990, but left a legacy and history with Spendthrift that would be hard to emulate today.
B. Wayne Hughes purchased the Spendthrift property in 2004, and with his team of Ken Wilkins, Ned Toffey and Des Dempsey, has turned Spendthrift around with a carefully managed Stallion Roster.

Dawn breaks over the trees, and more vans and trailers roll into the parking area. 10 mares are on the morning sheets, and I’m A Goodlooker is third in line. Drivers stand around the teasing and wash rack area, chatting about yesterdays storm. Coffee is brewing in the observation room, if anyone wants it. Wayne Howard , Breeding Shed Manager, cup of coffee in hand, calls for the first mare.
As soon as my mare enters the shed, I slip around to snap photos of ArchArchArch as he walks from the new Stallion Barn. Behind me is the original horseshoe shaped stallion barn of Leslie Comb’s time, with the bronze of Nashua and groom Clem Brooks and the plaque for Raise A Native in the foreground, by the horse’s graves.
In the tongue and groove paneled breeding shed, mostly covered in protective black foam padding, are still displayed the brass nameplates of Spendthrift racehorses, row upon row, since the 1960’s framed on the walls above the padding.
A new addition to the comfortable observation room, is a computer screen displaying information on all Spendthrift’s current stallions, or if you are outwaiting a slow breeder in the shed, internet access . Yay !
Soon I’m A Goodlooker is bred, and I whisk her back across town to her hungry baby, who waits by the stall door, but jumps back when the mare enters, uncertain if this is really his mother. One quick pull of the milkbar, and he decides she’ll do anyway.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Back to The Shed ~ To First Defence at Juddmonte

Tag along with Lindsay and Kim to deliver a mare to First Defence at Juddmonte Farm.

Juddmonte 3/15/13

At the reasonable hour of 8 am I loaded the mare to drive just a few miles over to Walnut Hill Rd to picturesque Juddmonte Farm. My friend, Kim Ammeter, armed with the camera, met us in the parking area, intent of snapping a few great photos. The sun was topping the trees and the lighting was dramatic, sort of navy blue and gold.
Juddmonte has three farms in Kentucky and is owned by Prince Khalid Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. Beginning with the purchase of 592 acres of the Bluegrass from the Belair estate in 1977, Juddmonte now spans 2508 acres in Kentucky. Winner of 10 Eclipse Awards, breeder of 65 starters in the Breeders Cup Championships who collectively topped earnings of $7.9 million dollars. Breeder of Frankel, now retired, who was undefeated in 14 races, a product of several generations of carefully selected Juddmonte breeding.
Today the mare has come to the court of young stallion, First Defence, who has already made his mark siring the 2 year old runner, Dundonnell. First Defence is by Taylor Made’s big grey stallion , Unbridled Song, who stands just a few miles down the road, and out of Honest Lady by Seattle Slew, a Juddmonte family mare who is a half sister to Empire Maker, who Juddmonte recently sent to Japan.
Cinnamon Charlie, a daughter of Indian Charlie out of a Cox’s Ridge mare, is a tall, dark mare built like her breeding would predict, a career earner of $65,000 and already the dam of winners. We unload, and she walks up the crushed red brick path to the red brick shed with wide curved mantles like the experienced mare she is.
Longtime buddy, Steve Dotsey, Stallion Manager at Juddmonte, soon arrived with the teaser in hand and the show was set to roll. Another truck and trailer pulled in, from Brookledge , bringing an Airdrie mare to be bred to Mizzen Mast.
The holding stalls are spacious and tall, freshly bedded with a thick mat of pine shavings. Steve’s breeding crew shows up,all donning their safety helmets and padded vests and the mare is quickly teased, washed and prepped. Kim and I stand on the wood deck just inside the breeding area,protected by a paneled wall. Kim has to be on tiptoe to look over the wall to get photos.
First Defence, polished to a rich dark mahogany, saunters in to the shed, disappears into the wash stall and soon reappears, washed and ready to breed. Two jumps, and soon Cinnamon Charlie is happily back in the trailer heading back home.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Back to The Shed ~ Almost Spring at Claiborne

Guest blogger Lindsay Hunter takes a special mare to revisit  War Front, and while we hope every made is successfully bred, we cross our fingers a little tighter for this one.

