HistoryIf you’ve ever toured the Bluegrass region of central Kentucky, or visited Lexington, The Red Mile, or Keeneland, there’s a good chance you may have noticed a local landmark. It’s one you can’t miss if you’re driving along U.S. 60 between Lexington and Versailles, and it’s one that invariably draws a long stare from passing motorists. It’s “the castle,” as known locally, a lodging and banquet facility that's perched high atop a hill at the intersection of U.S. 60 and Pisgah Pike.
Brittany Farms has now bred 23 million dollar-plus winning racehorses, with World Champion American Jewel among the most recent. In 2012 alone, horses bred by Brittany Farms earned nearly $10-million on the racetrack. The farm created harness racing history in 2006, becoming the first ever to have bred the winners of the same year’s Hambletonian (Glidemaster), Hambletonian Oaks (Passionate Glide) and Little Brown Jug (Mr Feelgood).
Brittany Farms is owned by George Segal, prominent in the Chicago commodities market, and managed by Art Zubrod. The farm owns, in whole and in partnership, over 120 mares, and annually sells a crop of about 80 yearlings each fall, yearlings that often go on to achieve championship status on the racetrack. In addition, the farm stands seven stallions, at Brittany Farms in Kentucky and at farms in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
Mr. Segal is also among only a few commercial Standardbred breeders that as an avid sportsman maintains a highly successful racing stable. Through the years he has campaigned privately or in partnership such great champions as the fillies American Jewel, Passionate Glide, Three Diamonds and Leah Almahurst, and the colts Artsplace, Western Hanover, Life Sign, Artiscape, Self Possessed, Cantab Hall and 2006 Hambletonian winner Glidemaster. Many of these have gone on to achieve even greater success for Brittany Farms as foundation-quality broodmares or successful sires.
Brittany Farms consistently ranks among harness racing’s leading breeders in average earnings per foal, and consistently sells yearlings that command top prices at the sales. But the huge success the farm has achieved since it began operations in 1986 it owes to its very beginning.
The farm, originally comprised of 411 acres, traces its roots back to the early 1800s. In fact, the magnificent main residence on the farm today was built in 1822 and renovated again in 1860. In its early history the farm was used for raising cattle and growing tobacco. But being in the heart of the Bluegrass region’s lush, limestone-based pastureland and gently rolling terrain, its future was never in doubt. Brittany, like so many other farms in the area, would gain its fame in raising horses.
Brittany was purchased by Mr. Segal in 1986 from the late Bill Shehan, who himself had bred numerous champions on the farm, and mares that would later become foundation stock for today’s leading breeders. Included in the purchase of the farm was a package of 36 mares that formed the nucleus of the fledgling Brittany Farms broodmare band. Many of the great horses bred by Brittany even today trace their ancestry to those 36 mares.
Adjacent land has been purchased to bring the farm’s current total acreage to 710. Pasture has been improved, fencing and roads have been added, and new buildings have been erected on the farm in the last two decades, not the least of which are several new barns—including the new stallion barn—and a modern new office.
That office is headquarters to one of the horse racing industry’s most knowledgeable and hard-working staffs. Many of Brittany’s employees have been with the farm since its beginning, including farm manager Art Zubrod. Mr. Zubrod, with a solid background as a hands-on horseman in the Standardbred, Saddlebred and Thoroughbred businesses, was hired in 1986 along with his wife, Leah Cheverie, herself a lifelong horsewoman, who works as the farm’s office manager.
Brittany Farms believes in raising horses in a natural setting, with mares and foals generally turned out in pastures with run-in sheds, even at night. At Brittany, mares are on pasture and fed hay, and only grain-fed prior to and after foaling, until their foal is weaned. Foals, on the other hand, are grain-fed only after the weaning process, with their condition and weight under constant scrutiny.
After they become yearlings, foals will then exercise and graze in herds in the rolling Brittany pastures. This ensures that they receive not only the outstanding skeletal foundation that comes from limestone-based pasture, but also the necessary muscle and competitiveness that comes from running and playing with other yearlings in the fields.
The care it receives when foaled, the way in which it is raised, and the professional supervision it receives along the way makes all the difference in the world as a horse makes it way to the racetrack. Brittany Farms, a Kentucky landmark, is where it’s done the best.