Published in the May 10 issue of The Blood-Horse
On Jan. 7, 2000, Kenny Troutt and Bill Casner purchased Prestonwood Farm between Lexington and Versailles, Ky., and renamed it WinStar. The partners didn't just buy the land, but the broodmares and most of the stallion interests owned by brothers Art, Jack, and J.R. Preston as well. Romping in one of the fields at the time was the mare Belle's Good Cide, who was in foal to one of the farm's new stallions. Just a few months later, on April 20, the daughter of Slewacide would lie down and foal a colt--actually a ridgling --from the first crop by Distorted Humor. When she foaled, however, Belle's Good Cide wasn't still at WinStar. She was in New York at Joe McMahon's McMahon of Saratoga Thoroughbreds. When Troutt and Casner purchased WinStar, they found themselves owning numerous Prestonwood mares about to be sold in the Keeneland January sale. Among them was Belle's Good Cide. Carrying the eventual Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner, she was bought back on a bid of $100,000. Troutt suggested having some of the farm's mares foal in New York, then be bred back to stallions standing at McMahon that formerly stood at Prestonwood. Belle's Good Cide thus produced the first New York-bred winner of the Kentucky Derby, by a Kentucky stallion and while owned by a Kentucky farm. Because WinStar owned her at the time she foaled, it was listed as the breeder, though Prestonwood obviously planned the mating. Belle's Good Cide was bred back to the McMahon stallion Personal Flag. In August of that year (2001), Funny Cide was sold for $22,000 to Tony Everard at the Fasig-Tipton August New York-bred yearling sale. Belle's Good Cide had produced her only filly that year and was bred back to another McMahon stud horse, Always Fair. She was consigned to the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic December sale where the Boniface family's Bonita Farm, as agent, bought her for just $3,500. Losing the Always Fair foal, she was bred to Mojave Moon, producing a colt this year before she died at age 10. For the second year in a row, Charlie Nuckols Jr.'s Nuckols Farm near Midway, Ky., and longtime client Russell Reineman are closely connected to the Derby winner. The foals are listed as bred by Nuckols and then race for Reineman. Such was the case with last year's Derby winner, War Emblem. Such was also the case with Distorted Humor. "It shows what an excellent job Mr. Nuckols and Nucks (Charles Nuckols III) have been doing for so many years," said Rich Decker, who managed Prestonwood from 1988 until it was sold and then remained with WinStar until leaving the operation in late March 2001. "They've had so many terrific runners over the years." The first person that identified Distorted Humor to Decker as a potential stallion prospect was Thorograph owner Jerry Brown. At the time, the son of Forty Niner had started only twice for trainer Phil Gleaves. "In the early '90s, Prestonwood decided to go more commercial. John Prather started to help me with matings and the purchase of mares we could sell out of," Decker recalled. "Then we got Kris S. and that really moved things up. He was a great stallion. Brocco and Hollywood Wildcat hit the first year we had him up here (from Florida). "Prestonwood wanted to find some sire power and also improve its broodmare band. Jerry (Brown) started flagging horses and sending us pedigrees to look at. "Phil had a hell of a time getting him (Distorted Humor) past his sore shins," Decker said. "He finally layed him off until the fall of his 2-year-old year, then got him ready to run at three." He began his career for Reineman, then Prestonwood bought half-interest in the colt. Distorted Humor got better with age, winning his first graded stakes at four, and at five setting a track record for seven furlongs (1:21.18) in the Churchill Downs Handicap (gr. II) and a stakes record (1:20.5) in Keeneland's Commonwealth Breeders' Cup Stakes. When he was retired to Prestonwood, Distorted Humor was syndicated into 50 shares. He has 65 named foals in his first crop, 63 in his second, and 54 in his third. He was bred to 103 mares in 2002. He stood for $12,500 his first four seasons, $10,000 his fifth, and $20,000 this year. Funny Cide is one of the reasons Distorted Humor was the leading freshman sire of 2002--nosing out Elusive Quality. Funny Cide was his sire's third-leading earner of last year, behind the graded stakes-winning fillies Awesome Humor and Humorous Lady. Decker bought Belle's Good Cide privately following her racing career from Ward Stiff primarily because of her half-sister, Belle of Cozzene. "Sometimes you just find yourself following a horse and I always liked Belle of Cozzene," he said. "Steve Hobby trained her and I followed her career." Belle of Cozzene was a multiple graded stakes winner of over $500,000. "I just liked her (Belle's Good Cide) pedigree," Decker said. "John Prather also liked her pedigree. We liked Slewacide. If you look at her pedigree, there is lots of stamina." Indeed. Her dam, granddam, and great-granddam were all bred by Darby Dan Farm, and her dam and granddam are by such well-known Darby Dan sires of the past as Little Current and Graustark. Her third dam is by top sire Bold Ruler. Decker, who began working at Vessels Stallion Farm in California last Thanksgiving, said there were two keys to the success of Prestonwood--his relationship with the Prestons and the people he worked with. "I was just a small cog in a really big wheel," he said modestly. "I was fortunate to surround myself with really good people. "The thing about Prestonwood was there weren't many I's...the Prestons know the business. We would talk things over and make a decision. We usually agreed, but when we didn't, nobody held any long-term grudges." Troutt and Casner, two of the founders of Excel Communications, met fellow Texan Art Preston a few years ago and with Pete Wittmann, formed Full Circle Racing. As the friendship grew, Troutt and Casner were often invited to racing events by the Prestons, such as when Prestonwood's Victory Gallop won the 1998 Belmont Stakes (gr. I). They first approached the brothers about selling their farm in the summer of 1999. Today, Casner and Troutt have upgraded the broodmare band and are breeding to most of the top Kentucky stallions. At the 1999 Keeneland November sale alone, WinStar bought 20 horses for $9.58 million, then turned around two months later in January and purchased five more for nearly $5 million. The farm president is now Doug Cauthen, who first worked part-time for Prestonwood and then WinStar under Decker, mostly selling seasons and shares and helping to market the stallions. Besides Distorted Humor, WinStar stands Victory Gallop and Tiznow. The farm also owns a substantial interest in Regal Classic, Judge T C, Our Emblem, and Lemon Drop Kid, and owns shares in such stallions as Storm Cat, A.P. Indy, and Kingmambo. Today, WinStar covers 1,500 acres and is home to 90 broodmares. Cauthen said roughly 60% of the mares are bred with a commercial emphasis. "There is a commercial division and a breed-to-race division," Cauthen said. "The racing end includes taking high-end, million-dollar plus mares and breeding them to the top six stallions in the country. We've hand-picked mares to breed to our home stallions, and in some ways, sacrificed them for the greater good of making the stallions." Elliott Walden, who trained Victory Gallop, is the farm's private trainer. He has about 50 horses in training for WinStar, including 2-year-olds.