This is Part 2 of 5 in a series about Irap who will start in the Kentucky Derby on May 6.
Part 2: Maternity Ward
On the rolling bluegrass hills of Kentucky’s horse country, there stands a farm that has impacted horse racing at the highest levels. Taylor Made Farm, a family operation dating back to 1976, is located about 17 miles southeast of Keeneland Race Course. With about 500 horses on the farm today, Taylor Made’s role is to act as a sort of the maternity ward and day care center for the horse racing industry. Foals are born and raised at the farm and then sold at auction, usually at one of the big yearling sales. Taylor Made typically sells about a thousand horses a year.
Many racing fans may not be familiar with Taylor Made, but even a horse racing novice would be impressed with the farm’s alumni. You may have heard of American Pharoah, winner of the Triple Crown and the Breeders’ Cup Classic. He was born and raised on the farm before he became a household name. Breeders’ Cup winners like Drosselmeyer and Speightstown bounced around their stalls at Taylor Made before anyone saw them race on national TV. Champions have been raised there. The mothers of champions live there. Even the great California Chrome has retired there for stud duty.
Despite having an alumni roster to rival the Hall of Fame, Taylor Made actually doesn’t own very many horses.
“We own very few of them,” said Frank Taylor, Vice President of Boarding on the farm. “Me and my brothers own, with our customers, a piece of about 50 horses. We’re boarding (the rest of) them for customers, raising them to race or to sell.”
So who owns all those knobby-kneed foals running around the paddocks? Well, it could be just about anyone. You see, every person who gets in to the horse business doesn’t own a farm. So, when someone buys a broodmare, they can board her at Taylor Made, which handles breeding her, raising her foal and selling the foal at auction, usually at a yearling sale. Then the whole process starts anew with the same mare the next year, raising a new foal who heads off to the sales ring as a yearling.
One of Taylor Made’s first customers was Aaron and Marie Jones who have had incredible success breeding over their 40 years in the business. To give you some idea of their success, they bred Breeders’ Cup winners Drosselmeyer, Speightstown and the Hall of Famer Ashado.
“A lot of good horses they’ve had over the years,” Taylor said. “Originally, they raced most everything. As time took over, they sold more and tried to treat it more like a business than a sport. First 30 years, they raced more, and the last 10, they sold more.”
From 1997 until last year, one of the Jones’ horses walked especially tall through the barns of Taylor Made. Silken Cat, a pretty chestnut mare with a white blaze down the middle of her face, was born on March 25, 1993 in Quebec, Canada. In August of the next year, the Joneses bought her for $95,000 – a bargain for the ages. Silken Cat raced in Canada as a two-year-old and, after winning each of her three starts, she was named Champion Two-Year-Old Female in Canada in 1995. She earned $102,000 at the track, but that was a paltry sum compared to what was to come next.