Visit Horse Country: Star Stallion Power Fuels Gainesway’s Success

Events / Travel
The bucolic setting of Ganesway in Lexington. (Courtesy of Gainesway.)

Gainesway in Lexington combines a rich history with contemporary success like few other stud farms in the renowned central Kentucky breeding region. The farm’s name harkens back to the late John Gaines, one of the most influential figures in the Thoroughbred industry during the 20th century, who established Gainesway in 1974 and subsequently became a prominent commercial breeder and a thought leader in the industry who originated the concept for the Breeders’ Cup World Championships, bringing the hugely popular annual event into existence in 1984.

Today, Gainesway is operated by Antony Beck, the son of the late Graham Beck, who purchased the farm from Gaines in 1989. Graham Beck, a successful winemaker, mining industry businessman, and Thoroughbred breeder in his native South Africa, extended his reach into North America during his tenure at Gainesway before ceding operations to Antony Beck in 1997 (Graham Beck died in 2010). Over the past 22 years, Gainesway has expanded its influence even more, becoming a leading consigner at Thoroughbred auctions and assembling an accomplished stallion roster headlined by three-time North American leading sire Tapit.

Gainesway is situated on 1,500 acres along Paris Pike north of Lexington that, in various incarnations, has housed breeding facilities through the years. The first horse farm on part of the current property, Elmendorf Farm, started in the late 19th century under the ownership of James Ben Ali Haggin and eventually encompassed nearly 10,000 acres until Haggin’s death in 1914, after which the farm was broken up and sold.

Starting with Harry Payne Whitney, members of the Whitney family owned several operations on parcels of the former Elmendorf land from 1917 to 1998, and the list of Thoroughbreds who resided at these farms reads like a roll call for the Racing Hall of Fame, including, among others, Peter Pan, Regret, Twenty Grand, Tom Fool, and Silver Spoon, as well as a variety of prominent sires.

John Gaines purchased 489 acres of the property from Cornelius Vanderbilt “Sonny” Whitney in 1965 and leased it until 1974 before opening Gainesway. A pioneering figure in syndicating stallions and genetic research, Gaines oversaw the expansion of his farm into an international industry powerhouse by the late 1970s and into the 1980s.

The mighty Tapit, a three-time leading sire. (Courtesy of Gainesway.)

Graham Beck bought Gainesway from Gaines in 1989, an adjacent farm that same year, and the rest of the current property from Marylou Whitney in 1998. By that time, Gainesway was already established under Beck’s stewardship due to stallions such as 1990 Kentucky Derby winner Unbridled, who stood at the farm until 1997. Tapit entered stud in 2005 at Gainesway and led the North American general sire list from 2014-2016. He has already sired three Belmont Stakes winners.

Currently, Gainesway’s roster features nine stallions, also highlighted by 2005 Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes winner Afleet Alex, 2004 Belmont winner Birdstone, and 2003 Belmont winner Empire Maker. Empire Maker, perennially one of the leading sires, originally stood in the U.S. before moving to Japan for several years. Gainesway brought him back in 2015 with partner Don Alberto Corp. The farm also stands two young sons of Tapit – 2017 Belmont Stakes winner Tapwrit and 2012 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner Tapizar, the sire of 2018 champion 3-year-old filly Monomoy Girl.

In addition to the stallion business, Gainesway offers sales consignment, sales prep, and boarding services. Gainesway finished second among all consignors at the 2018 Keeneland September yearling auction with nearly $33.7 million in receipts.

Tours of Gainesway’s resplendent facilities and grounds (it’s the only stud farm in the world to be a registered arboretum) are offered through Horse Country, last approximately 1.5 hours, and are offered seasonally. You can currently book your tour in April at this link.

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