The Secretariat Festival launched its final day of this year with a farm tour to Darley at Jonabell and Old Friends. While Darley doesn’t have ties to Secretariat directly, it still has the mission to produce top-notch racehorses like the Meadow Stable star. The woman in charge of stallion marketing (I didn’t catch her name) provided history of the farm and Godolphin in general before leading the group out to the stallion paddocks.
She described Sheikh Mohammed as a lifelong horse enthusiast who started riding Arabians at a young age, and was inspired by the history of the Thoroughbred tracing to the three Arabian stallions from the Middle East, which led not only to his investment in Thoroughbreds but also to naming his operation Godolphin as a nod to the Godolphin Arabian and the farm in Kentucky Darley in honor of the Darley Arabian.
Bowman Mill Road which the Darley property sits on was named for its settler, a man named Bowman, who was a friend of Daniel Boone and built two homes in the 1800s that still stand on the farm. John Bell operated the farm from the 1950s until Sheikh Mohammed purchased it in 2001 and then the renovation began. Wooden barns were replaced and the office was built, which now houses an impressive collection of trophies. One of the more recent additions is Mystic Guide’s Dubai World Cup trophy, which was a trophy I think I had never seen before, even in photos. I also liked seeing the collection of saddlecloths from Essential Quality’s graded stakes races, especially as being at big races had largely been off-limits last year and I got to attend his Belmont.
The stallion marketing manager also mentioned that racing is Sheikh Mohammed’s hobby and they try to keep it fun for him, as he has a lot of responsibility in Dubai. It was interesting to hear about some of her marketing tactics for the stallions, which could include how to convince people to breed to a stallion they have in one price range instead of a lot of others in the same price range. Also, she mentioned that they would share information with breeders about mares in a stallion’s book to help them decide if they wanted to have a yearling who was among the top in a sale for that sire, where with another stallion that yearling could have been one of the lower tier horses.
Then we went out to the stallion paddocks, where they are turned out at this time of year from early morning until about noon, with the exception of Medalgia d’Oro, who likes to be inside and will let his groom know when he wants to come in, after only a few hours. It struck me that any older individual would probably like his indoor comforts better after a little while outside!
Street Sense was in a pasture catty-corner from Nyquist, and Hard Spun directly across from Street Sense. It was the first time I’d seen their stallions out in their pastures, and I like to see them in their leisure time for what it can reveal of their natures.
Street Sense was a little aloof until Nyquist got attention, and after rolling in the mud a few times he came over to the fence line. Nyquist was playful, grabbing the lead rope over his fence line in his mouth. Hard Spun was most interested in grazing.
Speaking of the fences, it was the only time I’d seen that type at any farms in this region, and it is essentially a rubber material made by Centaur Fencing. While more expensive than wood fences, it is practically maintenance-free and also safer if the horses happen to run into it than a wood fence could be. Each fence has an electric wire along the top so the stallions don’t chew it.
Moving along to Old Friends, the group went back to the mare paddocks to meet Groundshaker, the last racehorse bred by Penny Chenery. The mare by Quiet American, foaled in 2011, raced twice before bowing a tendon. For a while, she was a mascot at Meadow Stable; while they considered her being a broodmare, they decided to go the mascot route. She shares a paddock with Private Charm, a look-alike daughter of Silver Charm’s.
Speaking of Silver Charm, he looks great in general, but particularly for a 27-year-old horse.
It was great to make some horse farm rounds again.