When researching the connections of some of the greatest Thoroughbreds, it often goes undocumented how many times they change hands or how many great people, farms and consignors are involved with them beyond the breeder, owner, trainer and jockey.
Tom VanMeter, D.V.M., has enjoyed tremendous success as a breeder, as a former partner in industry giant Eaton Sales and more recently with his personal consignment company, VanMeter Sales.
VanMeter’s name isn’t directly attached to Kentucky Oaks winner Lovely Maria or Kentucky Derby winner American Pharoah, but it probably should. VanMeter celebrated his truly unique association with both of the big winners this weekend at Churchill Downs in the winner’s circle with his girlfriend Renee Dailey.
“You don’t see that type of thing happen very often,” VanMeter said Sunday morning. “I mean, we bred and sold Commanding Curve, who was second in the Derby last year, and I co-bred the Oaks winner 10 years ago in Summerly, who won for the Winchells in 2005. But to have any sort of role in both the Derby winner and Oaks winner in the same year, it’s incredible.”
Oaks winner Lovely Maria was bred by Olin Gentry and Thomas Gaines. Gaines and Gentry then commissioned VanMeter Sales as agent to sell the daughter of Majesticperfection as a weanling in the 2012 Keeneland November breeding stock sale.
“She was a late foal,” VanMeter said. “She wasn’t bad looking or anything, but just wasn’t anything remarkable at that stage, and didn’t draw too much attention.”
Lovely Maria was listed as not sold on a final bid of $5,000 at Keeneland, but was purchased privately shortly after the sale by former Kentucky Gov. Brereton Jones.
“She didn’t sell but we obviously were just glad to have her in our consignment,” Van Meter said. “Olin ended up working something out with Brere where Brere bought her outright.”
Jones sent Lovely Maria to his Airdrie Stud in Midway, Ky., shortly after the sale.
American Pharoah on the other hand, was born at VanMeter’s 800-acre Stockplace Farm just outside of Lexington.
“He was born on Groundhog’s Day (Feb. 2, 2012),” VanMeter said of Ahmed Zayat’s colt. “I remember him as a big, strong foal. I always liked him. But to say I knew he was going to win the Kentucky Derby would be like saying you knew Michael Jordan was going to be a great basketball player when he was a kindergartner.
“We kept Mr. Z’s mares for awhile, and that particular year I think we probably had five or six Pioneerof the Nile foals; the Zayat mares only went to Zayat stallions.
“American Pharoah stayed on our farm from the time he was born in February until probably June or July. Then he was sent to Vinery, where he was weaned, and then sent to Taylor Made where he was prepped for sale.”
Taylor Made consigned American Pharoah in the 2013 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga sale of selected yearlings. David Ingordo’s Ingordo Bloodstock was listed as the buyer for $300,000, essentially purchasing him back on behalf of Zayat.
VanMeter initially was hesitant to respond when asked his opinion on American Pharoah’s potential run at the Triple Crown.
“I don’t want to jinx it, but if he stays healthy, I think he’s talented enough to win all three,” VanMeter said. “But as we all know, it’s one of the toughest accomplishments in sports, which is why we haven’t seen it happen in 36 years.”
VanMeter said he has received several congratulatory calls and texts over the course of the last three days.
“It’s a huge feather in our cap,” VanMeter said. “Our phones have been blowing up and we’re just tickled to death that we could be involved in this way.”