From A.P. Indy to Ned Evans, Lane’s End All About Legacy

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Bill Farish | Horsephotos

By Chris McGrath

Entering his 30th year, A.P. Indy resembles the old rancher gazing benignly from the veranda as his grandsons install yet another new well in the terrain where he first struck oil. The analogy will doubtless resonate with the owners of Lane’s End, given their Texan antecedents. But nor has anyone started 2018 with a better sense than Bill Farish of the old horse’s living legacy, as a historic, breed-shaping sire.

For one thing, A.P. Indy is contributing significantly to an exciting rejuvenation in the Lane’s End roster even as a current farm stalwart, Candy Ride (Arg) (Ride The Rails), is elevated to the status of 2017 leading active sire in North America. Not just with ‘TDN Rising Star’ Honor Code (A.P. Indy), the star of his final crop, but also with Mr Speaker (Pulpit) and ‘TDN Rising Star’ Tonalist (Tapit), respectively by a son and grandson.

On the track, meanwhile, Farish has already this year been given grounds to wonder whether Mask (Tapit) might some day earn a role in the dynasty. It is still very early days, but the colt certainly laid down a plausible Classic marker at Gulfstream last weekend.

“The one fault with Tapits sometimes is that they can be a little tough mentally,” Farish says. “But this horse walks around the paddock like he’s done it 30 times. That’s really exciting to see, a horse with that kind of mind, and hopefully he has the ability to go with it. He has only run twice but I do think that mental aspect is huge.”

The Gainesway-bred colt was a yearling purchase, Lane’s End evidently being among those farms that nowadays consider it prudent not to confine their search for stallions to the inflated market for runners on the Triple Crown trail. But one way or another, Farish and his father-farm founder William S. Farish have a great deal to anticipate in the year ahead.

Honor Code, Tonalist and Mr Speaker will be joined by ‘TDN Rising Star’ Liam’s Map (Unbridled’s Song) in presenting their first yearlings to market, while Frankel’s brother Noble Mission (Galileo {Ire}) is to have his debut runners. And if any of these can get into the slipstream of Quality Road (Elusive Quality) and Union Rags (Dixie Union), two of the most glamorous young guns in Kentucky, then the changing of the guard on a roster headed by the sire of Gun Runner (Candy Ride {Arg}) will be complete.

The emphasis of the program, as ever, remains old school: on the two-turn, equine aristocrat. But while his surname is synonymous with stewardship, with a civic responsibility towards the breed, Farish knows that playing the long game is not the same as playing a merely slow one. Lane’s End has become such a stately Bluegrass brand that it is easy to forget how it is, essentially, a relatively modern foundation; and has, as such, had to box clever in riding out lurching cycles in the commercial environment.

Farish is as bemused as everyone else that the markets, both stock and bloodstock, should be so indifferent to debt within the economy and instability across international politics. But the Lane’s End way works equally well, whether the world beyond its gates is populated by bulls or bears.

“You go through a period like ’08, where the whole market kind of collapsed, sticking to those same principles,” Farish observes, taking a break during the Keeneland January Sale to chat with TDN. “Syndicating stallions, and having support for them spread across a lot of breeders, has worked really well for us over the long haul. Of course, when you have a home run stallion and don’t own him 100%, it’s obviously not as good. But with the ones who don’t make it, having that syndicate support in years two, three and four is so crucial. And that, along with selling our colts and keeping the better fillies, has always been dad’s approach.”

Selling those colts, of course, similarly requires a sufficient breadth of market engagement even when you are first and foremost trying to produce an effective athlete.

“It’s a balancing act,” Farish says. “You need to be aware of the commercial market, but at the same time you’re trying to make your mare. You want the stud to produce good racehorses or obviously you’re not going to last very long. I don’t know that the market wants the wrong type of horse, it’s just that sometimes it might not [suggest] the best way to breed a mare–it might be a little short-sighted to breed that stallion to that mare. But ultimately the market wants good racehorses and people are going to figure out if you’re breeding them or not. Buyers are pretty savvy these days, they keep track of where they’ve been buying from and where horses have been raised.”

