02/13/2009 12:00AM

McNairs winning with stable of one


LEXINGTON, Ky. - In racing, there are plenty of one-horse stables, but those brave owners don't have the best of the statistics in a sport where only 3 percent of all runners become stakes winners. On the other side of that coin, however, is the one-horse stable of Robert and Janice McNair. They own Cowboy Cal, who won the Strub Stakes at Santa Anita last weekend.

Cowboy Cal won more than a tenacious victory in the Strub. He moved himself into a contending spot among the leading 4-year-olds of his generation.

The Strub was Cowboy Cal's second victory of the year from two starts, with his 4-year-old debut coming in the San Pasqual Handicap at Santa Anita on Jan. 10. Both of the colt's 2009 victories have come in races over a synthetic surface, like his second in the Grade 1 Blue Grass Stakes last April.

That effort led to a Kentucky Derby start on dirt for Cowboy Cal, and the son of Giant's Causeway did not prosper on that surface.

John Adger, racing and stallion season manager for the McNairs, said Cowboy Cal "bled badly in the Kentucky Derby. We decided he needed some R&R after that experience, and he went to Stonerside for four months and his next start for us was the Bryan Station at Keeneland, which he won."

In between the Derby and that victory on turf at Keeneland, the McNairs sold their breeding and racing stock to Sheikh Mohammed's Darley, retaining only Cowboy Cal.

"We originally sold to Darley the 2,000-acre farm in Paris, and the approximately 260 horses, of which Cowboy Cal was one," Adger said. "Then we had our training center in South Carolina, which Darley also bought. But the McNairs, due to Cowboy Cal being named for one of their sons, offered to keep him and subtract the appraisal value for him from the total sales price."

John Ferguson, Sheikh Mohammed's chief purchasing agent, agreed to that arrangement, and as a result, the McNairs "have one racehorse, Cowboy Cal," Adger said. They also have the stallions Congaree (100 percent), Bob and John (75 percent), and Stonesider (100 percent in New York), he said. "And there are a handful of stallion prospects in South America."

Although the McNairs have very few horses, their impact on racing and breeding will continue well into the future. Last year, for instance, their operation was second in the Eclipse Award balloting for leading breeder.

Stonerside was founded on the core broodmare band the McNairs purchased from Elmendorf Farm, and then the operation supplemented those producers with major race winners like Ajina (Breeders' Cup Distaff, CCA Oaks), Ascutney (Gradeo3 winner and dam of Raven's Pass), Chilukki (champion 2-year-old filly), Rings a Chime (Ashland and dam of Country Star), Tout Charmant (Matriarch), and Tuzla (Ramona).

One of the most famous producers for Stonerside was the Danzig mare Angel Fever, a stakes-placed full sister to Preakness winner Pine Bluff that Stonerside owned in partnership with Arthur Hancock. One of the quartet of seven-figure sales yearlings the mare produced was Kentucky Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus, who brought $4 million at the Keeneland July sale in 1998.

So the legacy of the McNairs's interest in racing and breeding lives on with stallions and racing stock of a high order.

And among the horses Stonerside sold to Darley was Midshipman, who initially raced for Stonerside and was voted champion 2-year-old colt after his victory in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. Later on the Breeders' Cup card, Raven's Pass, a second Stonerside-bred colt who had been acquired in the same transaction, won the Breeders' Cup Classic in the colors of Sheikh Mohammed's wife, Princess Haya of Jordan.

Darley also acquired Grade 1 winner Country Star (by Empire Maker) in the purchase, and she was expected to race in the Santa Maria on Saturday at Santa Anita.

As part of the massive Stonerside acquisition, Darley owns the Seeking the Gold mare Texas Tammy, dam of Cowboy Cal. Like all the other Stonerside mares, she is kept at the property near Paris, Ky., which has been renamed Darley at Stonerside. Texas Tammy was barren to Giant's Causeway for 2009 and is booked to Street Cry.

Giant's Causeway, the sire of Cowboy Cal, has sired 59 stakes winners, including 28 in 2008. The chestnut son of Storm Cat stands at Ashford Stud near Versailles, Ky., for $125,000 live foal.