By Bill Finley
Ben Walden, the former owner of Vinery and someone with over 30 years experience in the Lexington-area breeding industry, has been given a key position at Frank Stronach’s Adena Springs breeding operation. Having started his job about two weeks ago, Walden, whose title is Director of Marketing and Bloodstock Consultant, will be a key part of the team as Adena Springs attempts to build on its past success while also undergoing a transformation that will include sending top stallions to California and Maryland.
“It’s a real honor to be working for Frank Stronach and for Adena Springs and to be involved in an operation with such a rich legacy,” Walden said.
After selling Vinery in 1998, Walden built and operated several farms, including Gracefield, Hurricane Hall and more recently Pauls Mill, which is under contract to be sold. Last year, he, along with his wife Elaine, made a decision that they would sell all their mares and devote more time to missions work. But he was not out of the business long.
“When I was hired Frank and I spoke and my comments were that I was really looking forward to coming on board and treating his farm and his horses as though they were mine, just as I had done for last 30 years,” Walden said. “I still need to get my arms wrapped around the operation. It’s quite a bit bigger than what I am used to. But I started a couple weeks ago and have quietly been going about my business ever since.”
Walden added that he has been overwhelmed by Adena Springs’s Paris, Kentucky farm, everything from the size, the beauty and the facilities.
“The farm is a special piece of property,” he said. “My heart has always been keen for a horse farm as an asset and I have never seen a piece of property dedicated to the horse like Adena Springs, Kentucky. It is very impressive.”
Stronach has said that he wants to downsize the Kentucky operation and move top stallions to states like California and Maryland, where he owns racetracks. That way, he alone can improve the numbers and quality of horses bred in those states.
“I cannot speak for Frank, but I believe that my past experience of managing and promoting stallions was attractive to him,” Walden said.
Stronach has already made one major move, sending Shaman Ghost (Ghostzapper) to stand in California. Among the better horses campaigned by Stronach’s racing operation over the last few years, Shaman Ghost earned $3,859,311 and his victories include the GI Santa Anita H., the GI Woodward and the Queen’s Plate.
“Mr. Stronach is very committed to California and Maryland and Shaman Ghost is a huge step toward that commitment,” Walden said. “We really miss him here in Kentucky. He is part of our legacy and is a homebred by Ghostzapper. Frank is committed to breeding better horses in California, and he wants the quality of horses raised and bred out there to rise. He put his money where his mouth is by sending Shaman Ghost out there. He does not have a regional stallion profile. He is a bona fide Kentucky stallion that we greatly miss having at Adena Springs.”
Among the sires still in Kentucky, Walden is particularly high on Point of Entry.
“What’s so intriguing about Point of Entry is that he didn’t find his way as racehorse until he was four,” Walden said. “Now, what makes him truly promising for me is that he had plenty of 2-year-old winners and he has a freakishly fast now 3-year-old in ‘TDN Rising Star’ Analyze It from that same first crop. I’m an old pedigree guy and I happened to love Roberto and we don’t have much of Roberto left. This is the primary source of Roberto. We think he has the potential of being very relevant internationally.”
He sounds like a promoter, which he is. There are many facets to Walden’s new job and one of them, he knows, is to help strengthen the already strong Adena Springs brand.
“One of the things I am most excited about is integrating the potent Stronach legacy into our brand from a marketing standpoint,” he said. “In modern racing history it’s an unprecedented legacy and I am excited to expand that and to build on that.”
During Ben and Elaine Walden’s career as breeders they have bred over 100 stakes winners, including five Grade I winners, among them Corinthian and champion Artax.