In the difficult industry of Thoroughbred breeding, maintaining success over time usually requires wise spending habits, thoughtful decision-making, and a keen eye for potential others might not see.
Hinkle Farms has embraced and honed that approach for many years, with results to back it up.
“We're looking for mares that come from good producing families with as much pedigree and race record as we can afford,” said Tom Hinkle, co-owner with his brother Henry.
Like all the horses they sell at auction, the Hinkles were born and raised on the family farm in Paris, Ky. Their father started with a couple of mares in the 1960s, and once out of college in 1979, Tom returned home to develop the Thoroughbred operation. Notable runners off the farm in the ensuing years included Tactical Advantage, winner of the 1992 Saratoga Special Stakes; Grade 2 winner Buy the Barrel, and Bit of Whimsy, who won the G1 Queen Elizabeth Challenge Cup in 2007.
These days, Hinkle Farms is mostly focused on a broodmare band of about 30, selling commercially and occasionally racing a filly. According to the latest data available, the farm has produced a healthy 12 percent stakes winners and 7.7 percent graded stakes winners.
This year, Hinkle mares lay claim to a trio of graded stakes victories, and all three dams have yearlings in this month's Keeneland September Sale.
In 2011, Hinkle Farms purchased Madame Du Lac, a daughter of Lemon Drop Kid in foal to Kitten's Joy, for $150,000. The foal was Divisidero, who sold as a yearling for $250,000 and won the G2 American Turf Stakes in May.
At the 2013 Keeneland November Sale, Tom Hinkle picked out Seeking Gabrielle, who was in foal to Blame and already had an “awesome-looking weanling” on the ground. That weanling was Nyquist, the undefeated juvenile who won the G1 Del Mar Futurity earlier this month.
“I was crazy about Blame and thought he had a chance to be a really good stallion,” Hinkle said. “She just looked like the type of mare that would work for me, and I would have a chance to buy her at a reasonable price ($100,000).
Finally, there's Ageless, who repeated victories this year in both The Very One Stakes at Pimlico and the (Can-G3) Royal North Stakes at Woodbine. Hinkle farms purchased her mare, Special One, for $37,000 in 2009 and sold Ageless the following year for $130,000.
Divisidero's half-brother brought $180,000 in Tuesday's session at Keeneland September. Half siblings to Nyquist and Ageless will go through the ring later in the sale (hips 3056 and 3090, respectively).
The Hinkles don't have any notable runners currently in their racing stable, but they follow closely the horses that have come off the farm. Divisidero is getting some time off; Ageless is llkely to point for the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint, a race she nearly upset last year at long odds; and Nyquist, well, “hope springs eternal” for a potential Kentucky Derby bid next year, said Hinkle.
“He's done everything right so far. I'm sure the connections are pointing toward the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. Hopefully he'll continue to progress, and I know he's in good hands.”
The mares and foals at Hinkle Farms are in good hands, too. The farm believes horses should grow up outside as much as possible, in groups. Hinkle and his team put a lot of effort into their matings, hoping to raise athletic runners out of the mares they've carefully selected. Despite a history that stretches back decades, the farm is always looking ahead. Tom's daughter, Anne Archer Hinkle, has joined the operation as director of bloodstock services. Kevin Stephens, who has worked with top stallions such as Storm Cat, came on board last year to help continue the farm's tradition of excellence.
“We feel like we're trying to raise horses the right way,” said Tom. “Our focus is to raise a good horse, and hopefully, the market will accept those.”
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