Claiborne Blog

Cosequin Presents Aftercare Spotlight: Claiborne, Milestone Enjoy Taste Of Olympic Dream

Posted on: August 4, 2016

Original post published on The Paulick Report

by | 08.03.2016 | 4:23pm

We all tend to have our favorite competitions to watch during the Olympics. From Swimming and gymnastics to basketball, track and field, and a little beach volleyball thrown in for good measure, it seems like there’s something for everyone.

This year, a growing number of people in Lexington’s Thoroughbred community will be keeping their eyes on the equestrian competition, as one of their own is set to compete on the world’s biggest stage.

Blackfoot Mystery, who along with rider Boyd Martin, will be competing for the U. S. Eventing Team in Rio beginning this weekend, has captured the interest and hearts of equestrians around the country. It’s those that knew him in his formative years, however, who are as excited about his pending performances as they would be about a Grade 1 stakes race.

“It’s very cool,” said Bernie Sams, general manager of Claiborne Farm. “I started hearing people talk about this Thoroughbred heading to the Olympics, and I thought that was great, but then when I saw he was by Out of Place, I was tickled.”

Out of Place, sire of Blackfoot Mystery, stood at Claiborne Farm after a racing career that saw him win the Whitney, Woodward, Phillip Iselin and Donn Handicaps (all Grade 1 races). Originally retired to Florida to begin his stud career, he was later moved to Claiborne, where he was born and raised, and remained there until his passing in 2010. He is buried in Claiborne’s historic Marchmont cemetery.

While Blackfoot Mystery may not have reached the same heights as his father on the racetrack, over jumps he has soared.

Piloted by Martin, Blackfoot Mystery won the $75,000 Wellington Eventing Showcase in February, then took the Advanced A Division at The Fork. That prepared the 12-year-old chestnut gelding for his first CCI4* event (likened to Grade 1 competition) at this year’s Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event, where he finished an impressive 8th against some of the best eventing horses and riders in the world.

Bred by John O’Meara and raised at his Milestone Farm in Lexington, Ky., Blackfoot Mystery is out of True Mystery, a daughter of Proud Truth, a speedy stakes winner who set a new stakes record at Colonial Downs going a mile on the dirt.

O’Meara purchased True Mystery for $72,000 at the Keeneland November Sale, and after she foaled out the Not For Love foal she was carrying, bred her to Out of Place.

“I chose that mating to add more stamina into the mare,” said O’Meara. “He was a big, strong foal that grew into a bigger yearling.”

The goal was to sell the yearling that would become Blackfoot Mystery at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale in 2005, but bidding stopped at $24,000, failing to meet his reserve price.

“As a yearling he was big and strong, but he was a backwards kind of horse…not unattractive at all – just big and still growing,” said James Keogh, who consigned the horse for O’Meara at Keeneland September. “You knew he was going to need some time to mature, and that’s probably why he didn’t find success as a racehorse.”

O’Meara ended up selling Blackfoot Mystery privately as part of a three-horse deal to one of his clients, Chris Brakos.

“Chris lives in Blackfoot, Idaho and owns a potato farm. That’s why he named him Blackfoot Mystery – a combination of the city and the horse’s dam,” said John. “He eventually sent the horses to California to race.”

Blackfoot Mystery made just three starts as a 3-year-old and failed to hit the board, earning just $1,200.

It was after that third start at Hollywood Park that trainer Jesus Mendoza contacted Leigh Gray of Thoroughbred Rehab Center, a non-profit TAA-accredited aftercare facility that rehabilitates, retrains and rehomes ex-racehorses. Mendoza explained that while the horse wasn’t ideal for racing, he would make a great sport horse for someone.

Blackfoot Mystery got his formative eventing training from Gray’s friend, Shirley Aronson, before being competed by eventer Lisa Peecock and getting his first taste of eventing competition in California. Gray eventually sold him to upper-level eventing rider Kelly Prather, who brought him to the East Coast to train with her coach, Boyd Martin.

Martin, who competed at the 2012 Olympics for the U. S. aboard Otis Barbotiere after being long-listed by the Australian team in 2000, 2004 and 2008, was on the hunt for a horse with Olympic potential after retiring his top competition mounts, Trading Aces and Otis Barbotiere. Once he saw Blackfoot Mystery, his search was over. He soon put a syndicate together and purchased the horse from Prather and set out on a path to (hopefully) Olympic glory.

“Maybe I should just breed eventers,” joked John O’Meara. “I got to spend a bit of time with Boyd when he was here for the Rolex. Holy smoke, I’m happy for the connections and for the horse. I will definitely be tuning in to watch him.”

