Bridlewood Farm stallion Chitu was the leading Florida first-crop yearling sire at the recent OBS 2018 Winter Mixed Sale, held on Jan. 24-25.
Baoma Corporation’s Valiant Minister, a record-priced 2-year-old at OBS, has been retired and will take up stud duty at Bridlewood Farm in Ocala, FL. His 2018 fee will be $2,500 S&N...
Moonshine Memories stamped herself as the division leader with an emphatic victory in the $300,000 Chandelier S. (G1) Saturday afternoon at Santa Anita Park...
Moonshine Memories backed up her TDN Rising Star maiden win just two weeks ago with another stellar performance in Saturday's $300,000 Del Mar Debutante (G1)...
Moonshine Memories turned in a stellar performance in her debut Saturday at Del Mar, winning her maiden special weight debut by one length in a swift 1:10.08 for the six furlongs...
Thursday, March 14, 2013

Proud Transition - Bridlewood Farm retains its class in changing role

The late Arthur I. Appleton will forever be remembered for building up Bridlewood Farm near Ocala, Fla., into one of the industry's most respected and successful Thoroughbred operations. Established by Arthur and his wife, Martha, on 500 acres in 1976, Bridlewood Farm has been a perennial leading breeder in Florida and routinely ranks in the top 10 on a national basis. The farm,which grew over the years to encompass nearly 900 acres, is responsible for breeding, racing, or training more than 200 stakes winners in its illustrious history.

Among the best horses bred and/or raced by Appleton before his passing in 2008 are David Junior; Jolie's Halo; Forbidden Apple, Florida's Horse of the Year in 2001 out of that year's Florida Broodmare of the Year North Of Eden; Wild Event; and Southern Image.

Some of Florida's most influential stallions have called Bridlewood Farm home. My Gallant, Buckaroo, Skip Trial, Stormy Atlantic, and Halo's Image all made indelible marks on the breed while standing at the farm.

Today, Appleton's daughter, Linda Appleton-Potter, and longtime general manager George Isaacs are leading a hopeful period of transition. Bridlewood Farm, which operates under the auspices of the Arthur Appleton Estate, while still a stallion station, has moved into more of a commercial role in the industry in recent years. The modification of the business plan was implemented to extend the life of the farm.

"Last year we made the difficult decision to put the farm on the market," said Isaacs, Bridlewood's general manager since 1996. "We're trying to find someone to purchase the property who will embrace what Bridlewood stands for and be true to the philosophy that made the farm what it is. It needs to be someone who is truly appreciative of the facility and the historic tradition behind it. If a big housing developer came in here to buy Bridlewood, it wouldn't happen. This property was intended to be a Thoroughbred nursery, and that was Mr. Appleton's vision. It is imperative that we find the right buyer to perpetuate Mr. Appleton's dream and legacy.

"This is a turn-key operation," he added. "We have the stallions. We have the employees. This team could do it all again under the proper circumstances and with the right person."

It has been a long, challenging road for the farm since Appleton passed away.

"At the time of Mr. Appleton's passing, the economy was correcting and the horse industry was going through its difficulties at the same time," Isaacs said. "It was unfortunate timing, and it was difficult to endure. We have had to take strong measures to make it through these times, so we have changed the direction of the farm to focus more on training and sales and emphasize the commercial aspect. We have had to identify new income streams for the farm."

Most of Bridlewood's bloodstock holdings have been sold in phases in recent years while other facets continue to bring in money. Pastures are leased to an Argentine polo team, las Monjitas polo, to freshen up horses during the offseason. The farm boards 91 client horses on the property and a training barn is leased to Jonathan Thomas, Todd Pletcher's former New York assistant.

"Sadly, little by little we have sold our stock," said Isaacs. "It's been a gradual phase out. Of course, it's very bittersweet for me, but we have to carry on. Now we are effectively transitioning to a boarding and training center in addition to the stallion division. last fall we made the decision to lease a training barn to Jonathan. In my opinion, he's one of the best young trainers in the industry, and I believe he will likely have the training division full next year.

