01/22/2018 12:16PM

Fear the Cowboy has fan base at University of Kentucky

Lauren King/Coglianese Photos
Fear the Cowboy wins the Harlan's Holiday, one of his two Grade 3 wins at Gulfstream last year.

The University of Kentucky men’s basketball team tips-off at fellow nationally ranked West Virginia on Saturday night. But less than two hours prior, students will have another rooting interest when homebred Fear the Cowboy starts in the $16 million Pegasus World Cup.

Fear the Cowboy was bred and raised by the University of Kentucky’s Maine Chance Farm, which employs students as part of the curriculum. Fear the Cowboy is 6-4-1-1 lifetime on the main track at Pegasus host Gulfstream Park, and won two Grade 3 events there last year.

“It’s a really tough race,” trainer Efren Loza Jr. said. “Our horse is really in good form. He loves Gulfstream. I know this is a big challenge, but our horse is in the peak form of his career. He’s a horse who when you put him in with good competition he will work hard. He’s the kind of horse who puts in enough effort to make a good race.”

Maine Chance was formerly owned by cosmetics magnate and Thoroughbred owner Elizabeth Arden. After her death, the property was put up for sale by the executors of her estate, and the University of Kentucky, which owned neighboring land as research farms, purchased the property in 1967.

The farm now operates as a research and teaching facility under the auspices of the University’s Department of Animal and Food Sciences, with broodmares and stallion seasons donated by industry participants. Students work on the farm handling the broodmares, doing foal watch and delivery, handling farm chores and maintenance, and eventually prepping and selling the yearlings.

Maine Chance Farm offers its consignments at Fasig-Tipton because it’s close to the facility and its shorter sales work best with student schedules. Last year, Maine Chance sold 17 yearlings among Fasig-Tipton’s Kentucky February mixed sale, July yearling sale, and October yearling sale, grossing $270,400. The most expensive of the group was a Northern Afleet colt purchased for $75,000 by bloodstock agent John Brocklebank in July.

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Among the most successful horses raised by the University of Kentucky in recent years was Grade 1-placed Casiguapo, who created a stir locally when he started in the 2014 Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland, finishing ninth.

“We have a lot of students who work at the farm and students in the program that really don’t have any connection with Thoroughbreds before they come here,” Laurie Lawrence, a professor of equine nutrition, said in 2014. “To have a horse come out of the program that they can actually identify with, I think it really gives them a big interest in the Thoroughbred industry.”

Fear the Cowboy, a son of Cowboy Cal, graduated from the Maine Chance program as a short yearling at the 2013 Fasig-Tipton February sale, selling for $1,500 to Alexandro Centofanti. The gelding is owned by Raffaele Centofanti and Kathleen Amaya, and will take a Pegasus berth for the partnership of Stronach Stables and Ronald and Jerry Frankel.

Meanwhile, Maine Chance keeps busy. The students have 13 yearlings cataloged to next month’s Fasig-Tipton mixed sale, with sires represented in the consignment including leading freshman Overanalyze and first-crop stallion Bayern, winner of the 2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic.