By Carly Silver
Be it in New York or Kentucky, Kate Galvin is no stranger to the Thoroughbred industry. As the daughter of Joe and Anne McMahon, she grew up working her parents’ upstate New York breeding farm with her siblings; now, as the assistant sales manager for Darley, Kate helps manage one of the most important stallion operations in the country.
Kate’s parents have run McMahon Thoroughbreds of Saratoga for over 40 years. “Our family farm, we were all really involved in it growing up,” Kate, 37, recalled. “My parents are owner-managers. They were delivering foals and breeding mares my entire lifetime and we lived right there.” Joe and Anne’s five children started helping out on the farm from an early age; as she got older, Kate began to work the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga sales in her summers. She completed her education at Cornell University, from which she graduated in 2001.
For the McMahons, those were banner years. In 2000, a chestnut colt by Distorted Humor was foaled at the nursery for breeders WinStar Farm. Eventually owned by Sackatoga Stables, that horse became the gelding Funny Cide, who won the 2003 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes (G1) en route to becoming that year’s champion three-year-old male. At the time, Kate was working in sales at a winery, but Funny Cide’s success was a turning point for her. “That really brought me back,” Kate said. “We were so proud and business was booming at that point.”
Kate went on to work at auctions in Europe, inspiring her to apply to, and enter, Darley’s Flying Start program. Those two years were a unique experience for her, she said. Kate noted that “Flying Start is wonderful, because the entire two years is all about teaching you to analyze your future and figure out where you want to be and make yourself a stronger candidate for jobs that you’re interested in.”
While Kate enjoyed traveling, Kentucky was particularly special for her. She was able to reach out to some of her parents’ connections, finally put faces to names she’d known for years, and learn about their areas of expertise. Once she completed the program in 2006, Darley COO Dan Pride reached out to Kate regarding a position working on stallion nominations; Kate initially favored building on her experience in sales, but Dan assured her, saying, “‘Trust me, you’re going to learn about the sales in this job.'” Kate added, “The stallion nominations role…has always had a very strong commercial meaning, so we’re always out at the sales; we’re always promoting our stallions.”
From her father, Kate had learned how to promote and syndicate a young stallion and to have a sense of optimism in a relentless market; from her mother, she acquired an attention to detail. These skills have helped when working with clients and determining their individual needs. Kate noted, “A stallion doesn’t have to be the hot horse right now if you’re talking to a commercial breeder. He needs to be the hot horse in eighteen months when they’re selling the progeny.” After 10 years at Darley, she can rely on knowledge and past experience to talk up a stallion and “confidently portray the value in stallions that might not be obvious.”
While hands-on in an incredibly busy job, Kate balances married life with husband, Fergus Galvin, and their four children. A native of Ireland, Fergus came up through Josephine Abercrombie’s Pin Oak Stud and spent eight years managing Ashford Stud’s breeding shed before branching out on his own in 2005. He currently co-owns Hunter Valley Farm, a 200-acre property in Versailles, Kentucky, with several partners; Kate, Fergus, and their family reside on the farm.
Kate has been a big proponent of Darley standing some younger stallions in her native New York. “I would say I’ve always pushed for Darley to be more involved in New York because I think it’s an amazing place, not only for the stallion who might be a big fish in a little pond, but to get a mare started off right,” she said, adding, “I’m a huge fan of the New York program and definitely helped to guide that initial involvement of Darley with Girolamo–and then the following years, with Alpha and Emcee–to be standing stallions there.”
Back in Kentucky, Darley’s stallion roster is just as stellar. In addition to stalwarts Medaglia d’Oro and Bernardini, there are two new additions–champion and 2016 Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist, as well as multiple grade 1 winner Frosted. “I’m always excited about our first-year stallions. We’re so excited this year to have Nyquist and Frosted retire to stud, and that has definitely injected a lot of excitement into our stallion roster,” Kate said enthusiastically. Fellow Derby winner Animal Kingdom’s first Northern Hemisphere two-year-olds also hit the track this year.
Such thrills are what Kate thrives on. She said, “And that’s really what this business is about, the potential of a stallion hitting, and the excitement for me is talking to breeders every day who feel the same way and who are trying to find a way to send their best mares to the stallion that excites them the most.”
In Their Footsteps is an ongoing series in the TDN about young people who have followed their parents into the Thoroughbred industry.