Long and Short Games - By Evan Hammonds

The evening of Sept. 27 was a memorable one in Central Kentucky. Over at Keeneland Race Course, Gov. Brereton C. Jones was regaled as the 88th Honor Guest at the Thoroughbred Club of America. On the other side of town, friends and family of Will Daugherty gathered to watch a horse he bred, with his father and business partner under the BlackRidge Stables banner, win the grade 1 Chandelier Stakes at Santa Anita.

Jones, with his charming wife, Libby, have operated Airdrie Stud for some 50 years. The BlackRidge Stables crew jump-started their Thoroughbred interests, buying into the charismatic California Chrome in the spring of 2016.

At the TCA dinner the overriding theme of the evening was Jones’ work ethic that had been instilled into him by his father, Bartow Jones. Growing up in Point Pleasant, W.Va., a young Brereton Jones dreamed of moving to Kentucky and raising racehorses. He did just that…and along the way also became governor of the Bluegrass State from 1991-95.

He worked hard to make Airdrie Stud a success, but just like every other success story in the Thoroughbred business, luck plays a major role.

The same can be said for the BlackRidge Stables crew. Daugherty’s father, Bill, along with Bill Barr, has a background in oil and gas, running an exploration and production company that has drilled more than 1,000 wells, primarily in Kentucky. Will’s background focuses on the banking end of the business, and he is a graduate of the Northern Kentucky University law school.

Lured by the star power of dual classic winner California Chrome, the group purchased a few shares in the stallion from Taylor Made Stallions prior to his victory in the 2016 Emirates Airline Dubai World Cup (G1). BlackRidge Stables also owned a small slice of Cathryn Sophia, winner of that year’s Longines Kentucky Oaks (G1).

“We had some ties to Taylor Made, the brothers, and to (account manager) Jeff Hayslett prior to getting involved in the industry, and had met with them a couple of times,” Daugherty said. “The interest in Chrome became available, and we decided it was time to step into it. It didn’t hurt that he won the Dubai World Cup a few days after we bought into him.”

Looking for mares for California Chrome’s first book at the Keeneland November sale, Hayslett and bloodstock analyst Alan Porter pointed them toward Laffina, an Arch mare in foal to Uncle Mo. They were able to make a deal after the mare had RNA’d for $290,000. The resultant foal, which BlackRidge Stables sold for $200,000 as a weanling, sold to Donato Lanni for $500,000 at the 2018 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga select yearling sale. Racing for Charles Chu’s Baoma Corp., the filly, named Bast, burst on the scene, winning the Del Mar Debutante Stakes (G1) by 8 3/4 lengths, and won the Sept. 27 Chandelier Stakes by a neck, with Daugherty and crew watching from Lexington

Laffina was bred to California Chrome in 2017, and the resultant colt sold to the same team a few weeks ago at the Keeneland September yearling sale for $325,000.

“It’s a phenomenal experience and a phenomenal result from a very limited involvement in 2016 to where we are now,” Daugherty said. “Our first interest won the Dubai World Cup shortly after we bought in; our second interest won the Kentucky Oaks shortly after we got involved. But to have a nice piece of a good mare and now to have her become a grade 1 producer is unreal.

“It’s been surreal. We had, for the Debutante, a small group of close friends and family watch it with us, and everybody was over the moon to see her pull away from the field there, and Friday’s race was a bit of a nail-biter down the stretch, but she was a game horse and got her neck out at the right time. There was a lot of relief and excitement.”

Thoroughbred racing is a great equalizer…and can also be electric. It’s a game that sparked an interest in a youthful Brereton Jones more than a half-century ago and a game that has remained captivating enough today to draw in new players such as the BlackRidge team.

Strength to them both.

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