WinStar Farms Chief Financial Officer Jack Mullikin spoke to the Maysville Rotary Club about the horse racing business on Tuesday.
Mullikin, who is a native of Lewis County, said he has worked with WinStar Farms since 2001. The farm began operations one year prior.
According to Mullikin, in 2000, Bill Casner and Kenny Trout purchased 400 acres of land in Woodford County from Prestonwood Farm. At the time, there were four stallions and 40 mares on the farm.
One of those horses was Distorted Humor, which has bred several horses over the years.
“He was already on the property at the time,” Mullikin said.
According to Mullikin, Distorted Humor’s stud fee was $12,500 in 2000. However, after the success of Distorted Humor’s gelding, Funny Cide at the 2003 Kentucky Derby and Preakness, his stud fee jumped to $150,000 in 2006 and then to $300,000 in 2008.
“In 2003, we had gone to the Derby,” Mullikin said. “WinStar Farms had taken a bus up. As we’re walking through the parking lot, we see this school bus with a sign in the window. A group of high school kids had gotten together and bought (Funny Cide) for $75,000. Funny Cide’s win put Distorted Humor on the map.”
Mullikin said Distorted Humor is 26 years old and bred 110 mares in 2018.
“That number is down a little this year,” he said. “He’s what put us on the map and to have a horse like that already on the farm when it was purchased is phenomenal.”
Other horses with ties to WinStar Farms have included 2010 Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver; 2010 Belmont Stakes winner Drosselmeyer; 2015 Bluegrass Stakes winner Carpe Diem; 2016 Belmont Stakes winner Creator; and 2016 Breeders Cup Turf Mile winner, Tiznow, among others.
One of the most famous horses from WinStar is Justify, who won the Triple Crown in 2018. The horse is now owned by Ashford Farms.
“Justify looked like the perfect horse,” Mullikin said. “He was a machine. In 2018, he won the Triple Crown. Coolmore, who owns Ashford Farms, wanted to buy him. They made an offer and we turned it down. They came back and doubled the offer, but it was turned down again. They came in with a third offer and (Trout) said we had some debt from the recent expansion and maybe we should consider it. Ashford Farms now owns both of the Triple Crown winners — Justify and American Pharaoh.”
In addition to breeding horses, WinStar Farm boards the animals.
“We can have 600 horses on the farm at our peak,” he said. “We only keep a select few. The rest of the horses will be sold.”
According to Mullikin, the farm also raises money for after care.
“It used to be that horses may not wind up in the best places when they retired,” he said. “That’s not the case anymore. We work to raise money for after care and now they have retirement.”
WinStar Farm now has 2,500 acres with 170 employees, 21 stallions and 140 owned mares.