Sunshine, Daffodils & Claiborne 3.14.13

For a change, the sun was shining brightly this March morning, and wrapped up against the chill, I set off for the barn in high spirits. Looked like a great day to get horses worked outside, even though the footing was just passable. Abby and I got chores done and five out before lunchtime rolled around.
The elegant bay mare that I load for the trip to Paris is a return breeding from a few weeks ago. The dam of a Breeders Cup winner, earner of $652,000, her last foal came in 2008. She herself earned a half million dollars, and so a baby out of her could be worth a pretty penny at the sales, if she could get in foal just one more time. Her coat is short and slick, testament to the good care she is getting in order to accomplish that goal. She shows her age in the leanness of her face, but her good quality is immediately evident to the beholder.
Date for today : A return trip to War Front, champion son of Danzig.
Driving out between the stone fences of Paris Pike, just past the County Line between Fayette and Bourbon Counties, I fall in behind a Sallee van. This far down the pike, at this time of day, there is a good chance it ,too, is headed for Claiborne’s breeding shed. My powerful Ford Turbo diesel could easily pass the van, but, in respect of the unwritten van driver code of ethics, it would be infra dig to race by and beat him to the shed, so I just settle in tandem.
Through the main thoroughfare into Paris, turning right at the Family Dollar’s big red sign, we cruise on out to the stone pillars and the wide tarmac entrance on the left in the curve. Across the narrow one lane bridge bordered by white poles, and into the shaded parking area. Behind the Sallee van, which backs up to the long low gravel dock, I pulled around and reverse carefully into the marked trailer parking. I am third in line.
Soon there are more trucks and trailer coming down the long driveway. They back carefully into the spaces, while another van driver, first time to Claiborne, anxious runs to the shed with his mares’ papers, where John explains you get bred in the order in which you arrive.
Egyptian geese peck in the grass lining the flowing creek, sun sparkling off the little ripples as it drops over the dam. More geese scull through the water at the edges, the swans are nowhere to be seen.
A rustle of activity at the shed and John hollers out for the first mare to come on in.
Jay Brunker from Halcyon Farm and Wayne Martin from Denali chat in the parking lot by their trailers, enjoying the sunshine.
Claiborne’s routine has remained the same for decades. No fancy barns, no opulent entrance, a working farm dedicated to doing things the right way. And it has worked well, proven by the quality racehorses that have their roots at Claiborne, and by the internationally acclaimed stallion rosters that year after year attract mares from all over the world.
Maybe the only things that change are a fresh coat of paint, sunflower yellow, and the personnel, who are often third generation Claiborne employees.
My mare is unconcerned, going through the motions of teasing, prepping and breeding like she has many times before. War Front is quiet and professional, waiting til she is readied by the shed crew, and then breeding her in one smooth jump. She gets an extra dose of semen from the dismount sample, perhaps enough to insure that a pregnancy results this time.
Back down Paris Pike, I’m forced to break hard behind a soccer mom in an electric car, who suddenly decides she can pull out of a side road and beat the trailer but then slows to a crawl. The bane of my driving existence. NNY is on her license plate, and I think “Yeah, she’s a ninny, alright “.
It’s after hours at the farm, and I unload the mare back to her stall. The rest of the mares in her barn are quietly munching their hay, and she is glad to get to her dinner.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Back to The Shed ~ Snow Flurry at Darley

Travel along with Lindsay Hunter as she makes another trip back to Darley, this time for a visit to Street Boss.

Snow Flurry at Darley 3.13.13

We’re starting to feel like spring is being kept from us. The daffodils bloom yellow in little pockets along Paris Pike, tucked into the bases of newly constructed stone walls, or sprouting between the cracks of the original Irish built sections in the median . It is midday, and as the sun gloomily struggles to peek through the clouds, big fluffy snowflakes swirl through the air.
I’m off to Darley again, this time for the 1.30 pm breeding session. It has been researched and determined that the stallions’ semen volume and strength decreases by half on every subsequent breeding in the same 24 hour period. Most breeding farms like to give their stallions a four hour break between breedings, Darley has opted for six hours between sessions.
Lots of traffic on New Circle Road, but as we exit onto Versailles Road and turn left onto Man O War, the cars thin out a bit. Turn right on Parkers Mill behind the Airport, and a tight left onto Bowman Mill between Mill Ridge Farm and Darley, swoop down the hill and over the narrow one lane dip, and we’re turning into the breeding shed entrance.
Just four mares are on the afternoon sheet, are there is Joe, wrapped up warm in coveralls and woolly hat, topped off with the Darley blue jacket, coming to take the papers. All the mares are here, and my mare goes in stall #1, She is upset, pushy, leaving her first foal for the first time, and she paces the stall, letting the teaser know that she is on edge. He nibbles and licks, cajoling her gently into showing her readiness to be bred. A good teaser is indispensable, and worth his weight in gold. The veterinarian has declared it optimum time, but taking a mare away from home and her foal, can change her demeanor. Slowly she settles down, but the decision to have the teaser ‘jump’ her prior to breeding, is made by Joe.
The teaser, muddy from a roll in the paddock, is already suited up for the job, and Joe takes him into the shed to test the mare’s reaction. She does fine, and they send for the stallion.
Yesterday it was Street Cry I came to visit, today it is Street Boss, his fastest son.
A chestnut, well made with a strong sloping shoulder and big length of hip, Street Boss saunters into the shed. I am up in the observation room, which with it’s heater running wide open ,is considerably warmer than down in the breeding area.. The two wide plate glass windows allow a view of the breeding. Street Boss is a little unsure of this fidgety mare, and they decide to give her a little tranquilizer to relax her. He sniffs her tail, still undecided.
With encouragement from his handler, he agrees to breed the mare. It’s a little like “you can take a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink “, but Street Boss consents to play along, and the pretty chestnut mare is covered. An extra dose from the dismount sample, tail bandage removed, and we are headed for the trailer. Anxiously she loads up, perhaps realizing that I will whisk her home to her foal. Reunited back at the farm , the foal circles suspiciously to check that it really is her mother, and then latches on hungrily to the milk bar, frothy white milk dripping from her whiskery lips. The mare settles immediately, and drops her head to the hay.
Pulling back onto Paris Pike, it is still blowing snow, and I look for the yellow daffodils that promise springs isn’t too many days ahead.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Back to The Shed ~ Daybreak at Darley

