MIDWAY NEWS AND VIEWS
Made in Midway – an interview with Mike McMahon of McMahon and Hill Bloodstock, LLC
Horse racing fans will have watched the Fountain of Youth (G2) at Gulfstream Park on Saturday, eager to see the horses vying for position on the Road to the Derby. Punching his ticket for the first Saturday in May this year was Midway-connected Code of Honor, who won the Derby prep and now stands second on the leaderboard and a rumored next start in the Florida Derby for the Will Farish homebred and Lane’s End-owned colt, by Noble Mission.
“He was a standout,” said Mike McMahon, one half of the Midway-based McMahon and Hill Bloodstock partnership he co-owns with Jamie Hill. “Jamie and I put together as much money as we can to buy foals and we usually have between 10-15 foals that we buy to pinhook. Bourbon War was the most expensive foal that year. He was prepped for the sale at his Spruce Lane Farm on Hedden Road.” McMahon explained how he came to keep Bourbon War. “We hold onto the ones that we could not sell that we liked. Bourbon War was expensive. He had a chip in one ankle. So there were reasons we could not sell him as a yearling. Dr. Bramlage (from Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital) and Natanya (Mike’s wife, the resident veterinarian at WinStar Farm on Pisgah Pike) thought he did not have a bad prognosis and said that he would be fine, so we kept him. And we put him into the two-year-old sale. But the idea for the pinhook partnership is that sooner or later they need to be bought out,” explained McMahon.
“Bourbon Lane is the racing partnership we manage, but we don’t set out to buy $400,000 horses to race for Bourbon Lane. It’s usually more the $100,000-$150,000 range. So when Bourbon War went through the two-year-old market, instead of selling him outright, we were able to take a partner, Lake Star Stable – some friends of mine from Saratoga – and we now own the horse together. We have done partnerships with them for 20 years,” recalled McMahon.
Laughing, McMahon remembers one of their promises one night over dinner at Ciro’s in Saratoga after the races one day. “The guys from Lake Star said, ‘We are not going to Churchill Downs until we have a horse for the Derby,’ and so a couple of years ago, Greg Burns, from Lake Star said, ‘We are not getting closer to our promise. What do we need to do?’ I said we need to buy (a) more expensive horse for that mission and they took the challenge and the chance with Bourbon War. …”
McMahon is hands-on at his Midway farm. “I have actually seen his belly button with him on his hind legs!” he said with a laugh. “He loved to rear up as a young horse. He was so close to being all over the top of me one day – he reared and I was about four feet from his belly button. All I thought was ‘God, he’s going to land on me!’ He is a handful in a playful kind of way. He is smart and energetic and definitely not for novices.”
McMahon is President of the Thoroughbred Charities of America (TCA) and in that role has a keen interest in rehoming Thoroughbreds when they are done being racehorses. Natanya regularly rides and competes in the Thoroughbred Makeover at the Kentucky Horse Park on ex-Bourbon Lane horses that are no longer racehorses. She schools them and rides them to retrain them as eventers or show jumpers in the prestigious annual competition for ex-racehorses.
“We go get our own horses that we have sold or Bourbon Lane horses when they get into a low level of racing; we go and buy them back. You can’t be the president of the TCA and not do things like that. It’s an important part of who we are at Bourbon Lane. We founded the company with the idea that we would take care of our own, and that’s a huge part of who we are,” said McMahon.
McMahon explained his Derby hopeful’s name: “Bourbon War was named by Greg Burns, the managing partner at Lake Star Stable. ‘War’ is a Bruce Springsteen album and they are all huge Springsteen fans at Lake Star. So they often name a horse with a Springsteen connection.”
“We typically have about 25 horses at Spruce Lane Farm at any one time, from broodmares to foals, weanlings, yearlings and horses coming to and from the racetrack,” explained McMahon, as he successfully manages his bloodstock business in conjunction with his Thoroughbred farm, and a flourishing Bourbon business. (I’ll have that story next week.)
Other horses at the track training well for the partnership include Bourbon Resolution, which is running on March 9 at Tampa in a stake, and Bourbon Endowment, also running in a stake race at Tampa on March 8. “Blamed is a good one to follow – a horse we bought as a yearling for a client. He is running really well,” added McMahon, studying his upcoming race calendar.
Midway Renaissance Committee
The Midway Renaissance Committee will meet this Thursday, March 7, at 6 p.m. in the Midway library for Strategic Planning. Bud Ratliff will lead the meeting and the mayor, city council and Midway Merchants Association will be in attendance. Members of the public are invited.
St. Patrick’s Day Parade
It is with great excitement that the March 16 Woodford County St. Patrick’s Day Parade at 4 p.m. will feature Lillie Cox as Grand Marshall and Blake and Melissa Jones as the Irish Court of Honor. The parade will also have floats, Irish bagpipers and drummers, the WCHS marching percussion band, Midway University horses and riders, fire trucks, costumed characters, boy scouts, cub scouts, girl scouts, and many other entries. The world’s tallest Leprechaun will stroll around downtown Midway tying balloons from 2 to 6 p.m. and will also walk in the parade. Shops open at 10 a.m. and restaurants at 11 a.m.