Stonehaven Steadings' Faith Rewarded at Keeneland September

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Stonehaven Steadings was represented by their second million-dollar yearling at this year's Keeneland September Sale Katie Petrunyak 

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Five years ago, Aidan O'Meara left his position at Hill 'n' Dale Farm, where he served as Stallion Division Manager for 20 years, to join his wife Leah and her family in running Stonehaven Steadings.

The decision was not an easy one. As Leah O'Meara recounts, John Sikura had seen something in Aidan when the native of Ireland was fresh out of college. Over the years, O'Meara worked his way to managing the likes of Curlin, Medaglia d'Oro and Candy Ride. The O'Mearas lived on site at Hill 'n' Dale for years at its former location on North Yarnalton Pike in Lexington and the farm was the first home of the couple's three children.

Now just a few years after O'Meara joined Stonehaven Steadings as the Director of Bloodstock and Client Development, the fruits of his increased presence on the farm are becoming even more apparent as the family-run operation is riding high through an unforgettable Keeneland September Sale.

On the first day of the auction, Stonehaven Steadings sold what will likely be the sale topper in their Quality Road colt out True Feelings (Latent Heat). Their success didn't stop with that $2.5 million achievement. Also in Book 1, they sent an $825,000 filly by Into Mischief and $775,000 Gun Runner colt through the ring. During Book 2, they sold four yearlings including a $900,000 Into Mischief filly and an $800,000 Street Sense filly.

“It's almost like twilight zone kind of stuff right now, to be quite honest,” O'Meara said during Book 2 after returning to the barn from selling a sixth offering for over half a million. “The first year after I moved from Hill 'n' Dale we had a couple of nice ones in Book 1 and we have been able to build off those since then. We came here this year thinking we would have our strongest sale, but this has been incredible.”

“We're so proud of all the horses,” he continued. “You can like them at home when they act like they do there, but to get out here and walk up and down 200, 250 times for people, you quickly find out the mentality of a horse. We're very fortunate that everybody acted so well.”

No yearling in their consignment handled themself better, O'Meara said, than the Quality Road colt that went on to become the highest-selling yearling in North America so far this year.

“He improved with every show and never balked at anything he was asked,” O'Meara explained. “He had almost a two-foot overstep and was just a locomotive with the way he used his shoulder and how he got his hind leg up. I've never seen so many people be so enamored by a horse with the way he moved at the sale. We started getting a little bit excited when we had 25 or 30 vet hits on him from all the right players.”

Last year at the same sale, Stonehaven Steadings celebrated their first million-dollar yearling when this colt's half-brother by Justify sold for $1.55 million to West Point Thoroughbreds and Talla Racing. Now named Nuclear, the juvenile is putting in steady works at Del Mar for John Sadler.

“We were blown out of the water at that stage,” O'Meara recounted. “We pretty much figured we had peaked in life as far as selling yearlings, but his brother at home was always one that we thought in the back of our mind maybe could have the potential to be that kind of quality horse again for the next year.”

Throughout the winter, the Stonehaven Steadings crew hesitated to get overly-excited, knowing the May-foaled colt might not reach the level of his older brother by the time of the auction, but the youngster blossomed as a yearling and was regarded enthusiastically by the Keeneland sales inspection team as the auction grew near.

When it came time for the colt to make his entrance into the sales ring, he was preceded by an air of anticipation. O'Meara turned to his wife to celebrate when the bidding stalled at $1.3 million, then stood dumbfounded as the number continued to grow.

Going to the same connections as his older brother with the addition of Woodford Racing, this colt will also train under John Sadler. As they did with Nuclear, Stonehaven Steadings stayed in for a small piece of the youngster.

“We're very fortunate that West Point has let us stay in on some of these good horses,” O'Meara said. “We had two with them last year and then three with them so far this year, so we're pretty excited to see what the future brings.”

Aidan O'Meara and the $2.5 million colt out of True Feelings | Keeneland

Stonehaven Steadings already has a reputation for breeding champions in its relatively short history. The list includes 2012 GI Breeders' Cup Juvenile champion Shanghai Bobby (Harlan's Holiday) and most recently, 'TDN Rising Star' and juvenile champion Corniche (Quality Road).

The farm was founded by Leah's parents Jeff and Chiquita Reddoch. The couple from Louisiana took an interest in the industry when Leah moved to Lexington for college. Starting off with just a handful of $30,000 broodmares, they eventually purchased property off Old Frankfort Pike.

The name Stonehaven Steadings was easy to come by. During their time in the oil field industry, the Reddochs traveled throughout Europe for business. Their favorite village in Scotland was called Stonehaven. There, a farmstead can be referred to as a steading.

Chiquita Reddoch is quick to credit her daughter and son-in-law for their operation's many achievements.

“Leah and Aidan have a really good talent to work together and do this,” she said. “Aidan is such a good horseman. When they first met and he was working at Hill 'n' Dale, I was always amazed at how he could speak about the horses and their races, conformation and pedigrees. Leah has always been interested in it also. They're together every day and they live and breathe the farm. It's not anything I could ever do. We turned this over to Leah and Aidan and now we get to do the things mommas and daddies do behind the scenes.”

While Aidan is on the farm every day, Leah focuses on marketing their business, organizing the sales consignments, and shopping year-round for potential additions to their broodmare band.

Asked what makes the couple such a good team, Leah laughed.

“His patience,” she retorted, but then gave a bigger-picture reply as she explained, “I think it's the reality that everything happens for a reason and it's about having faith when something seems like it might be a terrible thing. That will calm you down right away. There's no point in fretting when you've got faith like that.”

The O'Mearas also credit their longtime farm manager Colby Marks for their recent accomplishments. Marks was the one that picked out their star broodmare True Feelings in 2012. The daughter of Latent Heat ran second in the 2011 GIII Schuylerville S. and is from the family of champion Wait a While (Maria's Mon). Marks picked up the maiden mare for $210,000 at Keeneland November.

Farm manager Colby Marks and True Feelings | photo courtesy Stonehaven Steadings

“I think a lot of broodmares are like these top-class stallions in some ways in that either they have it or they don't,” O'Meara said. “You just try and pick the right kind of sires and match them up pedigree-wise, but you never know what you're going to get. We like to give these younger mares as good an opportunity as we can when we breed them to these better, proven sires. That helps build a mare's resume and you hope that down the line you have one that comes out looking the right way with a couple of half-siblings that are already stakes horses.”

Their $2.5 million colt is a shining example of this game plan. His dam already has three winners on her produce record including Royal Act (American Pharoah), a $500,000 yearling that went on to run second in the 2020 GIII Robert B. Lewis S., as well as stakes winner Feeling Mischief (Into Mischief).

“True Feelings is a really classy mare to mess with, but she's got a little grit to her as well when she wants to,” O'Meara said. “Everything out of her has been a beautiful mover. She has thrown all different kinds of types, but they all have had that class and that big walk to them. We kind of call her our Leslie's Lady now. To get one million-dollar yearling out of any mare is incredible, never mind to get two. It's just crazy.”

It was only a few years ago that Stonehaven Steadings was aiming to sell a few yearlings for $300,000 or maybe $400,000. Now after breeding and raising a $2.5 million yearling, what do they hope to do next?

“I just want to be here,” Leah said with a small shrug and a smile. “I want to live on the farm and have a thriving farm. I want to have staff who are like family that you can lean on and trust. We just want to enjoy it because horses are what we love. If we can do that for the rest of our days, I think we'll be pretty happy people.”

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