On the way to the Breeding Shed with Guest Blogger Lindsay Hunter

Daybreak at Darley 3.12.13

With the time change, the Corgis and I were rolling out at 5am in the pitch dark to get to the farm to hitch to the trailer and be at the pick up destination by 6.30. The red and yellow clearance lights on the sides of gooseneck seemed like bright sparks in the dark, and the mare loaded easily when I flicked on the interior lighting. We set off for Darley, meeting very little traffic along the way, me and Garth Brooks pounding out “Ain’t Goin ’Down til the Sun Comes Up “ on the steering wheel.
As I pulled up to the wrought iron gate with brass spires along the top, and watched it slowly open, I could see trailer lights pulling up over the rock lined drive to the breeding shed, so I knew I wasn’t first in line.
The mare in the trailer was a maiden, going to be bred for the first time, She stood quiet and well behaved, ready for her date with Street Cry. Stud fee : $150,000.
Sitting in the big parking apron, I had a good view of the Darley acres in two directions. One by one I watched the stall lights flick on in the barns over toward Military Pike. Head lights and tail lights wove their way along tentacles of blacktop that linked the barns to the main areas . People came and went, day crew arriving to set the day’s routine in motion, night watchmen heading home after a long shift foaling mares or checking on their precious charges.
Soon the breeding shed came alive too, and more vans slowly rolled over the hill, carrying mares ready to be bred.
Joe, with his usual cheerful greeting, collected envelopes containing the required shed forms, clean culture slips and any pertinent instructions for each mare. He tells me to bring the mare to holding stall # 2, and she unloads quietly, with all the class and composure of a good mare twice her age.
Street Cry by European sire Machiavellian and out of Helen Street (GB) is the sire of the incomparable Zenyatta, whose earnings of over $7 million dollars in 19 wins, defeated only in her last start, making her a household name and crowd favorite with her own fan club. Street Cry has sired 13 G1 winners, including Street Sense, (winner of $4,383,200 ) Shocking ($3,953,726 ) , Street Boss, Desert Party, and numerous others.
No stranger to the winner’s circle, Street Cry won the Dubai World Cup, and the Stephen Foster Handicap, with a 3 rd in the Breeder’s Cup Juvenile at two. Now he also shuttles to Australia for the Southern Hemisphere breeding season.
The mare is just as sensible in the wash stocks and lets Joe wrap her tail in the flesh colored gauze bandage favored in the breeding sheds. On into the shed, and Phillip takes charge, carefully positioning her as Street Cry walks down from the closest stallion barn. Four men are positioned around her, one on the head, one on the tail, two ready to steady the stallion if needed. Darley’s vet hovers close by, ready to take the dismount (semen ) sample in a little white cup and read it under the microscope
By now it is daylight and an early morning chill pervades the waiting area, the rubber lined floor wet from a fresh disinfecting spray. Soon the big doors slide apart and the mare is handed off to me and we make our way out into the cold sunshine and load back in the trailer.
As I drive back along Man O War Blvd, now humming with rush hour commuters, I wonder if we have just created another champion runner ?

Monday, March 11, 2013

Back to The Shed ~ A Visit with Mineshaft and a Look Back with Lindsay

Guest Blogger Lindsay Hunter delivers a mare to Mineshaft and recalls how she developed "horse fever"