O’Meara, who also bred Going Wild, a multiple stakes winner and Kentucky Derby competitor, ranks breeding an Olympic horse as one of his biggest accomplishments as a breeder.

Keogh, an equestrian himself who often repurposes retired racehorses for fox hunting, jumping, eventing and other disciplines, feels a similar sense of pride for the affiliation he and his family have with the horse, who begins his Olympic career this weekend.

“I enjoy good horses, period. Dressage, eventing, racing – I just love horses and enjoy it all. I guess in that sense I’m just a big kid who never grew up,” said Keogh. “[My daughter] Georgia has been following him for a while and Boyd has told me how highly he thinks of the horse. My family and I will definitely be watching the equestrian competition and rooting the horse on.”

Sams says the same of Claiborne, noting that the farm is proud of their inaugural representation at the Olympic level.

“There are people from the farm who went out to watch him at the Rolex in April, like Dell [Hancock] and I know they’ll be paying close attention to the coverage,” said Sams. “Whereas I might have watched [the equestrian competition] in the past if it was on tv when I had time to watch, I will definitely be tuning in in for this year. Having a horse conceived at our farm in the Olympics…it’s just so cool.”

Olympic Equestrian Coverage:

Date Time Discipline Network

Saturday, Aug. 6 3:00-4:00pm Eventing (Dressage) USA

Sunday, Aug. 7 4:15-4:45pm Eventing (Dressage) MSNBC

Monday, Aug. 8 9:00am-2:00pm Eventing (Cross Country) USA

Tuesday, Aug 9 9:00-11:00am; Eventing (Stadium Jumping) USA


Thursday, Aug. 11 3:45-4:30pm Team Dressage MSNBC

Sunday, Aug. 14 1:00-1:45pm Individual Show Jumping NBC

Monday, Aug. 15 10:30am-12:30pm Individual Dressage USA

Tuesday, Aug. 16 12:30-1:00pm Team Show Jumping NBC

Wednesday, Aug. 17 11:00-11:30am Team Show Jumping Final NBC

Friday, Aug. 19 10:00-10:40am Individual Show Jumping NBC


*Blackfoot Mystery and Boyd Martin will compete in Eventing (Dressage, Cross-Country and Stadium Jumping)

Jen Roytz is a marketing, publicity and comprehensive communications specialist based in Lexington, Kentucky. A native of Cleveland, Ohio, her professional focus lies in the fields of equine, health care, corporate and non-profit marketing. She holds board affiliations with the Make a Wish Foundation, Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance and the Retired Racehorse Project, among others. While she currently has no plans to build an arc, she is the go-to food source for two dogs, two cats and two off-track Thoroughbreds.

Email Jen your story ideas at or connect with her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

2016 Stallion Superlatives

Posted on: July 6, 2016

You may be familiar with Orb’s racing career or War Front’s breeding successes, but do you know much about their personalities around the barn? Below you will find our groom’s nominations for this year’s Stallion Superlatives. We hope you enjoy getting to know some of our studs a little better!

Arthur B. “Bull” Hancock, Jr. Elected to the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame as a Pillar of the Turf

Posted on: June 23, 2016

Edited Press Release from National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame

Arthur “Bull” Hancock, Jr. has been elected to the National Museum of Racing’s Hall of Fame as a 2016 Pillar of the Turf inductee along with William Woodward, Sr. They will be inducted in Saratoga on Friday, August 12, 2016

The Pillars of the Turf category was introduced in 2013 to “honor individuals who have made extraordinary contributions to Thoroughbred racing in a leadership or pioneering capacity at the highest national level.” Candidates are considered for their integrity and commitment through ownership, breeding, innovation, philanthropy, promotion of the sport, and education.

Hancock (1910-1972), who grew up on Claiborne Farm near Paris, Ky., graduated from Princeton University in 1933. He served in the Army Air Corps from 1941 through 1945 before taking over Claiborne when his father became ill in the late 1940s. Hancock then built upon an already grand foundation, expanding the farm from 2,100 acres to roughly 6,000, to make Claiborne arguably the most important thoroughbred farm in the world.

For 15 consecutive years, from 1955 through 1969, Hancock stood America’s leading sire at Claiborne. Then in 1972, the year of Hancock’s death at the age of 62, Round Table reinstated the farm as home of the leading sire. The top stallions at Claiborne during Hancock’s era included Nasrullah, Princequillo and Bold Ruler. Hancock also acquired for stud other internationally influential horses such as Nijinsky II, Ambiorix, Damascus, Sir Ivor, Tom Rolfe and Forli. In an example of the farm’s consistent excellence under Hancock’s leadership, Claiborne raised at least one champion each year from 1952 through 1972, including five years when the farm raised as many as four divisional champions. Six of the divisional champions of 1957 were earlier foaled at Claiborne: Nadir, Bold Ruler, Bayou, Dedicate, Round Table and Neji. Hancock bred and raced the champions Moccasin, Nadir, Doubledogdare and Bayou.