Though his tones remain ever temperate, Farish exudes excitement about the young Lane’s End sires striving towards the standards of their seniors. Some of us admittedly feel affronted, on behalf of Mineshaft (A.P. Indy) and Lemon Drop Kid (Kingmambo), to see them reduced to a sector of the market populated, at $25,000, by so many sires with zero track record. At the same time, however, the endeavours of Gun Runner mean that Candy Ride has earned a hike to a career-high $80,000 at the age of 18–contributing, in the process, to a trend favouring veteran sires in 2017.

“It’s bittersweet, in a way, because Gun Runner was Ned Evans breeding, through and through,” Farish muses. “So had Ned been alive today, Gun Runner would probably be going to Lane’s End. I just think he’s such an exciting stallion prospect, it kills me we don’t have him! We’ve had a lot of luck with the sons of our own stallions–you just need to think of that Dixieland Band-Dixie Union-Union Rags line–so having that son of Candy Ride would have been wonderful. But we’ll breed to him anyway.”

As it was, Farish was not even able to bid for stock at the record-breaking Evans dispersal of 2011, having been appointed one of the estate’s executors. He takes satisfaction, however, in the funds raised by Quality Road–now up to $70,000, thanks to Abel Tasman and friends–for the charitable foundation, majoring in medical research, set up by Evans.

“Quality Road had an unbelievable year,” he says. “Though, again, it’s a little bittersweet. Because it’s what Ned was trying to do, his whole career in the breeding industry: to have a stallion like this, one that’s probably going to [end up standing at] over $100,000, and he would have had 100% of him still.

“Ned was a fascinating guy, with some very interesting theories that didn’t always go with the normal grain. To have had the biggest dispersal of all time is pretty amazing, considering how many great breeders have dispersed over the years–and if he’d had that same dispersal in today’s market, God knows what it would have brought. It wasn’t the hottest market he dispersed in. But no matter what the times are, people step up when there’s real quality like that. To think, if it was all still together, what it would be like…”

Initially the trustees of the foundation decided it would be prudent to sell half of Quality Road, who was duly syndicated in 40 shares. Twenty were sold, but tax rules mean that subsequently the charity’s stake in the sire had to be reduced to 20%.

“Those are very lucky people who bought into him–very smart people,” Farish smiles. “Those eight [remaining] shares are the foundation’s only asset that isn’t in stocks and bonds, so it’s kind of fun that they have performed so well.”

Evans used to tell Farish that breeding was so unpredictable that the only solution was to play the numbers game. That is all very well, but Lassie Dear (Buckpasser) was a mare in a million. The bedrock of Lane’s End produced Weekend Surprise (Secretariat), dam of A.P. Indy, and now her story opens a new chapter with the arrival at stud of Honor Code.

Quite apart from his credentials as a track champion, you might almost charge $40,000 for his page alone: not just with Lassie Dear and Serena’s Song sitting opposite each other, but with so many epoch-defining sires and broodmare sires that you go weak at the knees reading back.

“Honor Code’s weanlings went unbelievably well,” Farish enthuses. “And he’s been very, very popular all three years at stud so far. Because we owned him, and retired him, we were able to set his stud fee at a very effective level–and he’s been able to maintain it all the way through. He certainly could have started at a higher fee but we wanted to be able to pick the mares.”

He makes a similar point regarding Liam’s Map, who joins Arrogate (Unbridled’s Song) in bidding to give their late father a posthumous surge as a sire or sires.

“He too has been very well received and, again, Vinnie Viola was very amenable to a friendly starting fee,” Farish says. “He probably could have started higher but as a result he’s been very popular at $25,000 and been able to maintain that. We’re very excited about him: he’s a very different type of Unbridled’s Song, much more balanced, and he had that miler speed you love to see. Ironically he ran maybe his best race of all against Honor Code in the Whitney, so it’s kind of fun to get them both out there together.”

In contrast, Tonalist has had his fee halved to $20,000 from an opening $40,000. Everything would appear to be in place: a Belmont winner who also won over a mile at Grade I level, from another very strong family; and Farish talks warmly of the stock he has been getting, too. One way or another, the ball is in the breeders’ court now. Farish certainly thinks Tonalist can hold his own against the farm’s other rookies.

