Editor’s Note: This is the second of a five-part series airing this week on WAVE 3 News at 6 p.m., highlighting the key players and connections involved in this year’s Kentucky Derby.
By JOHN BOEL | WAVE 3 News
Twenty-five thousand dollars for three minutes of work. Some might not call it work.
That’s no exaggeration. A horse named Exaggerator walked into the breeding shed for his 2 p.m., $25,000 appointment to make a baby.
Three times a day — at 8 a.m., 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. — 20 stallions at WinStar Farm are scheduled to make babies. It’s an immaculate foal factory with 150 employees.
“No. 1 thing is to make sure the mare is happy and healthy and in heat to be here,” assistant stallion manager Veronica Reed said.
From mid-February through mid-June, Reed is kind of a midwife when it comes to conception.
“We have vests we put on our chests, and helmets,” she said. “You obviously have a lot of feet flying in your face, or kicks, so we try to protect our vitals that way.”
The studly lineup included More Than Ready, who was more than ready for the three mares he would meet on this day at $80,000 per session. That’s right. Up to three times a day for four months.
“They have healthy sexual appetites,” Reed said while laughing. “I believe in the wild, they do the same thing. We wouldn’t do anything to these stallions. Most of them have that drive. They would do it more than that if they could.”
Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver, offered at the super-saver rate of only $30,000, was paraded in front of potential breeders. Derby winner Always Dreaming was only $25,000. Then they trotted out Tiznow, the only back-to-back winner of the Breeders’ Cup Classic. A giant of a beast. Almost 17 hands high and 1,500 pounds. It’s $50,000 if you want his baby.
Outside, for 22 hours each day, were the results of last year’s work. The 2-month-old thoroughbred toddlers were learning to use their legs, eating, and growing. They were right next to the moms who just delivered them following 11 months of pregnancy.
According to Jockey Club data, the average purchase price of a Kentucky weanling is $75,000. But the average lifetime earnings is $30,000. That doesn’t sound like a money-making endeavor, but it can be.
“The cream rises to the top, and the top horses can earn quite a bit of money and go on to have successful breeding careers,” stallion sales director Liam O’Rourke said. “Some aren’t quite as athletic. I wanted to play in the NHL, but I didn’t. It’s the ultimate David vs. Goliath sport. Obviously we’re lucky here at WinStar and a lot of top-level operators, but we get knocked off by the smaller guys on a daily basis.”
Around the corner from him, the deed was done. The deal was done. It’s impossible to predict if that session will produce a Triple Crown winner.
Now it’s up to mom’s milk, and the bluegrass, at a farm that’s always dreaming of Derby success.