Spanning five decades, the Bridlewood Farm name has meant success at the highest levels in Thoroughbred racing, breeding, and sales. Now under the stewardship of John and Leslie Malone, Bridlewood is once again on a course towards prominence.
The Malones are concrete in their plans for Bridlewood:
The Malones are keeping the Bridlewood name--inaugurated by the late Arthur I. Appleton--both to honor its history and to create opportunity. More than 100 stakes winners have been bred and raised under the name Bridlewood, and superstar Champion Smarty Jones is among the many top horses trained at the farm. Many top stallions have stood there as well, including Silver Buck (sire of Hall of Fame champion Silver Charm), Skip Trial (sire of Hall of Fame champion Skip Away), and Stormy Atlantic (Champion Juvenile Sire of 2006). Eight stallions will stand at Bridlewood in 2015, all Graded stakes winners: Aikenite, Backtalk, Benny the Bull, Big Drama, Corfu, Fort Loudon, Mach Ride, and Wagon Limit.
The Malones purchased the 800-acre historic facility in Ocala, Florida in August 2013, and are spearheading its revitalization. In the short span since they purchased Bridlewood, the Malones have procured some of the most sought-after bloodstock in the sales arena, and secured three new Graded stakes winners for their stallion barn. John Malone, Chairman of Liberty Media Corp. (whose holdings include Sirius XM and the Atlanta Braves) is the largest land owner in the United States. Leslie, a horse lover since childhood, is a well known equestrian and major supporter of the U.S. Olympic Dressage Team.
While the Malones credit their Irish heritage for their quest to acquire land, the purchase of Bridlewood hit a little closer to home. "We're approaching retirement age, and we were originally thinking of a retirement place," John told The Blood-Horse. And the thrill and excitement of the Thoroughbred industry, coupled with the opportunity to preserve such a famed operation, was an opportunity too good to pass up.
"It's a beautiful property," John said. "To find a hill in Florida is a rarity. The place has a lot of natural beauty, and visiting the farm kind of brings out the farmer in me."
George Isaacs grew up around cattle and horses on his grandparents' farms in Kentucky. At the age of 18, he began his equine career at Stanley Petter's Hurricane Hall Stud as a groom. In 1981, Isaacs went to work for the late Joe Taylor at John Gaines' Gainesway Farm as a stallion groom and was later promoted to Asst. Stallion Manager as well as Yearling Manager.
Isaacs came to Florida in 1989 to assume the post of Stallion Manager at Arthur I. Appleton's Bridlewood Farm. Three years later, he went to work for Allen Paulson as General Manager of his Brookside South Farm where he was involved with Breeders' Cup winners Ajina, Cigar, Eliza, and Escena, and countless more stakes winners. Mr. Paulson was recognized as Eclipse Award-winning Breeder in 1993, as well as Eclipse Award-winning Owner in 1995-96, during Isaacs' years with him. "To be able to work for Mr. Paulson and all those great horses and people in my early thirties seemed surreal at the time. It was an invaluable learning opportunity that helped prepare me for taking over Bridlewood."
In 1996, Isaacs returned to Bridlewood as General Manager and has overseen the farm's operation ever since. During that time, well over 100 Florida-bred stakes winners and 12 Grade 1 winners have been bred by the farm, including Florida Champions Jolie's Halo, Wild Event, Forbidden Apple, Southern Image, David Junior, and Eden's Moon. In 2001-04, Isaacs helped manage the training and racing career of Kentucky Derby & Preakness winner Smarty Jones for the Chapman family. Leading Florida stallions such as Skip Trial, Stormy Atlantic, Halo's Image, and Put It Back have all stood at Bridlewood under Isaacs' guard.
Born and raised on Paul Mellon's Rokeby Farm in Virginia where he spent much of his youth fox hunting, showing, and working around steeplechase horses, Thomas' professional career in Thoroughbred horse racing began as an apprentice jockey at the age of 17. He won two graded stakes and was the leading apprentice in the country before his riding career ended due to injury in 2000. He returned as an amateur in 2005 and competed internationally in France, Ireland, England, and Germany.
Thomas was an assistant for trainer Christophe Clement for five years, working with such standouts as Voodoo Dancer, England's Legend, and Forbidden Apple to name a few. He then took an assistant trainer position with Dale Romans and worked with Grade 1 winners Kitten's Joy and Roses in May.
Thomas and the reenergized Bridlewood training program have hit the ground running. Graduates include such Grade 1 winners Gun Runner, Tapwrit and Carina Mia, as well as Moonshine Memories and Thomas-trained Catholic Boy, a Grade 1 winner on both dirt and turf in 2018. Owned by Robert LaPenta, Madakat Stable, Siena Farm and Twin Creeks Racing Stable, Catholic Boy won the Belmont Derby Invitational Stakes (G1) on turf in July and captured the prestigious Travers S. (G1) at Saratoga in his next start. In addition to Catholic Boy, Thomas also trains Entirely, a 2-year-old stakes winner in 2018 for owner Augustin Stable.