The Lifeblood of the Broodmare Band… as Keeneland Returns

Kindle 18, now known as Palazzi, on the day he sold at the Fasig-Tipton Select Sale in 2019 to John Oxley. The 3-yr-old colt is slated to run in Friday's renewal of the Grade III Transylvania Stakes at Keeneland. (photo courtesy of Hank Nothhaft)
Kindle 18, now known as Palazzi, on the day he sold at the Fasig-Tipton Select Sale in 2019 to John Oxley. The 3-yr-old colt is slated to run in Friday's renewal of the Grade III Transylvania Stakes at Keeneland. (photo courtesy of Hank Nothhaft)

Each year, spring does not officially arrive until Keeneland does. After last year’s postponement due to COVID-19, the regular meet is back! Of course, the Central Kentucky racing that regularly occurs each April and October is only one dimension of Keeneland’s vast operations. Under the new leadership of President Shannon Arvin, sales and racing combine to offer an important lifeline to the future.

The 2021 Keeneland Spring Meet runs starting this Friday, April 2 through Friday, April 23. To kick-off the spring, and one of this sport’s greatest events, brings you this special interview. In order to highlight the impending festivities by focusing on a significant aspect of where breeding and racing converge, we wanted to highlight how foals move from the farm to eventually the track. It is a complicated process.     

Right now, the future of American Thoroughbred racing rests, much as it does elsewhere, on the power of the broodmare. It cannot exist without them. Much has been made about the production levels concerning new foals, especially in lieu of changes advocated by the Jockey Club of America. Whatever the case, and wherever your opinion rests, the fact of the matter is, without suitable females that can produce, the sport is in peril… globally. This is especially poignant considering that they can only produce one foal per year, what with an 11-month gestation period. Time and slow pressure, in an almost geological sense, unfold slowly, and is part of an intricate milieu.  

Recently, at Sam Houston Race Park, a young 3-yr-old colt named Palazzi, trained by Mark Casse, owned by John Oxley, and ridden by Declan Cannon, swept down the lane in the Texas Mile Turf 200k for an unbelievable wire win. After witnessing that score, the background of the broodmare came into focus, and I wanted to know more about Palazzi’s breeding. The female that produced him is named Kindle, and she is owned by Henry “Hank” Nothhaft of Austin, Texas. His role in this business is an intriguing cog when it comes to how Thoroughbred racing goes.

Nothhaft joined me for a chat discussing a variety of issues pertaining to his self-described “Broodmare Band.” This week, he is looking forward to seeing Palazzi run on Opening Day at Keeneland in the annual renewal of the $150k Transylvania Stakes (G3). This race showcases a promising crop of 3-yr-old colts going a 1 1/16th on the Haggin Turf Course. We will discuss Nothhaft’s approach to his operations at HnR Nothhaft Horse Racing LLC., which he founded back in 2008. A former technology entrepreneur, he continues to be invigorated and astounded by the connections this “industry” continues to regularly provide.

Here is the interview republished here, in its entirety…


J.N. Campbell: Hank, I appreciate you joining me today. I want to jump right in and begin by talking about the importance of the broodmare. Why are they so significant to the industry in your opinion?

Hank Nothhaft: Thank you for taking the time to talk to me about my Thoroughbred business, which is now a bit over 10 years old. My strategy is to breed thoroughbreds to race and/or sell. I bring a great sense of urgency to my business, as I was 65 years old when I decided to have this next life adventure. My goal from Day 1 is to breed horses that I couldn’t, or wouldn’t, be able to afford to buy. 

The entry point for this strategy from both a “fun” and financial perspective is broodmares. Initially, I bought a few yearling fillies with the best physicals and pedigrees that I could afford and race them. This turned out to be about $50,000 each. If I raced them successfully, it would step up their value significantly. Even if they failed as racehorses, the pedigree would provide a floor residual value as broodmare prospects.

Three fillies, Randie’s Legend, Kindle, and Living the Life, became the nucleus for what I call my “Broodmare Band.” With continuous tweaking, this strategy has produced a BC Champ/Eclipse Award-winner, 37% Stakes winners, and allowed me to create a 12 to 14-member group that I certainly couldn’t afford to buy. “Quality” broodmares become a virtuous cycle and a door opener. When they are bred to quality stallions, they in-turn often produce quality foals for sale or racing. 

J.N. Campbell: Can we focus on Kindle? How has she done, as far as her role in your operations, including boarding?

Hank Nothhaft: Kindle has been a blessing. With the expert advice of Trainer Gary Mandella, I purchased Kindle at the Keeneland September Sale as a yearling in 2009 for $50,000. Great pedigree, muscular, but short in stature, allowed me to acquire her for this bargain price. With Gary training, Kindle won 2 stakes, placed in 4 Graded Stakes, and established a nice record (11: 4-4-1) with career earnings of $243k. During her career she had brilliant short distance speed.

After she retired, I moved Kindle to the aforementioned, “Broodmare Band.” Given her height and distance limitations, with the assistance of my bloodstock agent, Carl McEntee, I have booked Kindle to a series of large, two turn, commercial dirt sires with compatible bloodlines. Kindle has produced 4 colts; Made in America (Tiznow); Confidential Act (American Pharoah); Palazzi (Pioneer of the Nile) and Kindle 20 (Into Mischief). Kindle is back in foal to American Pharoah with a colt. All these are real specimens when it comes to size and conformation.

