The trio of races for 3-year-olds on the first Saturday of February produced some buzz for the first Saturday in May. A closing kick at Gulfstream Park often draws attention, and 29-1 Fasig-Tipton Holy Bull Stakes (G2) winner Harvey Wallbanger did just that. Two-time Triple Crown-winning trainer Bob Baffert added more firepower for 2019 with Mucho Gusto’s score in the slop in Santa Anita’s Robert B. Lewis Stakes.
However, it was a name among the connections of Feedback, winner of Gulfstream’s Forward Gal Stakes (G3) for 3-year-old fillies that caught our attention. The breeder of the Violence filly is Wolverton Mountain Farm and Cameron Wheeler.
We immediately thought of the country oldie “Wolverton Mountain.” The song that was a number 1 hit in 1962 gets limited airplay these days, but will pop up from time to time if one listens to the “Willie’s Roadhouse” channel on SiriusXM satellite radio.
When the melody stopped echoing in our head, we called the farm to see whether there was a connection. Found out there was.
Dr. Bart Barber, a field practitioner for Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital in Central Kentucky, is the owner of Wolverton Mountain Farm, located along the banks of the Elkhorn Creek in Scott County. While the focus of his practice these days is with the Taylor Made Sales Agency, he breeds a few on the family farm.
“I have four daughters if that helps,” Barber said with a laugh about the song. “It’s about a guy named Clifton Clowers and he has a pretty daughter. Boys better not be climbing the mountain...”
The opening lines of the song tell the tale:
“They say don’t go on Wolverton Mountain
If you’re looking for a wife
Cause Clifton Clowers has a pretty young daughter
He’s mighty handy with a gun and a knife.”
“The farm and the horses are all for the family—we’re all in this together,” Barber said. “That was just the theme, and we thought it was humorous. Most people of this generation don’t recognize it, but when you catch someone who does recognize the song and then you tell them you have four daughters, it gets a pretty good response.”
Barber’s daughters are 23, 21, 19, and 17. He also has a son, 12.
The farm is a family affair, with the children tasked with taking care of the horses. Along with being a bargain hunter when shopping for broodmares, one of Barber’s criteria is the horses have to be gentle and easy to handle.
Barber, along with his in-laws, Cameron and Beverly Wheeler, purchased Honest Answer, the dam of Feedback, while she was carrying the Forward Gal winner, for $48,000 at the 2015 Keeneland November sale. That was a hefty sum for the outfit.
“It started with cheaper horses; a lot of time it was free horses,” Barber said. “We’ve worked from the bottom. We’ve had some fairly nice horses on a cheaper budget, and we’ve had some good luck.”
As for Feedback, she was pretty laid back in the beginning.
“All of my mares go to Terry Nickell at Endeavor Farm to foal, and after a week or so we bring them back home,” Barber said. “When we brought Honest Answer and her foal off the van, my daughter had the foal, and I was leading the mare. It was kind of a warm, sunny day, and the baby, as soon as she got off the trailer, found a warm, sunny patch of grass and just laid down out on the lawn for about half an hour.”
On the track, however, Feedback has been a terror for Klaravich Stables and trainer Chad Brown. A maiden winner by eight lengths last summer at Saratoga, she won the Forward Gal by a half-length as the 1-2 favorite. The Barbers watched from home.
“We were all fairly nervous,” Barber admitted. “My oldest daughter is in Utah, and she streamed the race. We had high expectations especially after what she did in Saratoga. It was a lot of fun to see it materialize.”
And it was a lot of fun learning about the Barbers and remembering the tale of Clifton Clowers.