Just beyond the fields belonging to Godolphin and Adena Springs’ farms, I arrived at the gate of Barbara Banke’s and the late Jess Jackson’s Stonestreet Farm. As I was buzzed in through the wrought iron gates that hang between two brick walls bearing the crimson and gold Stonestreet Farm sign, I felt as though I was being given special access to another world – a world where perfectly manicured grass and trees line wooden fence lines danced upon by squirrels who, if they could talk, would undoubtedly say, “Welcome. I eat better than you. I am living better than you.” (As I came to learn, the groundhogs on the property also eat better than me.)
It was an escape from the sounds of the highway I had driven in on, an escape from the thoughts that may have consumed me earlier in the day, and the daily reality for the many mares who occupy the fields that I slowly drove past in awe.
I suppose this could describe any major farm in Kentucky or a drive down any road along the Bluegrass Farm Tour. But not just any farm is home to the accomplished broodmare band and homebreds of Stonestreet Farm, a roster whose depth is staggering. And only one farm in the world is home to the mare who I came to see: Tara’s Tango, or as I have always called her (for obvious reasons), Tara.
I have an enlarged photo of us displayed in my house and the same photo is included on my email signature and she is in the background of a page on the All About The Race website. I was even given a Breeders’ Cup hat bearing her name. Ok, so I may be flirting with fan girl status at this point. In fact, I’ll keep it real: it is a full-blown love affair – there is no shame in my fan girl game.
My admiration for Tara began in her two-year-old season (2014) after her first start at Del Mar simply because of her name. She broke her maiden that day. And, as an added bonus, a good friend of mine was the laser therapist for her trainer’s (Jerry Hollendorfer) barn at the time and he was able to send me regular photos and videos of her.
Let me just say that I am not one of those racing fans who falls in love with a new horse every other month just because they win a race. I need a connection. It was just a bonus that Tara turned out to have exceptional talent, retiring with three graded stakes wins, including the G1 Santa Margarita, and over $800K in earnings.
Of course living in the racing-barren state of Georgia makes it hard to develop a real connection to any racehorse, so when I had the opportunity to go to the 2016 Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita, her home base, I made up for lost time. Thanks to the generosity of Jerry Hollendorfer’s assistant trainer, Dan Ward, and her laser therapist, Steve Bourmas, I was fortunate enough to spend a few hours in the mornings and evenings with her during that week. I watched her train and watched her school in the paddock. Her love of peppermints and carrots was matched only by her love of neck scratches I learned during our first visit.
I watched Tara’s final start in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint, where she finished an honest fourth, beaten just 2 ¾ lengths. I knew she was being retired and was relieved to learn she was going to be kept by Stonestreet Farm, who bred her and also owns her dam, Scarlet Tango, as opposed to being put into a sale. As fate would have it, I have a friend who has a connection at Stonestreet and that is how I was able to gain access to this “other world” off of Old Frankfort Pike in Midway, KY.
Prior to my visit to the farm, I took a look at the Stonestreet Farm website to learn more about the farm. Its broodmares all have their own pages and they each read like a sales catalog page converted to layman’s terms, complete with career summaries, pedigree history, anecdotes and photos - with additional pages on their history, stallion interests, racing stable, training center, yearling sales and farm overview, I highly recommend the site to anybody who is interested in leaning about how a leading, world-class horse farm is run (stonestreetfarms.com). But while their website is fully comprehensive, it could have never prepared me for its beauty in real life...
Enjoy more photos of Tara's Tango from Santa Anita Park and Stonestreet Farm: