02/04/2005 12:00AM

Industry growing in talent, numbers

Email

Ten years ago, it seemed impossible for West Virginia to have one of the fastest growing breeding industries in the nation. The state was close to its lowest point - less than 200 foals born and fewer than 300 mares bred to local stallions. Breeding Thoroughbreds was a losing proposition.

Then came the video lottery terminals in September 1997, and the wealth from these machines became the lifesaver for breeders. The number of stallions standing in the state has more than doubled since 1995, and the number of mares bred and number of foals born in West Virginia has more than tripled.

The quality of the stallions has risen with the numbers, and in 2005, West Virginia is now home to a Horse of the Year, numerous top-class sprinters, and a son of a champion sprinter, to name a few.

O'Sullivan Farms

Randy Funkhouser has four new stallions residing in O'Sullivan Farms's new stallion barn in Charles Town. Most prominent are Black Tie Affair, the 1991 Breeders' Cup Classic winner and horse of the year, and Housebuster, an Eclipse Award-winning sprinter of 1991. Both are established sires who have sired champions, a number of millionaires, and more than 65 stakes winners between them, and each covered large books in Virginia last year. Black Tie Affair (Miswaki-Hat Tab Girl, by Al Hattab) and Housebuster (Mt. Livermore-Big Dreams, by Great Above) are both owned by syndicates and stand for $7,500, the highest stud fees in the state.

Bop, another former Virginia stallion, has also moved to O'Sullivan. A son of Rahy from the family of In Reality, Bop was a six-time stakes winner and multiple course-record setter at five furlongs. His first foals arrive this year and he stands for $2,500 live foal.

Inner Harbour, an 8-year-old son of champion Capote out of stakes winner Blue Sky Princess, stands his first season for $1,000 live foal. A stakes winner at 3 who competed until he was 7, Inner Harbour is owned by his breeders, Mr. and Mrs. Frank Wright.

Funkhouser had an open house at O'Sullivan Farms in January, but a major snowstorm kept many from attending. Another open house is now scheduled for Feb. 12. O'Sullivan Farms is also home to Makin, last year's most popular sire there by number of mares bred, Way West and Western Cat.

Naylee Farm

The stallion roster at Naylee Farm in Summit Point has grown steadily. The farm, managed by owner Rene Moore, stands nine stallions, including three new additions for 2005.

An exciting new prospect is Garnered, stakes-winning son of Holy Bull who won 5 of his 8 lifetime starts, including a score over Speightstown in the 2003 Jaipur Handicap at Belmont Park. Out of Cherie (by Afleet), from the family of champion sprinter Eillo, Garnered, 7, stands his first season for $2,500 live foal.

Champion sprinter Safely Kept's winning son Stored (by Coronado's Quest) is ready to enter his first season at stud, for $2,000 live foal. He is from the family of top sprinter and Mid-Atlantic sire Partner's Hero.

Limit Out (Northern Flagship-Lucky Delight, by Miswaki) is Naylee's third new stallion. A multiple graded stakes winner who accounted for 5 wins in 9 starts, Limit Out has three crops of racing age, including 2-year-olds in 2005, and is the sire of a stakes winner in his first crop. His stud fee has also been set at $2,000.

Naylee's other stallions are Civilisation, Run Softly, Satchmo's Band, Valiant Nature, Van Go and Verification.

Beau Ridge Farm

Cynthia O'Bannon and John McKee have brought in Wendover, an allowance-winning son of Unbridled, to their Beau Ridge Farm in Bunker Hill and offer him for $500 live foal. Out of stakes winner Majestic Legend (by His Majesty), Wendover, 6, is from the family of champion sprinter Reraise, champion and sire Danehill Dancer, and top sprinter and sire Mr. Greeley. He joins Castine, Endeavouring, Robb, Standing On Edge, Storm Center, and Stritzel standing at Beau Ridge.