A group of fans take pictures of Bernardini at Darley at Jonabell Farm's January open house. Photos courtesy Melissa Bauer-Herzog.
In early January, breeders from around the country convene in Lexington, Ky. to attend the Keeneland January horses of all ages sale while local farms take the time to show off their stallions. These “open houses” serve multiple purposes by allowing breeders to look at prospective matches for their mares while also allowing fans to see some of their favorite stallions after retirement.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s Darley at Jonabell Farm was one of the farms that opened their doors during the Keeneland sale in 2013 so breeders could inspect their lineup of world class stallions while also giving fans a chance to see the farm.
Many of Darley’s stallions shuttle to the Southern Hemisphere during the summer to stand at stud, so this was the first chance to see the stallions in an open house setting upon their return. For breeders looking to send their mares to the stallions, the open house was the perfect time to see their choices before breeding season starts in early February.
LONHRO IS ONE OF DARLEY'S DUAL-HEMISPHERE STALLIONS
Open houses give breeders a chance to talk to farm employees about the stallions while also giving fans a chance to see inside the workings of the farm.
"Open houses are extremely useful for us to show the stallions to potential breeders who are still considering a stallion for their mare or mares," said Charlie Boden, head of sales at Darley at Jonabell. "It gives us a chance to discuss the mare they are considering and to show them the stallions in a relaxed setting."
The more relaxed setting also gives visitors a small glimpse into the stallions' personalities. While some stallions are all business while being shown outside their stall, other ones are a little less serious.
STREET CRY (IRE) WAS A LITTLE SLEEPY DURING HIS SHOWING
While breeders and fans can come out to look at stallions that don't shuttle to the Southern Hemisphere at nearly any time, they get a limited opportunity to look at some stallions that stand in both hemispheres. Some of the things breeders look at when inspecting a stallion are his conformation (how he is built) and his walk.
While open houses not specified only for breeders bring in both breeders and the public, giving breeders the right of way when looking at stallions is a common courtesy.
"If I were able to have a chat with the fans that show up on [open house] days, I would want them to know that we are happy to have them but to please respect those that are there to see the horses as potential breeders, and give them every opportunity to get a good look and not have to see over or around a fan to do so," Boden said.
A BREEDER INSPECTS LONHRO AT DARLEY'S OPEN HOUSE
Open houses also provide a great opportunity to get photos of many of the farm's stallions. It isn't unusual to see photographers donning their cameras to get some shots of the stallions shown during the open house.
FANS HEAD BACK INTO THE BARN AFTER TAKING PHOTOS OF A STALLION
The Darley open house not only gave fans a chance to look at the stallions on the property but also to tour the state-of-the-art facilities and experience some of the history around the stallion barns, including a statue honoring Affirmed, who is buried next to the main barn.
AFFIRMED'S GRAVESITE OUTSIDE THE STALLION COMPLEX
Open houses at Darley and other farms across the country give fans an inside look at the life of a stallion after the track. Another way to see farms when there aren't open houses is to schedule a tour of the facility. Both ways give fans a glimpse at the not-often-seen life on the farm of many of the industry's greatest competitors after retirement.