Darby Dan Farm: Quality Runs in the Family
Author: Melissa Nolan
Friday, December 14, 2012 Share on Facebook RSS Feeds

It seems as everything old is new again at Darby Dan Farm in Lexington, Kentucky.  Excitement for the forthcoming 2013 thoroughbred breeding season is high amongst the team at the farm as they make final preparations for the arrival of new foals and productive broodmares.  The hopefulness surrounding a promising new generation of thoroughbreds mirrors the current reinvigorated identity of one of the most historic pieces of land in Central Kentucky. 

Darby Manor

The main tract of Darby Dan Farm is located on the site of notable thoroughbred owner Col. E. R. Bradley’s Idle Hour Farm.  Bought by John W. Galbreath after Colonel Bradley’s death in 1961 and renamed Darby Dan, the farmland encompasses over 600 acres on the north side of Fayette County.  Passing through Darby Dan’s stone entrance and towards the main house, Darby Manor, a noticeable feature of the farm is the distinctly compact and utilitarian layout of the land, barns, and paddocks. 

Darby Dan Stallion Barn

Many stallion stations in Central Kentucky constructed or renovated in recent years have developed a style of farm closer to vast and opulent showcase venues than strictly functioning thoroughbred breeding facilities.   While Darby Dan is not on a small parcel, the cozy proximity of many barns to one another, the main house, and farm office also seems vintage in its utility compared to some expansive modern farms.  The charming, hard-boot feel to the operation illustrates the value Galbreath’s grandson and current owner, John Phillips, has for maintaining the legacy created by Col. Bradley for producing superior thoroughbred bloodstock.

Darby Dan Farm Cemetery

Significant thoroughbred stallions such as undefeated Ribot his sons, full brothers Graustark and His Majesty, Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe winner Sea-Bird, and the Kentucky-bred multiple European champion Roberto all stood at Darby Dan during their stud careers.  Given its history of breeding and cultivating quality bloodlines, Darby Dan continues that tradition for 2013 with three first-year stallions added to its roster —Grade 1 winners Shackleford, Dialed In, and Jersey Town—and welcomes back veteran stallion Perfect Soul.  (The Brisnet.com 5X pedigree for each of the above sires can be accessed by clicking on the stallion’s name.)  Stallions enter stud with reputations earned on the track or reflected in a pedigree page but frequently need the support of quality mares to help ensure success.  Breeding and raising high-class fillies and nurturing them into quality producers is a cornerstone of the Darby Dan vision and accordingly the farm boards an enviable roster of top broodmares.

Shackleford                                               Dialed In                                                      Jersey Town

One such mare boarded at Darby Dan Farm is Oatsee.  As you can see by their Brisnet.com pedigrees, the prolific Oatsee is the dam of graded stakes winners Shackleford, Lady Joanne, Afleeting Lady, and Baghdaria.  Oatsee’s outstanding produce record earned her Kentucky Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders’ Broodmare of the Year for 2011.  Her best may be yet to come as she’s in-foal to Bernardini for 2013 and is one of 130 exceptional mares booked next spring to the brilliant champion Frankel in his first breeding season.

Darby Dan seems to have a particular talent for breeding and raising classy homebred turf racemares and it retains many of its fillies for the broodmare band once they retire from racing.  Once such filly is its multiple Grade 1 turf stakes winner Wonder Again by Silver Hawk.  Bred in 1999 by John Phillips, a Brisnet.com pedigree illustrates that Wonder Again hails tail-female through four generations of mares bred and raised on Darby Dan land beginning in 1960 with her fourth dam, the Swaps mare Soaring.  Through 24 starts and four seasons of racing, Wonder Again amassed Grade One wins at ages 3 and 5, was Grade One stakes placed at age 6, and was in the money in 15 of 24 races.  With three foals of racing age on the ground, Wonder Again has yet to produce a foal possessing talent matching her own but it is only a matter of time before those classy bloodlines find the way back into the winner’s circle.

A second grass-inclined mare who traces back to Darby Dan foundation producer Soaring is Eclipse Champion Turf Filly Soaring Softly.  The Brisnet.com produce and pedigree report for Soaring Softly shows she was bred in 1995 as a homebred for the farm by Kris S. and is similarly bred, but not closely related, to Wonder Again as both are by Roberto-line stallions and trace to Soaring through their dams and granddams.  Bred to some of the most fashionable sires, the best runner out of Soaring Softly is her 2007 Distorted Humor filly Much Rejoicing, appropriately a stakes winner on the turf at Belmont.

Another homebred female thoroughbred legacy fostered by Darby Dan runs through its homebred 2012 graded stakes winners Winter Memories by El Prado, and her older half-sister La Cloche by Ghostzapper.  Through her Brisnet.com pedigree and produce record one sees that the mares share the same dam in Memories of Silver who, like the aforementioned Wonder Again, is a Phillips homebred and Grade One winner on turf sired by Silver Hawk.  Bred in 1993, Memories of Silver represented a third-generation Darby Dan bloodline tracing back through her granddam Java Moon by Graustark.  A theme of heartiness runs through many of the Darby Dan female families as many of its mares not only race but win in top quality races over multiple seasons.  Memories of Silver and her best runners Winter Memories and La Cloche were all turf graded stakes winners their final season on the track. 

Winter Memories and La Cloche

Memories of Silver was undoubtedly top-class.  The mare raced through her 5 year old season starting 19 times with 9 wins and only two off-the-board efforts, won G1s at 3 and 4, and was a multiple graded stakes her final year on the track.  Bred to Storm Cat her first two years as a broodmare, Memories of Silver produced two colts, one of whom sold for $2,400,000 as a yearling in 2001 at the elite Keeneland July Sale and later became a stakes winner and sire.  In the established tradition of fostering quality female bloodlines, Phillips retained Memories of Silver’s 2007 and 2008 fillies for racing and both those foals, La Cloche and Winter Memories respectively, join Darby Dan’s broodmare band for 2013.

La Cloche                                                                     Winter Memories

Four year old Winter Memories was retired last August after a victory in the G1 Diana Handicap at Saratoga.  The powerful grey had previously annexed the G1 Garden City Stakes in 2011 and G3 Miss Grillo Stakes in 2010.  Likewise, older sister La Cloche was a graded stakes winner on the turf capturing the G3 Athenia Stakes earlier this year.  Breeding plans for 2013 are still to be determined for the half-sisters and meanwhile they share a paddock at the farm where they were both bred and raised.

From its hills to its horses, there is so much tradition to the story of Darby Dan Farm.  Speak with any of its employees and the enthusiasm and pride they have for the farm for which they work readily comes across.  Throughout Darby Dan, members of its team use the phrase “working farm” to describe the operation and they value the functionality and significance it implies.  As it continues the transition from private thoroughbred nursery to commercial breeding farm, it is apparent that a core belief in producing quality horses remains a constant goal and one which Darby Dan Farm has been successfully pursuing for a century.  Reverence for the past in conjunction with a vision for the future ensures that the farm is well-positioned for another century of producing Kentucky-bred quality.

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