Jess Jackson, the wine mogul who founded Stonestreet Stables, died earlier this year. But his wife, Barbara Banke, is carrying on the prominent Thoroughbred operation, which will be represented by My Miss Aurelia and Wilburn in the Breeders’ Cup World Championships at Churchill Downs.
My Miss Aurelia is the 5-2 morning line favorite for the Grey Goose Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) Nov. 4, and Wilburn is a well-regarded 4-1 contender in the Dirt Mile (gr. I) Nov. 5.
A Stonestreet homebred that is raced in partnership with George Bolton, My Miss Aurelia is undefeated in three career races. The daughter of Smart Strike won the Oct. 8 Frizette Stakes (gr. I) by 5 1/2 lengths in her most recent outing and her other efforts include a victory by a neck over Millionreasonswhy in the Adirondack Stakes (gr. II).
“She’s a spectacular filly and she’s doing great,” Banke said. “We raised her from a baby and it’s very nice because she’s a homebred.”
Wilburn scored in the Oct. 1 Indiana Derby (gr. II), defeating 2011 Preakness Stakes (gr. I) winner Shackleford by 4 3/4 lengths. The 3-year-old son of Bernardini also captured the Smarty Jones Stakes in September and is coming into the Breeders’ Cup with a three-race win streak. Stonestreet, represented by Kentucky bloodstock agent John Moynihan, purchased Wilburn for the sale-topping price of $625,000 at the 2010 Keeneland April juvenile auction.
In the name of Grace Stable, Banke raced Hot Dixie Chick, who won the Spinaway (gr. I) and Schuylerville (gr. II) stakes in 2009 and Prima Donna Stakes in 2010. Now retired from racing, she is a close companion to 2009 Horse of the Year and BlackBerry Preakness Stakes (gr. I) winner Rachel Alexandra at Stonestreet Farm near Lexington. Both Hot Dixie Chick and Rachel Alexandra are in foal to 2007 and 2008 Horse of the Year Curlin , who won the 2007 Breeders' Cup Classic Powered by Dodge (gr. I) in the same year he captured the Preakness and finished fourth in the race in 2008.
“I always planned to go on with the farm,” Banke said. “I had taken more of a role in it over the past two or three years at Jess’ urging to make sure there was good continuation. I enjoy it (the horse business) and I enjoy coming out to the farm.”
Jackson, who died in April of cancer at the age of 81, was an outspoken man known for his participation in Thoroughbred industry issues and the success of his racing operation. In addition to Curlin and Rachel Alexandra, Stonestreet was involved in the campaigning of such successful runners as Gozzip Girl, Kensei, Springside, Striking Dancer, Tiz Wonderful, and Kantharos . The farm also offered the blue-blooded yearlings it bred at public auction.
“We’re going forward and my plans for the farm are to continue a high-end breeding program there,” Banke said. “We’ll continue to make sure we have a top, top operation and keep trying to produce the elusive great racehorse. When we sold yearlings earlier this year, we actually met our anticipated budget, which was a good thing.”
After attending the World Championships, the California-based Banke plans to remain in Kentucky for the mixed sales at Fasig-Tipton and Keeneland.
“I always look,” she said when asked if she would be shopping for breeding stock. “Sometimes it’s easier to retire a good one off the track, but we have purchased high-end broodmares in the past and this year probably won’t be an exception.”