04/17/2008 11:00PM

Family operation a hands-on affair


When Serena's Rose charged from the back of the field to finish a close second at 40-1 in a maiden race at Woodbine on April 12, Darlene Hunderup let out a holler.

Despite a spring cold that made her voice very raspy, Hunderup could not help contain the excitement of her homebred filly racing so well in her second start, and first outing of 2008.

Hunderup, along with her husband, Rene, and son, Jason Lamarche-Hunderup, own the family-operated Norse Ridge Farm in King City, Ontario, a bustling 300-acre property that is home to not only their own broodmare band but also more than 50 mares who belong to clients.

And the Hunderup family's list of clients is an impressive one.

This season, Norse Ridge has welcomed foals owned by Eugene and Laura Melnyk, Bill Farish's Lane's End Farm, trainer Mark Casse, and a longtime friend, Ivan Dalos.

The full-service facility, complete with two miles of English gallop paths, a five-furlong track, a three-horse starting gate, and an indoor arena, is also home to the multiple graded stakes winner Alumni Hall, a son of A.P. Indy who won $750,000 for Farish before entering stud at Norse Ridge this spring.

The farm has half a dozen Thoroughbred stallions plus a handful of Quarter Horse stallions.

Hunderup, who migrated from a life in the world of art and business to horses 20 years ago, calls herself the "hands-on" member of the family, as she is in charge of the training division of the farm as well as a litany of other day-to-day chores.

She says her son is the "brilliant mind" of the farm and Rene is the "business gentleman."

Jason, a university graduate with degrees in physical education and health, took his masters at the Royal Agricultural College in equine business management and then spent a full breeding season at Mark and Lisa Chittick's Waikato Stud Farm in New Zealand before taking over farm duties at Norse Ridge.

Rene, a founder and chairman of the Heste Group of Companies ("heste" means horse in Danish and is the name of the Hunderup racing stable) was born in Aalborg, Denmark, and came to Canada in 1974.

A pharmaceutical entrepreneur and a yacht salesman, Rene Hunderup has had a passion for horses for most of his life.

He is currently immersed in presenting a new Quarter Horse racing program to the Quarter Horse Racing Industry Advisory Group, of which he is a member, and the Ontario Racing Commission, which operates Thoroughbred and Quarter Horse racing in the province.

On the farm, Darlene and Jason have a young, educated staff that numbers anywhere from six to 10, depending on the season.

"We had a number of managers to run the farm," said Darlene Hunderup. "Well, I've been there and done that. I decided that you need consistency at the farm. If I'm not a hands-on person, how am I going to ask [my staff] to do anything? I get up like anyone else and do chores."

Serena's Rose is a daughter of Norse Ridge stallion My Way Only (by Septieme Ciel) out of the Hunderup mare Quat, by Star of the Crop. My Way Only is owned by Dalos, the family friend.

The family has 11 Thoroughbreds in training with Debbie England and a stable of top Quarter Horses that race at Ajax Downs in Ontario and throughout the United States.

Darlene says sharing moments on the farm with her family makes the long hours worthwhile.

"We've had horses that we have foaled for clients in the Queen's Plate," said Darlene. "What excitement that is!"

"The one thing about horses is that they give you hints as to where people come from," said Darlene. "They call it the sport of kings - but the king can be the man who owns the car dealership or the man who works for the car dealership."