Adena Springs Farm is no stranger to success. Owned by Frank Stronach and associated with the prodigious Stronach Stables, Adena Springs is one of the most well-respected and successful farms in the business. Adena's incredible roster of stallions includes Hall of Famer Ghostzapper who is the sire of two standout three-year-olds who will be racing in Kentucky Derby prep races this weekend. McCraken, the favorite in tomorrow's Toyota Bluegrass Stakes at Keeneland, is undefeated in four starts with two graded stakes wins. Iliad, the favorite in tomorrow's Santa Anita Derby, is coming off a win and a second-place finish in Grade 2 races at Santa Anita.
We recently caught up with Adena Springs General Manager Eoin Ryan to discuss the farm, the stallions, Ghostzapper, and the Kentucky Derby trail.
Bourbon and Barns: Adena Springs and Stronach Stables have had great success at the race track with more than 200 stakes winners, including multiple Breeders’ Cup winners and Classic winners. What have been some of the most exciting moments in racing for the farm?
Eoin Ryan: To win a stakes race is a great achievement and, fortunately, we have won multiple Grade 1s over the years. Awesome Again was a huge success for the farm both on the track and later at stud. His homebred son, Ghostzapper, would have to rate up there as one of the most exciting moments in racing. To have a Breeders Cup Classic winner sired by a Breeders Cup Classic winner is phenomenal. Now, we have a homebred by Ghostzapper running called Shaman Ghost who is a multiple Grade 1 winner.
BB: Does the farm have a broodmare band that it uses to develop its runners? Does Stronach Stables ever purchase horses in training or does it strictly race its own stock?
ER: We select the majority of our runners from homebreds. We purchase some yearlings to race and also some horses in training too, but the stable is mostly supported by horses the farm has bred.
BB: The farm has an impressive roster of stallions, including four Breeders’ Cup Classic winners (Awesome Again, Ghostzapper, Fort Larned and Mucho Macho Man). How does the farm acquire its stallions? Does the farm try to acquire stallions from different sire lines and different types of race specialties (sprint, turf, etc)? Or does the farm simply try to acquire the stallions it believes will perform best at stud?
ER: Classic Bloodlines , Classic Performance is our mantra. This is evidenced in our stallion roster with four Breeders Cup Classic winners as you mentioned. To acquire a top stallion prospect in today’s market is extremely difficult. A little more emphasis is placed on a horse who can perform at the top level going the Classic distance but this is not the only formula. We have Point of Entry, a five time Grade 1 winner on turf who is a beautiful individual with a great Phipps family and race record. We hope he will be Dynaformer’s heir. We believe in the stallions we stand and support them with mares.
BB: Does the farm have its own mares that it breeds? Are those mares always bred to your stallions or are they bred to a variety of stallions? Are the progeny generally raised to race for the farm?
ER: Our broodmare band will mostly be bred to our own stallions but not exclusively. We breed to multiple outside stallions. Some of these mares may be sold while pregnant and then others will be foaled out with the view to raise their foals and race them.
BB: How many mares will a stallion cover in a season? Do your stallions ever shuttle to South America or elsewhere for additional breeding?
ER: We usually cap our stallions at 120 mares per season. In doing so, we give our young stallions every chance of success with numbers but, also, we hope it gives the breeders to our stallions some exclusivity when it comes to selling and not flood the market with too many progeny by a single stallion. We typically do not shuttle any stallions to the Southern Hemisphere for breeding but, instead, will breed some mares on Southern Hemisphere time in North America. We believe that the stallions have a very stressful and demanding life throughout breeding season and richly deserve some downtime to just be a horse.
BB: What is a typical day like for a stallion on the farm during breeding season? What about during the rest of the year?
ER: During breeding season the first breeding session is at 8am. Once it’s complete the stallions will get turned out and will remain outside until our second session at 2pm. They will get groomed and exercised and the busier stallions might have a third session at 6:30pm. In the off season, the stallions will spend all night outside and most of the day inside to get out of the heat. We will continue to exercise the stallions throughout the off season to prevent them from getting too heavy.
BB: Ghostzapper entered stud in 2006 after a Hall-of-Fame racing career for Stronach Stables. Ghostzapper won 9 of 11 starts, including the Breeders’ Cup Classic and the Met Mile and more than $3 million in earnings. Today, Ghostzapper is the second-leading sire in North America and stands for $75,000. How would you describe Ghostzapper’s success on the track and at stud?
Ghostzapper is a once-in-a-lifetime type of horse. He was a superstar on the track and now as a sire. He had the speed of a sprinter but could carry it the Classic distance. It’s really no surprise that he has proven to be such a great sire. To be around the horse is a lesson in itself. He has so much class and presence that you can’t help but to be in awe of him. His daughters are off to a great start as producers and he will prove to be a great broodmare sire in years to come. We are blessed to have him and hopefully the best is yet to come.
BB: McCraken, a son of Ghostzapper, recently won the Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs in very impressive fashion. Another Ghostzapper son, Iliad, recently won the San Vicente Stakes at Santa Anita in just the third start of his career. Is the farm excited about Ghostzapper’s Kentucky Derby prospects?
ER: We are very excited for what the next 6-8 weeks might bring. McCraken is undefeated and we know he loves Churchill Downs. Iliad is a very talented horse with a lot of speed. To have two sons of Ghostzapper in the Kentucky Derby picture right now is very exciting and hopefully come the first Saturday in May one of them will be draped in a garland of roses.
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