Tag Archives: thoroughbred

A trip back in time at Runnymede Farm

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Last week, during a five-day whirlwind trip to Lexington, Ky., my daughters and I got an unexpected treat.

We were given a private tour of Kentucky’s oldest continuous Thoroughbred breeding establishment, Runnymede Farm, located outside Paris in Bourbon County, by Camden Clay, the great-grandson of its founder.

The tour was arranged by my friend Dawn Newman, owner of Fox Tale Stud in Coopersburg, Pa., who is related by marriage to the Clay family, and who thought I would be interested in seeing this historic property. And boy, was she right!

Despite the bitterly cold, blustery weather, with the temperature hovering around 10 degrees as we embarked near Runnymede’s 213-year-old stone barn, we heard the abbreviated story of Runnymede and followed Camden through the old breeding shed, up a tree-lined walk, and out onto a viewing stand, upon which some of the most stunning views of the farm could be seen.

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Runnymede’s rolling hills from the viewing stand

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Mares grazing on a gray afternoon.

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Camden Clay points to a faraway site atop the viewing stand.

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Another view of the farm.

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The circa-1800 stone barn, formerly a church.

Since its founding in 1867, Runnymede Farm has been an important and vital part of the American thoroughbred industry. The 365-acre farm was originally established on family property by Colonel Ezekiel Clay, whose father was a member of the U.S. Congress and a breeder of thoroughbreds and champion cattle.

Runnymede (“Rolling Meadows”) is headed by family patriarch Catesby Clay, a grandson of Ezekiel Clay and Camden’s father, and one of the most respected breeders in the industry. Camden has seven siblings, including Brutus J. Clay III, who is the farm’s president, according to the Runnymede web site.

Horses foaled and/or raced by Runnymede are among the sport’s finest, including four members of the Racing Hall of Fame, many starters in the Triple Crown, and several champions in the U.S. and abroad. A partial list includes:

* Hanover – Hall of Fame member who won 17 races in a row at 2 and 3
* Agile -1905 Derby winner
* Roamer – Leading money winner of 1914; won 32-of-50 starts including Travers Stakes
* Miss Woodford – The immortal filly who won 16 straight races over three-year span; the first U.S. runner to earn $100,000
* Ben Brush – Derby winner 1896
* Count Turf – Derby winner 1951 bred and raised at Runnymede
* Angle Light – defeated Secretariat in the 1973 Wood Memorial
* Tejano Run – Gr. 2 winner, runnerup in 1995 Derby
* Partez – Placed in 1981 Derby
* Agnes Digital – 2001 Champion Older Horse in Japan, winner of 2001 Hong Kong Cup (Jpn-G1).

While the biting wind and finger-numbing cold cut our Runnymede visit a little short, it was still a delightful trip back in time, and one for which I am grateful to both Camden and Dawn.

He’s “Extrasexy Special”

Toni Kirwan and her husband, Michael, have bred and raced horses in Pennsylvania for many years.

But it wasn’t until December 21 when the Yardley, Pa. residents, in conjunction with their good friend Ed Hipps, scored their biggest victory ever when homebred Extrasexyhippzster rolled home in the $100,000 Don Rickles Stakes at Aqueduct Racetrack.

Extrasexyhippzster, who is co-owned by Michael Kirwan and Hipps, and was co-bred by Toni Kirwan and Hipps, is by Stroll and the first foal from the Freud mare Extra Sexy Psychic, who was also co-bred and raced by the same connections.

After settling just off the pace in the early stages of the Don Rickles, Extrasexyhippzster took the lead at the half-mile pole and never looked back, humbling his four foes and completing the six furlongs in 1:10.86 while winning by five lengths as the third betting choice.

The $60,000 he earned boosted his career mark to two wins from four starts, and $111,724 in earnings.

Here’s a photo of the colt before the race, sporting a kiss from Toni on his nose (courtesy of NYRA):

In the Aqueduct winner’s circle, the Kirwans were decked out in pink attire to go along with their hot pink silks that features a colorful parrot on the back. Toni Kirwan owns a 26-year-old parrot that she raised from a baby.

“This was such a thrill; the biggest stakes race we’ve ever won,” said Kirwan. “The phone hasn’t stopped ringing ever since.”

Extrasexyhippzster is trained by Mike Trombetta and based at the Fair Hill Training Center in Maryland.

Kirwan loves to give her horses long, tongue-twisting names so that she can hear them being called by track announcers when they race.

She chose Stroll for Extra Sexy Psychic’s first mate after doing a series of nicks on the Claiborne Farm web site.

“She nicked really well with Pulpit, but he was way too much money, so I chose Stroll, who was a son of Pulpit and only $7,500 at the time,” said Kirwan. “The nick was an A++, and I really liked the way he looked.”

This is the fifth juvenile stakes horse for Stroll and his second 2-year-old stakes winner this year. The colt is from Stroll’s first crop since returning from Italy to stand in the United States.

Extrasexyhippzster was foaled and raised at Shirley Lojeski’s Lojeski Farms in Emmaus, Pa.

Here’s another photo of Extrasexyhippzster taken at the Fair Hill Training Center with his assistant trainer Melissa Begley and groom Manny Ramirez (courtesy of the Fair Hill web site):


More dough in Delaware

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(The beautiful Delaware Park paddock. Photo credit: Me.)

The Delaware Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association (DTHA), founding sponsor of the Delaware Certified Thoroughbred Program (DCTP), announced Monday that an increase in bonuses will take effect immediately.

The DCTP advisory board, led by Delaware Secretary of Agriculture Ed Kee, met on July 10 and unanimously voted to increase the bonuses to owners and certifiers to 20 percent each, respectively. The increase will also be paid retroactively from the beginning of the meet on May 18.

