10/26/2008 11:00PM

Stonerside in elite company


LEXINGTON, Ky. – Robert and Janice McNair of Stonerside Stable achieved a rare feat at the Breeders’ Cup this year by breeding the winners of two races: Raven’s Pass in the Classic and Midshipman in the Juvenile.

With those victories, Stonerside joined Aaron and Marie Jones (2004), Adena Springs (2000), the Phippses (1989 and 1995), and the late Allen Paulson (1992) as breeding programs that have produced two Breeders’ Cup winners in the same year.

But the McNairs were offering congratulations to someone else on the horses’ victories Saturday. Two months ago, they sold their entire Stonerside operation – including Raven’s Pass and Midshipman – to Sheikh Mohammed al-Maktoum’s Darley Stud.

In addition to Raven’s Pass and Midshipman, Maktoum also got Ascutney, Raven’s Pass’s dam, who is carrying a full sibling to the Classic winner, as well as Midshipman’s dam, Fleet Lady, now in foal to Empire Maker.

When he sold Stonerside, Robert McNair said he would devote much of his time to his National Football League team, the Houston Texans. (That’s going pretty well, too. On Sunday, they beat the Cincinnati Bengals 35-6.) What he gave up when he sold Stonerside was a nearly 15-year project to build one of the nation’s top mare bands.

“There’s more than one way to skin a cat,” McNair said. “We have our own style for the way we take care of the horses, and we’re very much concerned with things like how much room they have in the fields, how we feed them, that we bring them up twice a day and check them. The program, we tried to get graded-stakes-winning mares out of graded-stakes-winning mares that we could breed to the best stallions. We bought race fillies off the track that had a good pedigree, and, of course, our own homebreds, and continued to improve the quality of the broodmare band. We bred them to horses that didn’t necessarily have the most fashionable pedigrees or more commercial ones, but ones that had a solid pedigree and hopefully a stallion’s pedigree.”

McNair gave credit to the Stonerside team, including bloodstock and racing manager John Adger and Kentucky farm manager Bobby Spalding.

“That’s my only regret, that our Stonerside team couldn’t stand together in the winner’s circle,” he said. “I don’t regret the financial aspect of it, because Sheikh Mohammed paid us a very substantial mount of money, and he did it to buy outstanding horses. If they hadn’t been outstanding, he wouldn’t have paid that kind of money. We knew we had some great horses. You don’t have the benefit of hindsight in making these decisions.

“It was a win-win situation,” he added. “We never try to take the last nickel off the table when we sell something. We want people to be happy with what they buy, and our policy is that if it wasn’t as we represented, they can bring it back.”

Doesn’t look like Darley will be returning any of its purchases.

Maktoums do doubly well

Maktoum and his wife, Princess Haya, weren’t just big winners as owners. Stallions owned by Darley and Maktoum’s brother Sheikh Hamdan were well represented by Breeders’ Cup winners.

Darley stallions Elusive Quality, E Dubai, and Street Cry got Classic winner Raven’s Pass, Turf Sprint winner Desert Code, and Ladies’ Classic winner Zenyatta, respectively. The Sheikh Hamdan-owned Sahm, who died in 2007, sired Juvenile Fillies Turf victor Maram.

Another Arab-owned stallion also fared well. Prince Khalid Abdullah’s Chester House, who stood at Juddmonte until his death in 2003, sired a pair of winners: Muhannak in the Marathon and Ventura in the Filly and Mare Sprint.

Pennsylvania has its attention-grabbers

A pair of Pennsylvania stallions put that state’s burgeoning stallion roster on the marquee, too. Real Quiet, who moved last year from Pin Oak Lane to the new Penn Ridge Farm, returned to the limelight when his son Midnight Lute won his second consecutive Breeders’ Cup Sprint. And a relatively new Pennsylvania stallion, Albert the Great, hit the headlines with Albertus Maximus in the Dirt Mile. Pin Oak Lane now stands Albert the Great, who will stand his second season in the state in 2009.

Albert the Great’s stud fee went up after the Breeders’ Cup, from a previously announced $2,500 to $3,500. Real Quiet stood for $10,000 in 2008 – no word yet on his 2009 fee.

A Breeders’ Cup winner makes an excellent calling card for a regional stallion, said Pin Oak Lane owner William Solomon. But there are other factors in making a successful sire.

“He had good numbers coming behind him,” Solomon said of Albert the Great, who started his stud career at Kentucky’s Three Chimneys Farm. “The year he had Nobiz Like Shobiz, he had a big book that year, so it gave us a chance to get lucky. That’s very important when you bring a stallion up here. A stallion that goes to Kentucky first breeds larger books with better-quality mares. When they come here, oftentimes they breeder smaller books with lesser-quality mares. So if a horse makes a trip here from Kentucky, you have a chance that he’ll have a very good horse come behind him, like Midnight Lute for Real Quiet and Albertus Maximus for Albert the Great.”