Everett Dobson's Cheyenne Stables is a known commodity in the horse racing industry. One only needs to observe the success of graded stakes winners like Caleb's Posse, Mastery, Madefromlucky, and Mystical Star to prove that fact.
What's less visible about Dobson's operation is the breeding wing, Candy Meadows Farm, in Lexington, Ky., which he has owned since 2006. That's why Matt Lyons is selling horses at this year's Keeneland September Yearling Sale.
The marathon auction is the maiden voyage for the Candy Meadows Sales consignment, and it's the first sale Lyons has managed since joining Dobson's farm as senior vice president and COO in January, following a decade managing Woodford Thoroughbreds. Getting the horses sold is important, of course, but it's not the consignment's only goal at this juncture.
“When we first met, we talked about the farm, and I wasn't very familiar with the Candy Meadows name, the farm, or where it was,” Lyons said. “I said, 'If I don't know about it, then other people don't, so we need to grow the name of the farm and the brand.' The racing arm of it is more well-known, Cheyenne Stables, and the fact that they're two different entities by name makes them separate in their own part. The farm wasn't well-known, so the best way to do that and showcase what's coming off the farm is to start a sale company and start showcasing our horses at the sales, so here we are.”
The inaugural Candy Meadows yearling consignment features 15 horses before outs, two of which were in the September sale's select Book 1.
“The first day was very busy,” Lyons said of the Book 1 offerings prior to the sale. “We had 60 shows on each of our two colts, and it didn't hurt that they're by Curlin and Into Mischief. They're out of mares that were selected as yearlings, raced under the home team banner, and came back as broodmares, so it's kind of full circle.”
Through the middle of Book 3, all four of the Candy Meadows yearlings that went through the ring sold to new owners, grossing $1.095 million and averaging $273,750. The most expensive of the group was Hip 458, a Curlin colt out of the stakes-placed Henny Hughes mare Itsabeautifulthing who sold to Hideyuki Mori in Book 1 for $375,000.
It was a “right-place, right-time” scenario that led Lyons to join the Candy Meadows operation. A native of Woodford, County Galway in Ireland and a resident of Central Kentucky, Lyons had a crossroads looming when Woodford Thoroughbred announced it would consolidate its business into its Ocala, Fla., base and cease operations at its Kentucky farm at the end of 2018. Lyons opted not to move to Florida with the business, ending his tenure as the Kentucky farm's vice president and general manager with the flip of the calendar.
Lyons had been one of the front-facing figures of Woodford's sales consignments, which is where he met Dobson. At the same time that Lyons was looking for a post-Woodford vocation, Dobson was looking for someone to take the reins of his farm. Lyons' new position with the farm was announced in December 2018.
It was an exciting new endeavor for both sides, but there's little time to celebrate when there are mares in the barn ready to have foals.
“I finished up selling mares with Woodford in November, and then finished up with them on Dec. 31, then started Jan. 1 with Everett, so that worked out well,” Lyons said. “I came into it right at the start of foaling season, so I got to know all the broodmares, and all of these yearlings were short yearlings, so we got to prep them all and see them through the process.
“I also went to Ocala to see all the 2-year-olds,” Lyons continued. “He's got a pretty substantial racing stable, so that keeps it interesting. We always have horses coming back to the farm for breaks and layups, and getting back out to trainers. It's a diverse operation.”
Candy Meadows comprises two separate tracts of land. Dobson bought the original 50 acres in 2006, then expanded to buy the former Elkhorn Creek Farm in 2011. With the new property came 218 acres and 48 stalls.
Dobson splits his time between Oklahoma and Kentucky. He serves as executive chairman of Dobson Technologies, a private landline, fiber optic, and data storage business in Oklahoma City.
However, his ties to the Thoroughbred industry extend far beyond his own racing and breeding interests. Dobson holds board positions with The Jockey Club, the Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association, and the American Graded Stakes Committee. He's one of three trustees of Keeneland Association, along with Seth Hancock and William M. Lear Jr., and he's a member of Breeders' Cup Ltd.
“Everett spends a lot of time at the farm,” Lyons said. “He travels a lot, but he comes to the farm pretty often, so we get to go through the horses pretty often. I wouldn't say we communicate daily, but we communicate by text or something every other day. He's very involved in all aspects of it.”
Looking to the future, Lyons said Candy Meadows will have a consignment at the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky Fall Yearling Sale in October, and it will have weanlings and broodmares to sell in November. While the bulk of the consignment's offerings are from the Dobson string, Lyons said Candy Meadows is open to handling horses for clients.
“We have a few horses in this sale for other people, and we'll have a few in November, as well,” he said. “It's not something we really went after, but it's something that just sort of happened.”
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