“Time will tell but it wouldn’t surprise me if he was the best of all,” he says. “It’s the same thing, we try to price them all at a level that’s attractive to breeders, and that gives us an opportunity to choose mares. We’re in that third year with these horses, and sometimes you have to be a bit aggressive: we have to back up and give breeders a price they’re happy with. We don’t view it as an embarrassment, or that we got it wrong. If you breed to him in that third year, obviously it’s riskier, so you want to make it attractive. He’s just got so much going for him: he won all his Grade Is in New York, he had 11 Beyer speed figures over 100, and he certainly has the look of the type that will get you Classic horses.”

There are more obvious odds against poor Mr Speaker, who missed last season when barred from the U.S. because of a positive test for piroplasmosis. Returned to Chile, he has since made a full recovery but must now reintroduce breeders to his appeal as a grandson of Personal Ensign bred on the same cross as Tapit.

“It’s very hard when you miss the second year of a stallion’s career and you try to restart him,” Farish admits. “It’s a challenge. He had a very good book in his first year and hopefully that can carry him, but he’s going to have zero coming in behind, which is tough.”

Noble Mission has also had early adversity to overcome, having colicked in the middle of his second season.

“That left him with a very small book of mares after a very strong first year,” Farish reflects. “Luckily he recovered from that and had a good year last year. So he’s another we’re very excited about.”

Noble Mission arrives as an unequivocal turf influence, maintaining the strong Lane’s End tradition–not least through Kingmambo–of keeping the transatlantic gene pools engaged and diversifying. Farish has perceived a definite impetus towards grass in North America over the past decade, and now hopes that the European market may in turn respond to the success of American raiders at Royal Ascot.

“There are so many sires here, like Quality Road, who would cross well with that whole Sadler’s Wells sire-line,” he says. “One of the reason we were so keen to get a good son of Galileo, like Noble Mission, is to try and have that cross-pollination. Because it’s crucial to both markets. A lot of American breeders have been going over there and bringing horses back, but it’s getting awfully tough to buy–so perhaps that can help [bring European business over] too.”

While rightly impatient with lazy European prejudices against U.S. bloodstock, Farish and his father recently signed up to WHOA in the hope of spurring medication reform.

“I think it’s overstated from the European standpoint, I really do, way overstated,” he says. “But to the extent that the perception exists, the more we can address it, the better. To me, it’s as simple as: no other jurisdiction in the world races on Lasix except for the US, so you can’t tell me it’s atmospheric. None of that rings true, there’s always a new excuse as to why we have to have it, and I just don’t buy any of it. So we’re very hopeful we have a bill in Washington to press forward, and hopefully make it a lot easier to implement. It’s just crazy that we have 30-some different jurisdictions, with 30-some different sets of rules. Even if Lasix is involved, we need to have one set of standards, and practices, and testing.”

This sense of duty to the wider sport is no less than the horsemen’s community has come to expect. All his life he has absorbed the imperative of trying to improve the industry’s future, just listening to the nightly debates of men like his own father, or his father-in-law Dinny Phipps, or their friend Watts Humphrey.

On the same basis, for instance, Farish laments the impact of swollen book sizes on diversity. He understands that all farms need to market new stallions, not least his own, but they are contesting a shrinking market. All the more pressure, then, to get things right.

“You’re only ever as good as your last successful stallion, so you’re always on the lookout,” Farish says. “But the right opportunities don’t always present themselves. It just depends on what’s available, and what fits the criteria of pedigree, conformation. And you also have to be able to attract those stallions because there’s plenty of competition out there.”

No less than in their various services to the sport, father and son apply the same sense of legacy to their own farm. That’s why they have such pride in a sire who has hauled back the Bold Ruler line to front and center of American pedigrees.

“That’s all down to dad,” Farish stresses. “It is amazing to see the influence of A.P. Indy. Year after year in the Classics, there have been so many of his sons or grandsons, and it just continues. He’s doing really great, too, just living his life: same stall, same paddock, same number of fans coming by to see him. It’s neat to have him there and it’s going to be a big void when he’s gone.

“Remember Seattle Slew really didn’t have that many other top sons, but he was able to be the one. We’re very hopeful Honor Code will be the next. There’s a lot left to be told there, but hopefully he could be. And yes, the whole bench is strong right now. We’re very excited about what’s coming along.”

 

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