The Brock Talk

Friday, August 20, 2010

WinStar Turning Spot Lights Into Shining Lights

There’s an old Sesame Street song entitled “One of These Things is Not Like The Other” in which the cast member muppet singing the song, asks children to look at a group of three things and decipher which item is different from the other two in some way.

For some reason, that song rings to mind occasionally with announcements and accomplishments of WinStar Farm, the racing and breeding operation based in Versailes Kentucky. WinStar Farm is one of the more successful teams in racing and breeding this year. They won the Kentucky Derby (gr. 1) presented by Yum! Brands with their home-bred son of the late Maria’s Mon, Super Saver. Five weeks after the Kentucky Derby, they won the third leg of the Triple Crown when their Drosselmeyer takes the Belmont Stakes. Drosselmeyer was not bred by WinStar, but is by one of the industry’s leading sires, Distorted Humor. Distorted Humor, by the way, stands at WinStar Farm.

Distorted Humor heads the roster of six stallions at Winstar, along with two-time Breeders’ Cup Champion and Horse of the Year Tiznow, 2004 Sprint Champion Speightstown, Sharp Humor and Spring at Last. And lest we forget the youngster in the group, Bluegrass Cat, who is currently the third leading first crop sire with more than $350,000 in progeny earnings.

If success in the stallion barn and on the track aren’t enough for WinStar Farm, they also sold a Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Select Yearling Sale session topper Aug. 10 for $800,000. A son of Zenyatta’s sire, Street Cry, the sales ticket on the colt was signed by one of the leading buyers in the world, John Ferguson, the bloodstock manager for Sheikh Mohammed al Maktoum.

Now back to the Sesame Street song. Which of these things is not like the other? Also among the WinStar items making news this year are Kim Magan of Orfino, Idaho winning the WinStar sponsored online contest for Drosselmeyer’s horse shoes; Gerald Zebell of Arlington Heights, Illinois winning the contest to name Super Saver’s half-brother. The winning name was Superfection. And more recently making the news, is the adoption and subsequent retirement of Super Saver’s full brother, Hedge Fund.

So why is perhaps the most successful Kentucky-based racing and breeding operation of the year, spending so much marketing effort on fan contests and retired race horses?

Elliott Walden Jr., the WinStar Farm Vice President and Racing Manager explained that they had several goals at the beginning of 2010. Among them was fan relations and interaction. “When it makes sense for the farm, we want the regular fan to have a chance to see and experience this business,” Walden explained to The Brock Talk.

The probability that a Kim Magan or a Gerald Zebell will bring a broodmare to WinStar Farm and a check for $100,000 to breed to Distorted Humor, is unlikely admits Walden. But that is not the purpose of those marketing dollars and hours of effort. “We have always felt that the more we can do for the business the better,” Walden explained. And that is exactly why the farm adopted and retired Hedge Fund among others.

“We feel very strongly that we have to take care of own,” Walden said. “That is why last year we adopted and retired Lord of the Game”, a brother to WinStar stallion Bluegrass Cat.

In the end, Hedge Fund’s adoption and retirement nor Ms. Magan’s Drosslelmeyer horse shoes will make many headlines, nor save the industry in some super hero fashion. Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver many not have been a Triple Crown winner either. But the impact the folks at Winstar Farms are having on racing is going far beyond the six-figure breeding contracts, Kentucky Derby wins or gavels dropping on millions of dollars in yearling sales.

The WinStar Farm impact is also reaching out to the fans. The WinStar impact is reaching out to retired race horses. The WinStar impact - in some cases - is probably also having a negative influence on the farm's short term bottom line.

Let's hope it catches on.

Click here to register for the WinStar Daily Pick 5 Contest with a grand prize of box seats at the 2010 Breeders' Cup.


Susan said...

WinStar has always been a class act. They are truly conscious of their responsibilities to the Horse and to the Industry. We can only hope that more and more breeders and owners will make this same effort with horses they have bred or raced, instead of disposing, ignoring or forgetting them, when they are in need.

Brock Sheridan said...

I couldn't agree with you more Susan. It is very gratifying to see the leaders in our industries of racing and breeding also showing leadership in fan participation and race horse adoption.