Lanes End Lately & Bitten by the Bug 3/ 4/13

Athough the breeding season is yet young, most of the busier sheds have been holding evening breeding sessions, and Lanes End is no exception. But tonight there are just two mares to be bred, and I thought if I arrived just a little earlier that the 7 pm appointment, my chances of being first in line and getting the mare bred early were greatly increased.. I knew I was in luck when the night security opened the Stallion Entrance gate from his golf cart, and I cruised along the curving road and into the deserted parking area. Backed the Featherlite into my favorite spot by the ramp, and set off to find out what was happening in the shed.
David, suited up in his khaki coveralls and protective veterinary sterile gloves, met me in the aisle way, as John was off for the evening, and said I could bring in the mare.
The mare in question was returning for a rebreed, having not ovulated her follicle that she was bred on a few days earlier. At this time of year, with fluctuating temperatures and erratic teasing cycles, it’s not unusual to have a mare that you thought was just right for breeding, and the vet doesn’t want to delay any longer based on what he’s feeling on her ovaries, to hold the follicle and not ovulate as expected. As busy as the popular stallions are, sometimes you can get her back to the stallion, sometimes not.
But today she was lucky and Mineshaft was available.
The buckskin teaser reaching his head through the hatch to ‘talk’ to her caught her unawares, and she snorted in surprise, flaring her big nostrils and tossing her head. But she soon came around to his way of thinking, and David had me bring her to the wash stocks.
Tail wrapped and squeaky clean, Asa came to take her to the breeding area. Lanes End’s breeding crew now wears green protective vests and safety approved helmets, just like riders do, in case of a glancing blow from a hoof or a sudden swing of a head. Two plunging horses can be hazardous to life and limb, and working the breeding sheds, dealing with unfamiliar mares that might not respond as predicted, is every bit as challenging as being on the back of a racehorse.
Mineshaft minced along the red rubber brick pathway from the stallion barn, well in hand but eager to breed his evening mare. Neck arching, dark coat gleaming from much grooming and polishing, he was quite a sight to see. The crew set the mare up quickly, protective leather pad on her neck to afford the stallion a place to grab onto while straddling the mare, puffy leather boots on her hind feet , to protect him in the event of a well aimed kick from a cantankerous mare.
But she was ready for breeding and well behaved, and within no time I was headed out the doors and walking the crushed brick path back to the loading ramp.
On the drive home from Midway, I reflected on how I, a suburban -raised girl, from Cape Town, South Africa, could have a job with advantages that many horse crazy kids only dream about - visiting these world class stallions at some of the worlds’ most prestigious Thoroughbred breeding farms in the Horse Capital of the World.

Bitten by the Bug
I did not come from a ’horsey ’ family. I have photos of both my parents riding horses, but they were by no stretch of the imagination ’horse people “.
I think I must have gotten bit by the ’horse bug ’ on a visit to friends whose daughter, Carol, had a horse . I was quite little, but from then on, I was fascinated by horses. I drew pictures, I read horse stories and books about horses. I hung out at the beach with the beach ponies, offering to lead or brush or whatever I could, in the hope that maybe the old man in charge would let me crawl up in the saddle and see the world from a different perspective, salty mane blowing in my face.
For both my eighth and ninth birthdays, I spent two glorious weeks visiting family friends who had a riding stable, who fox hunted , played polo, and had grown children that evented. I was assigned a pony for my stay and given the opportunity to indulge all my horse related dreams, taking part in lessons, trail rides through the country, tagging along at horse shows, and burying my nose deep in the horse’s neck, inhaling that unique aroma peculiar to horses. If I was bitten by a bug, it had now become a full blown case of horse addictiveness. I’ve never recovered.
Riding lessons, Pony Club, riding Thoroughbreds in bush track races, learning to show at area shows, jumping, dressage, moving on to saddle seat and Five Gaited Saddlebreds. I couldn’t get enough.
My parents were supportive, but not involved, and I jumped at the opportunity to ride other peoples horses, since I couldn’t have my own. I rode a lot of horses, from school ponies to high priced show horses, and I learned a great deal from them all.
For many years I rode a wonderful palomino Arabian stallion, and competed as a Hunter, and as an Arabian, with my favorite class being the Farm Horse Class. Gaeton Gold, brilliant golden coat with pure white mane and tail, was frequently called for the red ribbon (for first place in SA ) after demonstrating his ability to stand ground tied while I walked a circle around him cracking a stock whip, weaved him through poles at the canter, cracking the whip on each side, and stopping to gather up a lamb, riding one handed and manouvering through obstacles. It was fun, and we were good at it !
I set my sights on getting a job in the States and working for a top Saddlebred trainer that would take me on. Along the way, I earned my British Horse Society Instructors Certificate in England at the Moat House Academy in Kent, where Princess Anne had been a pupil also.
Stepping off the plane in Kentucky on the first day of the State Fair and the World Championship Horse Show (for Saddlebreds ) a suitcase in either hand , I knew this was where I was meant to be, although it was a little scary at the time.
Although I just planned to stay for one year, a series of events soon changed that, and now forty years later, I’m still here. But that’s a story for another day.

Back to The Shed ~ And Back to WinStar

More from guest blogger Lindsay Hunter...

