On a steamy summer morning nearly four years ago the news spread across Kentucky's bluegrass country. In a freakish accident, Horse of the Year Saint Liam suffered a fractured hind leg while being led to his paddock. Due to the extent of the left tibial fracture, no surgical repair was possible and the stallion was euthanized later in the day. The winner of the 2005 Breeders' Cup Classic had completed his first year at stud at William Farrish's Lane's End Farm.
Owned by William Warren Jr. and his wife, Suzanne, Saint Liam's lone crop yielded 96 foals. By the fall of 2007 Warren was on a mission to round up a number of his champion's best-bred offspring. He privately bought six weanlings by Saint Liam— four colts and two fillies.
Included in Warren's purchases was a pretty filly out of the Chester County mare Danzig's Dreamer. Warren made owners Karen and Gary Farrar an offer through Mark Reid, the owner of Walnut Green Farm and Bloodstock in West Grove, Pa.
Born in April 2007 at the Farrars' Wintickett Farm in Cochranville, Pa., Karen knew the filly-- now called Liam's Dream-- was something special.
"She just had that look to her," related Farrar, a lifelong horsewoman. "Smart, self-confident, the way she carried herself. She never fell apart like a lot of babies. She was very classy.
"I thought Mr. Warren was looking more at St. Liam colts. Then Mark Reid (also racing manager for the Warrens), who lives nearby and had seen our filly, suggested that Mr. Warren look at her. We got an offer and, honestly, I didn't want to sell her. Then they came back with a second offer we couldn't turn down."
On Memorial Day Weekend Liam's Dream was bet down to a 1-5 favorite in the $75,000 Wonders Delight Stakes, a six-furlong race at Penn National. The three-year old filly raced a little off the pace for the first quarter mile, then she came a strong run three wide to win by 2 ½ lengths. Liam's Dream racing record: four wins and one third in five starts with earnings of $194,760.
"When I went up to Penn I was more nervous than if I owned the horse," Farrar said. "They've taken their time and not pushed her. Being that well-bred, her success doesn't surprise me. She's very, very special to me. I'm so happy for everyone involved."
Liam's Dream is the third stakes winner from the abbreviated single crop of the late champion. Foaled in 2000, Saint Liam won the 2005 Eclipse Horse of the Year title, and earned over $4 million during his racing career. His victories included Grade 1 events such as the Stephen Foster Handicap and the Donn Handicap.
She also hails from a classy female family. Danzig's Dreamer is by Rubiano, and is a half-sister to graded winner and one of the world's leading sires, Distorted Humor, and stakes winner Dancing Gulch. Purchased privately by the Farrars after Danzig's Dreamer failed to reach her reserve at the 2005 Keeneland November sale, the couple paid $125,000 for her in foal to Proud Citizen. Their most expensive horse purchase, she has since produced four fillies from as many foals at Wintickett.
Tony Dutrow trainee
Liam's Dream's Penn National victory followed a dominating performance in the $100,000 Cicada Stakes (Grade-3) at Aqueduct in March. Checked hard at the break, Liam's Dream was shuffled to the pack of the back. Jockey Anna Rose Napravnik saved ground on the backstretch then on the far turn scooted her through a narrow opening on the rail to gain the lead in mid-stretch to win by 1-½ lengths. She covered six furlongs in 1:10.10 over the fast inner track. It was the first graded stakes score for both horse and rider.
"In the stretch, when she came through on the rail, she really fired," Napravnik said. "She was very, very game."
Stabled in the Aqueduct barn of trainer Tony Dutrow, Liam's Dream broke her maiden first time out at Philadelphia Park last November where she won easily by 3 1/4 lengths traveling five and a half furlongs.
The two-year old filly surfaced a month later again at Philadelphia Park, displaying a front-running style and scoring a nearly six length victory over six and a half furlongs in a $58,000 allowance race. At the end of January, Liam's Dream made her stakes debut in the Forward Gal stakes (Grade-2) at Gulfstream Park in south Florida where she rallied to finish third behind winner Bickersons in the seven-furlong test.
"That was a tough race with 14 horses, including the Breeders Cup juvenile filly She Be Wild," Farrar related. "She traveled wide, then ran into traffic, but still finished third. She showed a lot that day."
Farrar's family relocated to Oxford, Pa. when she was ten, and as a teenager she rode show horses. At age 18, she started getting thoroughbreds off the track and training them as show hunters.
"What's that saying: looking to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear, well, that was me," Farrar recalled with a chuckle. "I never had a ‘made horse.' I would buy the horse, teach it, show it and then sell it. They would compete in the Fair Hill horse trials or paper chase it. Just looking to find a niche. But I got to the point that I had to jump through so many hoops that I wanted a new direction."
In 1999 she bought an older thoroughbred mare with the intentions of reselling her. No takers. At that point Farrar and her husband Gary, a real estate investor, elected to breed her to Storm Boot for $2,000. They sold the yearling for $15,000.
" thought, wow, that was pretty good," she recalled. "Let's keep at it."
By 2003 the couple had made a serious commitment to the breeding business, spending their free time studying its finer points. Each year the couple worked at improving their stock. They were up to 17 broodmares at their Chester County farm, but when the economy tanked in 2008 they starting culling the band. They produced 11 foals in 2008 and 15 in 2009, and seven this year.
At their 3o-acre farm Farrar is a hands-on proprietor, handling all of the horses and working a typical seven-day week. She does all her own foaling. Up all night.
"We set up cameras so we can watch in their stalls," Farrar elated. "It's very labor intensive. We've got sheds out in every field and we clean them all the time. Horses are left out at night in the summer and out during the day in winter. By early June we've got yearlings out there bit up or kicked by the other horses. It's their natural way of living, but it can be a bit nerve wracking for me."
The Farrars also bred Holdontoyourdream, a graded stakes-placed filly that is a half-sister to Liam's Dream. The couple twice attempted to sell the Proud Citizen filly but brought her home both times when bidding stopped at less than $30,000.
"No one liked her, and we just couldn't get what we wanted," said Farrar. Also trained by Dutrow, Holdontoyourdream broke her maiden first out at Philadelphia Park at age 2.
In five starts, she has two wins and a second, and was third in the Comely Stakes-G2 at Aqueduct, earning $99,535. Given time off to recover from a foot bruise and quarter crack, she was sent to Aiken, S. C. and currently is at Fair Hill, waiting a return to Philadelphia Park. Farrar says she may go to trainer Cynthia Reese, who trains Indian Legend, another one of their 3-year old fillies.
Just a few hours after Liam's Dream's scintillating performance in the Cicada Stakes on March 23, Danzig's Dreamer, now age 12, delivered a Malibu Moon filly at the Cochranville farm.
Danzig's Dreamer's first yearling sold for $350,000 — trained by Wayne Lucas and owned by two-time Kentucky Derby owner Bob Lewis. Another yearling sold for $900,0oo and was in training with Todd Pletcher before a bowed tendon short-circuited his racing career.
The Farrars intend to sell Danzig's Dreamer's 2010 yearling, by Scat Daddy, at the Keeneland Sale this fall. The mare has been bred to Bernardini with a foal expected in 2011.
As for Liam's Dream, the couple is over the moon.
"It's such an up and down business, so many bad things can happen to horses so you really appreciate and take pride in her accomplishments," Farrar noted. "There have been points where I've said, ‘I don't know if I can do this anymore.' Then Liam's Dream comes along and it recharges your batteries. But that's the nature of racing. You don't have to have a big farm with a big breeding operation to have big success. So, you never know."
Terry Conway is the racing writing for the Pennsylvania Equestrian, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org