01/23/2003 12:00AM

Rent-a-stallion benefits both parties

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Gary and Marlene Howard's 94-acre Hideaway Farm is a long way from Lexington, Ky. But breeders perusing the California farm's stallion roster will find Grade 1 winners and Bluegrass-style bloodlines there.

Two of Hideaway's newest stallions - Grade 1 winner Puerto Madero and Danzig's graded-stakes winner Dumaani, a half-brother to champion Shadayid - arrived in California after the Howards struck three-year lease agreements with two prominent central Kentucky farms, Sheikh Hamdan al Maktoum's Shadwell Farm and Johnny T. L. Jones's Walmac Inter-national.

Across the nation, horsemen Randy Hartley and Dean DeRenzo also established a bit of the Bluegrass in Florida when they forged a similar deal with Walmac. Now they combine their successful Hartley-DeRenzo pinhooking operation with a stallion station that operates as Walmac-South.

Increasingly, stallion farms are hooking up to bring Bluegrass bloodlines to regional breeders who otherwise would have had to ship their mares far and wide to access them. The growing trend of lease deals that send central Kentucky stallions to stand in other states is a development that expands opportunities for the sending and receiving farms and brings new blood into regional markets.

For farms that participate, lease partnerships and satellite facilities can create a win-win situation that reduces financial risk. Kentucky's overcrowded and highly competitive stallion market can hide a good young stallion's potential and rob him of opportunity. In today's market, Kentucky-based farms are opting more often to try that kind of stallion in a new market and maintain ownership control of him, rather than sell him only to have him hit it big and become a money-making star in someone else's stud barn. In return, out-of-state farms on the receiving end get well-bred sires they might not have been able to afford to purchase outright.

Both central Kentucky and regional stallion masters say it's all about creating options.

"Any time you stand a stallion, you're trying to do it for fun and profit, but mostly for profit," said Kerry Cauthen, president of Walmac Bloodstock Services. "We want to have profitable stallions on our account, but we also want a situation in which the horses are particularly well suited, and if they come up with the right kind of horses, we have a ready ability to transfer them back to Kentucky. And, vice versa, if a horse hits a plateau in his support from breeders here, we can offer them in another market with different mares that might use that stallion a little differently. Partnerships help make a stallion a more viable long-term prospect."

Bringing the Bluegrass to California

"There are a lot of stallions out there, and one farm can only stand so many horses," said Gary Howard, who will stand the Walmac stallion Puerto Madero for the first time this year. "This kind of partnership helps the Kentucky farms find a good opportunity for their stallions, and it brings new blood into California. Both Puerto Madero and Dumaani are $1 million earners. Historically, California has had stallions that were great racehorses without much pedigree or well-bred horses that had no race record. But this has helped change that."

Walmac and the Howards are hardly alone. In the last several years, interstate stallion partnerships have sprung up between Kentucky and almost every other significant Thoroughbred breeding market. WinStar Farm, for example, sent Regal Classic to McMahon of Saratoga Thoroughbreds in New York, and WinStar and Taylor Made Farm stand Judge T C in partnership with McMahon. Three Chimneys Farm recently moved Miesque's Son and Joyeux Danseur to California's Lakeview Farm. And Shadwell's general manager, Rick Nichols, said the farm has sent horses to Texas, Florida, California, and New York.

One factor that has made satellite markets more attractive to Kentucky farms in recent years is the upswing in some statebred programs that pay healthy awards to stallion owners. In New York, the promise of purses swelled by slot machine revenue helped lure American Chance's Kentucky-based syndicate members to the Empire State's Questroyal Farm. Howard said California holds similar attractions with its strong purses and stallion-awards program.

"I don't think we're just a hand-me-down state," Howard said. "We have a great program here, and that helps draw stallions. People want to be part of it."

Howard acknowledges that a lease agreement gives Hideaway less control over a stallion and leaves the door open for a potential star to return to Kentucky just as he makes it big as a sire. But multi-year terms can help guarantee a satellite farm a piece of the action, and, Howard points out, there are other advantages to leasing that offset the relative lack of control.

Advantages outweigh drawbacks

"One benefit is that you establish a relationship with these kinds of people and farms," he said of Hideaway's connection to Walmac and Shadwell. "Their stallions bring better quality to our breeding program. And even if the stallion leaves again, it reflects well on you if you've stood a stallion of that caliber. The name recognition doesn't hurt, either. It's good for your own name and business to be working with stallions of that quality and with farms of the caliber of Shadwell and Walmac. Overall, the positives outweigh the potential negative of a horse moving back to Kentucky."

"It also benefits them because they don't have to make a large capital outlay to get a good stallion for their farm," noted Shadwell's Rick Nichols. "Other than the effort and promotion they put into the horse while he's there, they're not out a lot of money if the stallion doesn't work out."

A new state can mean a host of new opportunities for a stallion, because breeders' preferences can vary from market to market. That was a key element in Walmac's decision to stand Is It True at Walmac-South in Florida, under Hartley and DeRenzo's day-to-day management.

"We sent Is It True to Florida because he had had some success in the 2-year-old market down there and in their yearling market, too," Cauthen said. "He puts a correct, good-looking, Quarter Horse-type foal on the ground. His foals look like they can go fast, and that made a lot of sense for the 2-year-old sellers that make up a lot of the market in Florida. Kentucky breeders tend to breed primarily to go to the yearling sales, and Florida breeders overall are thinking in terms of 2-year-old sales."

Walmac leaves much of the Florida marketing to Hartley and DeRenzo, who are part of the local pinhooking and breeding community and can deal with mare owners face to face.

"We leave it up to Randy and Dean to define the market for us and to come up with a business model that works there," Cauthen explained. "An operation that works well in Kentucky doesn't necessarily work as well in Florida. We're aware of that, and we think holistically about the stallion market. We stand the horse where he fits best."

Finding those niches can work to everyone's advantage over the long term, including the horse's.

"It's getting so difficult to stand horses in Kentucky, you have to have other avenues for these nice young stallions who are well bred but just aren't seeing the kind of support you'd like to see them get in Kentucky," said Nichols. "This kind of agreement is great in that regard, because we can retain ownership and still allow a horse to go to location where he might prove he's a good stallion."