Don Alberto Kentucky was born from opportunity.
The newest farm in Central Kentucky was formerly Tom Simon's breeding and boarding operation Vinery until it was acquired Oct. 11 by one of Chile's most prominent breeding and racing families. The 417-acre farm was purchased for $13.82 million, according to Fayette County property records.
Expansion already has been on the collective minds of the Solari-Heller family, which owns 500-acre Haras Don Alberto near Los Angeles, Chile. The family recently purchased the property and breeding stock of another prominent Chilean farm, Haras Matancilla, which doubled the size of Haras Don Alberto's breeding operation—already 180 mares strong.
The reach into Kentucky was not necessarily part of the earlier acquisition, according to Lexington-based consultant Dr. George Mundy. But purchasing Vinery certainly fits well into the family's plans to further improve its already high-quality operation.
"(Vinery) is a premier property and in a premier location," Mundy said. "The farm will provide them with a foothold in Central Kentucky, at a level they are used to participating. They weren't actively looking for a farm here but because the farm was available, they saw it as a prime opportunity."
Liliana Solari, chairwoman of the family-controlled conglomerate Bethia Holding, is the driving force behind Haras Don Alberto. The farm is a subsidiary of Bethia Holding, which also owns companies involved in retail, dairy, transportation, communications, real estate, wine, health care, and water and sanitation utilities.
"Her passion for the Thoroughbred is second to none among the people I've met in the business," Mundy said about Solari. That passion has been passed on to her son, Carlos Heller, who is president of Bethia Holding and president of Club Hipico de Santiago racetrack, and through Carlos' son Pedro, who runs the family's agriculture subsidiary Agrimaq and will be involved in getting Don Alberto Kentucky up and running.
"The idea is to get the farm open for boarding," Mundy said. "There are some mares in Kentucky that were being bred on Southern Hemisphere time. That is an aspect that will be utilized here, breeding to Kentucky stallions that don't shuttle."
Solari has been actively recruiting higher-quality stallions for her Chilean broodmares for several years. Coolmore Stud's Henrythenavigator and Dylan Thomas both shuttled to Haras Don Alberto for the first time this year. Solari has also shuttled Bluegrass Cat , Fusaichi Pegasus , and Proud Citizen. Stevie Wonderboy also was relocated to Chile this year and was recently acquired by Solari as part of the purchase of the Hirmas family's Haras Matancilla.
"I think this purchase is significant to the business in Central Kentucky," Mundy said. "They are well-involved in the business. They know what the business is and are excited."