There has been a great deal of emotion lately at Hilary Boone Jr.'s Wimbledon Farm near Lexington--first with Barbaro, and now with both Barbaro and Bernardini.
Barbaro, winner of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), was not foaled at Wimbledon, but there is a connection. He was foaled at Sanborn Chase, whose owners, Bill and Sandy Sanborn, now work at Wimbledon, as do several of their former employees.
Preakness Stakes (gr. I) winner Bernardini was foaled at Wimbledon when his dam, Cara Rafaela, was boarded there by her owner, Sheikh Mohammed's Darley operation.
On the day after the Preakness, like everyone who loves the Thoroughbred, George Hoskins was despondent over Barbaro's injuries. But he was also pleased with the fact Bernardini's first few months were spent at Wimbledon.
Hoskins, who serves as managing director of Wimbledon, is married to Boone's daughter, Alyce. After several years of operating his own farm (Springhouse) and doing bloodstock work, he returned to Wimbledon, where he had mucked stalls years ago.
He returned because his father-in-law, now 88, needed help running the farm.
"I've been involved in the horse business 25 years but started running Wimbledon about two-and-a-half years ago," Hoskins said. Today, Wimbledon is primarily a boarding operation.
"We had 40 to 50 Darley mares here for five years," Hoskins said. "When Jonabell got up and running, they of course moved many of the mares there."
Sheikh Mohammed purchased John A. Bell III's farm in 2001 and for the first couple of years, rested the land from horse use. Today, Bell's son, Jimmy, helps run Darley at Jonabell.
Among the Darley mares at Wimbledon in 2003 was grade I winner Cara Rafaela, by Quiet American. When she foaled her colt by A.P. Indy, Hoskins said everyone who saw him knew he had that special look.
"He was one of those beautiful foals," the 52-year-old Lexington native recalled. "Certainly one of Darley's best."
Today, Darley still boards a dozen mares at Wimbledon, which is home to a total of 60 mares. Hilary Boone and George Hoskins own about a fourth of the broodmares on the 1,000-acre spread across from Overbrook Farm.
"Because we are a boarding operation, we are tickled when something like this happens," Hoskins said of the Preakness win. "We couldn't be happier for everyone associated with Darley, that they have an American classic winner and he was foaled here.
"You are also tickled to death for your staff, that their labors are rewarded."
Hilary Boone entered the horse business 35 years ago when he bought the first 300-acre parcel and bought a few mares. A year later, he purchased a few mares and foals in partnership with Bill Lockridge, who at the time was leasing Walmac Farm. Among them was Ole Liz, the dam of Kittiwake, and Coaching Club American Oaks winner Quillo Queen.
An insurance executive who made a fortune when Humana was launched, Boone named the farm after his passion for tennis.
Solely and in partnership Boone has bred and raised numerous stakes winners at Wimbledon. He bred grade I Flower Bowl Invitational Handicap winner Chelsey Flower as well as grade II stakes winner and highly successful stallion Mt. Livermore.
Bernardini is not the first classic winner to have been raised at Wimbledon. After being foaled at Buck Pond Farm, Spectacular Bid and his dam were moved to Wimbledon. Spectacular Bid went on to win the Derby and Preakness in 1979. In addition, 1982 Epsom Derby (Eng-I) winner Golden Fleece was foaled and raised there.
Not surprisingly, many of the stakes winners Boone has bred are by Relaunch, who stood at Wimbledon. The son of In Reality is the sire of 89 stakes winners and is the broodmare sire of 90 stakes winners.
Today, the stallion barn at Wimbledon, once home to others such as Twining and Lion Cavern, stands empty.
"The (stallion) market ran away from me; it is so competitive," Hoskins said. "We would love to stand stallions again, and I think the day will come when we will. We turned to a boarding operation, our goal to take care of our clients' mares. This is great land, and this farm will stay a horse farm in our lifetime."
Comforting news following a bittersweet Preakness.