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Malibu Valley Farms a tony spot
ARCADIA, Calif. - None of it really makes sense.
Thoroughbred breeding centers like Malibu Valley Farms are not supposed to be located at the intersection of Las Virgenes and Mulholland Highway in Calabasas, Calif., near Malibu.
Breeding farms are based in towns such as Creston, Atascadero, Ramona, Temecula, Fresno, and Santa Ynez, and scores of other small towns up and down the state.
Brian Boudreau, the owner of Malibu Valley Farms, realizes the contradiction in operating a breeding farm in an exclusive area. He doesn't really need to be reminded. He has the monthly feed bills and water bills for that.
"It's not economically an easy farm to have," he said this week. "You have much more expensive water issues. You have feed issues. There is no community for labor, like Santa Ynez or Creston. You have many more environmental laws to deal with. From a horse farm perspective, it's a joke. But I've had it so long, I keep it going."
Malibu Valley Farms has been in the Boudreau family since 1974, and has operated as a Thoroughbred farm since 1978. While Boudreau spends much of his time with a real estate business, raising Thoroughbreds has become a passion and his principal hobby.
This fall, Malibu Valley Farms and Boudreau have reached new milestones. Boudreau had his first Breeders' Cup starter as a breeder last weekend when Humorous Lady started in the Juvenile Fillies. On Saturday, the farm will be represented by Crackup in the $125,000 California Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita.
Both were raised at Malibu Valley Farms, which is located five miles from the Pacific Ocean. The entire farm covers 600 acres, but only 70 are for horses.
Boudreau admits its years as a breeding farm may be numbered. He has set aside 200 acres away from the horse farm for a resort that is in the planning stages that would feature hiking, biking, horseback riding, a gym, and a tennis club. Ground might be broken at this time next year, pending permit approvals.
"It will be incredible if it goes," he said.
When Boudreau's late father, Charles, and partner Fred Purner Jr. developed the farm in 1974 it had more to do with cattle than racehorses. Boudreau took over in 1982 and has been breeding Thoroughbreds since, having spent time in his late teens and 20's working at Taylor Made and Gainesway Farms in central Kentucky.
"It's the only farm anywhere near Malibu," Boudreau said. "It will always have an equestrian element, but how long the farm stays is a question. Some of my neighbors don't like my horses, but the majority of the people don't mind. Half of them have horses that they come and ride at the equestrian center.
"It's not just where you would expect a Thoroughbred farm. We're growing out of our socks. It was a place with 10 nice mares, and now I'm up to 25. I think this year, I've got 14 yearlings by good sires."
Over the years, Boudreau has kept a few racehorses. He was part of partnerships that campaigned Sicy d'Alsace, the winner of the 1998 Del Mar Oaks, and Regal Thunder, who was bought privately and finished unplaced in the 1999 Breeders' Cup Sprint.
The bloodlines of Crackup and Humorous Lady reflect Boudreau's approach to using out- of-state stallions to enhance his stock. Crackup is out of the Habitony mare Lightly Go Lightly and is by the Kentucky-based sire Distorted Humor, whom Boudreau has eagerly supported.
After Distorted Humor was bred to Lightly Go Lightly, the mare was returned to Malibu Valley Farms where she delivered the foal. Because she was bred back to a California-based stallion, Boudreau was entitled to register Crackup as a California-bred.
"I've got shares in Distorted Humor," he said. "I've got a few foals on the ground and a few more that are yearlings.
"When I get an empty mare or one coming off the track, I breed them in Kentucky. Three mares are in foal to Distorted Humor and we've got a Miswaki, Gilded Time, and Mazel Trick.
"I'm doing a lot more of that lately and it's paying off. In the restricted races, you let the foals come along slower and not [run them] against the top competition. I think it makes it easier on those horses."
To complete the California-bred registration for the Kentucky-sired foals, their dams must be bred back to California stallions. Boudreau has supported Bertrando, Cee's Tizzy, Event of the Year, General Meeting, and In Excess.
This winter, he said he has nine mares going to General Meeting and Event of the Year at Golden Eagle Farms.
The strategy is meant to produce horses such as Crackup and Humorous Lady.
To celebrate the potential victory on Saturday, Boudreau, 42, has invited 60 of his employees and friends to spend the day at Santa Anita.
Crackup, who is owned by Stan Fulton and trained by Rafael Becerra, finished third in the Cavonnier Stakes on Oct. 4.
"I really feel good about this," Boudreau said of Crackup. "I think he will legitimately stretch out. He's really a good individual."
Boudreau was not thrilled that Humorous Lady started in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies, where she led to the final turn before finishing eighth, 20 1/2 lengths behind Storm Flag Flying.
"I did everything possible to get them to not run in that race," he said. "She could have walked in that race at San Francisco on Saturday."
He was referring to the $80,000 Bam's Penny Stakes for statebred fillies at Bay Meadows on Saturday. "She had no business in there," he said. "I'm sure now it will set her back a few months.
"That part was disappointing. She did what I expected. She made the lead and it was hard to hold her. She's a sprinter and there's no question about this."
Still, a win by Crackup would be a milestone for Boudreau. "This could be the best year, if both those horses keep going as well as I think they will," he said.
While there is a chance the farm could be relocated to the central California coast in coming years, Boudreau is not packing. He is having too much at Malibu Valley Farms, trying to breed stakes winners in one of Los Angeles county's most exclusive areas.