The Stronach family has started following through on its commitment to build up the California-bred program by sending three stallions to the Golden State for the 2018 breeding season.
The highest-profile horse of the group will be multiple grade 1 winner and Canadian champion Shaman Ghost , who Frank Stronach said will stand in California next year.
"He will be very exciting for the California breeders," Stronach said Dec. 2 in an exclusive interview with BloodHorse Daily. "I don't know where he will stand yet. I will be out there next week to look at a few farms. We'll make a decision in the next week or so."
Stronach said he'll stand the son of his homebred 2004 Horse of the Year Ghostzapper for $10,000.
"We have Ghostzapper in Kentucky and I really want to do something out in California," Stronach said of his decision to start out Shaman Ghost on the West Coast. "This is a horse that won the Santa Anita Handicap, he won a graded stakes in New York, he's a Canadian champion, and he finished second in the Pegasus World Cup, so really he could stand anywhere."
Shaman Ghost became the first Queen's Plate Stakes winner for Stronach's Adena Springs in 2015. A subsequent second in the Prince of Wales Stakes helped nail down honors as Canada's champion 3-year-old colt. At 4 and 5, he won or placed in seven black-type stakes, including victories in the Woodward Stakes (G1), Santa Anita Handicap Presented by San Manuel Indian Bingo and Casino (G1), Brooklyn Invitational Stakes (G2), and the Pimlico Special Handicap (G3). Shaman Ghost, out of the stakes-placed Gilded Time mare Getback Time, has earned $3,859,311.
Stronach announced in early October that he was putting his farm near Paris, Ky., on the market as part of an overall plan to pare down the size of his breeding operation in Kentucky and shift some of his stock to California and Maryland, where he owns and operates racetracks. The Stronach Group owns Santa Anita Park and Golden Gate Fields in California, and Pimlico Race Course and Laurel Park in Maryland. Central to these changes was a desire to address a lingering issue California has with small field sizes by building up the state's breeding program. In Kentucky, Stronach said he still intends to eventually shift his breeding operation to a farm he owns near Midway, Ky.
"But there is no rush," he said about changes with his Kentucky operation. "We will always have a farm in Kentucky and nothing changes (at the Paris farm) for the 2018 breeding season. As for Maryland, there is no question that we will have a farm in Maryland but no decisions yet on stallions."
In a deal handled by Andy Stronach, who is Frank Stronach's son, the two stallions will stand next season at EF1 Farms, which until Nov. 1 operated as Brazeau Thoroughbred Farms. The more than 80-acre operation was recently acquired by horse products businessman and breeder Eric Yohan.
Andy Stronach said he shares his father's vision of building up the Cal-bred program by supporting local breeders.
"You have to look out for the state breeder or you won't have horse racing," he said. "California is not going to get slots, so racing secretaries will have to get creative in how they write races, and you have to get more horses bred locally."
Stronach said both North Light, an Irish-bred 16-year-old son of Danehill—Sought Out, by Rainbow Quest, and City Wolf, a 10-year-old son of Giant's Causeway and a half brother to successful sires Ghostzapper and City Zip, have a lot to offer California breeders.
North Light, who previously stood in Kentucky and Ontario, has had three black-type winners in California among his nine black-type winners to date. The three West Coast stakes winners include graded stakes winners Chips All In and Celtic New Year.
City Wolf showed a lot of versatility as a racehorse winning at distances from seven furlongs to 1 1/8 miles and winning or placing on both all-weather and dirt surfaces.
"You have to stand a pretty versatile horse out there to be successful," Andy Stronach said. "You could be running at Ferndale on a bullring one weekend and on the poly at Golden Gate Fields the next."
North Light will stand for $5,000, and City Wolf will stand for $2,500, according to Stronach.
Nadine Anderson, manager of EF1 Farms, said she is very excited about the new stallions.
"We are over-the-top to have some new blood, particularly to have a son of Danehill because turf racing is getting bigger here," Anderson said. "Both stallions, pedigree-wise, fit very, very well with the entire mare pool here."