January 29th, 2000: Teaming With Success

  • June 18, 2009
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The following article originally appeared in the 1/29/00 edition of The Blood-Horse magazine.

By Dan Liebman

The only real decision being made is whether to choose a chicken or steak sandwich, but the weekly luncheon and bull session are critical to the success of one of the world's leading Thoroughbred breeding farms.

At the head of the table - his choice was chicken, by the way - is 81-year-old W.T. Young (who turns 82 on Feb. 15), the master of Overbrook Farm and one of racing's most recognizable owners. Around the table are key advisers and members of Young's management team.

These are the men whose collective input leads to the decisions ranging from which mares get bred to 1999 leading sire Storm Cat to which foals get sold or sent to trainer D. Wayne Lukas.

Make no mistake about it - the team concept is very much an integral part of how Overbrook Farm operates. But also make no mistake about this - W.T. Young is captain of the team. A highly successful businessman, Young appreciates - no, make that encourages - a free flow of ideas. A bad idea is better than no idea. But after weighing all the input, being that it is his money on the line, Young makes the final decisions. He doesn't overrule very often, but he also doesn't rubber stamp. Instead, by surrounding himself with a skilled management team, Young believes the right decision is usually made before he is consulted.

As lunch continues on this late November Tuesday, Young asks why his homebred Breeders' Cup Classic (gr. I) winner Cat Thief is getting no serious support for Horse of the Year. "Because he won only two races," someone replies. "Both grade ones," the owner says. "Two races isn't enough," comes the answer.

Other topics during the casual and informal gathering include who will be the new president of Keeneland (Nick Nicholson gets the job two weeks later), the stock market, a filly who might require surgery, a pressing need to hire a new stallion manager (Wes Lanter is soon hired), slot machines at racetracks, the close race between Storm Cat and Cherokee Run for leading juvenile sire (which Storm Cat wins), the local hockey team, and whether a couple of the owner's colts might not be better served by becoming geldings.

While the conversation continues, Young takes a folded-up piece of paper from his pocket. On it are the names and race records of every Overbrook horse currently in training. While he checks how many geldings are on the list (very few), the farm manager makes an interesting observation: "Did you know, if on January first, when our 2-year-olds turn three, if we gelded every colt who hadn't started, we would still have every stallion in our stallion barn?"

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