Spring ahead ~ WinStar March 10

It seemed like a short night, having set the clocks an hour ahead for Daylight Savings Time and as I left the house on the way to the farm, a skunk trotted determinedly down the middle of the road in front of the truck, never wavering until he reached his turnoff, no doubt after a long night of grubbing .
Turning onto narrow, tree lined Spears Road, a big brindle doe stood momentarily motionless in the headlights, then quickly skittered over the wire fence and into the brush. Bailey, the Dog With A Tail, panning for squirrels in the shotgun seat, went beserk.
Collecting the mare at Overbrook, we set off down the avenues, whose trees were starkly silhouetted against the grey dawn, but all to soon would be hung with fragrant blossoms. Onto Tates Creek Road, and there was very little traffic on a quiet Sunday morning to slow down our progress. Our appoinment at Winstar for 9 am meant that we would be in the second shed, reserved for the stallions that took their own sweet time.
The parking area was crammed full of trailers and vans, and I wiggled in to the only open space, recently vacated by a mare from the ‘early ‘ shed.
Van drivers stood around chatting, most grateful for the early morning coffee and doughnuts available in the observation room. Tony Cissell, , two way radio in one ear, directed procedings between the stallion barn and the breeding shed, all the while shuffling mares in and out of the teasing stalls to the wash stocks to the holding stalls. 19 mares were on the morning shed books, and the place was hopping.
My mare penciled in on the Roster board as number 3 in Shed 2, so even though I was early for the appointment, I was in for a wait.
Mike Owens, who with his wife, Jeannie, runs Cobra Farm, waited too, checking texts on his cell phone. Adam Corndorf, and manager, Glen, from Blue Heaven Farm, waited also, watching each stallion come into the shed. It is such a plus to be able to see these stallions up close and personal. Clayton and Tom Ameche, better known as ‘Arizona ‘, grabbed a quick coffee, while the van drivers from the three big companies in town, Brookledge, Hubbard and Sallee, stood around and compared notes about which sheds they’d been to and how busy they were.
High above us the Big Ass Fan mounted in the ceiling reminded me that we would still be coming to get mares bred when the days turned hot and muggy in May. Spot the teaser inspected every mare, suited up in his protective shield in case a mare needed to be jumped prior to putting a valuable stallion on her back.
Stallion after stallion walked down from the big barn and bred their mare. Medaglia de’Oro, Colonel John, Tiznow, U.S. Ranger, Artie Schiller, Gemologist, Pioneer oftheNile, Sidney’s Candy, Super Saver, Bellamy Road, Bodemeister , Congrats, Distorted Humor, Harlan’s Holiday, Speightstown , Spring at Last, one by one they all took their turn.
Slowly after each mare was bred and reloaded, the vans and trailers pulled away from the parking area. Tony began to wrap things up, erasing each mare from the board as she was bred.
Soon it would be quiet and uneventful in the shed, all areas hosed down or raked over, ready for the next session of the day, after lunch.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Back to The Shed ~ Ashford in morning WinStar in the evening

A double-header for Guest Blogger Lindsay Hunter, Ashford in the a.m. to visit Capo Blanco, and WinStar in the evening, for Bellamy Road.

Ashford Stud 2/28/13

The sky was grey and chilly as I drove out Highway 60, the Lexington Road past Versailles. Snowflakes swirled around the truck like the blossoms of cherry trees losing their petals in the spring. Out past Fred Seitz’ Brookdale Farm on the left, on past Stonestreet’s impressive gates with the brass plaques. Thinking about Rachel Alexandra and her recent plight post foaling, I was soon past the tall electric pylon and looking for the small white sign that signaled the turn into Ashford’s breeding shed entrance. 
Driving trough the double iron gates, down the long curving avenue landscaped with trees and shrubs, I thought back about the original Ashford that Dr. William Lockridge developed in the ‘70’s, a 456 acre cattle farm, that since its’ acquisition in the 80’, Coolmore America has stretched to cover 2000 rolling Bluegrass acres, and the wonderful stone barns and buildings that dot the property. 
Storm Bird, the sire of the mighty Storm Cat, stood at Ashford, but now numerous stallions with international influence hail Ashford as their home.
Today I have a mare for the young stallion, Cape Blanco, a son of Europe’s most revered stallion, Galileo, Winner of the Man ‘O War Stakes, and the Irish Derby, racing on both sides of the pond. She is a maiden, and although well behaved, comes with a few instructions. Calli, the new breeding shed manager since Niall Power has gone to Coolmore’s operation in Australia, comes out to get the papers and notes the instructions.
She behaves well in the wash stocks, but on the side of caution, they give her a little tranquilizer and she soon drops her head.
Beside me in the blue padded holding stalls are two other mares. Billy from Brookledge has the mare in front of me, who is being bred to Hansen. We are all waiting, because the stallion in the shed, Giant’s Causweway, the Iron Horse, is known to take his time. 
When Billy’s mare goes in, I slip into the observation lounge to see Hansen, who I haven’t seen since dying his tail Wildcat Blue for his trip in the West Virginia Derby. He looks handsome as ever, gleaming white like his sire, Tapit, at Gainesway, and literally prances into the shed, playful as ever.
I take back my sleeping mare, and soon our turn is up. Cape Blanco, an impressive chestnut, walks quietly through the big double doors that lead into the shed from the two stallion barns, separate stone barns where each stallion has a brass plaqued nameplate on the front of his spacious, straw lined stall. They spend most of their time romping in individual double fenced paddocks that sweep away from the stallion barns, in equine luxury.
Quickly he breeds the maiden, and soon the tail wrap is off, she steps her hind feet out of the protective padded leather boots (to protect the stallion should she kick) and we are out on the canopied dock and back to the trailer.
Back through Versailles, and I soon have her home to her farm. It’s barely 8.30 but seems like half a day, and I decide to check out the Keeneland Warehouse Sale to see what bargains I can snag this year. 

