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Frankfort Park
upholds strong tradition

DRIVE out of the back exit of Keeneland and you are immediately far removed from the intense buzz which that complex generates in order to thrive.

Thanks to their central location, those quiet, twisty lanes travel over land which is one of the most coveted areas within Kentucky. There is Mike and Meg Levy's leading consigning agency Bluewater Sales, the Galbreath family's historic Darby Dan Farm, Fares' Farm, which bred and raised Curlin, and then Stonestreet Farm, whose owner Jess Jackson campaigned Curlin to win over $10.5m in prize-money. That entire stretch of road, known as Old Frankfort Pike, represents everything notable about the past and the future of the US breeding industry.

Yet ensconced in the centre of this historic cluster is Frankfort Park Stud, a farm that is truly representative of how global this industry has become. Owned by Irishman Brendan Gallagher with his wife Olive and two Dublin-based businessman, Frankfort Park is home to 30 hand-picked mares, whose stock in turn provide the foundation for the farm's fledgling consignment agency. With seven barns spread over 220 acres, it is also comfortably able to provide quarantine, in particular for horses destined to Europe, Australia and Argentina.

"We saw it advertised in the Blood-Horse, " says Gallagher, who is best known in bloodstock circles for his involvement in Emerald Bloodstock with Olive. "It was owned by Jim Plemmons, who stood the 1992 Kentucky Derby winner Lil E. Tee here. Jess Jackson wanted the farm but there are a few rights of way over it, which put him off - if those rights of way weren't there, I doubt we would be here now."

Indeed, one very close neighbour is Dan Pride, chief operating officer of Fasig-Tipton, whose house is situated on the land.

Gallagher and his partners, which at the time included Willie Browne, purchased the farm, then known as Old Frankfort Stud, in 2006. When Plemmons decided to take the 'Old Frankfort' banner with him along with his four stallions and bloodstock to his newbase in Frankfort , the partners were left with little choice but to alter the farm's name.

Frankfort came with four staff, which has increased to eight full time members fronted by Aisling Kinane and Dixie Hayes, who manage the property in Gallagher's absence.

"It is very good land - Plemmons bred two Grade 1 winners on it," says Gallagher. "The whole thing has become bigger than we ever envisaged. When we set out, we did a lot of quarantine and we thought that would be our main thing. But while we still do quite a lot of that, producing good, well-bred horses has become our main priority."

In May this year, the Gallaghers sold Emerald Bloodstock, one of the most successful and forward-thinking operations of its type, to Peter Kelly of Bloodhorse Insurances after 16 years at the helm. Although Olive remains a familiar face within the company, which primarily handles horse transport and insurance, the sale has allowed Brendanto focus more on Frankfort.

"I miss certain aspects of Emerald Bloodstock," says Gallagher. "We had it for 16 years and it was the best company we've ever had anything to do with but we just felt it was time for a change.

"I try to come out to Kentucky at least five times a year and even though Aisling and Dixie do a fantastic job, I would like to spend a little bit more time out it. Here, it is easier to be global as it's very central to what is happening. At home, it's a bit more insular."

The Gallaghers also own Carrigdownane Stud in County Cork, Ireland, and have times delved into the stallion market, notably through involvements with Case Law and US import Alphabatim. But while Gallagher doesn't rule out standing a stallion at Frankfort, securing high-class mares is for now the chief intention. And a chunk of that goal has been secured: already the paddocks contain mares such as Countess Gold, the dam of Strike The Deal, Pretty Proud, a sister to Whywhywhy whose yearling colt by Giant's Causeway commanded $425,000 during the first week of the Keeneland September Sale, and the half-sisters to Hatoof and Stravinsky.

Inthe adjoining fields, there are youngsters by highly regarded sires such as Afleet Alex, Bernardini, Henny Hughes, Rahy and Speightstown, and those from the first crops of Invasor and Stevie Wonderboy.

"We set out to buy the bestmares," he says. "And we've tried to use the best, commercial stallions depending on how they suit the mares. We sell all our best stock as weanlings because I feel that if you have really good one, you might get as much for it as you would a yearling.

"Last year was our first season selling and at Keeneland last November, we sold a mare for $350,000 and grossed just shy of $1m."

As Gallagher goes on to say 'the farm has come a long way from nothing' so already, it seems, the tradition of Old Frankfort Pike is being upheld.

 

 

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