11/16/2017 1:16PM

Robert Courtney of Crestfield Farm dies at 96


Robert Courtney Sr., a highly respected breeder and consignor under the banner of his Crestfield Farm in Lexington, Ky., died Tuesday at age 96.

A Lexington native, Courtney’s fingerprints can be found throughout central Kentucky’s Thoroughbred business in the horses he bred and sold, and in his service to the industry.

He was instrumental in the establishment of auction company Fasig-Tipton’s permanent Kentucky branch in 1972, which now serves as its base of operations and home to some of its biggest sales. Courtney was president of the Thoroughbred Club of America in 1965 and 1966, and was the subject of the organization’s Honor Guest dinner in 2003.

The laundry list of notable horses to pass through Courtney’s sale consignment included champions Meadow Star and Action This Day, Irish champion Prince of Birds, and English Group 1 winner Polish Patriot.

Courtney was named the Kentucky Thoroughbred Farm Managers’ Club’s Farm Manager of the Year in 1970, but he earned perhaps his greatest accolade a decade later when Hasty Queen II, a mare he co-owned, was named 1984 Broodmare of the Year.

The One Count mare was purchased by Courtney and business partner Robert Congleton for $11,000 out of the 1972 Keeneland January horses of all ages sale, and she went on to produce 12 winners from 14 starters, half of which were stakes winners. Her offspring combined for more than $1 million at auction, and earned $1,973,784 on the racetrack.

Headlining her produce record was Grade 1 winner Fit to Fight, Grade 3 winner Hasty Flyer, and stakes winners Hasty Cutie, Michael Navonod, Hasty Tam, and Playful Queen.

“It made me, to be frank,” Courtney said in a 2012 interview. “I went out there to buy her half-sister, and her half-sister brought too much money. She brought $15,000, and I only gave $11,000 for Hasty Queen. She was a lovely mare. Just a nice mare to have around.”

That sense of frugality was a trademark for Courtney throughout his career. He believed firmly in staying out of the top of a market as a buyer.

But Courtney was no stranger to the top of the market as a seller. He went out on top, with his final consignment producing the highest-priced yearling of the 2008 Keeneland January sale, a $475,000 Saint Liam filly.

Despite retiring from consignment and larger-scale breeding in the 2000s, Courtney remained an active buyer and retained a broodmare band into his 90s, not letting his age get in the way of building bloodlines for the future.

“I’ve met a world of friends and I’ve only met one son of a bitch,” Courtney said. “I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. In some people’s eyes, I’ve been successful, but I’ve made a good living, put it that way. I never got rich and I don’t want to get rich. Diversify if you want to get rich. Don’t get in the horse business.”

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