From Brookstown Farm's Soil, an Oak Flourishes

Judy Hicks with Sataves, her Known Agenda filly, and the Brookstown mascot, Smoke | Sara Gordon

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Judy Hicks will be the first to say that it's not the fanciest farm in Kentucky. The fences are not painted and the lawns are not perfectly manicured. But there is good soil at Brookstown Farm and there is plenty of it, enough to where no more than six of the 100 horses who reside there ever share the same pasture.

Hicks and her husband R.W. purchased the 600-acre property located just outside of Versailles in 1983 and since then, R.W. has been meticulous in fertilizing and re-seeding the pastures to ensure that the foals raised at Brookstown have the very best of the Bluegrass.

It's an idyllic place to raise a Thoroughbred. And it's now the birthplace of a Kentucky Oaks winner.

Hicks, the breeder of Thorpedo Anna (Fast Anna), liked the filly so well that she stayed in for a piece after Kenny McPeek bought her as a yearling for $40,000. Hicks joined the partnership of Brookdale Racing, Mark Edwards, and Magdalena Racing.

Last Friday was, to put it mildly, a day that Hicks will never forget as Thorpedo Anna took the lead early and never looked back to win the Kentucky Oaks. There was plenty of celebration and fanfare that evening, but by Saturday morning it was back to business as usual at Brookstown Farm.

“I had to take a mare to the breeding shed, so it was sort of like the reality hadn't sunk in yet even though I'm getting texts and phone calls and interviews and all this hurrah,” Hicks explained.

Even by Wednesday, after she returned from yet another early morning trip to the breeding shed and sat down on her porch overlooking her farm's sprawling pastures to reflect on the weekend, Hicks was still at a loss for words.

“It has been surreal,” she said. “I know it's a huge, huge deal and I am very excited.”

Judy and R.J. Hicks with Brookstown Farm mascot Smoke | Sara Gordon

Getting Off the Ground

   Growing up in California, Hicks always believed that she was destined to be a veterinarian. The animal lover went to California Polytechnic State University for undergrad and then started vet school at Texas A&M. A few months in, she realized the job was not for her when she came in one morning to find that the dog that had lived in one of the experimental cages had been reduced to various samples in jars and test tubes.

She moved on to an internship in Kentucky at Forest Retreat Farm and while she was there, she met Cecil Horne and Dr. Donald Applegate. They were looking for a farm manager for their Mint Springs Farm and Hicks quickly accepted the position.

“I started at the bottom of the ladder grooming yearlings and went on to become a farm manager in a matter of a year,” Hicks recalled.

It was at Mint Springs Farm that Hicks met her husband, R.W.

When the pair purchased Brookstown Farm, they knew they had a lot of hard work ahead of them.

“It had nothing on it but a couple of old tobacco barns,” said Hicks. “It had no water, no electric, no fencing, no pavement. R.W. and I put in three miles of water line by ourselves, built every fence and started raising horses.”

Hicks started out focusing on boarding horses, but when one client did not pay their bills, she bought her first horse for $6 on the courthouse steps. Phoenix Sunshine (Encino) was raised at Brookstown and went on to become a four-time stakes winner and then a successful broodmare.

One of her daughters, Shining Victory (Victory Gallop), is the granddam of Grade I winner Newgate (Into Mischief) and Grade II victress Denim and Pearls (Into Mischief). Another one of Shining Victory's daughters produced My Majestic Rose (Majestic Warrior), who was one of the best fillies that Hicks campaigned herself. The homebred won the GII Summertime Oaks in 2019, but broke down in training shortly after.

When Hicks had another client who would not pay their bills, she purchased Miss Pink Diva (Dunkirk) for $10. The filly was runner-up in the 2016 Locust Grove S., but broke down in her next start in the GI Spinster S.

“So down at my pond there are two grave sites and they are growing some big, beautiful oak trees,” said Hicks.

“I love the highs,” she added. “But I hate the lows because the lows are very low.”

But as Hicks has learned, with every crossroad comes an opportunity, and sometimes a seemingly impossible situation can turn into a beautiful story.

Sataves (center) accompanied by her 2024 Known Agenda filly and her 5-year-old daughter Charlee O | Sara Gordon

The Mare Who Was Never Supposed to Live

   In January of 2015, a client's mare foaled an extremely premature filly by Uncle Mo. Hicks volunteered to take the feeble foal off the client's hands, not knowing if the youngster would even survive because her lungs were so underdeveloped that it was unclear if they could function properly.

Luckily Sataves, the dam of Thorpedo Anna, did survive. While her fight to live in those early days affected her conformational development and prevented her from ever becoming a racehorse, she turned out to be a pretty good broodmare.

