TOBA February Member of the Month

TOBA February Member of the Month
Photo: Courtesy of Joe Mulholland Jr.
Joe Mulholland Jr.

Joe Mulholland Jr. is a throwback to the days of homegrown Kentucky horsemen. He works tirelessly on the family farm with his siblings and father to produce top-quality Thoroughbreds. One of his most recent successes was co-breeding Rose to Gold—with father Joe Sr., brother John, and sister Karen—who triumphed in the Houston Classic Ladies Stakes on Jan. 25.

Now a multiple graded stakes winner who also ran in last year’s Longines Kentucky Oaks (gr. I), Rose to Gold began her early life on Mulholland Farm in Georgetown, Ky. Joe Jr. purchased her dam, the Tabasco Cat mare Saucy, from Overbrook Farm. Most of her foals that the family bred didn’t go on to excel, so Mulholland had more trouble finding a suitable stallion for her.

“Since her offspring weren’t producing or running, I had to go lower and lower on the stud fee,” he said. In 2009, Mulholland selected grade I winner Friends Lake for Saucy. The resulting foal in 2010 was Rose to Gold, who sold for just $1,400 to Alexandro Centofanti at the 2011 Fasig-Tipton’s Kentucky Winter Mixed Sale. The chestnut filly, who races for Kathleen Amaya and Raffaele Centofanti, has now earned $963,509 in six wins from 12 starts.

Mulholland didn’t want to put money into a horse that might not return his investment.

“I hate to be rude, but I wanted to stop the bleeding. I didn’t want to keep her as a yearling and do all the prep work, so that’s why I got rid of her in February and I was happy when I did that,” he said. A friend called him the day Rose to Gold broke her maiden, and, surprised, Mulholland recalled, “I thought the guy was pulling my leg.” Of the filly, he remembered, “She’s not very big, but she’s a runner.” He no longer owns Saucy, who he gave away, or any of her foals. Fortunately he receives breeders’ awards from Rose to Gold’s success.

On the family farm, everyone shares responsibilities. John works the farm, while 92-year-old Joe Sr. still owns some mares, as does Karen. Mulholland’s primary responsibility lies with the bloodstock. “We work the farm. I decide what mares to be bred to, or what offspring, the yearlings or weanlings, decide where they need to be sold.” The Mulhollands currently own 12 mares, board an additional 20 during breeding season, and keep several others year-round.

Mullholland consigns horses for his family, as well as a few select clients. “I have a few clients that breed to race and then I have a couple clients that they do both, so whatever they want to do. I sell what they want to sell. But I don’t go out and solicit other people’s horses to sell. I don’t do that.” In 2013 he consigned 18 yearlings, three weanlings, and prepped four for other people. Out of the 21 he consigned, 16 sold (14 yearlings and two weanlings).

The land the family calls its own has been a working horse farm for almost 60 years. A former farmer, Joe Sr. first got involved with horses in 1948 with his brother, then purchased what would become Mulholland Farm in the 1950s. After graduating from the University of Kentucky in 1982, horse enthusiast Joe Jr. worked in Ireland for several months and decided the Thoroughbred business was for him. Now a father of three, Joe Jr. insists he won’t let his own children get involved. The business, he observed, has “a lot more downs than ups. I don’t want them to go through what I’ve been through...You know, it’s exciting, but I wouldn’t want them to do it.”

But those ups, including victories in the 2005 Breeders’ Cup Sprint (gr. I) and the 2006 Metropolitan Mile (gr. I) by the Mulholland-bred Silver Train  , are worth it. “That was a big thrill, for him to win,” Mulholland said modestly. Ironically, his sister Karen attends most Breeders’ Cup races, but wasn’t present for Silver Train’s win that year. When the horse retired to stud at the former Vinery, the Mulhollands supported him with mares. “That was exciting, to see a horse that you bred as a stallion.” Tragically, Silver Train died of colic in December of last year while shuttling to Brazil, but his legacy lives on in his progeny.

Through it all, Mullholland remains committed to his family and horses. Of his own schedule, he maintains that his prerogatives are simple. “I’m here on the farm at work. I don’t have time to travel to do things. It’s hard for me to get away.” No question that time is certainly well spent.

Congratulations to Joe, TOBA's February member of the month!

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