“The Delaware Bred or Certified Thoroughbred Program continues to exceed all our expectations since we created it in 2002. It is a significant financial win for horsemen, our 82 participating Delaware farms, and the preservation of farmland,” said Bessie Gruwell, executive director of the DTHA. The association estimates the program’s value to the state’s economy is in excess of $1 million annually.

Two recent examples of stakes-winning Delaware Certified horses are Dancing Afleet, who won the Gr. 2 Delaware Oaks on July 13, and Freedom Child, who captured the Gr. 2 Peter Pan at Belmont Park on May 11.

Dancing Afleet, who is also a Pennsylvania-bred, was raised on Cut N Run Farm in Camden, Delaware by her co- breeder, Barbara S. Brown. Freedom Child, a Kentucky-bred ridgling, was Delaware Certified at CandyLand Farm in Middletown, Delaware by Herb and Ellen Moelis.

The 21st annual Owners Day at Delaware Park has been scheduled for September 14. On this day, four DCTP stakes races will be run: the Small Wonder, for 2-year-old fillies, and the First State Dash, for 2-year-old olds, each at 5-1/2 furlongs and with a purse of $75,000. Also on tap are the Tax Free Shopping Distaff for fillies and mares and the New Castle, for 3-year-olds and up, which are both $75,000 six-furlong events. All four stakes have free nominations that close on September 2.

Also on Owner’s Day, the George Rosenberger Memorial, the DTHA Governor’s Day Stakes, and the Robert Camac Starter Memorial will be contested.

In order to be eligible for certification, horses must complete a minimum of ninety (90) consecutive days on an approved DCTP farm or training facility. Certification applications will not be accepted after December 31st of the yearling year.

For more information about the Delaware Bred or Certified Thoroughbred Program, contact (302) 994-2398; email dctp@dtha.com, or visit http://www.dtha.com and click on the DCTP link to download an application or to find a list of participating Delaware farms.

On the agenda at Parx

This past week, the Pennsylvania Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association at Parx Racing held a meeting – primarily owners and trainers. Here are a few of the new changes about to go into effect:

• An owner can only have 2 trainers when stabled at Parx. Rule will be enforced.
• There will be purse increases coming, now that the state is not taking out as much as threatened from the horsemen’s fund
• There will be an increase in the number of maiden races coming.
• There will be an addition of state-bred N1X race coming.
• Open steward consent possible for certain race entry situations
• Consideration of competitive testing on stable at any time – not just race day.

Condition book changes beginning 7/24:

• MTO now allowed in turf races.
• “If in” will apply (entry 2 days in a row).
• Scratch re-entry 7 days for dirt, 3 days for turf.
• Coupling automatic whether 1 owner or 2 if trainer enters 2 horses in same race, except stakes.

Medication rules to go into effect Jan 1, 2014, in most states:
New, very stiff penalties for underlying (first) and especially enhanced (additional) offenses which will go on trainer’s record and apply in other states. This is designed to eliminate multiple offenses. Fresh start for all except class 1 offense stays on trainer’s record 10 years.

Parx is zero tolerance for certain drugs and has a specific ceiling for 24 listed therapeutic drugs. Exceeding that ceiling results in a positive.

Also: Better medical supplement insurance plan available for horsemen.

More from the "Cherry and Black"

A painting of the great French stayer Mortemer.

A painting of the great French stayer Mortemer.

Today we continue our exploration of the wonderful old book “Cherry and Black: The Career of Mr. Pierre Lorillard on the Turf,” by W. S. Vosburgh, printed in 1916. In it, a visitor (presumably Vosburgh) details a trip to Rancocas Stud in Jobstown, N. J., where Lorillard established his 1,500- acre thoroughbred nursery, as well as chronicles the racetrack exploits of Lorillard’s stable.

Among the following passages, the author describes the stallion Mortemer, a grand French stayer who came to the United States at age 15 after a successful stud career in France, and stood at Rancocas until he was 21. He was moved to nearby Brookdale Stud before his death in June, 1891. You can read more about Mortemer here:


From “Cherry and Black”:

On a slight elevation facing the south stands a huge glass house, a crystal palace which but for its height might be mistaken for a greenhouse. It is the “Playhouse” in Rancocasan vernacular— a sort of kindergarten, where the weanlings are turned out during the winter. It is not used until the frost sets in, but the weanlings had been kept in this morning to afford us an opportunity for close inspection before they were turned loose in the paddock.

This mammoth glass building is 350 feet in length by 250 in width. The floor is covered with sand which never freezes and allows the youngsters full scope to play and romp during the coldest days in winter.

As the door is opened the sight is bewildering. Thirty-three colts and fillies are at play, mostly Mortemers and mostly chestnuts. They were but recently weaned, and the brown mare Hildegarde was still with her foal, a brown filly foaled late in June. It is difficult to form an opinion in such a constantly moving throng, but a chestnut colt from Highland Lassie was among the most forward—”an early foal— Feb. 18,” we are told.

Mortemer was standing like a statue in his yard. There is something impressive in the personnel of “the mighty Frenchman.” Massive, stately and imperious, he looks a king among horses. A deep red chestnut with a narrow, divided blaze, he stands 16.2 h, measures 73 inches girth; his arm at the swell, 19 inches; below the knee, 8 inches. His shoulder-blade is 32 inches in length; and from hip to hock he measures 42 inches. His off forefoot has given them some trouble, otherwise he carries his age well and is as gentle as a dog. In his first season here he had 40 foals from the 46 mares with which he was mated.