McMahon of Saratoga Thoroughbreds, LLC was founded in 1971 with the purchase of 100 acres on Fitch Road in the town of Saratoga, New York. Located just five minutes from the track, the farm had been the summer home of Virginia socialite Liz Whitney Tippet. Gradually over the next five years, her stable colors of Purple and Pink would be replaced by the modest colors of the Saratoga backside, Green and White.
Located just five minutes from the farm, the Saratoga backside was the beginning of our farm's history. It was on the backside that 16 year old Joe McMahon began working as a groom, hotwalker, and exercise boy. It was also the beauty of the backside that attracted Anne McMahon to Saratoga and eventually to Skidmore College.
Early Beginnings - The 70's
The two met on Saratoga's backside and discovered that they shared a mutual love for horses and the thoroughbred business. Anne exercised Joe’s first race horse, and the filly won her first race shortly after their wedding.
Their marriage and the broodmare band began not long after with the purchase of a couple of mares at the Horses of Racing Age sale held at Fasig Tipton's Saratoga pavilion. One of these was Countess Camden. We called her "The Black Mare" and in 1971 she gave the young couple their first colt. By local stallion Backbiter the colt was named Cider Hill and became a winner of $18,764.
The majority of the land had been in Christmas trees, which were sold off over the years and gradually the land was cleared. The barns needed big improvements and gradually horses were becoming the couple's full time occupation. Neighboring farmer, Joe Stetkar, an immigrant from Bohemia from the early 1900's, farmed the land up the hill. He taught the young family how to farm and became a namesake for many of the farms' early horses. He always enjoyed watching the youngsters train on the dirt lane leading up to his property, and he would remark, " you can tell your horses get plenty to eat. You could set a pan of oats across their hips and it would stay there."
While the foals of Countess Camden won, they were not spectacular. It was a daughter of the old Black Mare named Hot Spiced Cider who gave McMahon of Saratoga Thoroughbreds it's first stakes horse. Foaled in 1978, the colt named Knightly Spiced would place in stakes at two and three and earn $140,000.00.
Maturing Years - the 80's
It was not until 1983 when the stable had another stakes horse, the beautiful filly named Change of Motion, by Best Turn, out of the good mare Bing Bang. 1983 also marked the arrival of the first crop of the promising Nijinsky II stallion Classical Ballet. He gave us two winners from our three foals. Among the first was Balia, a winner of $35,000, and a grandson of the old Black Mare, Countess Camden.
1984 was a big year. Miss Empire, a member of Classical Ballet's second crop was born out of the mare Cookie Jar. She placed in stakes races as a two year old and then was G1 placed as a three year old. It was our first national exposure. Meanwhile, in the stud, barn, Lord Durham had arrived from Windfields Farm in Canada. He joined Classical Ballet, Flying Dad, and Non-Commercial. Our relationship with the Canadian Nursery would continue into the next century when Windfield's stallion, Regal Classic, would arrive in Saratoga after a stay in Kentucky.
1987's crop produced the nice stakes filly Chestnut St. Rose a filly by Lord Durham out of Precious Rosalie. She stakes placed at two and earned $57,000.00.
Joe and Anne were very active as members of the New York Thoroughbred Breeders and 1988 marked the first New York Bred Preferred Sale. The Preferred Sale was a cooperative effort between the New York Breeders and Fasig Tipton. The NY State Breeding and Development Fund was picking up steam. Joe led the push to begin the Preferred Sale.
Held after the Saratoga Select yearling sale, the Preferred Sale offered NY Breeders a chance to sell horses in Saratoga. Our first consignment was four yearlings and although none of them raced well, we had our own market.
1988 was also important in the stallion barn as we welcomed Proud Appeal. A leading sire plagued with fertility problems, he was our first really solid stallion. He would lead the nation in median earnings per starter for many years.
Growth - The 90's
In 1990 a stakes placed filly to be named State Street Dori would be born. A daughter of NY leading sire Cormorant, the filly would be a winner and stakes placed at two. The following year things really started to click. From 1991's crop of 10 foals, there were 6 winners, three who earned over $100,000.
1991 brought Slew the Knight to the Breeding Shed. A grade 2 winning son of the great Seattle Slew, "Slewy" got off to a nice start. From his first six foals born at the farm there were five winners.
McMahon of Saratoga Thoroughbreds was rapidly growing and in 1994, 140 acres of the nearby Dodd Farm was purchased. The old Dodd farm is located near Saratoga Battlefield, a National park where the turning point battle of the American Revolution was fought and won. Although it would be primarily used for crops over the next five years, there was in existance one 18 stall barn and twenty fenced acres. A needed expansion to stall space!
