At Home With John Stewart and the Team at Resolute Farm

The Resolute Farm team, headed by John Stewart, with Pink Dogwood and her Frankel colt | Sara Gordon

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Statements don't come much bigger than that made by John Stewart in the second half of 2023 when he spent over $25 million at public auction in less than 10 weeks, suddenly announcing himself as an emerging force in racing and bloodstock.

Stewart's most costly recruits included the second-top lot at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale, an Uncle Mo half-sister to the multiple Grade I winner Shedaresthedevil (Daredevil) who sold for $2.5 million. He then rolled into the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky November Sale where a pair of Breeders' Cup winners headlined his seven purchases, splashing out $6 million on the dual Filly & Mare Sprint heroine Goodnight Olive (Ghostzapper) and $3 million on the Juvenile Fillies Turf winner Pizza Bianca (Fastnet Rock {Aus}).

More recently, Stewart purchased five two-year-olds at the OBS March Sale, notably spending $1 million on an Authentic colt, while the three-year-old Pounce (Lookin At Lucky) was bought for $370,000 at the Fasig-Tipton February Digital Sale and made the perfect start for her new owner when winning the GIII Herecomesthebride S. at Gulfstream Park earlier this month. He also privately purchased the filly Sweet Rebecca (American Pharoah) after she broke her maiden at the same track eight days later and was named a 'TDN Rising Star'.

Certainly, nobody can accuse Stewart of not putting his money where his mouth is. It was only around 18 months ago that he teamed up with Gavin O'Connor to buy his first horse, Shiloh's Mistress (Vino Rosso), for $235,000 at the 2022 Keeneland September Yearling Sale. Now, he has designs on becoming one of the most influential owner-breeders in the sport.

A lifelong racing fan, Stewart might have bided his time before getting his hands dirty at the coal face, but there's seemingly no limit to his ambition now that he's there.

Speaking about the decision to significantly increase his stake in the industry, Stewart explains, “I met Chelsey [Stone], my girlfriend, in the spring of last year, early summer. Gavin and I were planning on buying a couple more horses, and Chelsey has been around horses her whole life. She rides Saddlebreds and she worked at Gainesway, so she knows horses a lot.

“We got talking more and more about what the opportunities were and I told them, 'Something you should know about me is that I don't ever do anything halfway–I'm probably not going to be that person who has just two or three horses.'

“We went to the Keeneland Sale and Chelsey and Gavin had looked at 160 horses to try to recommend two. I was so impressed by that because it would have been very easy just to pick two horses. And so, as we started going through the sale, we had an eye on a couple and then some others came up and I thought the prices were kind of reasonable.

“Somehow, we ended up spending $8.5 million. I go to car auctions all the time and I do the same thing. I'd just been to a car auction and bought nine cars a month earlier–people that know me know that's totally not out of character.”

 

Altogether, Stewart came away from the Keeneland September Yearling Sale with 13 horses, including a second seven-figure purchase when he forked out $1 million for the full-brother to the multiple top-level winner Practical Joke (Into Mischief). That group is set to spearhead Stewart's racing operation, called Resolute Racing, in 2024.

In the meantime, Stewart's priority was finding a place his burgeoning broodmare band could call home. That next step in the process was ticked off late last year when he completed the purchase of Shadwell's Shadayid Stud in Midway, since renamed Resolute Farm.

“I used to live back behind Shadwell in Fishers Mill in Midway,” says Stewart, the founder and managing partner of MiddleGround Capital, a private equity firm. “I lived there for around 10 years, and I've always admired this property and thought it was beautiful. There hadn't been horses on this property since [Sheikh Hamdan] had passed away, but they took such good care of it that it was really just turnkey. We could just come in and start, so we put an offer in, they accepted it, and we bought the farm.”

Said farm now has a handful of Grade I-winning mares—not to mention dams of Grade I winners or siblings to Grade I winners–grazing its lush paddocks following Stewart's spending spree last autumn.

As well as Goodnight Olive and Pizza Bianca, Stewart paid a total of $5.9 million for the dams of GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile and GI Florida Derby winner Forte (Violence) and GI Kentucky Derby winner Mage (Good Magic). The Listed-winning Queen Caroline (Blame), the dam of Forte, was bought for $3 million at the Fasig-Tipton November Sale, before the Grade II-placed Puca (Big Brown) was secured for $2.9 million post-RNA at the Keeneland November Sale having originally been reported as unsold.