J.N. Campbell: Take us through each of those, if you would…

Hank Nothhaft: So, I retained Made in America who is now a Stakes-winner, and has 3 wins and 2 places out of 6 starts. Kindle’s American Pharoah colt was a sensation from his first days. Ultimately, I sold him at auction as a weanling for $400K. The purchaser, Cavalier Bloodstock is a well-known pin hooker, then sold him at the 2018 Keeneland September Sale to Godolphin for $2.2 Million. Named Confidential Act, he is unraced. The third foal is Palazzi, now a Stakes-winner, who we will discuss in a minute. I also own the yearling, known as the Into Mischief Kindle 20 colt. My plan is to sell Kindle 20 at the Saratoga Select Sale in the late summer. I think Kindle 2021 will be my highest-priced sale, so far. I am really excited about the forthcoming American Pharoah 2021 colt. Future plans are undetermined, but I probably will end up selling him. 

I board Kindle, along with several of my broodmares and foals at Coolmore America. Their level of service, expertise and quality in every aspect of horse care is unparalleled. Brian Tormey heads the team that cares for my horses. We are in constant contact via text, phone, photos, and videos. I also visit personally about 6x a year to validate my plans, and to strengthen one-on-one relationships.

J.N. Campbell: I find your role in this process really interesting… as a “surrogate” of sorts. For instance, Palazzi, who won the Texas Turf Mile @SHRP, you don’t “own” him, since he is a John Oxley horse, who is trained by Mark Casse. Explain how he is still hugely important to you, and remains a “proto-family” member.

Hank Nothhaft: As a commercial breeder, the outcome of each foal’s career affects the financial outcome of future foals from the mare. The old expression goes, “I own the factory”, so from that standpoint the better the predecessors do, everything being equal, the better for future sales’ prices. In Kindle’s case, the $2.2 M American Pharoah colt was an amazing personal experience. However, what initially looked like a huge plus, unraced Confidential Act, is now a “neutral” at best. On the other hand, now that Made in America and Palazzi are winners at the Stakes-level, that will have a huge impact on the sale price for Kindle 20, as well as future progeny.

J.N. Campbell: And outside of those financial matters?

Hank Nothhaft: Well, I also love to see my foals get in better hands than mine. I have good trainers and go all out to support horses that I keep to race. On the other hand, if I can get my horse in the hands of a Hall of Fame trainer like Mark Casse, and a Kentucky Derby-winning owner, like John Oxley, who have significantly greater resources and aspirations than me, it is an added plus for the horse and a validation of our efforts. Emotionally, I take great pride on what we accomplish, work hard to create a trusted brand and even have a direct financial benefit through the Kentucky Bred Program

J.N. Campbell: Speaking of Palazzi, he is out of Pioneerof the Nile, which is powerhouse combination. There is a “Pioneer Syndicate,” what role did they play in this relationship?

Hank Nothhaft: As part of my breeding strategy, from time to time, I use foal sharing agreements to mitigate risk for some of my more expensive stud fees. You can insure against mortality, but you can’t against a bad foal. Once a foal is born, stands and nurses, you owe the stud fee no matter what the physical conformation or condition of the foal. A foal share agreement is a partnership where the mare owner puts up their own, and the stallion owners put up his fee for typically a 50/50 title of any forthcoming foal. Foal shares generally require that they be sold at auction, and the partners split the proceeds. This avoids the stud-fee-risk for the mare owner.

When I bred Kindle to Pioneerof the Nile, I entered into a foal share agreement in lieu of the $120K stud fee. I would then own 50% of the foal, and the “Pioneer Syndicate” would own the other half. We are listed as co-breeders. Our agreement called for Kindle 19, aka Palazzi… to be sold at auction as a weanling, which he was at the Keeneland November Sale. Since, I already owned 50% of Kindle 18, I bid on him, knowing that I was going to pay 50 cents on the dollar. I was prepared to go to $400K, but got him for $375K. Since, I already owned 50%, I paid $187K to own 100%. So, I avoided the stud fee risk by paying bit of a premium after seeing the foal. I then prepped Kindle 18/Palazzi, and sold him at Fasig-Tipton Select sale 2019 for $510K.   

J.N. Campbell: Should Palazzi win the Transylvania Stakes at Keeneland, what kind of impact does that make for Kindle? Please explain…

Hank Nothhaft: Palazzi will likely be running in that race. If he wins or even hits the board, in a “Graded” event, it will have another order of magnitude on the price of the foals. Also, it could favorably impact even Kindle, if I ever decided to sell her. I’d estimate as much as 40%. If he goes on to further “Graded” glory it will have a salutary effect on future foals, and would make Kindle a seven-figure broodmare in her own right.

J.N. Campbell: Where do you go next with your mare? Do you have a new sire you have pinpointed? Hopes and dreams…

Hank Nothhaft: One aspect of my strategy I haven’t mentioned, is that you have to give your broodmare a chance to excel.  You have to be willing and able to take the risk to breed to the best sires. You can see that in the breeding choices I made for Kindle. Now that she has produced two Stakes winners, I want to stay on that track. I have her booked to Triple Crown Champion, Justify.  Based on his foals and the mares Justify has bred, I believe he and American Pharoah will be breed shaping sires. My hopes and dreams are that Kindle will finally have a filly with Justify. Then, she can join my other filly by the same sire, Living Magic, which would be amazing!

J.N. Campbell: Thanks so much for the discussion, Hank. I must ask, 3 words to describe the broodmare business that you might offer?

Hank Nothhaft: Pays the bills!!!

J.N. Campbell: Well said… wish you the best with all your endeavors.

Hank Nothhaft: Thanks for the discussion!