1993's foal crop was a very good one. First our very nice mare Raise The Bridge produced a Rahy filly who would be named Lasha. Lasha stakes placed at two and three and and won over $100,000.00.
But more importantly, the foal crop of 1993 brought our next Grade 1 horse, Instant Friendship. Bred by a retired New York City policeman, Jack Kennedy, the colt earned $708,000 and ran second in the G1 Jockey Club Gold Cup before being sold to Saudi Arabi. Racing in the King of Saudi Arabia's colors, Instant Friendship would win the King's Cup in back to back years.
Instant Friendship was important for another reason. He was selected by Tony Everard and conditioned by Leo O'Brien, the same team that broke and trained FourStar Dave and Fourstar All Star for New Yorker Richard Bomze. To say that the McMahon's and Everard's had an "Instant Friendship" would be an understatement.
1994's crop produced Whitfield the best Slew The Knight colt we bred. Whitfield was purchased and trained by Linda Rice. He won at two and won a stake for total earnings of almost $100,000.00.
In 1995 a small filly by Cure The Blues was born. Out of the hard knocking runner Aljadam, this filly was probably the best ever bred by her breeders Herb and Sheila Sherry. She became NY Bred Champ Pentatonic and earned just over $600,000.00 - mostly as an older mare! Pentatonic won or placed in eight stakes including a second place finish in the Grade 1 Hempstead! What a mare!
1996's yearling consignment included Richie's Girl a filly that would earn over $166,000.00 and place in Saratoga's Yaddo Stakes.
1997 produced two nice fillies, The Great Flora and Yankee Tradition. The Great Flora placed in the Bouwerie for Cot Campbell's Dogwood Stables and Todd Pletcher earning over $100,000.00. Meanwhile Yankee Tradition won the Schenectady Stakes and earned almost $100,000.00.
1998 produced Astrapi a very good daughter of NY Sire Distinctive Pro. Astrapi won the listed Valley Stream Stakes as a two year old as well as the East View earning $155,000.00. 1998's crop also produced our first colt to go to stud. Named Whitmore's Con, this son of Kris S. would win graded stakes at 3, 4 and 5 racing for Randy Schulhoffer. He currently stands at stud in Ireland.
1999's big horse is no doubtedly Dynamic Lisa who ran third in the Ticonderoga before winning the Yaddo as an older mare. She runs for our friends and good clients the Schwartz's and is trained by their son Scott Schwartz.
New Millenium - 2000
Nothing could prepare us for 2000's foal crop. First and foremost there was Funny Cide - the Grade 1 winner at 3 and 4 and Eclipse Award winner. He came as close as you can to taking the Triple Crown and along the way won the hearts of American sports fans.
He was not the only stakes winner born in 2000 at McMahon Thoroughbreds though. The winner of the Grade 2 Peter Pan Go Rockin Robin had a big year for the Schwartz family. Sensibly Chic would take the Broadway and Stefanita.
The foal crop of 2001 produced four stakes winners including Rodeo Licious, Chowder's First, So Sweet A Cat and the French stakes winner and multiple US stakes placed Kate Winslet.
They say it takes farmers years to get the most out of their land. It took Joe and Anne at least 15 years to begin producing a solid consistent product, the New York Bred race horse. As Joe says, "we ate a lot of zucchini and chicken" in the meantime.
Today the main farm on Fitch Road is joined by the properties on Dodd Road, now named Meadow View Farm, East View, the Yearling Barn, and Old Saratoga Thoroughbreds, the latter of which is owned by son John and his wife, Kate. Son Mike and his wife, Natanya, own Spruce Lane Farm in Woodford County, near Midway, Kentucky.
Most members of the family are involved in some facet or another. John with farm management, his wife Kate oversees the broodmares and foals. They also own "Old Saratoga Thoroughbreds," where are the foaling occurs. Mike does a lot of bloodstock management from Kentucky and travels to sales across the US to represent farm clients. His wife Natanya is the resident veterinarian at Winstar Farm.
Jane is an accomplished horse woman with training experience from Bill Mott, Nick Zito, John Ward and Tony Everard. Jane also works in our office at the main farm.
Tara works in the office at the main farm and works primarily with the financial side of the business. Kate is involved closely with the family farm and works for Darley in Kentucky as the Stallion Nominations Manager.
Joe and Anne look over the whole operation. It's probably hard to believe that a foal crop of one in 1971, now numbers in the hundreds, but it does. The stallion barn, once a novelty item on a New York farm, stands eight of the strongest stallions to stand in the United States outside of Kentucky, and several of the most promising. Only the future will tell.