Spring Hill Farm manager Chris Baker

Spring Hill Farm manager Chris Baker

Anne M. Eberhardt

Evans Dispersal Evokes Good Memories

Spring Hill Farm manager Chris Baker talks about the Evans dispersal's standouts.

The late Edward P. Evans was known for many things: breeding such horses as champion Saint Liam and grade I victor Quality Road ; being recognized multiple times as the national breeder of the year by the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association; and operating the successful Spring Hill Farm in Virginia for more than 40 years.

As Evans’ estate prepared to disperse 51 yearlings at the Keeneland September yearling sale through Lane’s End as agent, however, a much more personal picture of the late breeder came to mind for Spring Hill farm manager Chris Baker.

“Mr. Evans would often come to the foaling barn to see the newborn foals,” said Baker, who worked at the Casanova, Va.-based farm for 11 years. “He would get such joy from seeing them take their first steps. With all the planning he put into the mating and the care put into the gestation, to see a big, strong, healthy foal result from the cross he picked…he’d get as much joy from that as he would from winning a graded race.”

Baker said it will now be bittersweet to watch the yearlings in whom Evans invested so much thought and care go through the sale ring.

“It’s been flattering to have been a part of Evans’ accomplishments—that’s the sweet part,” Baker said. “The bitter part is that it’s all coming to an end and there isn’t a way to carry on the great tradition and legacy he started. That’s hard…not only have we lost a leader and a friend, but we’ve lost a tremendous opportunity in the horse business to do something of substance at a very high level of the game.”

When asked to name some the standout yearlings from the Evans dispersal, Baker ticked off a lengthy list of impressive individuals.

“When you look at that catalog and see all those families in one place, it’s striking,” he said.

“We have a Medaglia d'Oro  colt (Hip No. 68) that’s a half brother to (gr. I winner) Malibu Prayer that’s an exceptionally big, strong, forward colt. There’s also a Lemon Drop Kid  colt (Hip No. 158) that’s a full brother Christmas Kid. As a colt, there’s a lot more of him (size-wise) than there was with Christmas Kid.

“We also have Quality Road’s full brother (Hip No. 183), who is nicer at this stage than Quality Road was. He’s a typier colt, a little shorter coupled, and a little heavier muscled than Quality Road, but a very nice colt—we’ve got high expectations for him.”

Some of the dispersal’s other prominent yearlings include a colt by Indian Charlie--Gold Mover (Hip No. 174); a colt by Pulpit—Quiet Dance (Hip No. 1143) that is a half brother to 2011 Hill ‘n’ Dale Molly Pitcher (gr. II) winner Quiet Giant; a colt by Lemon Drop Kid—Christmas Card (Hip No. 664); and a colt by Giant's Causeway —Marital Spook (Hip No. 996).

Standout fillies include a daughter of Smart Strike—Raging Fever (Hip No. 214) and a daughter of Dixie Union—City Sister (Hip No. 669) that is a half sister to grade II winner Dixie City.

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Lanes End also will consign Evans’ weanlings, broodmares, and racing stock at the Keeneland November breeding stock sale. Proceeds from both sales will go to the Edward P. Evans Charitable Foundation.

“To the industry, Evans was a great throwback to a different era as an owner/breeder,” Baker said “He was doing things with a goal that’s not common today; it was all performance-based. We did sell some horses in an effort to offset some of our costs, but the primary driver behind the whole thing was competing at a high level in racing.

“He bred a lot of horses and put a lot in the industry in regards to the people he employed directly and indirectly, and the quality of horses he put in the pipeline of the business."

In 2010 Evans ranked seventh among North American owners with stable earnings of $3.6 million, spurred by the success of homebred Quality Road. Evans purchased Kobla, dam of Quality Road, at Keeneland’s 1999 November sale.

Evans counted among his other homebred stakes winners Gygistar, Tap Dance, Cat's At Home, Minstrella, and With Ability. He also campaigned Ruffian Invitational (gr. I) winner Malibu Prayer, Prioress Stakes (gr. I) winner Cat Moves, and Jim Dandy Stakes (gr. II) winner A Little Warm.

While it will be difficult for Baker to move on from his role at Spring Hill and his association with Evans’ prominent stock, he has high hopes the breeder’s legacy will live on.

“I hope these horses land in like-minded and capable hands,” Baker said. “That would be great…if Evans’ legacy could be extended in that way. I think a lot of them will sell very well. There’s a lot of depth and strength to those families, and hopefully somebody is going to carry that on.”