‘A Fabric Of Who We Are’: Oscar Performance’s Townhouse Stall At Mill Ridge Farm

When a stallion prospect retires to Kentucky, room and board often comes in the form of a stall in a towering stud barn and a paddock elsewhere on the property. At Mill Ridge Farm in Lexington, Ky., newcomer Oscar Performance came home to something quite different.

Where most stud barns in the Bluegrass can be seen like an apartment building, housing multiple tenants under one roof, the Mill Ridge stallion complex is more akin to a community of townhouses. Spread amongst the sycamores of the farm’s stallion complex are four separate cream-colored concrete one-room buildings, each with one door to a four-acre paddock, another door to the outside world, and a tack box on the wall with the farm’s signature blue and white colors.

Other Kentucky farms keep their barn occupancies low, and others still might have short walks to their fields, but Mill Ridge’s all-in-one setup stands out among the breed’s notable commercial stud operations.

“It’s always been kind of a feature of the farm,” said Headley Bell, managing partner of Mill Ridge Farm. “Obviously, we’ve had some nice horses there. It’s been a fabric of who we are.”

Like much of the Mill Ridge property, the story behind the unique stud barns goes back generations, reaching back to Hal Price Headley, the master of Beaumont Farm and Bell’s grandfather. At the time, the property spanned 4,000 acres over a sizable chunk of southwest Lexington.

When housing his stallion roster, which included the imported Pharamond II who became a cornerstone sire for the farm, Headley put his faith in concrete buildings over the tobacco barns that have housed countless horses in the region. Bell said his grandfather preferred dealing with a project once, as opposed to the maintenance that can come with maintaining and replacing the wooden planks of traditional barns.

Headley died in 1962 and left 286 acres of the Beaumont estate to his daughter Alice Headley (later known as Alice Chandler) that became Mill Ridge Farm. There were a pair of the modern-day concrete stud barns on the property, modeled after the ones Hal Price Headley used for his own roster, but each housed two stalls. One of Chandler’s first acts as the head of the stud was to knock down the dividing walls.

“She didn’t like how confined they were,” said Bell, Chandler’s son. “We’re not overrun with stallions, so it works out beautifully.”

Mill Ridge has never had a sprawling stallion roster, but the stalls have housed some good ones, including Gone West, Diesis, and Johar. Today, two of the four stalls are occupied by stallions, with Oscar Performance joining veteran Mill Ridge homebred Keep Up. Their stalls reside on either side of Mill Ridge’s breeding shed.

Though it’s somewhat unorthodox in Central Kentucky, Bell said the spread-out arrangement presented several advantages, chief among them being disaster prevention. The self-contained units are spaced far enough apart that catastrophic damage to one is unlikely to cripple the entire facility, compared to a larger barn’s destruction potentially rendering several stallions homeless.

Spreading out the stalls to the corners of the complex can also be useful for quarantines and layups. When Oscar Performance arrived in November, the two stalls not occupied by stallions had temporary tenants on rest from the racetrack.

Though the units are generously spaced apart, the stallions aren’t necessarily in isolation. When Oscar Performance is out in his paddock, the breeding shed is less than a couple horse lengths away from the edge of his fence, and Keep Up’s paddock is separated by a walking path between them.

Bell said Oscar Performance was a relatively easy settler when he moved into the southeast quadrant of the Mill Ridge stallion complex. The four-time Grade 1-winning son of Kitten’s Joy is expected to have a busy debut breeding season ahead of him, and with nearly six decades of anecdotal data, Bell said the farm’s setup should aid his transition into his new career.

“Stallions are independent and they like to define their territory,” Bell said. “Those four-acre paddocks allow them plenty of room yet there are other horses nearby, and this assists them in settling to their new environment and role.”

The post ‘A Fabric Of Who We Are’: Oscar Performance’s Townhouse Stall At Mill Ridge Farm appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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