They all have stories to tell. And it's those stories that brought them together the evening of Sept. 5 to be honored at the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association awards dinner recognizing breeders in various states.The breeders were honored for their dedication as much as their success.
Evelyn Benoit, who with her husband, Maurice, was named Louisiana breeder of the year, is an evacuee from Hurricane Gustav. She said Louisiana’s breeding program may not compare to those in Florida and Kentucky, but breeders “have a lot of guts and love for horses” in the state.
“My husband thinks I staged the evacuation to be at the Keeneland September sale,” Benoit said. “I buy horses when my husband goes to the bathroom. God bless horse racing and all of you here tonight. I know how hard you work.”
The winners or their representatives from 17 states attended the state breeders’ awards dinner held at Keeneland three days before the start of the September yearling sale. Another 11 were recognized following the presentations.
Joe Allen, New Mexico’s breeder of the year, was on hand to accept his trophy. Allen bred Peppers Pride, the 5-year-old mare who is seeking to set the modern North American record for consecutive victories. She tied the record of 16 in April.
“I’d like to thank the people of New Mexico for letting a Texan participate in their breeding program,” Allen said with a laugh.
Mark Roberts, general manager of Adena Springs South, accepted the Florida breeder of the year award on behalf of owner Frank Stronach. Adena also has a Kentucky farm, but Roberts took the opportunity to tout the Sunshine State.
“Florida is the greatest place in the world to raise a horse,” he said.
Kentucky breeder of the year James Tafel, whose homebred Street Sense won the 2007 Kentucky Derby (gr. I), took the ball and ran with it.
“Florida is a great place to breed a horse, but this little state of Kentucky ain’t bad, either,” Tafel said.
Dr. Ryland and Joanne Harwood of Oregon operate a 10-horse stable at Portland Meadows, which Ryland Harwood said is “hanging on by a thread.” Still, the winner of the Oregon breeder of the year award said there’s nothing like breeding and owning Thoroughbreds.
“We are beyond thrilled to be here,” Ryland Harwood said, with a special mention of being in the same room as Tafel. “To be here with a Kentucky Derby winner—oh my God, if that doesn’t take your breath away.”
National awards were to be given out the evening of Sept. 6 during the TOBA National Awards Dinner in Lexington.