Updated on 09/18/2011 1:46AM

Warren band became a whole herd


The numbers are staggering.

In 2007, owner Benjamin Warren will have 115 2-year-olds on the track in Southern California. He will have 115 yearlings, 63 3-year-olds, 130 broodmares.

Warren breeds his mares to the 25 stallions who stand at his farm in Hemet, Calif. He owns 19 of those stallions. The rest are held by outside clients.

Warren does not have a racing stable - he has an empire.

What started out as a few claiming horses earlier this decade has grown astonishingly fast.

Warren jumped into racing in 2002, purchasing the farm in Hemet from Booth Hanson. He renamed it Warren's Thoroughbreds. At the time, Warren had six horses in his racing stable.

"They were the ones I claimed at the racetrack," he said.

He now has four farms. The operation has grown rapidly, both through the acquisition of bloodstock and property. Warren admits that at first he bought horses on a whim, but now insists he is operating with more of a plan.

From Hanson, Warren bought 29 horses by the sire Latin American.

"I think we got three out of them that were any good," he said. "It just started growing from there. The first year, I bought 18 broodmares that were in foal. The next year I bought 12.

"I just bought by the seat of my pants. I'd go to Barretts and buy 15 mares at $4,000 apiece. I didn't know what I was doing. I have the help of more people now to guide me."

The team includes the farm's manager, Montie Wickcliffe, a former racetrack trainer; Jorge Gutierrez, who was hired as a private trainer earlier this year; veterinarian Dave Simington; and Gary and Marlene Howard, who operate Hideaway Farm, a training center owned by Warren.

Having such vast holdings makes for a lot of activity.

"It's a madhouse around here," Wickcliffe said with a chuckle. "I enjoy every minute of it, and Ben does too. He's good for this business. He spends money, and he's right there if you need something."

Overall, Warren has nearly 300 acres of farmland at four locations - plus two other 10-acre parcels - in the Hemet area.

Warren's Thoroughbreds is a 52-acre farm. Warren is leasing the 40-acre Hideaway Farm and the 152-acre Lakeview Farm. He keeps horses on the 40-acre Kachina Farm, which was previously operated by the late trainer Walter Greenman. All are close to Warren's Thoroughbreds.

Lakeview is leased from a real estate development company through 2008, he said. The area is under pressure from developers, he said, and that has made it more valuable. Nonetheless, Warren said he is committed to using the land for breeding and developing horses.

He calls Warren's Thoroughbreds his base.

"I'm in here at 6:30 in the morning," he said.

"We bought this ranch and paid $2 million for it. We've been offered $21 million. It wasn't a bad investment. We sold off five acres of it, and that was enough to buy Hideaway."

Hideaway, which has a half-mile training track, is mostly used for the training of horses owned by outside clients. The facility has 90 horses and is managed by the Howards.

Eighty horses owned by Warren are in training at Lakeview, which has a five-eighths-mile training track.

Kachina Farm is a home for broodmares, Warren said.

"We try to raise everything on grass," he said. "We don't have any dirt paddocks. We spent a lot of money on grass on our 300 acres."

None of Warren's stallions is among the state's leaders. While there are a few exceptions, the farm specializes in well-bred stallions who did not have extensive or successful racing careers. Most of the stallions stand for $2,500 or less, with many pegged at $1,000.

They include Ancient Art and Stormed, by Storm Cat; Extra, by A.P. Indy; and Madraar and Royal Walk, by Mr. Prospector. The farm also stands such notable names as Larry the Legend, the winner of the 1995 Santa Anita Derby; Lake George, the sire of Grade 1 winner Greg's Gold; as well as Olympio, Robannier, and Slewvescent.

Ancient Art had 35 foals in 2006, while Royal Walk had 17, Warren said.

"We have almost everything now," he said of the farm's variety of bloodlines. "The only thing we don't have is Sadler's Wells. I started to buy one at the sale, and I let them talk me out of it."

Over the next few years, Warren will have a few runners by nationally known stallions. Their dams were bought in foal to stallions such as Harlan's Holiday, High Yield, and Thunder Gulch. He will also have some runners by California stallions who stand elsewhere, such as Bartok, Moscow Ballet, and Siberian Summer.

"The horses are getting better," he said. "I think we'll have better quality horses at the track. We're breeding some better horses now."

So far, Warren's top runner has been Sip One for Mom, the winner of the Solana Beach Handicap at Del Mar in September. She later suffered an injury during training and is recuperating on the farm with the possibility of a comeback.

Warren, 73, owns Unified Aircraft Services, which contracts with the United States government to ship cars to military personnel worldwide. The company has eight locations, most in the United States, and ships vehicles throughout the world.

He retired in 1984, but that lasted a year because he couldn't stand the inactivity. He said he went "stark raving mad." He and his wife, Veneda, also own a Denny's restaurant and recently sold a cocktail lounge they had owned since 1980.

In September, Warren hired Gutierrez. He also has horses with about a half-dozen other trainers. He intends to leave the horses with those stables.

"If they can make them go, they can keep them," he said.

Gutierrez had visited Warren's Thoroughbreds to inspect yearlings with a client of his, and Warren and the trainer hit it off.

"We sat down and talked one day, and it seemed to work," Warren said.

Warren wants Gutierrez to have an 80-horse stable in training in Southern California by the spring.

"If they gave us 80 stalls in the middle of March, we'd fill them," Warren said. "Our major problem is getting stalls. If we're going to breed here, they should give us consideration for stalls. That's the only place we race, in California."

With so many horses, giving them all names has been a problem, Warren said. As a result, he and his wife have put their last name at the start of each horse's name. On Dec. 17 at Hollywood Park, Warren's Adventure ran in a maiden claimer. On Dec. 18, Warrens Rocketfuel, Warren'sgoldengirl, Warren's Kitten, and Warren's Miss Jones ran in overnight races.

"It's hard to name 90-something horses," he said of a recent naming session. "I think we've got 400 named Warren."

The name will be hard to avoid in California racing in coming years.