A Real Bluegrass Man

By Jim Cullen
I first met Dan Mallory through an associate at work. I was a staff writer for an industry trade publication and wanted to breed a mare to a freshman stallion I thought would be popular. The only problem was I didn't own a mare.

A colleague suggested I give Dan a call, as he might be able to help in that pursuit. Sure enough, Dan had a couple of mares available and let me select one to breed on a foal share. I'm happy to say the resulting colt brought more than 10 times the stud fee as a yearling, and my half totaled more than my annual salary. Suffice to say, I was an immediate fan of Dan Mallory from that point forward.

Nothing he did in the dozen years since caused that to change. My admiration and appreciation of the man grew the more I got to know him.

I'm sure all 49 passengers that perished on Comair flight 5191 were the victims of cruel twists of fate that put them on that plane. Dan was no different. He was flying down to Dallas to sell three yearlings at the Fasig-Tipton Texas sale, including a colt we owned in partnership. He was originally scheduled to fly out on Saturday, Aug. 26, but that flight was canceled, and he was rebooked on that fateful plane the next morning.

We talked that Saturday evening for about 20 minutes on his way home from the airport. We discussed our colt's prospects as well as the other half-dozen horses we owned together. He really liked one young mare in particular, and was looking forward to having her around for years so he could foal and sell her babies. We also made plans to meet at a new owners' seminar that Sunday morning at Lone Star Park. Dan said he would be willing to speak if necessary because he "talked Texan," and perhaps we could find a yearling or two worth buying. We had laughed a lot by the time I hung up -- particularly about his fondness for lamb fries at Billy Bob's in Fort Worth -- and I was looking forward to spending time at the sale with Dan and his sons, Scott and Dale.

Bad phone calls are a part of the horse business, but nothing can prepare you for news of a downed flight.

Dan will be missed tremendously by anybody who worked with him or for him. He didn't have a big ego, and he was uncomfortable with self-promotion. Dan just minded his own business and tended to his family and his horses, doing his best to raise all of them as well as he could. In essence, those qualities are what defined him as a man.

Dan wasn't regarded as a guy who sold a bunch of high-priced, fancy horses, but you could always count on him for good, solid runners that could make money and win races. One of my favorites is a son of Devil's Bag named Safe Place I bought from Dan who won three races, ran in a stakes, and paid for himself in 10 career starts.

Dan had many favorites, but one he was especially proud of was a colt he sold named Danthebluegrassman, who ran at Del Mar the day the plane went down. The aptly named horse is typical of so many horses that have come off his Meadow Haven Farm. Modestly bred and reasonably sold, Danthebluegrassman is a grade III stakes winner who is still running competitively at age seven, having won seven races and earning more than $400,000 during his career. He didn't win that race at Del Mar, but he "fired" and ran his race; he just fell a bit short. I'm sure his connections were pleased with the horse's admirable efforts, just as Dan's family and associates were proud of all he had accomplished in his time.

Keeneland September is upon us, but I'm not looking forward to it as much as I have in the past. It just won't be the same, for me or the many other people who looked Dan up when they came to town. It will take some time, but life -- and horses -- must go on. Dan would have wanted it that way.

I just hope people don't forget Dan anytime soon. I know I never will, because for me he always embodied the very best qualities of so many who toil in this business: honesty, integrity, friendliness, and a love for horses that persevered despite all the emotional and financial struggles this business brings.

I hope one of these half-dozen mares we owned together throws a big-time runner in his honor.

Funny thing is, Dan would have been happy even if they didn't.