10/23/2017 2:30PM

Mountain Horse breeder finds similarities in Thoroughbred business


Signs are as much a part of the Thoroughbred auction ecosystem as the barns and fences on which they hang.

Most consignors' placards extol the names of prominent graduates and the races they’ve won, with the company logo prominently featured. The red and yellow sign outside Paul Morell’s Circle Sid Farms shed row reads a bit differently.

“Circle Sid Farms: Breeder of fine Thoroughbreds and Mountain Horses”.

The Thoroughbred realm is still a new frontier for Morell, who began breeding Thoroughbreds four years ago and offered his first yearlings in 2015. He had a Paddy O’Prado filly entered Tuesday in the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky fall yearling sale, out of the winning Kelly Kip mare Affluent Appeal.

“The dam of this one ran out $300,000,” Morell said. “She looks pretty correct and has clean X-rays. If she doesn’t bring what we want, we’ll just take her home and race her for the first time and see what happens.”

Morell has bred Kentucky Mountain Horses, a gaited breed similar to Tennessee Walking Horses known for hardiness and mellow attitudes, for about 12 years.

“I had Quarter Horses in Texas, and we moved up here in 2009,” Morell said. “That’s where all the Mountain Horse shows were. We started boarding a few Thoroughbreds for some people, and I thought, ‘Well, I might as well have a little skin in the game with the Thoroughbreds.’”

Circle Sid Farms sits on 95 acres in Lancaster, Ky., that once belonged to famed owner and breeder Nelson Bunker Hunt. Morell owns three broodmares among the 13 Thoroughbreds he boards, along with 40 Mountain Horses.

Morell compared preparing Thoroughbred yearlings for the sale to readying young horses for the Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horse Association Stallion and Mare Futurity, a show with classes for weanlings and yearlings, as well as older horses.

“You want an animal that looks fit, and finished up nice, put them on a high-fat diet and give them lots of exercise, and get them legged up a little bit,” he said. “They’re very similar, except Mountain Horses stand square and a Thoroughbred will stand in offset.”

Though still fledgling in the Thoroughbred business, Morell said he was inspired by the stories of small operations challenging the established outfits and winning. That hope springs anew for him every foaling season, even if the process is a little different from what he’s used to.

“Everybody wants to breed one that’s a big stakes winner or Derby winner, of course,” he said. “Nothing’s like a spring morning when you hear the [foaling] alarm go off. That’s a rush that nobody can take away from you. Our Mountain Horses foal out in the field. They take care of themselves, but those Thoroughbreds are kind of drama queens, so you’ve got to be right there with them.”

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