07/01/2010 11:00PM

River Edge stallions on the move


Farm owners Donald Cohn and Marty Wygod had forged a relationship in the Thoroughbred stallion business long before Thursday's announcement that three, and perhaps all four, of the stallions from Wygod's River Edge Farm in Buellton, Calif., will stand at Cohn's Ballena Vista Farm in Ramona, Calif., in 2011.

Wygod announced last month that he was dispersing his California-based Thoroughbred holdings, and said at the time he hoped the stallions Benchmark, Bertrando, Dixie Chatter, and Tribal Rule would stay in the state.

Thursday, Wygod announced that Cohn had purchased Benchmark and a majority interest in Dixie Chatter and Tribal Rule. Furthermore, Wygod said that Bertrando, a former leading stallion in California, is also expected to stand at Ballena Vista in 2011, pending the formal approval of the Bertrando syndicate.

Last year, it was announced that Idiot Proof, a Grade 1 winner campaigned and bred by Wygod and his wife, Pam, would begin his stud career at Bellena Vista in 2010.

For Ballena Vista, the addition of the River Edge stallions is a significant boost. Last fall, Ballena Vista lost the stallion Deputy Commander because of declining health. A Grade 1 winner on the racetrack, Deputy Commander's last full season at stud was 2007. In subsequent years, he suffered from physiological and neurological problems that required hospitalization.

The relocation of the River Edge stallions was part of an active week of stallion relocations in the state. Unusual Heat, the leading stallion by progeny earnings in 2008 and 2009 and the leader this year, is moving from Old English Rancho in Sanger, Calif., to Harris Farms in Coalinga for the 2011 breeding season.

By gaining the River Edge stallions, Ballena Vista adds three of the 10 leading California-based stallions by progeny earnings. Through Wednesday, Benchmark, 19, was third, with $1,336,310, trailing Unusual Heat ($2,272,162) and Stormin Fever ($1,387,646). Bertrando, 21, was fifth, with earnings of $1,105,442, while Tribal Rule, 14, was seventh, with $954,452. Dixie Chatter began his stud career earlier this year.

Wygod said last month that he is focusing his Thoroughbred breeding operation in Kentucky but plans to continue racing in California. He will have a dispersal of approximately 100 California-based broodmares, weanlings and yearlings at Barretts in October.

"I really think the commitment that Don Cohn is making is going to be a major positive for the breeding industry," Wygod said on Thursday. "He's really stepped up and made a major commitment -- financially and with the assets he has at Ballena Vista."

Cohn was traveling on Thursday, but issued a statement, saying, "I am thrilled with the fortuitous opportunity to stand stallions of the quality of Dixie Chatter, Tribal Rule, and Benchmark. My staff and I are looking forward to maintaining the high level of excellence that Marty and River Edge have brought to the California industry in recent years."

Heat heads to Harris Farms

Unusual Heat, whose progeny have thrived on California's synthetic tracks in recent years, was the most expensive stallion in the state in 2010, standing for $20,000.

No fee was announced in conjunction with the move to Harris Farms, according to a statement issued this week.

This year, Unusual Heat's leading money earner has been Acclamation, who is owned by Old English Rancho. Acclamation won the Grade 2 Jim Murray and Grade 1 Charles Whittingham handicaps at Hollywood Park in May and June and was scheduled to start in Saturday's $750,000 United Nations Handicap at Monmouth Park.

After discussions with Old English Rancho, stallion co-owner Madeline Auerbach decided to move Unusual Heat to a farm with a larger support staff. She said on Friday that the owners of Unusual Heat and Old English Rancho parted amicably.

Unusual Heat, 20, holds the single-season record for progeny earnings by a California stallion of $5,827,513, set in 2008. He was relocated to Harris Farms along with the broodmare operation of Auerbach and trainer Barry Abrams, who are partners in the syndicate that owns Unusual Heat.