A WinStar Evening Out 2/28/13

I drove the winding backroads through picturesque Jessamine County where I live, to avoid the construction happening on Versailles Rd, between bustling New Circle Road and the Bluegrass Parkway interchange, including RIGHT IN FRONT OF KEENELAND ! I can just imagine what getting to the spring meet in April is going to be like, but maybe they will have done whatever they’re doing in that section by then. 
Snuck through the evening rush hour commuters to follow Pisgah Pike on past the historic Pisgah Church, round the horseshoe bend and over the railroad track past Dr Fishback’s Trackside Farm (not Tom Evans’ Trackside Farm further out in Versailles) and along the road frontage of Brittany Farm, one of the remaining Standardbred nurseries in the Bluegrass, since lack of racing dates and incentives forced the majority of Standardbred breeders to relocate to New Jersey. Up and down the hills, noting that the purple and white cow (like our Horse Mania horses) has changed direction in the field off to the right.
Turning left at the crossroads, I could see WinStar’s Security man waiting to check me in. The usual question “Who is your mare breeding to ? “ and the correct answer gains one access through the gate.
I was a little early, hoping that by being first, I could get in and out of there in optimum time. The lights shone through the big windows in the new breeding shed complex, as I pulled into the carefully marked parking area, and I left Solo in the truck and walked inside.
Ever cordial, Tony Cissell was just setting the evening session in gear, and soon returned with Spot, the plum pudding marked Leopard App teaser. Spot is a veteran, and very good at his job. The mare, also with several foals to her credit, knew exactly what was expected of her, and showed herself to be ‘hot’ in heat and ready for breeding.
Her date for the evening, dressed in his best black suit, walked regally down the connecting aisle from his stall in the stallion barn. The overhead lights reflected off his polished coat, and his full, thick tail swung gracefully behind him, surely the envy of many show horses. Bellamy Road, an eleven year old son of Concerto, distinguished himself by winning the G1 Wood Memorial by 17 lengths, equaling the track record set 40 years ago by Riva Ridge. Proving himself not only as a racehorse, but more importantly as a sire, he duplicated himself in siring Toby’s Corner, also the winner of the Wood Memorial, and proved himself to be more than a one trick pony, in siring the undefeated juvenile, Chatfield Road.
By the time the mare was bred and returned to the trailer, only the stars were lighting up the night sky. Just as I was loading, another trailer pulled into the complex, but I was set on “go” to head back to drop off the mare and wind my way across the now quiet country lanes to home.

For more of Lindsay, find her here, on her FaceBook page.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Back to The Shed ~ A Trip to Airdrie and Proud Citizen

Guest Blogger Lindsay Hunter writes about delivering a mare to Proud Citizen, who stands at the famous Airdrie Stud, owned by Kentucky's former Gov. Brereton Jones and his wife, Libby.  