"It's been very hard on all of us," Isaacs continued. "This is a labor of love for me. I have spent 20 years of my life working at Bridlewood. When I took over the general manager position, Mr. Appleton was elderly but in reasonably good health. We had a lot of inventory and very nice stock. We had a vibrant racing stable with 30-40 horses in training. We also had an active and successful roster of stallions and 60-65 broodmares. Success wasn't rocket science. I made decisions and managed everything, but we were fortunate to have very good horses in all phases of the operation during those years."

With the challenges in perspective, Isaacs remains bullish on the future, and with plenty of reason. Today, put It Back, Florida's leading sire of 2012, is carrying on Bridlewood's tradition of excellence in the stallion ranks. Bridlewood owns the son of Honour and Glory in partnership with Julio Bozano's Haras Santa Maria de Araras.

Winner of the seven-furlong Riva Ridge Stakes (gr. II) at Belmont park as a 3-year- old in 2001, put It Back won five of seven starts in his career, amassing earnings of $232,895.

"Dr. Ignacio Leon called me about Put It Back when the colt was 3 years old," Isaacs said, "and we entered into a relationship with Haras Santa Maria de Araras on the horse. He has truly become a great stallion for Florida."

Put It Back has enjoyed success both in the U.S. and South America. He is the sire of Brazilian champions Requebra, Skypilot, and Nitido, as well as Back On Top, a champion in Trinidad and Tobago. In the U.S., Put It Back has sired the grade I stakes winner, millionaire, and 12-time winner In Summation, and grade I winner Jessica Is Back; as well as graded winners Black Bar Spin and Smokey Stover.

"Most years Put It Back shuttles to Brazil or Argentina because Mr. Bozano has farms in both countries," Isaacs said. "His runners have done very well in South America."

Isaacs attributes Put It Back's success at stud to numerous factors.

"He is a very strong physical-type stallion. He had tremendous speed on the racetrack, and he is a complete outcross for most of the mares he is being bred to," Isaacs said. "Also, his In Reality influence is serving him well (Honour and Glory is a son of Relaunch, by In Reality)."

Bridlewood stands 10 stallions. In addition to Put It Back, the roster consists of Backtalk (Smarty Jones—Apasionata Sonata, by Affirmed), Forty Grams (Distorted Humor–Belle South, by Phone Trick), Keyed Entry (Honour and Glory—Ava Knowsthecode, by Cryptoclearance), Mach Ride (Pentelicus—April Invitation, by Formal Dinner), Motovato (Proud Citizen—Buffalo Bird Woman, by Slew City Slew), Seeking the Dia (Storm Cat—Seeking the Pearl, by Seeking the Gold), Thunder Moccasin (A. P. Warrior—One Stormy Mama, by Storm Cat), Wagon Limit (Conquistador Cielo—Darlin Lindy, by Cox's Ridge), and Yesbyjimminy (Yes It's True— Sisters Creek, by Pentelicus).

Backtalk, Motovato, Seeking the Dia (who raced primarily in Japan and earned more than $5 million), and Thunder Moccasin are new to Bridlewood this season.

"I believe in the stallions we stand," said Isaacs. "You need a significant number of graded stakes winners to make it as a stallion or you get cast off pretty quickly. The young stallions we have definitely have a shot to make it.

"I'm really excited about Backtalk," he added. "He's a big, strapping horse. He is out of a high-class Affirmed mare, and I have been impressed with his first foals. Motovato was a hickory racehorse himself. He has a lot of scope, and he demonstrated a lot of class on the racetrack. With Seeking the Dia, (Hill 'n' Dale Farms') John Sikura wanted the richest son of Storm cat to stand in Florida and be an affordable buy for the state's breeders. We stand Thunder Moccasin for Starlight Stables. He was on the Derby trail last year and was undefeated when he won the Hutcheson Stakes (gr. II) by daylight. I am really excited about his potential. He flashed brilliance until his injury, and he is a beautiful horse."

