04/30/2009 11:00PM

Woodford's package appeals to newcomers


LEXINGTON, Ky. - Bill Farish, general manager of his family's Lane's End Farm in Versailles, Ky., is taking the drive to recruit new Thoroughbred owners personally.

The Woodford Racing partnership he founded in 2005 is fairly low-key; it generally does not advertise, for example. But the syndicate quietly has brought about 90 owners to the sport, most of them first-time racehorse investors, with the goal of maximizing partners' action and their chances to break even.

With the help of his Woodford Racing partner Ben Haggin, formerly of Reynolds Bell Thoroughbred Services, and trainer Mark Casse, Farish designed Woodford Racing differently from some other public partnerships by making larger groups of horses available to investors. Each partnership has 35 units at $75,000 each. For each unit, a buyer gets 1/35 of a 20-horse package. He based the stable with Casse at Canada's Woodbine racetrack, where slot machines have raised purses.

"The main reason for it was to introduce new people to the sport," Farish said of Woodford Racing. "For years, I'd wanted to do that, but I couldn't get comfortable with the right formula. When I met Mark Casse and got introduced to the Canadian purse structure and the Canadian-bred program, it started to come into focus to me how I thought it could work.

"The second piece was to have enough horses involved to where there was enough action. Instead of getting a bunch of people involved in three horses and having none of them ever make it to the racetrack, or some kind of unfortunate experience like that, with this approach, it's a lot of action."

The partnership generally purchases its horses at yearling sales and tries to stick to an average purchase price of about $75,000, Farish said. They seek all kinds of horses: sprinters and two-turn runners, colts and fillies, Canadian-breds and U.S.-breds. They lean toward sires who might be less "hot" (and expensive) but who have good progeny performances.

Each partnership lasts through the horses' 4-year-old season, at which point any runners that haven't sold privately or been lost through the claim box are dispersed through the November mixed auctions.

Most partners have arrived via word of mouth or personal connection to Farish, Haggin, or other partners. Most come from outside Kentucky, and many are from the investment world. Woodford Racing alums include Scott Ford, whose own Westrock Stables was an important buyer at select 2-year-old sales this year, and Virginian Giles Tucker, who has been involved in two Woodford partnerships and since bought a couple of mares.

Farish and Haggin say they have also focused on something individual Thoroughbred owners traditionally complain about: communication. Woodford Racing maintains its own office in downtown Lexington and has a virtual presence at www.woodfordracing.com, where partners can log in for weekly updates on each horse, as well as snapshots and short video clips. They also receive the weekly updates by e-mail.

"We wanted to from the beginning to saturate the partners with communications about their horses," Haggin said, adding that partners are welcome to visit horses at the racetrack, too.

Woodford Racing currently has about 50 horses in training, and while they run most often in Canada, they also have competed at tracks throughout the U.S. They have had seven stakes winners so far, including Grade 3 winner Turf War.

The partners' initial investment covers expenses, and so far, says Farish, the stable has never had to do a capital call.

"The hope is when we sell one we retain enough money to keep paying bills," said Farish. "To the extent there's money left over at the end, we disburse that money.

"We're trying to introduce people to the sport and give them the best economic shot at getting out whole, then going on to experience the sport in whatever way they want to."

Australian champion mare dies

Sunline, four-time Horse of the Year in her native New Zealand and three-time Horse of the Year in Australia, died Friday at age 13. The mare was euthanized in New Zealand due to the effects of laminitis.

She foundered last year in both front feet.

Sunline, a bay daughter of Desert Sun and Songline (Western Symphony), won 32 of 48 starts, including 13 Group 1 victories, and earned about $6.6 million. Trained by Trevor McKee, she earned her Horse of the Year titles between 1999 and 2002. Sunline also had 14 championship titles to her credit in New Zealand and Australia as, variously, top sprinter, 3-year-old filly, miler, older mare, and older turf mare. She also was named Mare of the Year in 2003.

Sunline has produced three foals. They are a 2004 Rock of Gibraltar filly named Sunstrike, a 2005 Zabeel colt named Sun Ruler, and an unnamed 2006 filly by Rock of Gibraltar. Sun Ruler is the only one to go through the auction ring so far, and he brought a $1,390,600 bid from Manukau Bloodstock at a New Zealand sale in 2007.

Sunline has been buried at New Zealand's Ellerslie racecourse.

* Former WinStar bloodstock representative Mark Maronde and veterinarian Dr. Johnny Mac Smith have joined the Keeneland sales team as sales account executive and veterinary adviser, respectively. Maronde will assist in sales recruiting and marketing, and Smith will serve on the inspection team.