Airdrie Stud 2/26/13

I flicked one eye open and looked at the red glow of the bedside clock. Time to get rolling. Tickled the Corgis sleeping at my feet and let them out the back door. Rustling around, I dressed and dabbed on a little makeup. The dogs ate their kibble, and Bailey very pointedly went back to her bed. It was pitch dark out. The Corgis, Solo and Millie, were a bit more enthusiastic, but as soon as I put the big Ford in gear, they stretched out beside me and went back to sleep.
Over the hills and through the dales, we soon arrived at the main barn. I was greeted by a Eskimo lookalike, bundled up against the chilly morning air. 
Mare loaded, we set out across town for Airdrie Stud, one of the prettiest and oldest farms in Kentucky. Winding along the grey ribbon of Old Frankfort Pike, trees etched sharply against the pre dawn light, past Three Chimneys , past the converted old tollhouse right next to the blacktop that now is home to Wallace Station, a remarkable place to eat just outside of Midway, we were soon turning through the stone pillars of Airdrie. 
Former Kentucky Governor Brereton C. Jones and his wife, Libby, began Airdrie in 1972, on family land that was part of the famous Woodburn Farm, home to the stallion, Lexington, America’s Leading Sire for 16 years at the end of the 19th Century, and also the home of 5 Kentucky Derby winners. Airdrie rambles across 2500 acres, and has the distinction of having bred 140 Stakes Winners with collective earnings of over $80 million.
Our mare is booked to Proud Citizen, a son of Gone West, who won the Coolmore Lexington Stakes at Keeneland, and as a three year old, placed in both the 2002 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, two legs of the elusive Triple Crown of racing. Now 13, he has sired not one, but two winners of the prestigious Kentucky Oaks for fillies, Proud Spell and Believe You Can. 
The big pinto draft bred teaser verifies that the mare is ripe for breeding, and she’s prepped and tagged with a card with her name and Proud Citizen’s name, so there can be no mistakes as to who she is to be bred to.
Tim Thornton brings the playful stallion into the breeding shed, and the crew set the mare up for him, one steadies her head with shank and twitch, one is positioned to keep her tail out of the way of the plunging stallion. Quietly, with no fuss, Proud Citizen takes care of business, and soon we are back on the road. 
Often in the early spring mornings, the road is blocked by deer between the stone walls of Airdrie and Woodburn, but perhaps because of the chill, they have stayed out of sight. It’s a pretty long drive out to Airdrie, so since this is a single mare, I make a quick stop to grab a latte’ and a danish to satisfy my rumbling tummy. Soon we are back to the home farm, a three hour turnaround, and the mare is ready to unload and spend the rest of the day in the fields with her buddies.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Back To The Shed ~ A Visit to Three Chimneys

Guest Blogger Lindsay Hunter delivers a maiden mare to Flower Alley at Three Chimneys, and recalls some history along the way.

Click here for Lindsay's FaceBook page.

Three Chimneys 2/21/13

The two Corgis, Solo and Millie, curled up and went back to sleep beside me on the seat, as if I had interrupted their morning beauty sleep by getting them up in the dark. Bailey rode shotgun, with a renewed passion
 for keeping a watchful eye for deer on Spears Rd, as we had seen three on our trip home last night from the farm. By the time I had slid the gooseneck ball under the trailer, fed grain to all the horses in the barn and filled their water buckets, the sun peaking over the hills toward Tates Creek Rd was bathing the landscape in golden light, very welcome after many days of dreary grey and cold.
We set off once more for Overbrook Farm, which since the passing of it’s founder, W.T. Young, had made its glorious barns and sweeping fields available to several Thoroughbred boarding operations. Stopping at one of the long barns of Terazzas Thoroughbreds, the pretty, almost black mare, Lovely Danielle, was loaded onto the trailer, and we wound our way through the tree lined avenues to the front gate, which swung open automatically as soon as I passed the guard shack. Like Hotel California in reverse, you can always leave, but you must have special access granted to get in through the locked gates.
Traffic was picking up for the morning rush hour, but we encountered no problems traveling New Circle Road to the other side of town. Lovely Danielle, a maiden foaling mare, was leaving her young foal for the first time and was understandably anxious. Eduardo (Terazzas) had written notes on the shed envelope, to remind the shed crew that she had been a bit nervous last year as a maiden being bred for the first time, and hoped she had the hang of it now, but to be watchful.
Old Frankfort Pike, the road to Three Chimneys, was thankfully not busy, as one turns left off the ramp, and there is often a lot of heavy construction traffic, police vehicles from the depot and semis getting back on New Circle to thread through in a hurry. Past the spot where Wolf Run Farm used to be, where I first applied for a job, the former Mare Haven Annex and the little red house where Larry DeMerritte and his wife used to live, now gone. 
Through the new roundabout at the section of old Viley, now rechristened Alexandria, up the hill with the High Croft Farm on the right, bound by stone fence, where I did get my first job, in the spring of 1980 working with Ricky Payne for Taylor Made Farm, then in its’ infancy. Who would have guessed back then that the humble operation run by the Taylor brothers would soar to such heights?
On past the newly relocated Padua Farm, down the hill past the former Mare Haven farm of famed veterinarian, Dr William O. Reed, now Casa Farm, past Darby Dan, Old Bradley Farm, Fares Farm, the old Buckram Oak property that is now Stonestreet, home of Rachel Alexandra. Past Chealis Hammond’s place, he a friend of Ricky Paynes’, where it seemed like there was always a party going on. That farm became Old Frankfort Stud, where Jim Plemmons stood Lil E Tee, who won the KY Derby in 1982. Now Frankfort Park Stud, it too, is leased to different operators.
Continuing along the old buffalo trail, passing the little white house on the left quaintly named “Dutchmans Acre “, we soon pass Meg and Michael Levy’s Bluewater Farm, on a former Three Chimneys division location, and on out past The Headley-Whitney Museum, Middlebrook Farm, Cathy Wieshoff’s Carriage Station, down over the bridge before the little store with the good sandwiches and cold drinks, up past Hopewell Farm and Pisgah Pike , and finally to Three Chimneys. 
As we turn left on Big Sink Pike, Lovely Danielle is shaking the trailer. There is only one trailer in the parking lot ahead of us, and promptly at 9 am, the prep guy comes to get our papers. Lovelly Danielle has a date with Flower Alley, sire of Bodemeister who ran second in last year’s KY Derby, and is now retired to stud at Winstar Farm.
Standing in the teasing stall, I could appreciate just how lovely Lovely Danielle was. A refined, tapered head (yes, the Arabian lover in me comes out) and strong, muscular body set on perfectly straight legs and neat feet. However, as predicted, she had only so much patience in the wash stocks, and after her tail was wrapped and her vulva cleaned, she could hold herself together no longer, and with a great leap out of the stocks, let us know she wanted to get on with the breeding and get back to her baby. 
Once in the breeding shed, she stood quietly while Flower Alley minced along the crushed red brick path from his barn to the shed, and was a perfect lady while he mounted and covered her. 
Hurrying back into the trailer, she made it quite plain that she was anxious to get back to her baby, and so with no further ado, the Corgis, now awake, and I whisked her back to Overbrook Farm and her baby.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Back To The Shed ~ A Visit With Arch at Claiborne

