Barbara Hunter

Barbara Hunter

David Young

Hunter's Legacy Continues at Keeneland Sale

Brownwood Farm owner Barbara Hunter died in November.

One of the first horses acquired by Barbara Hunter after her entry into Thoroughbred breeding in the mid-1950s was Kootenai, purchased privately from Jonabell Farm.

Campaigned by Hunter, Kootenai won four stakes in 1961-62 before being retired to establish a firm foundation for Hunter's fledgling breeding operation. Consistent with Hunter's philosophy of selling her colts and retaining her fillies, Kootenai became the foundation mare for what would become a successful breed-to-race program for decades.

On Jan. 8, two high quality broodmares descending from Kootenai brought some of the highest prices of the day during the Keeneland January horses of all ages sale, with Keertana bringing a top bid of $1 million from Craig Bandoroff of Denali Stud and Snow Top Mountain (in foal to Blame ), bought by Audley Farm Equine for $950,000.

The two mares were among a handful of horses sold at the January sale by Four Star Sales on behalf of the estate of Hunter, who died in November after a lengthy illness at age 78.

Keertana, a millionaire daughter of Johar, and Snow Top Mountain, a multiple grade III-winning daughter of Najran who earned $525,303, are half sisters, both being produced from Motokiks, an unraced daughter of Storm Cat. Salmon Lake, the stakes-producing second dam of Motokiks, was a daughter of Kootenai, bringing the multi-generational success of Hunter's breeding operation full circle.

The mares sold at Keeneland represent the first phase of a dispersal put together quickly following Hunter's death, according to Tony Lacy, a sales and bloodstock consultant at Four Star Sales who also advised Hunter for about 2 1/2 years prior to her death.

"It's a little bittersweet, but it's good to see them (Brownwood horses) go to good homes," Lacy said of the purchasers of Keertana and Snow Top Mountain.

Hunter was born in Chicago and was raised by her adoptive mother, Mary Hunter, on a cattle ranch in Montana before they relocated to Kentucky in the 1950s. She is survived by Rukin Jelks II, whose father was married to her mother, and by three nephews and 10 grand-nieces and nephews.

At the time of Hunter's death, there was no plan in place on how to disperse her horses and the 508-acre farm located near Nicholasville, Ky. Facing the deadline for entries into the Keeneland January sale at the time, Lacy said he and Hunter's heirs made a decision to go ahead and put five horses in the auction and decide on a plan for the remainder of the estate later.

"We got rid of the lower level horses first... but these horses (entered in January sale) were too much risk for the heirs," he said.

Included among the 15-17 horses still owned by the estate is Motokiks, who is in foal to Kitten's Joy , according to Lacy.

"We have to sit down and see what the plan for the rest of the horses will be... This is a valuable asset. It is a lot of responsibility and it takes a lot of time and money to maintain it," Lacy said.

In addition to the long list of stakes winners produced from the Kootenai line for Hunter, she also bred and raced stakes winners Sans Arc, Duckweed, Harness Hitch, Dogtooth Violet, and Pattee Canyon, whose 18 wins during a 57-race career included six stakes.

"It's been great to be associated with something with such a long history," Lacy said. "These are (equine) families that have been nurtured for 50-60 years. It has been a passion of Barbara's, with a lot of skill and knowledge."