Bridlewood's history of producing and standing winners is testament to Appleton's proud legacy. The accomplishments and stories live on through the farm's dedicated employees, two of whom started at Bridlewood on the day the farm opened in 1977 and still work there. Training barn foreman Eddie "Wolf" Barney and his brother-in-law Robert J. Mccord, a training barn groom, have worked at Bridlewood since day one.

"These guys are a dying breed," Isaacs said fondly. "It's a pleasure to work with them. I would venture to say that together they have had their hands on as many good horses as any good horseman could ever hope for."

Stallion manager Saul Rosas (32 years) and Mike chamblee, Bridlewood's broodmare manager for more than 20 years, are other key members of the team. Isaacs estimates chamblee has foaled more than 3,000 mares over the years.

"The people here are a big reason for the farm's success," Isaacs said. "It's rare in business to find the situation we have had where people really look forward to coming to work. Everyone at the farm has always been treated with respect, and it was Mr. A, as he was known by employees, who started it all. He treated everyone as if they were truly special. It was a rare quality, and you couldn't ask for more from an employer."

Bridlewood honors the farm's best horses that have passed on by burying them on the property in a cemetery located in a courtyard by the train depot. The location is known as Bridlewood Junction. Skip Trial is one of many accomplished Bridlewood horses buried in the cemetery. Skip Trial stood his entire stud career at Bridlewood before he was euthanized due to the infirmities of old age in 2012. pensioned in 2010, Skip Trial sired Hall of Famer and 1998 Horse of the Year Skip Away in addition to 27 other stakes winners.

Bridlewood's foundation mare North Of Eden, dam of grade I winners Forbidden Apple, paradise creek, and Wild Event, and stakes winner I'm Very Irish, is also buried on the farm. She died in 2011.

"She was a magnificent blue hen mare," Isaacs said. "She was a farm manager's dream. I planned all her matings, but she made everything so easy. I matched her up physically with the stallions we bred her to and she did the rest. She always passed along the best traits of the stallions and then tossed in her own special influence. I was blessed to be able to work with a mare like her."

Getting racehorses to run to the maximum of their ability is a cornerstone of Bridlewood Farm's training philosophy. The farm's training program has proved to be the starting ground for many top performers, including 2004 Kentucky Derby (gr. I) and Preakness Stakes (gr. I) winner Smarty Jones, multiple grade I winner Ron the Greek, and grade I winner Eden's Moon, the latter also bred by Bridlewood.

"We are proud of our training program graduates," Isaacs said. "We got Smarty Jones in here as a short yearling. We broke and trained him. That was a unique opportunity for us and very gratifying."

Despite the challenges involved in shifting gears, Bridlewood ranked as the fifth-leading Florida breeder in 2012 with earnings of $2,318,266. In addition to Eden's Moon, the farm also was represented as breeder on the track in 2012 by Turbo compressor, winner of the United Nations Stakes (gr. IT) at Monmouth park. The multiple stakes winner and earner of nearly $1 million represents Bridlewood breeding through and through. Turbo compressor is by Halo's Image out of the Wild Event mare Dixieland Event.

Looking ahead, Isaacs remains hopeful that a buyer can be secured for the farm.

"We had 60 employees when I took over as general manager," said Isaacs. "We had that same number of employees up until 2011. When Mr. Appleton passed, Linda and I had a long talk about the future. It was her heartfelt desire to try as long as we could to maintain the farm and enable all of the people here to keep their jobs until we could find a buyer. That's exactly what we've done.

"Mr. Appleton gave me the opportunity of a lifetime when I came to work for him," Isaacs said. "I will always be grateful for that. He was like a grandfather to me. We had good chemistry and he trusted me. Things worked out so well for so long. I want nothing more than to continue Mr. Appleton's legacy here at Bridlewood. My only regret is that we weren't able to carry on longer."

While the farm is on the market and the settlement of the estate is ongoing, with any luck, Isaacs and his dedicated crew will have many more chapters ahead in what is already a storied history of influence at Bridlewood Farm.

It's what Mr. A would want.