By Bill Finley
As Frank Stronach sees it, Frank Stronach should be doing more to support racing and breeding in states in which he owns racetracks.
That, Stronach told the TDN yesterday, was the motivation behind his decision to close his primary breeding farm in Kentucky. Stronach announced yesterday that will be putting his Adena Springs Farm in Paris, Kentucky, on the market and will eventually phase it out of his massive breeding operation. He will keep open a smaller Adena Springs division located in Midway, Kentucky.
While Stronach still has many decisions to make concerning the overall direction the Adena Springs operation will take, one thing is clear: its future will more and more be in Maryland and California and less in Kentucky. Adena Springs is already a major breeder in Florida. Stronach owns racetracks in California (Santa Anita and Golden Gate Fields), in Maryland (Laurel and Pimlico) and in Florida (Gulftstream). He does not own a racetrack in Kentucky.
“That is the bottom line, what can I do to help racing in California and in Maryland?” he said. “I have to get better bloodlines there and better stallions.”
Adena Springs stands a number of top stallions in Kentucky, including Awesome Again and Ghostzapper, and Stronach said that all are candidates to be moved to other states. When asked if his best stallions may wind up in California or, perhaps, Maryland, he replied: “That's quite possible. Absolutely.” He also said he would look to acquire new stallions to bolster his future operations in Maryland and California. If any Adena stallions are moved out of Kentucky, Stronach said the earliest that will happen will be after the 2018 breeding season.
Stronach's decision to focus more on California breeding and racing could make a notable difference in the horse population there, particularly when it comes to California-breds. Adena Springs is a powerhouse in the North American breeding industry in terms of both quantity and quality. Through Oct. 4, Adena Springs was third in the U.S. in terms of money earned and fourth in total winners. Adena Springs was the Eclipse Award-winning breeders 11 times between 2004 and 2016.
The Stronach tracks have made notable strides in Maryland and in Florida, but Santa Anita and California racing have not performed to expectations. Stronach seems focused on improving racing in California, more so than in other states where he owns tracks.
“I really have to interface with the racing community in California,” Stronach said. “I've done a fair amount in Florida and in Maryland, but I feel a little guilty about California. I want to speak to the people there. Chuck Winner, the head of the racing commission there, does a great job and he's committed to the horse industry. The president of the breeders' association [Doug Burge] is also very committed. I want to interface with them and say how can we work together to improve racing in California? The fields are too small there and that's not good for anyone. I hope to be spending more time out there and am hopeful we come up with some good conclusions.”
Stronach took some of the blame for California racing's problems.
“Sometimes you can only focus on so many things and have so many balls up in the air,” he said. “And maybe I didn't spend enough time out there. I need to spend more time out there and see where we can improve things. I think we have been neglectful.”
So far as Maryland, one of the few states where the annual foal crop is on the rise, Stronach remarked the state is in need of “better stallions.”
He has yet to formulate plans to open farms in either Maryland or California, but noted that he owns land in both states that could be converted to a breeding operation.
So far as Kentucky goes, Stronach said he is not giving up on the state.
“I am not abandoning Kentucky,” he said. “Kentucky is a very important horse racing state. There are great mares there. If you have great stallions, Kentucky is a great place for them. I could build a stallion station at the farm in Midway. I don't know yet. And if somebody buys our big farm in Paris, I might get involved so far as having shares in the stallions and send my mares to the new people. I want to stay involved in Kentucky.”