“She took several years to grow up,” said Hicks. “She's got the body of Uncle Mo, but the legs of a pony. She is not very big, but it doesn't seem to change or affect the genes.”

Sataves's first foal Charlee O (Tourist) was a $5,000 yearling RNA in 2020. Hicks retained the filly, who won on debut at Belmont at 30-1 odds and earned over $100,000.

For Sataves's next mating, Hicks decided to send her to Fast Anna, who was standing at Three Chimneys for just $10,000.

“I like to pick stallions on their physical,” Hicks explained. “I may use all the bookwork–the Goldmine, the TrueNicks–but that's just secondary. It was hard to think he would be a good physical for Sataves because Sataves is sort of out of whack [in her conformation]. But I thought she would cross very well with Fast Anna, a son of Medaglia d'Oro, and it worked.”

Thorpedo Anna is from the final crop of Fast Anna, who succumbed to laminitis only a few days after Thorpedo Anna was foaled in late January. From her early days at Brookstown, the filly was a crackerjack.

“She had a mind of her own,” Hicks explained. “She didn't want her feet trimmed. She didn't want to have vaccinations. She was pretty opinionated. She didn't get her way, so she did settle down after a while. My nightwatch person took her on and was very good with her. She calmed her down and made her behave.”

From the handful of her own foals that Hicks produces every year, she aims to sell them all but oftentimes ends up retaining or at least staying in for a piece of some of them. Thankfully Charlee O and Thorpedo Anna were two fillies she decided to keep and she has also retained a piece of Sataves's third foal McAfee. The 2-year-old colt by Cloud Computing was bought for $40,000 by Maddie Mattmiller at the Keeneland September Sale.

Last year Sataves's foal did not survive foaling due to a case of hydrops–a condition characterized by an over-accumulation of fluid in the placenta–but this year the mare produced a filly by Known Agenda.

The foal arrived in the middle of March when threats of tornados and wind storms were popping up across Central Kentucky. One night the wind was howling and Hicks was fighting to keep the barn from flooding, but when the storm finally stopped, Sataves laid down and foaled. Hicks does not normally name her foals, but she decided to call this one After the Storm.

Mother-daughter pair Sataves and Charlee O | Sara Gordon

An Oaks to Remember

   The confidence McPeek had in his 'TDN Rising Star' Thorpedo Anna was no secret, with the news of his comment about bringing a grizzly to the Oaks spreading like wildfire in the days leading up to the big event.

Meanwhile Hicks was relieved when the last of the mares due to foal at Brookstown this year produced a healthy foal three days before the Oaks. The breeder was in the clear to make an unforgettable trip to Louisville on Friday and watch her filly cross the wire first just before the heavens opened up over Churchill Downs.

“Kenny was pretty sure she was going to win if she got a good start,” she said. “He knew she was going to win. And the way she ran, it was hard to contain myself. My tears were flowing. It was just unbelievable, but believable because we know how good she is.”

From a broodmare band of eight mares and off a $10,000 stud fee, Hicks produced a Classic winner.

“Everything just fell into place the right way,” she said with a shrug. “Now walking outside I have this feeling of fulfillment because of what I've done. But I don't feel like it's anything out of the ordinary. I mean, I'm still having to say, 'Hey, get it in your head that this really happened!' It's special and it'll be an occasion I will remember for the rest of my life.”

Hicks has a lot to look forward to in the coming months as McPeek has said that Thorpedo Anna will likely point toward the GI Acorn S. on June 7 before the GI Coaching Club American Oaks and the GI Alabama S. But the horsewoman is also just as excited about what she has going on at her farm.

Charlee O retired from racing this spring and has been bred to Bolt d'Oro. Meanwhile Sataves, who is only nine years old, has been bred to Gun Runner.

Besides upgrading the class of stallion that Sataves will be visiting in the coming years, Hicks won't be changing much about her own lifestyle or her breeding program. Life at Brookstown Farm doesn't slow down even after producing a Kentucky Oaks victress and Hicks wouldn't have it any other way.

“I live and breathe the horses and I have my dogs,” she reflected. “I come in my front gate and I leave everything behind me because, as we all know, the Thoroughbred business can be tough. I just enjoy my life. I enjoy my animals. I work very hard. I foal everything and I take every mare to the breeding shed myself.”

“I don't want to retire,” she continued. “People say, 'When are you going to retire, Judy?' I say, 'What would I do then? I love what I do.' I feel that I run a good operation. It's not fancy, but it does seem to work.”

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