Back to Claiborne with Guest Blogger Lindsay Hunter, this time with a mare to visit Arch. Longtime friend, Kim Ammeter riding shotgun. To visit Lindsay on her FaceBook page, click here.
Photo of Arch courtesy Kim Ammeter

Claiborne 2/21/13

Accompanied by my long time friend and fellow rider, Kim Ammeter, I set out on a cool, windy afternoon to take a mare to Claiborne. Like me, Kim has ridden all her life, and continues to enjoy the horses and everything to do with them. Since her retirement from the city government, it has afforded her more time to ride and be at the barn, and she has been game to go along on any wild venture I propose, including the dying of tails and delivering of ponies. So here we go, and Kim is armed with her camera.

We collect the mare and discover from the breeding shed envelope, that she is booked to Arch, sire of Claiborne’s prestigious runners , ArchArchArch , Blame and Uncle Mo, all now retired from the track and standing at stud. ArchArchArch is along the road at Spendthrift, Blame stands alongside his sire at Claiborne, while Uncle Mo resides in splendor over at Ashford Stud in Woodford County.
Kim reminisces that the last time she visited Claiborne was when the great Secretariat was still there, and recalls that Secretariat’s stall still had the nameplate of his equally famous sire on the stall door, Bold Ruler.
There is so much written material about Secretariat, including the movie, photos, just treasures of the past - all worth reading and following up on. Numerous homes and offices display Tony Leonard’s famous photo of Secretariat with pride.
Turning into Claiborne’s main entrance, Kim exclaims that it hasn’t changed at all from her last visit many years ago. There are two Sallee horse vans pulled up to the loading dock. I turn the trailer around in the large parking lot (only large when you’re first to arrive, but can get very crowded with 5 or 6 trailers present .)
We’ re early, so we wait.
Promptly at 3 pm, we see the shed crew stirring. The teaser, a black Tennessee Walker, is brought to the teasing stall. Visiting mares are brought to the front stalls, Claiborne mares are kept away from visiting mares and are teased along the back stalls. We are called second to the shed. Our mare is not paying attention to the teaser, preferring to pick at the straw in the stall. She is a maiden and so prior to introducing her to Arch himself, they bring the teaser into the shed to ‘jump’ her, to make sure she isn’t scared about the whole breeding thing and kicks the stallion, who probably has 60 more mares to breed this season. She does great, so Arch’s groom is signaled to bring him from the stallion barn.
Claiborne is conservative in their stallion books, seldom overbooking their stallions, unlike some of the farms that might breed 150 or more to a popular horse, all live cover. The Jockey Club, the governing body for the Thoroughbred horse in America, prohibits any other methods of mating, while most other breeds are allowed to produce offspring by artificial insemination, either fresh cooled or frozen semen , which enables popular sires’ semen to be shipped anywhere, including across the continent, to recipient mares. Some registries allow multiple foals from one mare in a single season. This can flood the market with foals by a popular horse, even full siblings in the same year. 
By prohibiting this practice, the Jockey Club and Mother Nature limit the offspring to a certain extent, so when you present your youngster at a sale, you hope there aren’t too many others by the same sire, at least not as good as the one you raised !
Kim is able to take photos, of Claiborne’s white swans, of Arch, of the shed, so the accompanying photos are to her credit.
Soon we are back out through the yellow gate, and loaded and on the way back to the home farm. The barn crew, almost done for the day, is there to meet us and unload, and we are quickly on our way back to Silverstone.