Gerald Ford, who owns Diamond A Farms near Versailles, Ky., hit the equine version of the lottery when he won a Range Rover from the Lexington nursery Castleton Lyons, which promoted its stallions by offering breeders the opportunity to win one of the luxury sports vehicles. Ford’s good fortune was celebrated with a breakfast buffet and ceremony at Keeneland Jan. 12 prior to the start of the horses’ of all ages auction’s second session.
“Basically, any breeder who bought a season and bred a mare to a stallion at Castleton Lyons in 2006 and 2007 could win a Range Rover if the resulting offspring won a grade I,” said Castleton Lyons’ commercial manager, Stuart Fitzgibbon.
In 2006, Ford sent the mare Kelli’s Ransom to Malibu Moon , who was standing at Castleton Lyons at the time, and got Devil May Care, who scored in the 2009 Frizette Stakes (gr. I) while racing for the Greathouse Family’s Glencrest Farm. J.W. Greathouse of Glencrest Farm purchased Devil May Care for $110,000 from Taylor Made Sales Agency, agent, at the 2008 Keeneland September yearling sale and then bought her back for $400,000 at the 2009 Fasig-Tipton Florida select sale of 2-year-olds in training.
“I had forgotten about the special award," Ford said. “I got a call right after the horse won (the Frizette), and they said, ‘You’ve won a Range Rover (also known as a Land Rover),’ and I said, ‘How did I win a Range Rover?’ They explained it, and we were very excited about it. It was like an early Christmas present. We’ve got the car, and we really love it. I’ve got to tell you it (the promotion) had no influence on us breeding to Malibu Moon because we liked the horse, but it was a really nice, special thing. I would say it – to have that opportunity -- would have some influence in who we would breed to going forward.”
According to Fitzgibbon, the Range Rover promotion boosted business for Castleton Lyon stallions, and he didn’t rule out trying something similar in the future.
“There was a great buzz around the place at the time,” Fitzgibbon said. “It was a feel-good promotion, and I think people got very excited. I remember selling seasons in those years and people saying, ‘Don’t forget to put me down for a Range Rover,’ so I think it was good promotion. It got our stallions nice and busy, and it’s great that there was something good at end of it. Mr. Ford actually won a Range Rover, and we’re delighted. It’s something different we tried and it worked out well, and you never know, we might try it again.”
The financial picture has changed dramatically for breeding farms since the Range Rover promotion was offered, and stallion managers and their farms are scrambling more than usual to find mares to book because of the recession-battered American economy and the negative effect it has had on the Thoroughbred business.
Castleton Lyons is no exception.
“We’re working very hard,” Fitzgibbon said. “We’re pretty lucky that we stand Bernstein. He’s a proven, middle-aged stallion and he’s good value. He’s in that price range between $20,000 and $50,000, and they (stallions with similar fees) are the most the popular horses around town. Most of those like Bernstein are either full or getting toward being full. Horses like them are fitting in a niche, so they’re OK. For the others, we’ve got to work hard and work with the mare owners and try to do our best for them. We’re conscious of what they (mare owners) are facing and we’re trying to help them out in any way we can.”
Castleton Lyons still holds an interest in Malibu Moon, who now stands at B. Wayne Hughes’ Spendthrift Farm near Lexington.
“I think we’re going to him (Malibu Moon) with two mares this year,” Ford said.
But one of those mares won’t be Devil May Care’s dam, Kelli’s Ransom.
“She died last March; we were sick to lose her, and unfortunately we lost her mother (Musical Minister) last week. She (Musical Minister) had been a very productive producer.”
In addition to Devil May Care, Kelli’s Ransom (by Red Ransom) produced Regal Ransom (by Distorted Humor ), who captured the 2009 UAE Derby Sponsored by Saeed & Mohammed Al Naboodah Group (UAE-II). Musical Minister (by Deputy Minister) was the dam of 2005 San Fernando Breeders’ Cup Stakes (gr. II) winner Minister Eric (by Old Trieste).