Ice clings to trees at Keeneland.

Ice clings to trees at Keeneland.

Anne M. Eberhardt

Ice Storm Disrupts Some Breeding Activities

Like many businesses in Central Kentucky, breeding farms were severely impacted by the ice storm that struck the area Feb. 16.

Telephone and electrical services were limited and fallen limbs and trees made it hard for vans and other vehicles to gain access to many properties.

Overall, the Thoroughbred industry remained resilient in the face of the crisis. Many farms and sale companies reported extensive tree damage but no significant damage to farm buildings and no injuries to personnel.

One effect of the storm was the decision by Swinebroad-Denton to postpone the Feb. 20 auction of Romanoaks Farm near Versailles, Ky.

"We could not have picked a worse day to have this auction," said Swinebroad-Denton's Walt Robertson, who is also president of Fasig-Tipton Kentucky. Robertson said the only damage at FTK was to trees. "It is devastating, but we will get through it. There is damage anywhere there are trees."

Also disrupted were operations at Keeneland Association, which canceled simulcasting Feb. 16, 17, and 19. "I would say every tree on the grounds has been damaged somewhat," said Keeneland spokesman Jim

At Ashford Stud near Versailles, it was "business as usual," according to farm manager Dermot Ryan. "We are breeding. Everything is fine. We are using generators for electricity to the office, breeding shed, and foaling barn. We have also gotten some generators for some of the houses on the farm. There is a lot of damage to trees. But we just go on with it."

With the exception of one mare who was unable to ship to the farm, the breeding shed operation at Overbrook Farm near Lexington was unaffected by the storm. Overbrook consultant Ric Waldman said tree damage was significant and electricity was off for about five hours on Feb. 15. As of Feb. 18, there was still no electrical service to the breeding shed.

Several breeding sheds were forced to close, among them Walmac and Spendthrift. Kerry Cauthen of Walmac said one mare was covered Feb. 17, but otherwise the shed was closed until Feb. 19. The breeding shed at Spendthrift was closed Feb. 16 and 17 because Ironworks Pike and the farm's roads were impassable due to downed trees. Operations resumed Feb. 18.

While breeding sheds were open at most farms, transportation problems resulted in little or no activity at some farms the day after the ice came. "We bred the first mare today," said Mark McLean, of Crestwood Farm on Feb. 18. "The first day (the breeding shed was open) nobody showed up because nobody could get out." McLean said the farm was unable to receive calls the day after the storm because there was no telephone service, but that problem was soon resolved by forwarding calls to a cell phone.

"The damage is pretty major," McLean said of the ice's impact on the farm's mature trees.

"We missed a couple of mares on the day when there was no travel," said Rick Trontz of Hopewell Farm near Midway, Ky. "But the breeding shed is open. If someone wants to come we're breeding; we just don't want anyone to take chances getting here."

Not unlike other farms, Trontz said there was extensive damage to trees on his property. Some Hopewell personnel who did not have electrical service or heat at their residences elsewhere in Central Kentucky were being housed in the farm's guest house, which was being powered by a generator.