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Jim Avritt has done it all, mostly as a one-man band

by Murray Brown

Just think of the production: Downbytheseaside ($2,179,538), Tall Dark Stranger ($2,020195), Sportswriter ($1,566,460), Windsong Jack ($1,039,173), Swinging Beauty ($893,368), Precocious Beauty ($838,004), Whichwaytothebeach ($761,838) ) and Soto ($617,115). These are just the winners of over $600,000 that can be traced back to the amazing mare Dominique Semalu.

You only have to imagine that the very best one who goes back to her is only a three-year-old, but what a great three-year-old he turns out to be. Because of his connections, Captain’s Quarters only raced five times at 2. He still managed to capture the Metro, the richest race for 2-year-olds, earning $389,143 and setting a record of 1.49.3. He is now 3 and ready to qualify. He is fully committed and prepared to tackle all newcomers in 2024.

Jim Avritt, Sr. purchased this ‘Blue Hen’ mare for $18,000 at the 1995 Harrisburg mixed sale. When asked if he expected her to have such an impact on the entire industry and more specifically on his Meadow Creek Farm that she has, he said. , “Of course not. You only come across a mare like that once in your life, if at all. When I bought her I thought she was a nice mare who showed talent on the racetrack and came from what I thought was a I bought her full sister Catherine Semalu last year for about the same money. With both mares I felt that by adding them I increased the overall quality of my broodmare band.

“If you breed horses, especially if you are a market breeder, that should be an ongoing goal. If you don’t improve, you go backwards. Dominique was a better individual than her sister. If I was asked that question at the time, I probably would have thought Dominique would have made the better producer just because I thought she was the nicer person and would probably produce better looking foals. In fact, she turned out to be a much better producer than average. She had 11 foals. They all raced. They were all winners. They were good racehorses, but not really special. However, it was in the production of her daughters, granddaughters and hopefully great-granddaughters that she became a mare for eternity.

“She had five daughters. They have all been stakes that produced broodmares. That could be matched somewhere, but someone would have to show me where. We still have her Precious Beauty (the mother of Sportswriter ($1,566,460) and Precocious Beauty ($838,004)), who is now 22 years old and pregnant with Sweet Lou.”

I first met Avritt when I was on my way to judge yearlings for the Standardbred Horse Sales Company’s Harrisburg auction. Of all the places I visited on my travels, there were three locations I was most looking forward to. In no particular order they were Avritt’s Meadow Creek Farm, Carter Duer’s Peninsula Farms and the McNiven Family’s Twinbrook Farms.

Of all the places I went, none surpassed Meadow Creek in beauty and excellent preparation for yearlings. The amazing thing to this observer was that it was essentially a one-man show. With the exception of one full-time employee, all labor, construction, maintenance and horse care was managed by Avritt. In addition, the same Avritt had a full-time job running a law firm in Lebanon, Kentucky.

We’ll start with that theme. How did you manage it all?

“If I had to use one word, I think that word would be gradual. There’s an old saying, “If you enjoy what you do, it’s not work.” I have been blessed to have enjoyed my life immensely, both with the horses and with the legal profession. Initially I was a lawyer. The law firm paid the bills. I started small with the horses and gradually grew. I like to think that I have continually improved my offering at the yearling sale. I have enjoyed everything from digging holes for fence posts, to mowing the fields, to foaling the mares, to preparing the yearlings for sale; every little bit of it. It has been a labor of love.”

You are mainly known as a breeder with a small but select group of broodmares. But that’s not all you’ve done with harness horses over the years.

“I like to think I’ve pretty much done it all. My uncle Thomas was a horse trainer. I grew up on a farm and have been around horses all my life. I bought my first horse at the Delaware Ohio auction in 1963. I trained her myself. I always had one or two horses that I trained and even rode occasionally, usually at county fairs. I actually had one pari-mutuel win. I won a race at Latonia Raceway sometime in the 1970s. Of all the things I’ve done in my life, I can’t think of anything more exciting than sitting behind a horse when the starter says “go.”

