Day Sixteen

Da Hoss, Cigar, Tiznow and other horseys, whoooeeee!

I have to admit, I like Kentucky…more specifically, I am quite
impressed by Lexington. We went to the Kentucky Horse Park today. It
was…..something. Yeah, lots of white fencing, a few REALLY nice draft
horses – Charlie, a Percheron was my favorite, although the aptly named
Thunder and Lightning, a matching pair of Clydesdales, were dandy, too-
but all in all, it’s ‘just’ a huge horse farm. 

What really made
our days though was the 2 1/2 hr farm trip we booked. Sam, a jovial,
middle-aged retired school teacher, horse afficianado and racing horse
NUTCASE who grew up on a horse farm, his mother was the farm cook,
drove a group of eleven people, us included, through the Lexington
Horse Farm areas…and we got to enter a few ones that are not open to
public.

Now a bit background. Here in the area, there are
somewhere between 4.500 and 5.000 horse farms, as in breeding/racing
stables. Small farms average about 600 acres, mid-sized ones 1.500
acres and large ones are 2.000+ acres. The price per acre is about
40.000 dollars, if you are in the market currently. Those nice white
fences? Set you back about 18.000 dollars per mile of fencing and
another 8.000 dollars over 4 years which gives you kinda unlimited
maintenance, i.e. if the boards are broken, the fence needs mending and
painting, it is done for you. Black is cheaper, same mileage, but the
upkeep is only 6.000 dollars per mile per 10 year period. I did write
‘just’ didn’t I? There are times when you just loose it I guess.

Most
farms are set up in four divisions: Broodmares, Stallions, Yearlings
and Training, all of which have separate managers usually who more
often than not have a house straight in their division. Good studs, and
we saw quite a few of them today, mount four mares a day for, pardon
the lax language, 300.000 dollars a pop, without guarantee, i.e. it is
not guaranteed that the mare will catch nor that the filly or colt will
be born alive. So, that’s a sweet 1.200.000 per stud per day, they do
get lucky 365 days a year. You do the math. There are studs who don’t
even look twice at a mare for less than 500.000 dollars. Feeling dizzy
already? And you wonder why they look relieved when they are retired
and taken out to pasture….

The first farm we saw was a nice,
2.000 acres farm. It’s a bit different, as it is a hobby farm, loosely
speaking. The husband’s a land developer, the wife is interested in
horses, so she has a stable of 40 horses (the farm is big enough for
1.500 horses….just as an aside…). Barns are made out of stone
imported from Italy (Europe, I am sure there is an Italy in the US, but
it’s the Europe one….). They have the proper four-part division, a
nice stallion barn…but don’t own a stallion nor ever had one, but who
knows, they might want to in the future, so they already built a
matching barn, just in case. There’s a half mile training track and a
mile turf course, naturally, the farm itself exists for seven years now
and basically consists of the acreage of 3 farms being united for that
building project. Must be nice to be a land developer and not planning
a mall for a change. They have a huge guest house, we better not
mention the regular house they live in, their two kids each have their
own houses (manors would be more exact) on the grounds, there’s a nice
office building and….a few other buildings, I have to admit I lost
track.Donamire Farm? I like you.

The next farm was WinStar Farm, the current home of Tiznow,
the winner of the Breeders Cup Classics of 2000 and 2001, although the
website states different facts than what I read and was told, i.e. that
both the Breeders Cup Classics come with a purse of 5.000.000, which
stands in contrast to the website saying that the lifetime earnings of
the horse are something in the excess of 6.000.000. Just to be THAT
close to that many famous studs…impressive. The last farm was purely
for the babies. They have about 400 broodmares. Horses have a gestation
period of 11 months, 3 weeks after giving birth they are bred
again…which means that this farm alone has 400 colts and fillies each
year. They say about 5% of all horses will ever be successful at racing
and not all studs and mares that go into breeding ever race, sometimes
just the genes are important. Just. Wow.

Suffice to say we both
were suitably impressed. Pity we don’t have more time, I could stay for
quite a while longer. Tomorrow we head to Columbus, Ohio, we both are
excited…but will have to return to Kentucky sooner rather than later.
The latest? In 2010 for the World Equestrian Games here in Lexington,
naturally, we are already registered volunteers….

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