Thirty-two champions that raced for outside clients were foaled at Claiborne during Hancock’s era, including Hall of Fame members Kelso, Buckpasser, Nashua, Forego, Bold Ruler, Round Table, Riva Ridge and Cicada, as well as standouts Dedicate, Numbered Account, Bald Eagle, Ridan, Hoist the Flag and First Landing, among others. Hancock had a long-standing partnership arrangement with William Haggin Perry, whereby half of each Claiborne foal crop raced in Perry’s silks and half in Claiborne’s. Hancock also bred four European champions while at Claiborne, including Nureyev and l’Arc de Triomphe winner Ivanjica. Claiborne was America’s top breeder in earnings in 1958, 1959, 1968 and 1969 under Hancock’s direction.

Overall, Hancock bred 112 stakes winners in the Claiborne name, while also serving as an adviser to several prominent outside clients, including the Phipps family and William Woodward, Sr. Hancock had the distinction of being the first working horseman to be elected to The Jockey Club. He was also president of the American Thoroughbred Breeders Association and vice president of the American Thoroughbred Owners Association. Hancock was a key figure in the merger of those two organizations in 1961 into the present-day Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association (TOBA).

In addition, Hancock was a director and trustee at Keeneland and a director of Churchill Downs, where he was one of the dozen who purchased controlling interest in the track to avoid a conglomerate takeover. He also was a member of the Kentucky Racing Commission, a director of the Grayson Foundation and a founding member and director of the Thoroughbred Breeders of Kentucky, in which role he played a part in establishing the American Horse Council.

5K at Claiborne Farm – Saturday, May 14, 2016

Posted on: April 4, 2016


Click here to sign up today! 

Rodel’s Recollection of one of Claiborne’s Finest: Arch

Posted on: February 3, 2016

arch stall rodeo

The day Arch passed away was one of the saddest days of Rodeo’s life.  It was unexpected, and Rodeo wasn’t prepared to lose his equine friend.  It brings tears to Rodeo’s eyes that his time with one of Claiborne’s greats is over.  Arch’s presence here at Claiborne will not be soon forgotten; Arch was special.

Arch was loved, and Rodeo saw to Arch’s needs on a day in and day out basis for 8 years.  He had actually only acquired the job of being Arch’s main groomsman by switching out another horse for Arch.  Another team member and Arch simply weren’t getting along because they just couldn’t relate to each other.  Rodeo literally grasped the halter of this great stallion and saw the opportunity to perhaps bond with this magnificent, strong-willed horse and that is the beginning of their story!

Over time, Rodeo and Arch created a bond that felt more like “family” than an actual person caring for just an animal.  Rodeo took the time to notice the things that Arch enjoyed and carefully watched for the things that really could trigger his friend to become annoyed or hard to handle.  As time went on, Rodeo learned that this stallion was a special, well-mannered horse that had quite the precarious personality at times.

For instance, when Rodeo would go to get him out for visitor showings, Arch would swing open the door with his nose and then attempt to slide the slat in his stall across.  He loved showing off the fact that he knew what was supposed to happen next.  Rodeo said that if you didn’t pay attention, Arch would have easily let himself out.  Another memorable moment for him and Arch was when he returned from vacation.  Arch would hear his voice and let out a loud whinny to let Rodeo know that he had truly missed his friend and was happy that he was back!

Rodeo’s favorite time spent with Arch was when Arch wanted to nuzzle with the whiskers on Rodeo’s face.  He just loved to wipe his nose back and forth while Rodeo loved the intimate touch his friend was willing to have with him.  Of course, as most of our horses here at Claiborne, Arch also loved his peppermints!  When he heard the crinkling noise of the wrapper being removed, he would nicker for his favorite hard treat.

Around the stud lot, Arch wasn’t a slacker by any means!  He was well known to love the ladies (mares) that called upon him and for getting the job done!

It’s easy to see that the recollection Rodeo has of Arch is like that of a family member, not just a great stallion with a strong willed personality that loved his peppermints and time spent with his friend.  All of us along with Mrs. Dilschneider will miss this magnificent stallion standing here at Claiborne Farm, but his legacy will live on in the many foals that have been produced by this great sire and their racing, breeding or stallion careers!

« Previous Page