Anatomy of a Stallion Deal: Afleet Alex to Gainesway

By Steve Haskin and
Ron Mitchell

The circumstances surrounding where dual classic winner Afleet Alex would stand at stud began the week after Thanksgiving and moved quickly, culminating in Sunday's announcement that the colt would go to Gainesway Farm near Lexington, Ky.

Cash is King Stable, Jess Jackson, and Gainesway Farm announced Sunday that the 2005 Preakness Stakes (gr. I) and Belmont Stakes (gr. I) winner would stand for a $40,000 live foal fee. Trainer Tim Ritchey had announced Dec. 1 that the son of Northern Afleet  was being retired due to a recently detected injury believed to have caused the colt's hairline condylar fracture of the left front cannon bone suffered in July.

Chuck Zacney, managing partner for Cash is King, said the colt's owners were contacted by Jess Jackson on Nov. 28, the Monday after Thanksgiving and before Afleet Alex's retirement had been announced, about buying an interest in the colt for racing purposes. Jackson, a co-founder of Kendell-Jackson Winery, has been an active buyer of horseflesh and horse farms in Kentucky and Florida over the past two years in the names of his Stonestreet Farm and Stonestreet Mares

"He actually called us for a racing interest," Zacney said of Jackson's query. "At that time, the public was not aware of what was going on. When he heard the news that Alex had been injured was going to be retired, he was disappointed."

Two days later, on Nov. 30, Jackson flew into Northeast Philadelphia Airport, where he met with Zacney and co-owner Joe Lerro.

During the 1 1/2-hour lunch meeting, "he (Jackson) liked our conversation and what we wanted to do. At that point, we had no direction as to what farms we were interested in. He wanted to take us under his wing and show us the right way to do things. Obviously, he's a big fan of Afleet Alex."

Zacney said the initial meeting concluded with Jackson indicating an interest in becoming a partner in Afleet Alex's breeding career. "We flew to Kentucky that afternoon on his private jet, and we told him we liked what he had to say and that we wanted to cut him in for a piece," Zacney recalled.

With the newly-formed partnership of Cash is King and Jackson in place, Zacney and others traveled to central Kentucky on Monday, Dec. 5, to begin the search for a breeding farm.

"We spoke to seven or eight farms, and narrowed it down to four," Zacney said. "But of all the farms, we really had a comfort level with Gainesway. We met everybody there, from Antony Beck on down."

Zacney said the Cash is King-Jackson team was impressed with the Gainesway team of Beck, sales director Michael Hernon, and stallion manager Marion Gross

"We then met Antony's wife, Angela, and found out she has a Philly connection, being the daughter of (horse owner-breeder) Bob Levy," Zacney continued. "We talked about the good old days in Philly and it felt really genuine. We added up all the pieces, and the fact they want to make Alex their marquee horse, which was not the case at all the other farms. And we had Jess Jackson's support."

Zacney said that while Jackson, who had been interested in buying part of Afleet Alex after the colt's second career start, will support the new stallion with his large broodmare band, the owners priced Afleet Alex at a level designed to get 120 mares to him in his first season. Zacney said the partnership wanted to keep the nomination fee below the $50,000 fee for recently retired Saint Liam and Rock Hard Ten.

Zacney said no syndication plans have been discussed by the partners.