By Bill Heller
Separate transactions at the October 17th Saratoga Mixed Sale, one generating headlines and the other barely causing a ripple, proved how important smaller breeding operations are in the continuing health of the rich New York-bred program.
“There’s a lot of us out there,” Saratoga Glen Farm’s Kathy Barraclough, a native of Australia, said. “We’re all trying to do the right thing: breed good horses.”
She and her husband Dan, who in 2001 opened Saratoga Glen Farm in Schuylerville, 10 miles from Saratoga Springs, certainly hit a home run with a daughter of Yaupon who was co-bred by Beals Racing Stable and sold for $125,000, making her the top weanling filly of the one-day sale.
Few people knew about Orient Moon, a mare in foal to Blame and purchased for $20,000 by Chicago-based Paul Jackson, who decided to keep the mare at Noble Run Farm in Saratoga Springs with his frequent partner, Alicia Groff. “She’s wonderful,” Groff said. “She’s settling in. I’m excited to see that baby.” So is Paul, who wasn’t even sure he had purchased the mare with his last online bid. “Bidding online is getting more and more popular,” said Paul, who also has horses in Kentucky with Scott Pierce. “I really like the New York program. I like the rewards.”
That the Barracloughs and Jackson/Groff have repeatedly helped horses who needed it the most make their stories even better.
Think about it: a woman from Australia and a businessman from Chicago are two of the many reaping the generous benefits of New York’s breeding program and bonuses. “It’s kind of nice all the way around,” Kathy said.
Dan said, “Without question, the New York-bred program is the best in the country. The quality of horses is fantastic. We’ve proved we can compete anywhere in the world. The bonuses are very lucrative. We need them because it costs more to have a horse in New York. It’s a harsher environment. Without the awards, I don’t think our horses could compete.”
Born in Queensland, Australia, Kathy said, “I wanted to work aboard and wanted to teach riding; I had no intention to stay in the United States.”
Then she met Dan. She returned to Australia, but came back on a three-year student visa. While Dan was finishing college at Cornell University, Kathy worked for the McMahons, whose McMahon of Saratoga Thoroughbreds is practically across the street from Saratoga Glen Farm. “I worked with them doing foaling and basic farm care,” Kathy said. “Then Joe asked me to take over their satellite farm. He said, `Why don’t you take over my clients?’”
Kathy, who dabbled in training, and Dan did just that. The Barracloughs remain close to the McMahons. “We always try to help each other out,” Kathy said.
Dan comes from Roxbury in Delaware County, New York, some 100 miles southwest of Saratoga Springs. His mom used to ride. “My father was an anesthesiologist and my mother was an emergency room nurse,” Dan said. “I thought I would be a vet. I went into college with that in mind. I was also taking farm management classes. I was a teacher for a couple years, high school animal science. Everyone around me kept telling me, `You can’t make a living in horse racing.”
Paying no attention to the advice, he bred and sold his first Thoroughbred in his sophomore year at Cornell. “I actually started breeding warmbloods, and that translated into breeding Thoroughbreds,” Dan said. “I bought a mare, Satan’s Arcangel, and bred her to A.P. Jet. Then I sold the resulting foal, Angel of the Sea. We got $37,000. Stupid me, I invested in more mares. I should have gotten out while I was ahead.”
Dan’s life changed when he met Kathy at Golden Acres, a Jewish resort in Galboa in the northern Catskills. “I grew up a Roman Catholic and Kathy was from Australia and not exposed to Judaism,” Dan said. “It was sort of a dude ranch and a weird melting pot about 10 miles from my house In Roxbury. We rode trail horses all day and took care of a herd of 35. There were people from Russia, Sweden, New Zealand, Ireland, England, Poland, the Netherlands, Australia and Czechoslovakia.”
With the McMahons help, Dan and Cathy began Saratoga Glen Farm. “I thought it would be wonderful to work with horses,” Kathy said. “It fell into place without really trying. It worked out really well. We’ve been married 23 years. We don’t even celebrate our anniversary. We’re always busy. We’re hands-on.”