You are also active as an owner.

“I have had horses with the McNairs, Gregg and Susie, for about forty years. They are both good friends, as is their son Doug, now a world-class racing driver. We’ve been together all this time and we’ve never had a crossword. They usually have one or two fillies that are destined to become members of our broodmare band. They are now training for us a Captaintreacherous filly out of Precious Beauty and a full sister to Tall Dark Stranger.”

It seems like you have always done well with your yearlings in Lexington and Harrisburg. However, it seems like you’ve done extra well in recent years, starting with Tall Dark Stranger at $330,000, followed by a few other six-figure yearlings.

“Yes indeed, it was a nice run. Tall Dark Stranger was a very nice colt. As a weanling, I thought there was a chance that he would grow into a six-figure yearling. But I knew better than to get too excited and then be disappointed. He grew up to be a beautiful yearling. Going into the sale, I was fairly confident that he would bring six figures. But it’s a horse sale. Who knows what could happen. Naturally, he brought home $330,000, and that price turned out to be a real bargain. I was happy, but more importantly, so were the people who bought it.

“Two years ago we sold its brother Total Stranger for $425,000 and last year Readyforprimetime raised $500,000. I hope they, and all the yearlings we sell, will be a good purchase for their owners.”

After you sell your yearlings, do you keep in touch with their new connections?

“Certainly. Not only the new owners, but also their trainers. Usually after the first of the year, when the horses are on their way, I contact the new connections. I don’t do it because it is good business, but much more important because I care about their progress. If you have been in contact with a horse all your life, you are very interested in seeing how it develops as it progresses. If you don’t care, you are probably in the wrong one business.”

What is the current composition of Meadow Creek Farm?

“The farm covers 125 hectares. We have one stable with 16 boxes. I think this is as big as we’re ever going to get. We have 13 broodmares, six of which are pacers and seven trotters. We have six yearlings, all fillies, and this year we have had six foals so far; Amazingly, all six are colts. We still have four mares that have yet to foal.”

We previously talked about Captain’s Quarters, the colt some are predicting could become a superstar this season.

“I will say one thing about him: he is the strongest yearling we have ever raised on this farm. He very much has his own opinion. But as soon as he learned something, he understood it. It took us a lot of effort to get him loaded into a van. He simply wouldn’t do it. Finally, as a last resort, we backed a trailer into his stable and put his food in it. The next morning the food was gone. He had gone into the trailer to get it. I think he thought it was his own idea. If he feels that way, I’m fine with it.”

So far, all our conversations have focused on pacesetters. It looks like Meadow Creek Farm is now entering the trotting arena.

“When I first got into the game, I only had trotters. We then entered an era where no one wanted them. Most importantly, the racetracks didn’t want them and it became very difficult to even get a trotter to race. The market told me people wanted pacers. So that’s what we picked up and offered. I remember breeding with Saboteur, Bombs Away, Diller Hanover, Spectator, Storm Cloud, Worthy Boy and Something Special. Now things have turned around somewhat and there is also a demand for good, well-bred trotters. We dived into that pool with both feet. Our trotting broodmares include Bella Dolce, the mother of Bella Bellini, also a yearling sister of Bella Bellini, a Father Patrick half-sister of Bella Bellini in foal to Walner and Swanky Hanover, a full sister of Manchego that we bought last year in Harrisburg. for $450,000. She has just been declared pregnant by Walner.’

It seems like things are going well in the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

“That might even be an understatement. There was a time, not so long ago, when we were on life support. The breeding industry in the Commonwealth was dying on the vine. The thought was how can we even survive, how can we make a profit or even prosper. We now live in the promised land. Kentucky is where it’s at!

“There are many trainers who are not interested in purchasing non-dual eligible yearlings, especially if Kentucky is one of the states. There has been a huge renaissance in breeding here. Farms are bought and built. People are investing in blood supplies. I suspect that there is a premium of 20 to 30 percent for dually eligible yearlings. Or to put it another way: if you don’t have one, you can be punished with that percentage.”