WinStar Farm Excelling in Race to Breed Great Horses

Kenny Troutt, second from left, and Elliott Walden, far right, of WinStar Farm won the Belmont Stakes in partnership in 2016 with Creator. (Eclipse Sportswire)

Although WinStar Farm seeks to breed top-flight horses that excel at classic distances, farm President Elliott Walden chose an interesting term to describe the operation’s explosive growth since its inception in 2000.

He compared it to a “sprint.”

Indeed, the pace of WinStar’s development has left admiring observers breathless. There were six stallions when Walden arrived as racing manager in 2005. Now there are 22. The racing operation spiked from approximately 25 horses to 60. The number of broodmares has grown to 160. There are approximately 500 horses in all.

According to Walden, the dramatic expansion is in keeping with the vision of Kenny Troutt, who owns the picturesque Versailles, Ky., farm with his wife, Lisa.

“We’ve always focused on having a bigger, broader reach than we had in the early days,” Walden said. “I think we’ve done it in a methodical way and with a business approach. We try to apply business principles to everything we do.”

Results speak loudly. WinStar was saluted with an Eclipse Award as leading owner in 2010 after it took down the Kentucky Derby with Super Saver and the Belmont Stakes with Drosselmeyer. It added an Eclipse as outstanding breeder in 2016, when it paced all North American farms with $10,516,427 in earnings in a year highlighted by Creator’s divine Belmont Stakes victory.

Interestingly, Creator was sold to Japan’s Bloodhorse Breeders’ Association in October 2016 as part of an emphasis on an increased involvement with foreign markets from both a buying and selling standpoint.

Japan, Australia, and Great Britain are increasingly in play. WinStar’s classy white and green racing silks appeared at Royal Ascot for the first time when American Patriot competed in the Group 1 Queen Anne Stakes in 2017.

“The horse industry is getting more global all the time,” Walden said. “It’s important to cultivate relationships on an international scale.”

WinStar homebred Super Saver after winning the 2010 Kentucky Derby. (Eclipse Sportswire)

WinStar boasts top stallions such as Distorted Humor, whose fee was as high as $300,000; Tiznow, the only horse to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic in consecutive years (2000-01); and Pioneerof the Nile, sire of American Pharoah, who gained the distinction of becoming the first Triple Crown winner in 37 years when he completed the elusive sweep in 2015. American Pharoah emerged as the first to achieve the “Grand Slam” when he tacked on the Breeders’ Cup Classic to his Triple Crown scores.

Walden points to WinStar’s approximately 150 employees as its greatest strength.

“The dedicated people we have at WinStar are the real key to the success we’ve had,” he said. “We have many dedicated team members that actually started with the farm and have grown with the farm. They’ve grown professionally as well as personally, and it’s been exciting to do it as a team.”

Troutt and Walden do everything possible to cultivate a family atmosphere, from outings to special events to holiday celebrations to the sponsorship of basketball and soccer teams.

WinStar typically seeks partners for its racing stock. Barbara Banke of Stonestreet Farm is prominent among those who have benefitted from such an association.

“I like to partner on stallion prospects I purchase because it reduces risk,” Banke said not long ago.  “Good partners are imperative, and WinStar is a great one.”

From here, WinStar’s emphasis is not necessarily to grow much bigger. It will always strive to make everything better.

“The expansion from here probably lends itself to more international development and the development of a better racehorse at home,” Walden said.

He is confident a recent focus on enhancing the broodmare band will reap rewards, for the race to breed great horses is every bit as intense as on-track competition. 

Fun Facts

  • Several buildings on the farm are listed on the National Register of Historic Places
  • After Super Saver won the 2010 Kentucky Derby, employees received photo commemorating the triumph and a freeze-dried rose
  • WinStar will sponsor an art contest for Louisville students that celebrates the 2018 Kentucky Derby
  • WinStar received a Certificate of Excellence from Trip Advisor for 2017
  • Management works with number of top trainers, including Todd Pletcher and Bill Mott

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