Zenyatta's Dam  Voted Top Mare
Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt
2008 Kentucky Broodmare of the Year Vertigineux

The board of directors of the Kentucky Thoroughbred Owners & Breeders (KTOB) honored the breeders of the 2008 Kentucky-bred champions, the Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund (KTDF) leaders, the P.A.B. Widener Award, and the Charles W. Engelhard Award recipients at their annual luncheon April 22 at Keeneland.

The 2008 Broodmare of the Year is Vertigineux. With a stakes-winning first foal, a grade I-winning second foal, and an Eclipse Award-winning third foal, Zenyatta’s dam, Vertigineux, has repeatedly rewarded Eric Kronfeld’s decision to retain her when she failed to meet her reserve at the 1996 Keeneland September yearling sale. The daughter of Kris S. out of the winning Forli mare For the Flag is owned by Kronfeld’s Maverick Productions and boards alongside her dam at Don Robinson’s Winter Quarter Farm near Lexington. When asked what prompted the mating that produced Zenyatta, Robinson told The Blood-Horse, “It was strictly Mr. Kronfeld. He makes his own decisions. He has experience in England and wasn’t afraid to try a Mr. Prospector line that was a little different (Zenyatta’s grandsire, Machiavellian, was a champion in Europe).”

Vertigineux had a modest racing career consisting of two wins on the Belmont turf in seven starts for trainer Michael Dickinson. Her first foal, Where’s Bailey, was sired by the Storm Cat stallion Aljabr and won five races, including the Remington Park Oaks. Vertigineux’ next foal, produced from a mating to Thunder Gulch  , was Balance, a filly who earned more than $1 million and counted the Santa Anita Oaks (gr. I), Las Virgenes Stakes (gr. I), and Santa Margarita Invitational Handicap (gr. I) among her six career wins. But the best was yet to come as Vertigineux in 2004 produced a massive Street Cry   filly who would sell for $60,000 at the Keeneland September yearling sale to Jerry and Ann Moss. Named for The Police’s chart-topping album Zenyatta Mondatta, she is now an Eclipse Award winner, undefeated in nine starts, and remains in training with John Shirreffs. Vertigineux has since produced a 2006 Pulpit filly that brought $550,000 at Keeneland September and a 2007 Giant's Causeway   colt that sold for $1,150,000 at the same sale last year. On Jan. 27, 2009, Vertigineux produced a filly by Bernardini  .

The P.A.B. Widener Award Trophy, awarded since 1972, represents the Breeder of the Year, and goes to Robert and Janice McNair’s Stonerside, which en¬joyed considerable success on the racetrack and breeding shed. Residents of Houston, the McNairs met while attending college in Columbia, S.C. Robert McNair founded Cogen Technologies, which he sold in 1999, the same year he was awarded an NFL franchise for the Houston Texans. McNair is also chairman and CEO of The McNair Group and owner of Palmetto Partners Ltd., as well as serving as chair¬man of the board of the Free Enterprise Institute and senior chairman of the Houston Grand Opera Association. The McNairs are also known for their philanthropy and in September 2007 they made a $100-million donation to Baylor University earmarked toward research on breast and pancreatic cancer, juvenile diabetes, and the neurosciences. The couple also established the Robert and Janice McNair Foundation and the Cotswold project, which focuses on revitalizing downtown Houston.

With the assistance of racing and bloodstock manager John Adger, the McNairs began Stonerside Stable in 1994. Since that time, they have bred more than 65 stakes horses and co-bred more than 20 other stakes winners, including 2008 champion 2-year-old male Midshipman  , millionaire Congaree  , $6.2 million yearling purchase and successful sire Van Nistelrooy, Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I) winner Raven's Pass, Kentucky Derby (gr. I) winner Fusaichi Pegasus  , multiple graded stakes winner Cowboy Cal  , and grade I winner Bob and John  . As owners, they campaigned 61 stakes winners, including champion Chilukki.

Citing a need to devote more time to the Houston Texans football team, the McNairs in 2008 sold their 2,000-acre farm in Kentucky, their training center in South Carolina, and most of their horses to Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s Darley operation. They retained Cowboy Cal as well as the stallions they own--Congaree, Bob and John, and Stonesider  --and other stallion interests.

“Janice and I have loved every minute of owning Stonerside, but I have a duty to the Houston Texans now, and it has become increasingly difficult to focus on both ventures,” Robert McNair said. As a part of the sale, Darley agreed to retain the Stonerside staff, including Adger.

The champion Kentucky-breds of 2008 are: 2-year-old colt Midshipman, bred by Stonerside Stable; 2-year-old filly Stardom Bound, bred by Fletcher and Carolyn Gray and John Youngblood; 3 year-old-colt Big Brown  bred by Monticule; 3 year-old-filly Proud Spell, bred by Brereton Jones; handicap horse Curlin  , bred by Fares Farm; handicap mare Zenyatta; bred by Maverick Productions, Ltd; turf male Dancing Forever, bred by Phipps Stable; turf female Forever Together, bred by White Fox Farm; sprinter Midnight Lute  , bred by Tom Evans, Macon Wilmil Equines (Dr. Ted Forrest), and Marjac Farm (Rich Burke); steeplechase horse Sovereign Duty, bred by William S. Farish Jr.; horse racing abroad Henrythenavigator, bred by Western Bloodstock; Horse of the Year Curlin, bred by Fares Farm.

The Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund Award (KTDF) winners honored for 2008 are Distorted Humor   for leading sire, owned by WinStar Farm; KTDF leading earner Timbucto, owned by Milbert B. Collins; KTDF leading trainer George R. “Rusty” Arnold II; KTDF breeder of the year Overbrook Farm; and KTDF owner of the year Richard, Bertram, and Elaine Klein.

John and Brad Hennigan received the Charles W. Englehard Award, which is given to a member of the media in recognition of his/her outstanding service to the Thoroughbred industry.

Selected as the 2008 William T. Young Humanitarian Award is James E. “Ted” Bassett III. This award was established in 2003 to recognize a person in the Thoroughbred industry “who recognizes and promotes the human endeavor”.

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