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End of an era as leading Kentucky stud prepares for one last sale; Nancy Sexton talks to Ric Waldman, manager of Overbrook Farm, before the final dispersal of its bloodstock at Keeneland this week.

Byline: Nancy Sexton

THOSE associated with Overbrook Farm in Kentucky have had five months to digest the operation's imminent dispersal at Keeneland, but the end of an era will still not be easy to confront when the first of 158 offerings, Mary Delaney, steps into the Keeneland sales ring on Wednesday.

In June this year, Bill Young jnr, who assumed control of the farm upon the death of his father, William T Young, in February 2004, announced that his family would be dispersing the majority of their equine assets.

Over the next few months, the Youngs remained true to their word by dispersing their resident stallions, including homebred Kentucky Derby winner Grindstone, who was leased to stand in Oregon. Then, in September, they embarked on the first stage of their auction dispersal when selling 47 yearlings for nearly $6.3 million.

Now, however, it is time to close the book for good.

"It's difficult," is all that stud manager Ric Waldman needs to say. "I started consultancy work with Overbrook in 1986 and have managed the farm since 1990. I've lived here since 1992, so yes, it's difficult."

Although a native of Kentucky, William T Young did not discover racing until 1972 when he attended a meeting at Churchill Downs to watch a filly owned by close friend Alex Campbell. Campbell's filly won and Young was hooked; by the end of that year he had purchased some land near Lexington that would become Overbrook.

Young made his fortune at an early age through the peanut butter company Big Top, which he later sold, and he set about utilising his business acumen in cultivating Overbrook.

It did not take long for him to fulfil his ambitions. On the advice of William Lockridge, then part-owner of Ashford Stud, Young purchased three mares - Cinegita, Terlingua and Arc heroine Three Troikas, to be covered by European import Storm Bird.

It was advice that enabled Young to hit the jackpot, as Terlingua went on to produce Storm Cat, while Cinegita is the granddam of champion Flanders, herself the dam of another champion in Surfside.

Luck also played its part in Overbrook's rapid ascent when Young was forced to withdraw Storm Cat from the 1984 Keeneland July sale after he tested positive for equine viral arteritis. Sent to Jonathan Sheppard, the son of Storm Bird went on to win the Grade 1 Young America Stakes as a two-year-old before falling short by a nose to Tasso in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. Had the photo gone the other way, Young would have most likely sold Storm Cat for the $8m that he had been offered beforehand.

Storm Cat entered stud at Overbrook in 1988 for $30,000 and went on to sire 11 champions, including Giant's Causeway and One Cool Cat, as well as the farm's own top-class performers Tabasco Cat and Cat Thief. At his peak he commanded a fee of $500,000, in part due to an immense commercial popularity that saw him sire nearly 100 $1m yearlings, including this year's Keeneland September sale-topper.

While Storm Cat was gaining worldwide recognition, the farm was receiving further respect thanks to homebred champions such as Boston Harbor, Flanders and Timber Country.A S IN September, this week's dispersal will be handled primarily by Reiley McDonald's Eaton Sales. Of the 158 horses to sell there are ten Grade 1 performers or producers, as well as weanlings by Giant's Causeway, Mr Greeley, Zenyatta's sire Street Cry and Tiznow.

"It's very hard to gauge how these mares will sell," says Waldman. "When you know things are going to decline you adjust your mental appraisals, and all things considered I thought the yearlings sold pretty well.

"But it's amazing how much a dispersal aura can attract buyers and not many of these families have been readily available to the public before."

Champion Golden Attraction (hip 455) heads the 23 lots who descend from Square Angel, while Flanders (439) and her daughter Surfside (316) are among the 26 on offer descending from Cinegita. Another 18, including Jump Start's dam Steady Cat (307), trace to Hopespringseternal.

Also catalogued is Grade 1 winner Cotton Blossom (413), who cost Overbrook $1.9m in 2007, Boston Harbor's dam Harbor Springs (1238), and Winendynme (349), whose Storm Cat filly sold to D Wayne Lukas for $675,000 in September.

Winendynme is in foal to Medicean and is one of three mares covered in Europe this year.

"We raced Storm Star, who won the 1985 Cherry Hinton Stakes, but Mr Young loved to watch his horses race, so sending them to Europe was something that we hadn't done for a very long time," says Waldman. "We sent these mares over unaware of the dispersal and would have probably continued to do so in reaction to the quality of stallions in Europe.

"We would have certainly submitted a mare to Sea The Stars and it would be special if one of the mares in the dispersal was to go to him."

Adding further spice is a smattering of Juddmonte blood following foal shares with Storm Cat between the two operations. Among the resulting fillies on offer are full-or half-sisters to Nebraska Tornado (Dark Sky - 418) and Etoile Montante (Will Prevail - 347), as well as daughters of Honest Lady (Honest Pursuit - 471) and Wandesta (Driven Snow - 783).

"I suspect that Juddmonte were trying to produce a good Storm Cat colt they could stand, while we got some Storm Cat fillies out of some very desirable mares," says Waldman. "It's a shame that we won't be able to see these fillies through their stud careers."

With only the retired 26-year-old Storm Cat in residence at Overbrook after November 22, the future for the farm is uncertain, although Young's grandson, Chris, will continue to maintain a small racing stable.

"We've talked with interested parties about leasing space for thoroughbred operations because the family would love to see horses on it," says Waldman. "And we'll run cattle on the land that isn't leased."

As for Waldman, he will pick up where he left off before Overbrook. He says: "I had a consulting business before I managed the farm. Overbrook were my biggest client and I'll now look to fill that void."

On racingpost.com Stud plans changed for Full Of Gold Waldman on ... William T Young He was successful in everything he did, probably because he had a very sharp, keen business sense and wasn't afraid to take a risk. He thoroughly enjoyed the farm and had a hand in everything that was built, from the stables to the layout of the roads. The state of US racing Our biggest problem in the US is the lack of a true fan base, something that has gradually eroded since I began in this industry 35 years ago. We've got other means of funding, such as simulcasting, so it was easy for us to cease cultivating the fans. But now we actually need them, we don't have them. Look at the popularity of racing in Britain and Ireland - you walk into a pub and racing is on TV and it's being talked about. Can you imagine how strong racing would be if they got their act together over prize-money?

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Ric Waldman: "Amazing how much a dispersal aura can attract buyers" Champions Golden Attraction (hip 455) and Flanders (439, below) will sell as part of the dispersal this week
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Nov 9, 2009
Words:1235
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