Nancy Dillman, who lives in Anchorage, Ky., is having a year that many breeders can only dream about. Her small program has
been represented in 2011 by grade I winner Havre de Grace and a Bernardini colt that brought $1.2 million at the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga select yearling auction and shared the sale-topping honor with a half brother to 2010 Kentucky Derby Presented By Yum! Brands (gr. I) winner Super Saver.
Both Havre de Grace and the $1.2 million yearling re out of Easter Bunnette, one of only three active broodmares owned by Dillman. A story about Dillman, who is a long-time Mill Ridge Farm client, appeared n The Blood-Horse in the "Winner's Circle" feature, but following are some of er comments that the magazine didn't have room to publish.
On her breeding program: "I don't want to put a lot of financial strain on my marriage (to cardiologist Carl Dillman), so I keep it
small, but I try to upgrade all the time. I am comfortable or more comfortable paying in the $350,000 to $500,000 range for a broodmare. I don't go out and uy multi-million-dollar broodmares. Then I have a level of $35,000 to 100,000 for a stud fee You can get good horses from that combination."
On how she operates her and her husband's 45-acre Stonegate Farm: "I have a very good man, Patrick Churchill, who lives on a house on our roperty. He's been with me since he was 19 and he's now 42, so he's been with me a long, long time. He manages the place. We've had other people come in and ut, but it's his main project Of course, I'm always out there every dayinterfering. I used to be very much hands-on in terms of even holding the foalsfor the farrier and so forth and so on. But as I have aged, I've got no rotator cuff left and there are aches and pains. I let the young men hold the babies or the farrier. But I take them carrots, groom them, watch them grow, and keep sharp eye out for any little nicks and cuts."
On buying Easter Bunnette (while in foal to Dynaformer), through Nicoma Bloodstock, for $450,000 at the 2003 Keeneland
November breeding stock sale: "At the time I was looking for a mare and we had a list. As often happens, the ones that I liked that were too expensive for me. Alice handler (of Mill Ridge Farm) was working the sales and she and I were talking. She said, ‘You know, we have a mare in our consignment that I think you ought to look at.' Well I did and I loved her (Easter Bunnette's) pedigree. She was very well balanced, but she wasn't a very ood mover, so I think that's why I got her. Over the years I've had her she's gotten some chiropractic treatments and she's moving a lot better now."
On Easter Bunnette's temperament: "I do remember that she apparently was hard to handle at Mill Ridge. After I bought her, she went
back to Mill Ridge for a while and one of the long-time employees of the farm confided in me and said, ‘Oh, we were hoping that that one would be sold because she was little difficult.' But she's gotten better and I think it's because of the quiet here (at Stonegate Farm). Patrick nd I are usually the only two who are physically handling the horses. They see the same people every day and it's just a quiet situation. The mares that are a ittle more fractious at larger commercial farms settle down here. She's a lovely mare except that she wants to be the first for the carrots all the time."
On breeding Easter Bunnette to Saint Liam to get avre de Grace: "I like Horses of the Year and I like a horse that has what I consider in watching their particular racing career to be grit. That's stallion I'm liable to go after, not necessarily the most popular stallion.
"I liked the cross (with Saint Liam and Easter unnette), I liked Saint Liam's look, and I liked his career. I thought he was a grand looking-individual. I was crushed that his stallion career was shortened. He only had one crop. It was tragic, but it was an accident, a slip on the ice."
On breeding Easter Bunnette to Bernardini to get the 1.2 million colt: "I thought he was a lovely looking individual and he also
was a Horse of the Year. He was a wonderful 3-year-old champion. Cara Rafaela, his mother, was a filly that I was very, very fond of when she was racing; she captured my imagination. There were just all of those ingredients together. I admired his (Bernadini's) mother and I admired him (Bernardini) as a physical specimen. I admired his racing career and, of course, he was a Horse of the Year. What as there not to like?"
On her fondness for Sheikh Mohammed's Darley stallion operation: "I frequently find that I breed (my mares) to Darley stallions. Of course, there was a time there when they bought up almost everything (available among stallion prospects) that came around. I think that Sheikh Mohammed loves horses, studies pedigrees, and does his analysis very carefully. He isn't just blindly buying, so I always take a careful look at what he has to offer and frequently like what he has to offer."
On selling a yearling for $1.2 million: "I was excited and I was stressed. You know, you don't sleep very well do you (in a situation like that)? Every day you just have to keep your fingers rossed that everything comes together. We were blessed to have a situation where avre de Grace was running well and we had a yearling that was such a fine physical specimen with such a level head. That really doesn't happen very often.
"(During the bidding) I was holding my breath. Headley (Bell of Mill Ridge and Nicoma) kept saying, ‘Breathe!' It was thrilling, absolutely thrilling. I was hoping for a million dollars, and so when the million arrived, I just enjoyed the next two bids. I could breathe and enjoy the next two bids. It was wonderful for me being such a small breeder. I can have a little pocket change, give
everybody a bonus that works for me, and buy a new broodmare."