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WinStar influence grows with new stallion facility
By Patrick Reed
WinStar Farm, already one of the most successful racing and breeding operations in the U.S., is set to put the finishing touches on a major expansion that will make it an even more prominent presence in the sport.
The Versailles, Ky., operation unveiled its new stallion complex Feb. 9 with a launch event that included drawings for its “Breed to Win” program that offers complimentary shares to participating WinStar stallions. The farm will stand 22 stallions at its facility in 2013, bolstered by the additions of first-year sires Bodemeister and Gemologist and the transfer of seven stallions from Vinery Ltd. in Lexington.
The new facility features 18 stalls, two breeding sheds, three viewing and inspection areas, 22 paddocks of three acres each, and multiple holding areas for mares, as well as a secondary barn for quarantine facilities. Long-term plans for an expansion were years in the making and were discussed in the years following WinStar’s formation in 2000 by then co-owners Kenny Troutt and Bill Casner, according to WinStar Director of Stallion Seasons Gerry Duffy.
“Kenny said that since he bought the farm he’d never been completely comfortable with the stallion division that we had,” Duffy said. “The reason being, he has a three-acre-per-head rule, and the paddocks were small [at the original complex]. It was sort of confined to one corner of the farm, and it was just a part of the farm that he was unhappy with. Last year we had gotten to the point where we outgrew the one we were in − it was a 10-stall barn with 10 paddocks, so we were pretty stretched.”
Troutt assumed sole ownership of WinStar in 2010, the year WinStar 3-year-olds Super Saver and Drosselmeyer won the Kentucky Derby and Belmont. At the time, WinStar stood seven stallions, but that jumped to 15 by 2012. With eight more additions this year − and one subtraction after Summer Bird was sold to Japanese interests for stud duties − the opening of the new complex will enable Duffy and his staff to fulfill the needs of WinStar’s large roster and also provide a more spacious, streamlined, and technologically enhanced experience to breeders.
“The new facility is designed in such a way that the barn is more centralized, so the paddock radiates out around and sort of encircles the barn somewhat,” Duffy said. “There’s less walking required, and everything is more accessible. The two breeding sheds will be a big positive.”
In addition to the added space, the complex also features two 50-inch touch-screen kiosks for accessing information such as race replays or historical data on each stallion as well as a 70-inch high-definition television in the complex’s main lobby for watching races and promotional materials. Staff increases are also part of the expansion, and Tony Cissell, stallion operations manager for WinStar during its 2010 Triple Crown success, returned in January to reassume duties at the farm.
WinStar’s expansion reflects an aggressive, forward-looking, and entrepreneurial approach that has already paid dividends the previous dozen years. It will coincide, the farm hopes, with a rebound in the bloodstock sector following the economic downturn that has lasted several years. Duffy said he feels WinStar is poised to take advantage of a more stable commercial market with a roster that offers stallions for every pedigree interest and at numerous price points, led by stalwarts Distorted Humor and Tiznow, as well as 2012 leading juvenile sire Harlan’s Holiday. Bodemeister and Gemologist are booked full for 2013, and after a period of adjustment Duffy said the Vinery stallions, led by leading sires More Than Ready and Congrats, are settling in and receiving more inquiries.
Last year, WinStar stallions covered approximately 1,750 mares, and Duffy said he expects that to rise to between 2,300 and 2,400 bred this year. That would represent between 15 and 16 percent of all mares bred in Kentucky this year, if Jockey Club estimates of 15,000 total mares bred in the state are accurate.
“What we do from a sales standpoint, from liaising with our shareholders, with our breeders, you know, all things are tied in together,” Duffy said. “We want to basically provide a heightened experience, if you like, when breeding with WinStar. We want to elevate what we’re doing across the board.
“In order to breed the number of mares that we do, you’ve got to have the stallions people want to use, but I think with 22 on the roster, the depth is there, you know,” he said. “We’ve got very few holes in the roster.”
WinStar is there to feed the market for syndicated ownership which waters down the bloodline at an accelerated rate. It used to be acceptable to have one line of black type for a Mare. Now if a Colt wins any race with a Name and can no longer run it's off to the breeding shed. They are breeding Mares to anything that can stand. How can this be good in the long run?
Hopefully, WinStar will be responsible breeders and put an aftercare training/retirement program into place for the thousands of horses that they will breed, not just the winning colts and broodmares, but the horses who can't race or don't have talent. Even if the mares/foals belong to another owner, WinStar should offer a condition that foals sired by WinStar stallions are eligible for the WinStar retirement program. Add a few extra dollars to the stud fee to cover the program. If owner's balk at an extra $500 - $1K, then they shouldn't be breeding. This innovation would earn the goodwill of many in the racing industry and WinStar could become a leader, not just in churning out foals, but in aftercare as well. Perhaps other large breeding farms would follow suit.