Despite the fact that it is a relatively new enterprise — having been in business for only 36 years — George Segal’s Brittany Farms has a list of accomplishments that not only rival, but surpass most Standardbred breeding farms that have been plying their trade for generations.
The goal of every breeder is to produce champions for proud owners, and Brittany’s success in achieving that in the sport of harness racing is unequaled. The Breeders Crown series — the defining year-end championships of the sport — are dominated by horses bred by Brittany Farms. The farm is the co-leading breeder of Breeders Crown champions, with 30 currently to its credit.
But beyond champions, it is said that money drives the bus... and in that regard, Brittany is tops as well. Although Brittany lacks the sheer number of foals that are produced by larger farms, it nonetheless leads in two of the most important statistical categories.
In 2022, for the fifth year in a row, the farm ranks as harness racing’s number one breeder in average earnings per starter, at more than $57,000 per. And it is by far the leading breeder in percentage of million-dollar winners from foals bred, with that number of seven-figure earners standing at 45 and growing ever so quickly.
These glowing credentials make Brittany-bred horses valuable commodities, which was on full display at the 2022 Lexington Selected Yearling Sale. It was there that Brittany sold 12 yearlings for $100,000 or more and with an average of $111,720, ranked third among all consignors, behind only much smaller offerings from Hanover and All-American Harnessbreds.
Art Zubrod (l) and George Segal
What drives this success? At its core is the acquisition and development of its broodmare band, along with the best land in Kentucky’s Bluegrass “Horse Country” and a team of employees whose knowledge and dedication is second to none.
Brittany Farms was purchased in late 1985 by Segal, a prominent Chicago commodities broker who bought the original farm from the late Bill Shehan, a highly-regarded breeder of champions. With that purchase came an elite package of 36 horses, many of them mares that would form the nucleus of Brittany Farms' then-fledgling broodmare band. Many of the great horses bred by Brittany — even today — trace their ancestry to those mares.
Since that time, the farms’ mares have been managed with a keen eye toward achieving a group of the highest quality, with exquisitely-bred race fillies and mares added to the fold, and non-stakes producers culled. From a peak of about 150 broodmares, the farm currently owns — by design — 50 mares, in whole or in partnership. That number is ideal for both Brittany’s current acreage and the farm’s focus on “boutique” quality.
The farm spent 30 years producing champions at its original location on Pisgah Pike in Versailles, Ky., and in 2016 purchased a new, smaller location eight miles southeast of town, and an equal eight miles down the road from where the farm first set up operations.
Aside from the old farm’s historical significance and size, nothing was lost in the move. The new farm, according to manager Art Zubrod, has “the best pastureland I’ve ever seen… you simply couldn’t find a better or more beautiful spot for raising yearlings.” A look at the website’s “Farm Tour” bears that out.
The new farm is used solely for raising yearlings, while the farm’s mares — and their foals until weaned — are still boarded on acreage that was retained at the old farm on Pisgah Pike. Brittany Farms has long been known around the world as one of the Standardbred industry’s most highly acclaimed and respected breeding farms. And not one thing has changed, as far as that is concerned.
“We like to say that we built the new farm on a solid foundation,” Zubrod said. “Our foundation here is the great mares that have enabled us to breed and raise the World Champions and millionaire racehorses that make Brittany one of the sport’s leading breeders.”
Zubrod’s claim is grounded in fact. In addition to the accolades mentioned earlier, Brittany also owns the unique title of being the first farm in history to have bred the winners of three of harness racing’s premier events in a single year: the Hambletonian, Hambletonian Oaks, and Little Brown Jug.
The list of great racehorses the farm has bred over the years reads like a “Who’s Who” in the sport, and the parade of Brittany-bred stars that started with Artsplace and continues to the present day can be viewed in the website’s Hall of Fame.
The legendary Artsplace
Those champions come primarily from the approximately 30 yearlings the farm sells each fall at the Lexington Selected Sale. The yearlings sold by the farm at public auction bring fair market value to buyers, in both the mid-range and upper levels.
Segal, like many other farm owners, is an avid sportsman as well as a breeder, so Brittany will occasionally retain fillies that it breeds, not only to race, but to replenish and freshen its broodmare band. Often with partners, he will buy yearlings from other farms, in hopes of catching a colt of championship caliber to become a future stallion, or a top-bred filly to race and then add to the farm’s roster of broodmares.
That has certainly been achieved through the years, as he has campaigned privately or in partnership such great champions as the fillies American Jewel, Passionate Glide, Lifetime Pursuit, Three Diamonds, Leah Almahurst and most recently, Special Way. The colts Artsplace, Western Hanover, Life Sign, Self Possessed, Cantab Hall, Father Patrick, Artspeak, and Perfect Sting enjoyed initial success on the racetrack and later as stallions.
Through its entity Brittany Stallion Management, the farm’s team currently manages the stallion careers of two horses it bred and raced: New York's leading money-winning pacing sire American Ideal (standing at Blue Chip Farms) and the 2 and 3-year-old Breeders Crown Champion and Dan Patch Champion Perfect Sting (standing at Deo Volente Farms).
Many of the farm’s knowledgeable and hard-working team members have been with the farm since its very beginning. Zubrod, with a solid background as a hands-on horseman in the Standardbred, Saddlebred and Thoroughbred businesses, was hired by Segal in 1983 along with his wife, Leah Cheverie, herself a lifelong horsewoman, who works as the farm’s office manager.
Brittany is very much a husband and wife operation, as Dale Logan is the farm's manager while his wife Patti is in charge of yearlings. Both are natives of the Versailles, Ky. area.
Zubrod and the farm’s management staff has always believed in raising horses in a natural setting, with mares and foals generally turned out in pastures with run-in sheds, even at night. 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 farm’s rolling 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 its way to the racetrack. Brittany Farms, a certified “Kentucky Proud” farm, is where it’s done the best.