03/19/2009 11:00PM

Farm flourishes during tough times


LEXINGTON, Ky. - Anyone looking for a bright spot in today's Thoroughbred economy might take heart from Shawhan Place. The Bourbon County, Ky., boarding farm and sales agency is growing despite the economic downturn.

The operation, which covers about 240 acres near Paris, Ky., is a partnership among Matthew Koch, his brother Charles, and Westview Farm owner Ted Kuster. It's also a cross between a Kentucky Thoroughbred Farm Managers Club officers' meeting and a Koch family reunion. Kuster, 65, was Kentucky's Farm Manager of the Year back in 1986. Matthew Koch, 30, is the club's current president, and Charles Koch, 37, held that position in 2004. Both Kochs are sons of longtime Claiborne Farm manager Gus Koch, another past president of the farm managers club and its 2004 Manager of the Year.

Kuster has been in the horse business since 1965. He's seen ups and downs and acknowledges the climate now is challenging.

"But there's always value out there," he said. "And every time you go out there and look at a foal, you think, 'That could be the next Derby or Oaks winner.' They come from everywhere. We might not be the biggest or most glorious but we're a hard-working group. We just have to stick to our game plan. What we're trying to do is make some money, and hopefully the buyer makes some money, too. Home runs are nice, but so are singles and doubles. You've got to keep making hits to stay in the game."

Kuster provided most of the land for the current operation, about 150 acres, but the farm also now includes property owned by Gus and Charles Koch.

Kuster and Matthew Koch first joined forces in 2005, shortly after Koch had left the Marine Corps. They launched Shawhan Place with seven boarded mares. By the time Charles, a former assistant manager at Claiborne, signed on as a partner in January, the operation had grown dramatically.

"Last year we bred 62 mares," Matthew Koch said. "There was no foreman or anything like that. It was just me and two guys I had working for us. Unlike a bigger farm that might have a few big clients, we had 26 or 27 different clients last year, so client relations were a huge deal. My cell phone minutes were off the chart, between booking mares, talking to clients, and everything. I had to have the help, and I'd been begging Charles to come join us."

Shawhan Place has about 60 horses on its grounds, including foals.

"We're primarily a boarding operation," Charles Koch said. "We also buy and sell horses for our clients."

The Shawhan partners also have a few of their own horses, including a 2-year-old Monarchos colt they have in a partnership that also includes Louisiana attorney Stacey Moak, Gus Koch, and two more of Gus's sons, Stephen and Gus. The colt's trainer also has a Claiborne connection: Tony Battaglia, a Claiborne stallion groom. Battaglia also has been training horses for years. He's based at the Thoroughbred Center training track on Paris Pike.

The unnamed gray colt is out of Texas stakes winner Peppy's Princess, making him a half-brother to English stakes-placed runner Mishrif. That colt, a $308,936 juvenile purchase in England last year, is pointing for the listed Easter Stakes at Kempton in April.

"We got pretty excited when Win Willy, another son of Monarchos, won the Rebel the other day," Charles Koch said. "We're hoping Win Willy wins the Arkansas Derby and the Kentucky Derby and that the half-brother wins the Easter Stakes and goes on, too."

In the meantime, the Kochs and Kuster are closely focused on the task at hand - growing Shawhan Farm. The philosophy for doing that in a shrinking economy, Matthew Koch says, is to love the work and take good personal care of both the horses and the clients.

"Shawhan is weathering the economic storm," he said. "And I think if we can grow like this when times are tough, then I can't help but imagine what things will be like when times are good."

Petionville standing at Margaux

Petionville, sire of Grade 1 winner Island Fashion and Dubai Golden Shaheen hopeful Two Step Salsa, has relocated to Margaux Farm in Midway, Ky.

The 17-year-old Seeking the Gold horse previously stood at Crestwood Farm near Lexington. His fee is $10,000.

Petionville has more than $24 million in progeny earnings from 10 crops to race. In addition to Island Fashion and Two Step Salsa, he also is the sire of Runway Model, Voodoo, Publication, and several other graded winners. A multiple graded winner himself, he is ranked 23rd on the general sire list.

* Wolfhound, a champion half-brother to 1992 Broodmare of the Year Weekend Surprise, has died in South Africa at age 20, according to the Racing Post. The Nureyev horse died of a heart attack while breeding. Wolfhound, a son of Lassie Dear, was a European champion in 1993. His progeny include two-time French champion Bright Sky.

* Journeyman Stud in Florida has announced revised stud fees for Circular Quay, who drops to $7,500, Cowtown Cat ($5,000), Gaff ($2,500), Mass Media ($3,000), and Saint Anddan ($4,500). Saint Anddan also is the subject of a breeding incentive in which breeders sending multiple mares can earn a share in the horse. Other Journeyman stallions will be available with multiple-mare discounts and similar incentives.