Barbara Hunter, a longtime breeder and owner of Thoroughbreds, passed away at her Brownwood Farm near Nicholasville, Ky., Nov. 8, after a long illness. She was 78.
The hallmark of Barbara Hunter’s breeding operation was using female families, which she bought into and then developed over succeeding generations. One of her earliest purchases was Kootenai, whom Hunter bought privately from Jonabell Farm and raced in her own name at a time her mother had horses racing in a separate division.
Hunter liked to give her horses names of Montana locales or landscapes, and Kootenai was named for a lake in that state. She won four major stakes in Chicago in 1961-62, launching a long association between Hunter and trainer Stanley Rieser and his son, Steve.
Kootenai was a prime example of a race mare seguing into a productive broodmare career for Brownwood Farm. Her daughters included Salmon Lake, whose descendants are still winning stakes. They include the 2012 multiple grade III stakes winner Snow Top Mountain and her half sister Keertana, whose five graded stakes wins included the 2011 Grey Goose Bewitch Stakes (gr. IIIT) at Keeneland and the Louisville Handicap (gr. IIIT) at Churchill Downs. Keertana, trained for Hunter by Tom Proctor, also placed in the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (gr. IT) and earned more than $1 million.
Another notable producing family acquired early in Hunter’s career was Missoula, who became the dam of Pattee Canyon. The latter won 18 of 37 starts, including six stakes, and earned $395,871 for Hunter. She earned Hunter a Kentucky Thoroughbred Breeders Association Governor’s Award for 1970. Missoula also was the dam of the 1964 Oaks Prep winner Silver Dollar.
For a PDF download of a 2010 article on Barbara Hunter, click here.
Hunter tended to sell her yearling colts and keep fillies to race and later replenish her broodmare band. One of the major colts bred and sold was Poleax, which won several top races in California, including the Hollywood Derby and American Handicap. Poleax raced for W. R. Hawn, who had purchased him for $12,000 at a yearling at Keeneland in 1966.
Hunter was born Sept.13, 1934, in Chicago and was raised by her adoptive mother, Mary Hunter, on a cattle ranch in Montana. She became fond of horses at an early age, and she and her mother moved to Kentucky in 1952 after Barbara had graduated from Ferry Hall Prep School and the University of Maryland.
Hunter is survived by Rukin Jelks II, whose father was married to her mother, and by three nephews and 10 grand-nieces and nephews.