By Katie Petrunyak
When Anthony Melfi purchased a 100-acre property in Schuylerville, New York two years ago, he and his partner Gary Gullo did not want to have what would be just another farm. Instead, they hoped to create something that could have a lasting impact on the sport of racing.
“We thought that if we could get something that's unique, we could improve the horse racing business a little bit,” explained Gullo. “We didn't want to have a regular farm just to have a farm. We wanted to make a difference, trying to help this industry out as best as possible.”
Their vision would soon become GMP Farm, an equine rehabilitation and training center with state-of-the-art facilities and a long list of services available to help equine athletes return to top form.
They started with the original barn, which was once home to Stone Bridge Farm training center, but quickly began construction on a second due to high demand. They redid the base of their seven-eighths Tapeta training track and developed an expansive list of rehabilitation services including a cold water spa, Theraplates, cryotherapy, thermal imaging, laser therapy and more. This spring, they added an equine hyperbaric chamber.
Melfi and Gullo's efforts were rewarded this year as GMP Farm has been a model of success. With a capacity of 60 horses, the operation located 15 minutes from Saratoga has been in full swing as it has attracted horses from some of the top barns in the country.
“Bill Mott has been a big supporter of us,” said Gullo. “Todd Pletcher, Linda Rice, Rudy Rodriguez, Ray Handal–we have all different trainers sending us horses. It's a pleasure to have them have faith in us to get their horses right and send them back.”
A veteran trainer himself before he teamed up with his longtime client Melfi to start GMP Stable in 2020, Gullo said the expertise his team has to offer has been a major factor in getting GMP Farm off and running.
“We know how to take care of horses and we know what to look for,” he explained. “When they leave here, they look great. Their weight is good and they're dappled out. Being a trainer, I know what I expected when horses came off the farm and 90% of the time they were too fat or to thin. Then I would have to give them 30 days or so just to get them back to where I wanted them. We know what other trainers expect and we better deliver what they want.”
GMP Farm is managed by Steve Rydowski, who worked under Hall of Famer John Nerud and was a longtime assistant for Gullo.
“We've gotten very good reviews,” said Rydowski. “A lot of owners will touch back with me after the horse ran and they'll say, 'Wow, this horse ran one of the best races he's run.' So it's been very positive. Between all of us, we're very hands on. We pay attention to detail with the horse, determining what's going on and where to go from there on each individual horse.”
The facility is not restricted to racehorses. Gullo estimated that about 65% of the horses in their care have been Thoroughbreds, but they've also brought in many Standardbreds. They've also worked with a number of equestrian-type horses, even attracting an Olympic-level jumper.
GMP Farm was a popular destination for both horses and humans during the Saratoga race meet. Not only did many of the top horsemen in the business stop by to see the evolution of the operation, but the farm was also the host of a performance of Robert Montano's Off-Broadway show “Small” and it brought in visitors looking to enjoy the property's human spa destination, Sacred Spa and Wellness.
While the hubbub of the Saratoga season has since quieted down, Gullo said he believes that their facility will stay busy on into next year, noting that the additions of a temperature-controlled barn last year and the hyperbaric chamber this spring should attract all types of equine athletes in the coming months.
“Last year we might have been 30% full in the wintertime,” he shared. “But I feel like this winter there are going to be more people from Belmont that will ship up and more of the trotters that will be at Saratoga or Yonkers. And you've also got your equestrian horses that are starting to funnel in.”
But Gullo isn't all that worried about having a packed barn year-round. He said GMP Farm is in it for the long game.
“We're really not looking so much at numbers,” he said. “We're looking at building something that's going to be great for the horses. We just want to have the horses and do the great job that we do.”
Gullo and Melfi are already looking into how they can continue to improve their facility. Gullo said they are considering the additions of a swimming pool and an aqua-treadmill.
Even as demand grows as more owners and trainers utilize their services, Gullo said they don't intend on increasing their intake too much. Instead, he said they have their sights on expanding in a different way.
“We don't want to get too big,” he said. “Actually we're looking at maybe trying to have this as a template to go somewhere else with this type of thing. Maybe Ocala, the World Equestrian Center, or Wellington–somewhere like that where we could do the same thing.”
The key to future success, he reiterated, will be having the right people behind the project.
“You can have this beautiful place that looks great, but if you don't have the right people in place, it's going to fail. You have to have qualified people that know what they're doing. The people who work here make it special. Anthony makes it special. There are a lot of moving parts, but everybody's proud of it. And that makes a difference too, when you're really proud of what you do.”