Another mare who went unsold when offered for $2.4 million at Keeneland was the GI Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint heroine Caravel (Mizzen Mast), but she too ended up with Stewart following a private sale conducted early in 2024.

Telling the story of how he came to buy Caravel, Stewart says, “Chelsey was very interested in Caravel from the beginning, as I was, and I had talked to Sheikh Fahad [Al Thani, chairman of Qatar Racing] at the Breeders' Cup about her. We went to Keeneland after the sale and ended up buying Puca. We found out that Caravel had RNA'd and we were so shocked, so we reached out to them directly and said, 'Hey, we'll buy the horse.'

“There's a lot of people in the industry that don't want to sell privately because they think it's going to take away from the value of the horse. But coming after the Fasig-Tipton sale where I had bought some of the most expensive horses there and paid really premium prices, I said, 'Guys, nobody's ever going to know what I pay for the horse and they're all going to assume I paid a ridiculous price, because look at what I just paid for all these other horses.' So, they agreed to sell her to us.”

As for the next steps for Caravel and Puca–who is the dam of another colt on the Triple Crown trail this year in the GII Fountain of Youth S. winner Dornoch (Good Magic)–Stewart adds, “We knew all along that we wanted to breed Caravel to Frankel and I've used that with the team to convince them to let me send Puca to Frankel. We're going to send Puca to Into Mischief this year and then she's going to join Caravel over there and she's going to be bred to Frankel next year.”

The prospect of having a homebred colt or filly by Frankel (GB) on the ground is a tantalising one for Stewart, though it won't be the first offspring of the unbeaten world champion to have graced the turf at Resolute Farm. Instead, that honour belongs to the colt out of the G1 Oaks runner-up Pink Dogwood (Ire) (Camelot {GB}) who receives rave reports from farm manager Noel Murphy. “I love the Frankel foal,” he says. “He's big and strong and looks like a Frankel should.”

Pink Dogwood, a full-sister to the G1 Irish Derby winner Latrobe (Ire), was carrying said foal when she became one of four Coolmore mares acquired by Stewart during last year's Thanksgiving trip to Tipperary at the invitation of MV Magnier. That quartet also includes the impeccably-bred Champagne (Ire) (Galileo {Ire}), a full-sister to the GI Breeders' Cup Turf and G1 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe winner Found (Ire); Dramatically (War Front), who is out of the G1 Oaks runner-up Wonder Of Wonders (Kingmambo); and G3 Athasi S. winner Happen (War Front), a daughter of the dual Classic heroine Alexandrova (Ire) (Sadler's Wells).

“Pink Dogwood and Champagne are just different,” Murphy says of two of the new recruits. “When you have them in your hand and when you're around them, they're just different. Those two, in particular, there's something very unique about them. There's a presence that you don't find all the time–it's rare.”

Stewart, too, freely admits that it was the uniqueness of the opportunity offered to him by the Coolmore team that made it so difficult to turn down. “When you start to look at the pedigrees of the horses, the depth is just something that you don't see,” he sums up. “I'm trying to get the families that are really deep and I think one of the things you see in Europe that you don't see in America is more concentration of families.

“We were able to buy these [mares] all in foal and so we had three colts and one filly expected out of these horses. To have a Frankel on the ground now, which is a huge, 140-pound foal, is super exciting. You just don't see that on every farm here. And we have a Siyouni filly [out of Champagne], you don't see that a lot. They were a couple of stallions I was really interested in and Coolmore gave us a big step in that direction, kind of creating the foundation for what's going to be the future of the farm.”

Closer to hand, Stewart can look forward to one of the biggest days in his relatively brief time as a racehorse owner when unbeaten two-year-old Storm Boy (Aus) (Justify) runs in Saturday's G1 Golden Slipper, the world's richest race for juveniles. Favourite Storm Boy was purchased by Coolmore and a group of their clients and friends, including Stewart, for an undisclosed sum after winning the Listed Magic Millions 2YO Classic in January.

Stewart has travelled to Australia to enjoy the occasion, hoping to make another big statement on another continent–and with Europe unlikely to be far behind.

“I'm international with my business,” he explains. “I just opened an office in Amsterdam and I spend a lot of time over there. It's actually pretty efficient for me to go to Europe and I'm there probably three or four times a quarter. Again, I respect the bloodlines over there and I respect a lot of the farms that are over there. I would envisage, in the future, the next place we'll be racing horses will be over in Europe. There's not an immediate plan for that, but I would expect that in the future.”

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