Last Friday, Frank and Erin of That’s Amore Stable were kind enough to invite me to tag along with them on their visits to the Shadwell and Darley breeding farms. Their visit to the former was expressly to see the perfectly-named Swain, to whom a That’s Amore filly is currently in foal, and Kent Barnes, the stallion manager, couldn’t have been a more accommodating, gracious, and patient host.
Frank and Erin were there on business, but as Kent brought Swain from his stall, it was almost as if he were bringing out a relative…albeit one who had already impregnated a family member. As we oohed and aahed, Swain performed, nibbling at his lead, stretching out his neck, and finally, we asked, “Can we pet him?”
As Swain patiently and pleasantly posed for photos, Kent ran down his accomplishments on the track, and those of his relatives, worthy of a post in and of themselves. Fearing that we had already taken up too much of his time, we reluctantly bid farewell to Swain…but when Kent offered to show us some of the other stallions, we accepted with alacrity.
First up was Invasor, brought out of his stall and down to his paddock. This is a guy that knows his job; as soon as he was led out of the stall, he, um, assumed the position, shall we say, but unfortunately, there was no mare around to accommodate him. Doesn’t he know that it’s October, and he’s in the northern hemisphere?
As we walked down to the paddock, another Shadwell worker, Virgil, brought Jazil to us; this is a horse that I loved from the moment I saw him in the Wood Memorial. As Frank, Erin, and Kent talked, Jazil stood for me to pet him, acting frisky at times, but mostly behaving well. We couldn’t really believe that we were there, petting these Group and Grade I winners as if they were stable ponies
As we walked out, Kent told us that Jazil and Invasor covered about eighty-five mares this year, Swain twenty-five. Shadwell keeps about a hundred broodmares, and when the Shadwell foals are yearlings, they are sent to a farm in Midway, KY, before going to their trainers in October.
Thence to Darley. We were told upon arriving that Bernardini, Street Sense, Any Given Saturday, and Hard Spun, among others, were in Australia; while it would have been nice to see them, there were plenty of fan-favorite stallions who were sticking around to enjoy the October warmth and sunshine…even if they weren’t having quite the fun of their colleagues. Our guide told us that Street Sense and Hard Spun live in adjacent paddocks, and that they frequently seem to race each other down the fence. Of course they do—they know that they’re supposed to be on the racetrack!
Affirmed ended his career at Darley and is buried there, whole. According to our guide, each year on the days of the Triple Crown races, fans send blankets of roses, black-eyed Susans, and white carnations.
We began with the grizzled veteran, the seventeen-year-old Holy Bull; he seemed to know that it didn’t do to appear too eager to greet visitors, so he sort of dawdled and strolled his way over to the fence. Once he got there, he was amenable to staying, but he knew not to get too close to the high fence; it’s wired and “hot,” designed to shock the humans and equines who might try to get over it.
We left Holy Bull for Discreet Cat…I bet him when he broke his maiden at Saratoga, and I loved despite his failings. He’s up there with Afleet Alex in my affections, and it killed me to have him right there, with his head pointing out, asking to be pet…and have to keep my hands to myself. Our guide told us that he’s a “puppy,” incredibly good-natured, and as long as we were in the vicinity, he stayed near the fence. Clearly, the guy likes people.
Quiet American is a big Erin favorite, and he was obligingly brought out for us to see. He lives in a paddock near Kafwain, E Dubai, and Offlee Wild. Kafwain and Offlee Wild were brought to their stalls, while Quiet American came to us and E Dubai stayed in his paddock. This was NOT how things were supposed to be, and Quiet American knew it. He knew that E Dubai was still out there, as did Kafwain and Offlee Wild, and those two started yelling out their stall windows (which faced the paddock); Quiet American extended the entire length of that magnificent neck, looking back to see E Dubai, and displaying his consternation in every muscle, every line. “Just WHAT is going on here?” he might well have asked us.
Though no taller, really, than the other stallions, his giraffe-like neck makes him look much bigger, and we were rather in awe of him as we watched him try to make sense of this unorthodox arrangement.
Our visit nearly over, we headed back to the car, parked near E Dubai’s paddock. E Dubai clearly decided to make the most of the disruption in routine, and we watched as his handler looked helplessly around him as E Dubai ran, ferociously, in circles around his paddock, again and again…a second staff member joined the first, to no avail, and every once in a while, E Dubai would stop to catch his breath…and take off again as soon as one of the men approached. There was a sense that he was showing off for his visitors, we took our leave, and he was still dashing around when we pulled away.
The life of a stallion on a Kentucky stud farm is a thing of beauty, particularly when it’s 80 degrees and sunny. These guys are just hanging out, waiting for January, wondering what enticing fillies and mares will be brought over from Gainsborough, where the Darley broodmares live, for their mating delight…