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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Hobnobbing With The Bigwigs

Believe it or not, I actually have not finished writing about my trip to KY. I told you I packed a whole lot into two-and-a-half days! And there was that bit I mentioned about covering things A-Z...

While I was at Old Friends, I met that nice lady named Melissa, who hailed from upstate New York. As we were wrapping up the tour by perusing the offerings in the farm gift shop, I heard her ask her friend about what time they were supposed to be visiting India. I must admit to being a bit confused, given that we were standing in the middle of Kentucky. Silly me... of course they were talking about a horse! Specifically, a retired race mare, now a broodmare, a horse who Melissa had frequently visited in the shedrow at Saratoga and was very anxious to see again. She was living now back at Summer Wind farm right across the street from Old Friends. To my surprise, the ladies asked me if I would like to go with them to see the horse.

While I was in the midst of contemplating this kind offer (I didn't leap at it because I wasn't sure about wading into the middle of a happy reunion), another lady walked in. She knew the secretary at Old Friends and immediately told her about what a great time she'd just had visiting WinStar Farm, which was having an Open House in honor of Breeder's Cup weekend. WinStar Farm? Open House? REALLY? This certainly made me prick up my ears. Normally one has to make a reservation in advance to tour any of the big-time Bluegrass establishments, much less one which owns a Derby-winning stallion. That would be Super Saver, who came in first in 2010 under Calvin Borel (and I really do need to find that photo of me with Calvin to show you guys!). I asked the lady how long the Open House lasted and how far away the farm was. She said she expected they'd be open at least until 2:00 (it was about 12:45) and the farm was 20 minutes away. That did it - I hastily said goodbye to Melissa and friend and was in my car like a shot. I was most anxious to check out a premier breeding facility like the ones I'd been driving by, having only ever been to one in the past (Claiborne).

The only drawback to this instant plan was that it was lunch time and I was very, very hungry (Tinners Way was a long ways uphill at OF and we walked quite a distance to begin with). Fortunately I had some trail mix in the car, so in between stuffing a few handfuls of that in my mouth, phoning my husband to tell him my incredible luck in finding out about the Open House, and constantly checking the GPS (remember, this area is chock-full of back roads and winding lanes) I made it to WinStar in good time. I decided I would simply not worry about the fact that I was not dressed in anything remotely resembling "rich TB mare owner/breeder/trainer attire" and besides, pulling up in my eight-year-old Toyota minivan would probably give anyone scouting the parking lot a clue that I was not there to potentially blow a hundred thou on a stud fee. An Open House was an Open House, dammit, and hopefully they wouldn't care if the hoi polloi dropped in to get an eyeful of equine eye candy.

A nice young man directed me to a parking spot and I hopped out, determined to put on a brave exterior and act like I belonged (hah). The stallion barn at WinStar did NOTdisappoint, folks. You can go here to see a slideshow of the place, but here are my shots of the exterior:

And here's what I saw upon entering:
Most of the visitors were gathered in the central viewing area, where a magnificent specimen was already on display, headed by a stud groom. I gave him a wide berth (I could just see the headlines: "Deadly Spook Prompted By Visitor Kills Million-Dollar Stallion, WinStar Suing") and contented myself with taking a few (bad, as usual) photos.
This handsome fellow is Tiznow, who can be your mare's beau for a mere $75,000!
But what was that I smelled, and what were people holding? It looked a lot like sandwiches... hmmm. The siren call of my empty stomach led me around the corner into the office/lounge part of the building, where lo and behold, a caterer was ladling out hot soup and croissant sandwiches to hungry bystanders. I could hardly believe it. Not only was I going to see fabulous stallions in a gorgeous facility, they were going to feed me, too! I perched on the edge of a fancy leather chair while bolting a bowl of extremely hot and extremely good tomato soup and inhaling a sandwich. I really was cracking up internally at my good fortune. The things I've fallen into...
While I ate, I was able to watch a video loop on that screen above the door of the Breeder's Cup Classic, which had just been run the day before. The winner, Drosselmeyer, is by Distorted Humor - Winstar's top stallion, and will now be taking up stud duty there himself (for an introductory fee of $17,500).
Once I had dispensed with the growling tummy, I was able to check out the rest of the horses and the building. This is their premier sire Distorted Humor, in all his glory:
2008 Sire of the Year:
The stud fee? A cool $100,000. However, his tear sheet from the farm notes that one of his offspring was the highest-priced US 2yo in 2010, selling for $2.3 million, so if your mare is of sufficient quality (and I'm sure they all are!), you do stand a pretty good chance of earning your money back.

Tiznow and Distorted Humor themselves are responsible for millions and millions of dollar of earnings on the racetrack, and their progeny are following suit. I saw several other stallions brought out as well. Still, I was a little disappointed that Super Saver was not present, but away breeding in the southern hemisphere. It's okay - the last Derby winner I ran across I got to actually pet (Monarchos, at Claiborne).

This is the actual breeding area at WinStar, with padded walls all the way around. It's linked by a covered walkway to the stallion barn.
And here are the tags the grooms clip on the mares' halters to make extra, super, TRIPLY sure that they are being bred by the right guy:
Outside of the barn in the horseshoe-shaped arrangement of bushes, I found this plaque in the ground:
The fantastic stallion is buried there, according to his Wikipedia article. I'll admit I really didn't know much about him but I certainly recognize a lot of the horses in his pedigree (he shares Princequillo as a grandsire with Big Red), and he is Zenyatta's grandpap (Vertigineux's sire)!  I'm glad he is properly honored at WinStar.

Needless to say, it was all extremely impressive. If I was a TB breeder I would certainly be most interested in bringing a mare to this particular court. Incidentally, I was not the only 'tire kicker' visiting the farm that day. There were families with small children, there to show the kids the "pretty horsies," and other just plain enthusiasts, so I need not have worried about being an interloper. And guess who else showed up? Melissa and her friend, from my Old Friends visit. It turned out their appointment to see the now-retired mare at Summer Wind wasn't until 2:30, so they had time to come over to WinStar. Which is how I also found myself re-invited to join them at Summer Wind, and why you will next be reading about that, my last big adventure in KY this time around!


  1. Next time you go to Kentucky, will you please take me?

    Seriously though, it sounds like you had an AMAZING trip!

  2. Oh man, jealous! I've only been to Kentucky once, and though I did a lot of driving around past fancy barns... I didn't go inside any of them. I have been to Wellington, FL inside some of the barns in Grand Prix village. I need to get better pictures this year, because that is a kind of horse wealth I could not begin to realize actually existed!


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