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The following post was published earlier this week at Paulick Report.
In addition to having perhaps the most entertaining name among this year’s Kentucky Derby candidates, Pants on Fire also moved onto the list of certain qualifiers by earnings with his victory in the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby on Saturday.
The dark bay colt was bred in Kentucky by K & G Stable and is by former Overbrook Farm stallion Jump Start out of Cabo de Noche, by former Overbrook stallion Cape Town.
Both stallions were bred and raced by W.T. Young’s Overbrook Farm, then retired to begin their stud careers there. As a racehorse, Jump Start (by A.P. Indy out of the Storm Cat mare Steady Cat) raced only at 2, winning the G2 Saratoga Special and finishing second in the G1 Champagne. Perhaps the stallion’s best racer to date is G1 winner Rail Trip, winner of the Hollywood Gold Cup.
Jump Start is now at stud at Ghost Ridge Farms in Pennsylvania, and Cape Town was sold to Brazilian breeders in the dissolution of the Overbrook stock.
But for the death of Mr. Young, those two stallions probably would still be standing in the Bluegrass. Instead, they are enriching breeding programs elsewhere.
Pennsylvania, like several other states not widely known for standing popular stallions and producing numerous open stakes winners, is booming in the horse business. This is happening because the casino games and slots there enrich purses and breeders’ premiums that make the dicey business of raising racehorses financially sensible.
Some breeders look with distrust on the improved and improving programs for breeders in “regional” markets like Pennsylvania, Louisiana, and New York, among others.
I believe, however, that the improvement and greater success of markets around the country are a boon for the Thoroughbred and for racing in general. Not only does this increased activity spur many new people to become involved with breeding and racing horses, but it also helps to make the breed safer if a serious disease ever erupted in one locale.
One more thing that the successes of other breeding programs have proven to highlight is the influence of politics and community on businesses, including this most pleasurable business of breeding and racing horses. For decades, Thoroughbred breeding and racing has poured billions of dollars into the Kentucky, and the sport and business have made the affluence of farming in the Bluegrass an international icon.
We might even consider that the success of the horse farmers in the Bluegrass has made them the envy not only of the world but especially of their neighbors.
For there are groups, not just individuals but very well-organized groups, with a lot of money and a great deal of animosity toward the prosperity of horse racing and breeding in Kentucky.
And the backward-looking, selfish, and adversarial attitudes of several groups in Kentucky, and in surrounding states, have fought successfully to prevent the Bluegrass State from implementing any of the changes that have allowed other racing and breeding states to grow their industries.
While, for instance, a young woman out of Pennsylvania who was selling a yearling at last year’s Fasig-Tipton February sale commented that she had earned enough to put herself through college with the breeders’ premiums from a single horse bred in Pennsylvania, what is the fate of aspiring young breeders who would dare to breed a horse in Kentucky?
Well, they might starve.
More likely, however, they will give up, go into other businesses, or just leave Kentucky altogether for areas that offer greater opportunity.
Is this the community that we desire to live in, and is this the community we want our children and friends to grow and prosper in?
I think not.
We have an antagonist to overcome if we want our industry to continue to thrive and grow. Among the options for guidance in this difficulty, we can cast our eyes back to the founders of the modern era of horse farming in Kentucky, men such as Hal Price Headley and A.B. ‘Bull’ Hancock in Kentucky and great private breeders like Warren Wright or William Woodward.
They brought great horses to Kentucky and bred great horses. They knew wealth, and they made wealth. They knew work, and they made things work. When shackled with adversity, they did not buckle. Instead, they found a way to reach out and make the right things happen: for the good of business, for the good of the Commonwealth, and ultimately for the good of the sport.