Hill 'n' Dale Stallions Settling in at Xalapa

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Top sire Curlin and the rest of the Hill 'n' Dale stallion roster settled in quickly to their new residence at Hill 'n' Dale at Xalapa | Sarah Andrew 

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A caravan of four massive Sallee Horse Vans journeyed from Fayette County to Bourbon County today to deliver the 13 members of the Hill 'n' Dale stallion roster to their new residence: Hill 'n' Dale at Xalapa.

While Hill 'n' Dale President John Sikura said there was apprehension going into the big move, everything went smoothly.

“It's kind of like when a horse goes in the starting gate- lots can go wrong,” he said. “But thanks to the quality and class of the horses and the horsemanship of everybody who was all hands on deck, the horses really sort of embarrassed us with our suspense and worry.”

Two-time Horse of the Year and Hill 'n' Dale flagbearer Curlin (Smart Strike) settled in quickly in his new stall nearest to the barn entrance.

“As you would expect, Curlin was the leader,” Sikura said. “Within 10 seconds of being in the stall he had his head down eating alfalfa and never turned a hair. Even Kitten's Joy (El Prado {Ire}), who's an excitable, high-energy horse hollered once or twice and went to his hay rack.”

For Sikura, today marked the fruition of a dream that has been on his mind for years.

“I first saw Xalapa probably 10 or 12 years ago and when I set foot on the place, it made a lasting impression,” he recalled. “I thought it was the most vivid, natural, spectacular piece of land that I've ever seen. I'd often dreamt about this farm and wondered about converting it into a modern, great horse farm. The opportunity came about to buy the place and I thought it was a once in a lifetime opportunity.”

Sikura said that the development of their new acquisition has been ongoing for the past year-and-a-half.

“It's been overwhelming as far as the depth and scope and amount of projects,” he said. “We've been working seven days a week, from dark to dark every day for about 18 months now. I think we've converted two farms of nearly 1,400 acres and maybe a decade's worth of work in 18 months. It's been a labor of love and emotions from overwhelming to challenging to just now starting to feel the satisfaction of seeing it all come together.”

Sikura shared that Xalapa was acquired by breeder Edward Simms after the turn of the 20th century and that Simms focused heavily on the landscaping of the property with the goal of making the estate “the Biltmore of the South.”

When Prince Palatine (Persimmon), winner of the St. Leger S. who was imported to Xalapa Farm for the later part of his stud career, perished in a stable fire, Sikura said that Simms vowed that all the barns on the property would be fireproof and so he made all the buildings of stone and concrete.

Sikura aims to maintain similar architecture in his renovations.

“I've done everything in very natural, earthy tones of the highest-quality material,” he said. “We've kept that theme without deferring our standards. It's a lengthy process because everything is handcrafted. It's not cookie cutter.”

While most of the heavy lifting on the undertaking is complete, Sikura is now enjoying putting on the finishing touches.

“I've very excited and proud of the place,” he said. “Not proud of myself, but proud of the opportunity and the stewardship that we've undertaken to bring this farm back to a sense of greatness. We look forward to achieving and succeeding with all that we do in a one-of-a-kind setting and the most unique farm that I believe exists.”

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