Irish Eyes Are Smiling - By David Schmitz

(Originally published in the January 7, 2012 issue of The Blood-Horse magazine. Feel free to share your own thoughts and opinions at the bottom of the column.)  

Anthony Hegarty and John Wade are successful residential builders and developers in the Chicago area, but their success doesn’t end in the construction business. It has extended to the sport of Thoroughbred racing where they participate as breeders, consignors, and farm owners.

The two men, both natives of Ireland, are the breeders of recent grade I winner The Factor, plus co-owners of Hunter Valley Farm near Versailles, Ky., with fellow Irish countrymen Fergus Galvin and Adrian Regan. The Factor, who won the Malibu Stakes (gr. I) at Santa Anita Dec. 26 in near-track-record time for George Bolton and David Shimmon’s Fog City Stable (see page 54), was raised at Hunter Valley.

“It’s great when it comes to breeding and raising a grade I winner,” Hegarty said.

Hegarty and Wade, who own A&J Construction Company and who bred The Factor in the name H & W Thoroughbreds, started in racing after Wade had visited Kentucky.

“John was curious about the sport and went to Kentucky and met up with some guys,” Hegarty said. “He came back and said, ‘You’ve got to go down there and see what it’s like,’ but I said I didn’t want to. He kept talking about it and finally I went. That started the wheels in motion.”

Their introduction into the sport started with The Lads, a Lexington-based weanling-to-yearling pinhooking group comprising mostly individuals of Irish ancestry. The outfit hit a home run at the 1999 Keene­land September sale when it sold a Kris S. colt for $900,000 that it had bought for $100,000 as a weanling at the 1998 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky November mixed sale.

By 2002 Hegarty and Wade were looking to increase their involvement in racing. The two men teamed up with Galvin and Regan to buy Golden Gate Stud on Huntertown Road. The farm was renamed Hunter Valley.

Prior to their involvement with Hunter Valley, Galvin and Regan had served in managerial positions. Galvin was breeding shed manager of Ashford Stud near Versailles, and Regan managed the Stilz family’s Crescent Hill Farm, also near Versailles.

“Fergus and Adrian brought a lot of practical knowledge to the operation because of their farm experience,” Hegarty said. “All four of us make decisions when it comes to the farm, but John and I leave a lot of it to Fergus and Adrian because they’re the experts. We believe in people who know what they’re doing.”

Hegarty visits Hunter Valley about 10 times a year. “I visit the farm to get away from things,” he said. “Kentucky reminds me a lot of Ireland.”

“They are exceptional partners,” Regan said. “They enjoy the good times and take the bad with a pinch of salt. When things don’t go right, they’re 100% behind every decision Fergus and I make.”

Hegarty and Wade, who have a few horses in training, currently focus more on breeding.

“With the economy the way it is, it makes more sense to focus on breeding,” Hegarty said. “If it weren’t so bad, we’d have more horses in training.”

One of their runners, Pedrolino, is on a hot streak at Fair Grounds. Pedrolino won the Claiming Crown Iron Horse Stakes in early December and ran third in the Buddy Diliberto Memorial Handicap the day of the Malibu.

“Our trainer, Doug Matthews, has a done a great job with Pedrolino,” Hegarty said. “Of course, our main goal is to win a grade I stakes.”

The Factor, whose Malibu score was his fourth graded win in 2011, is from the first crop of War Front, who won the Alfred G. Vanderbilt Breeders’ Cup Handicap (gr. II) at Saratoga and twice was grade I stakes-placed in New York. War Front entered stud in 2007 for $12,500 at the Hancock family’s Claiborne Farm near Paris, Ky.

“He was a solid stallion prospect at the time, but I can’t remember what really stood out,” Regan said. “We pick sires in November and just take a shot. We take a chance on a couple of freshman sires each year.”

“The Factor turned out to be a lovely foal,” Regan added. “He was good-looking and well-behaved. There was nothing that stood out that I didn’t like.”

Consigned by Hunter Valley Farm, agent, The Factor was purchased as a weanling for $50,000 by Iroquois Bloodstock III at the 2008 Keeneland November breeding stock sale. He was sold twice more at auction, fetching just $40,000 at the 2009 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky July yearling sale but $250,000 at the 2010 Barretts May sale of 2-year-olds in training when purchased by George Bolton.

Hunter Valley no longer owns The Factor’s dam, Greyciousness (by Miswaki). The farm privately sold her when The Factor was a yearling.

Greyciousness’ most recent reported foal, an unnamed 2-year-old filly by Run Away and Hide, was bred by Run Away and Hide Syndicate and Dawn Martin.

Hunter Valley, alone and in partnership, is the breeder of additional 2011 stakes winners Quick Flip, Saint Isabelle, and Proceed Bee. Bred by the farm in partnership with H & W Thoroughbreds and Mary Wade, Proceed Bee is a graded stakes winner who has won eight stakes in his career.

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