When a horse, or a former horse, needs help, the Barracloughs respond. “There’s been a bunch of them,” Dan said. “We re-home five to 10 horses a year, horses that were born here and clients who have horses they want to retire.”
Their $125,000 weanling sale was much appreciated. “We had a good day,” Dan said. “It’s a whole process. It starts 18 months earlier. You kind of have a plan in mind. It came together that day.”
Kathy said, “It’s very rewarding. All that hard work is worth doing day in and day out. If you work and you can figure out what the market is, sometimes you can get a nice horse.”
That was the goal of Paul Jackson, who owns a metal finishing company, South Holland Metal and Finishing, in a suburb of Chicago with his wife.
Now 59, he got into horse racing just a few years ago. “Me and my two buddies were turning 55,” he said. “We were looking for something to do together. We got into a syndicate and bought 10 percent of three horses. Our objective was to take guy trips to watch our horses run. Then Covid hit and we couldn’t go to watch them run. It just wasn’t any fun. It wasn’t what we were hoping for.”
Trips to Lexington rekindled his enthusiasm and he bought a couple of mares who ended up foaling late, one in late March and another in May. “It didn’t sit well with me,” Paul said.
His luck changed when he met Bill Johnson, who runs Stonegate Farm in Fort Edward, 10 miles from Saratoga Springs, and Turning Point Bloodstock. “Bill said, ‘Paul, you have to go away from the farm you’re at and breed New York-breds,” Paul said. “Then, the best thing that happened to me was I got involved with Tommy Eastham of Legacy Bloodstock. He’s been a godsend. All he does is sell your horses. He has no ulterior motives. I sat down with Tommy and he told me to get together with Scott Piece. That was about three years ago. He owns Hidden Creek Farms. His oldest son, Alec, is his right-hand man. Those two guys are the best horse people I’ve met, the most honest guys I’ve met. They get it. They want me to be successful.”
So does Alicia Groff at Noble Run Farm. They met through Bill Johnson. “My family trained horses,” she said. “I’m a third-generation cattle farmer. I started working with Bill Johnson. I got into it. I wanted to do this all the time. I do a lot of breeding. I love working with Paul. He’s a great person. We have a great relationship. He had a Giant’s Causeway mare. I took her and we instantly clicked.”
Alicia has spent a good chunk of her life helping horses. She runs a small day camp for children six through 10, teaching them beginning horsemanship. Two of the horses they work with are Oliver, a 30-year-old Percheron she got from the Amish, and another horse from the Amish, four-year-old Bo.
“My entire life, I didn’t relate to people that much,” Alicia said. “From the day I could say ‘horses.’ It’s in my blood, so deep in my blood. Horses don’t owe humans anything. People owe them plenty. They see horses as making money. I just don’t look at it that way. I look at this horse that has crossed my path for some reason, and I have to make him okay. My horses who were rescued are here until they die.”
That doesn’t mean she doesn’t want all her horses to succeed. She and Paul hope Orient Moon will produce a good one. “There are three major reasons I bought her,” Paul said. “She’s produced a Grade 2 stakes-placed horse. She’s not really old, 14. And she’s in foal to Blame.”
Blame stands for $25,000 at Claiborne Farm in Kentucky. “I thought she’d bring $40,000, $50,000 at the sale, but she stalled at $10,000,” Paul said. “Then I bid on her.”
He got her for $20,000. And he is looking forward to having a New York-bred by Blame foaled next year. He’s hoping for a filly because he believes Blame is evolving into an excellent broodmare sire.
“I’m going to have her stay in New York, then will breed her to a Kentucky stallion the next year,” Paul said. “My plan is to then send her back to New York the year after that.”
Alicia said, “All of us make the world go round.” Especially a businessman in Chicago and a horsewoman from Australia.