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Flanders: Overbrook's homebred Breeders' Cup Juvenile heroine sells alongside her champion daughter Surfside at Keeneland this week

  PICTURE: Matt Goins 

 

End of an era as Overbrook prepares
for one last sale

THOSE associated with Overbrook Farm in Kentucky have had five months to digest the operation's imminent dispersal at Keeneland this week, but the end of such an era still won't be easy to confront when the first of 158 offerings, Mary Delaney, steps into the ring on Wednesday.

In June this year, Bill Young Jr, who assumed control of the farm upon the death of his father, William T. Young, in February 2004, announced that his family would be dispersing the majority of their equine assets at the upcoming Keeneland sales.

Over the next few months, the Youngs remained true to their word by dispersing their resident stallions including homebred Kentucky Derby winner Grindstone, who was leased to stand in Oregon. Then in September, they embarked on the first stage of their auction dispersal when selling 47 yearlings for nearly $6.3m.

Now, however, it's time to close the book for good.

"It's difficult," is all that stud manager Ric Waldman needs to say. "I started consultancy work with Overbrook in 1986 and have managed it since in1990. I've lived on the farm since 1992, so yes, it's difficult."

Although a native of Kentucky, William Young did not discover racing until 1972 when he attended a meeting at Churchill Downs to watch a filly owned by close friend Alex Campbell. Campbell's filly won and Young was hooked; by the end of that year he had purchased some land near Lexington from Lucas Combs that would become Overbrook.

Young made his fortune at an early age through the peanut butter company Big Top,which he later sold, and he set about utilising his business acumen in cultivating Overbrook.

It didn't take long for him to fulfill his ambitions. Upon the advice of William Lockridge, then part owner of Ashford Stud, Young purchasedthree mares, Cinegita, Terlingua and Arc heroine Three Troikas, to be covered by European import Storm Bird.

It was advice that enabled Young to hit the jackpot as although Three Troikas proved to be desperately disappointing, Terlingua went on to produce Storm Cat while Cinegita is the granddam of champion Flanders, herself the dam of another champion in Surfside.

Luck also played its part in Overbrook's rapid ascent when Young was forced to withdraw Storm Cat from the 1984 Keeneland July Sale after he tested positive for equine viral arteritis. Sent to Jonathan Sheppard, the son of Storm Bird went on to win the Grade 1 Young America Stakes as a two-year-old before falling short by a nose to Tasso in the Breeders'Cup Juvenile. Had the photo gone the other way, Young would have most likely sold Storm Cat for the $8m that he had been offered beforehand.

Storm Cat entered stud at Overbrook in 1988 for $30,000 and went on to sire 11 champions including Giant's Causeway and One Cool Cat as well as the farm's own top-class performers Tabasco Cat and Cat Thief. At his peak he commanded a fee of $500,000, in part due to an immense commercial popularity which saw him sire nearly 100 $1m yearlings including this year's Keeneland September sale-topper.

And while Storm Cat was gaining worldwide recognition, the farm was receiving further respect thanks to homebred champions such as Boston Harbor, Flanders and Timber Country.

As in September, the November dispersal will be handled by Reiley McDonald's Eaton Sales. Within the 158 lots, there are ten Grade 1 performers or producers as well as weanlings by Giant's Causeway, Mr Greeley, Street Cry and Tiznow.

Although it is so large, Waldman says that there was never any temptation to stage their own sale.

"For many years we've stood stallions and bred horses proficiently but we'll let the pros sell them.

"It's very hard to gauge how these mares will sell. When you know things are going to decline, you adjust your mental appraisals, and all things considered, I thought the yearlings sold pretty well. Still, you're always wondering what you can do to help and while we may not have the big home runs of two years ago, we'll probably be content at the end of it.

"But it's amazing how much a dispersal aura can attract buyers and not many of these families have been readily available to the public before."

Champion Golden Attraction (455) heads the 23 lots that descend from Square Angel while Flanders (439) and her daughter Surfside (316) are among the 26 on offer descending fromCinegita. Another 18, including Jump Start's dam Steady Cat (307), trace to Hopespringseternal.

Also catalogued is Grade 1 winner Cotton Blossom (413), who cost Overbrook $1.9m in 2007, Boston Harbor's dam Harbor Springs (1238) and Winendynme (349), whose Storm Cat filly sold to D. Wayne Lukas for $675,000 in September.

The latter is in foal to Medicean and one of three mares sent by the farm to be covered in Europe this year.

"We raced Storm Star, who won the 1985 Cherry Hinton Stakes, but Mr. Young loved to watch his horses race, so sending them to Europe was something that we hadn't done for a very long time," remarks Waldman. "We sent these mares over unaware of the dispersal and would have probably continued to do so in reaction to the quality of stallions in Europe.

"We would have certainly submitted a mare to Sea The Stars and it would be special if one of the mares in the dispersal was to go to him."

Adding further spice is a smattering of Juddmonte blood following foal shares with Storm Cat between the two operations. Among the resulting fillies on offer are the full or half-sisters to Nebraska Tornado (Dark Sky - 418) andEtoile Montante (Will Prevail - 347) as well as daughters of Honest Lady (Honest Pursuit - 471) and Wandesta (Driven Snow - 783).

"I suspect that Juddmonte were trying to produce a good Storm Cat colt they could stand while we got some Storm Cat fillies out of some very desirable mares," says Waldman. "It's a shame that we won't be able to see these fillies through their stud careers."

With just 26-year-old Storm Cat in residence at Overbrook after November 22, the future for the farm is uncertain although Young's grandson, Chris, will continue to maintain a small racing stable.

"We've talked with a few interested parties about leasing space for thoroughbred operations because the family would love to see horses on it," says Waldman. "And we'll run cattle on the land that isn't leased."

As for Waldman, he will pick up where he left off before Overbrook.

He says: "I had a consulting business before I managed the farm. Overbrook were my biggest client and I'll now look to fill that void."



Ric Waldman on....

William T. Young:

"He was successful in everything he did, probably because he had a very sharp, keen business sense and wasn't afraid to take a risk. I remember some of us told him it would be risky to retain full ownership of Storm Cat when he went to stud, but it wasn't until Storm Cat was in his late teens that he sold some breeding rights to him.
"It was a pleasure to see the enjoyment Mr. Young got out of Overbrook. He thoroughly enjoyed the farm and had a hand in everything that was built, from the stables to the layout of the roads - I suppose really he was a frustrated architect."

On the timing of the dispersal:

"Looking back, it is easy to say that Overbrook would wind down when Storm Cat was retired last year as he had carried the load for so long, but that wasn't the case.
"Earlier this year though, it was clear to Bill Young Jr. that now was the best time to disperse, and while I wasn't expecting it at that particular time, it didn't come as a total surprise. And I believe that Mr. Young would have supported the decision.

On the position of US racing:

"I believe our biggest problem in the US is the lack of a true fan base, something which has gradually eroded since I began in this industry 35 years ago. We've got other means of funding, such as simulcasting, so it was easy for us to ceasecultivating the fans.
"Look at the popularity of racing in Europe - you walk into a pub in Britain or Ireland and racing is on the TVs and it's being talked about. Can you imagine how strong your racing would be if you got prize-money acttogether?"

 

 

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