Lexington, Ky. – May 22, 2018 – The rolling hills of Lexington, Kentucky are ultimately categorized for two things: bourbon and racehorses. However, tucked away in the heart of Lexington’s horse country is Mt. Brilliant Farm. The farm sits on 760 acres of pastures and barns and is home to not only the iconic Thoroughbred racehorse, but also to a fully operational polo farm complete with three fields, a training facility, and a successful polo breeding program.
The farm, owned by the Goodman family, was originally created for the purpose of breeding and raising Thoroughbreds for racing, but thanks to brothers Bo and Hutton Goodman’s love for the sport of polo, Mt. Brilliant is now home to over 50 polo ponies that are used in tournaments and for breeding purposes. Under the name Kentucky Polo, the Goodman brothers are working to expand their breed through incorporating a variety of bloodlines and the science of cloning. PS Polo sat down with Hutton Goodman and Kako Basualdo, the polo manager at Mt. Brilliant Farm, to discuss the start and future of Kentucky Polo.
How did polo at Mt. Brilliant Farm start?
Hutton: “My uncle played polo my whole life. I broke my back playing football and so I went to spend that winter in Wellington with my uncle. He sent me home with a horse, a mallet, a helmet, and some boots. So I came home to Lexington and he set us up with a guy named Dario Garcia, who got my brother and I really started. He got half of the people that play in Lexington started.”
What is your overall breeding strategy for Kentucky Polo?
Kako: “When we’re picking horses to breed, we’re always looking for good combinations. Our idea is always to mix some blood. We have a couple stallions in Argentina, as well as some here in the United States, that we think are a very good breed and every year we try to mix some of them with our mares because then that opens up a new bloodline.”
Hutton: “The idea of this breeding plan where we really mix things up comes from racing. The greatest breeding operations in all of racing, like Claiborne and Coolmore, mix a lot of different bloodlines. They go all over the world to buy horses to incorporate. And breeding in polo is even easier than racing, because it doesn’t have to be live breeding and there are not nearly as many rules. We have 30 mares on this farm and we lock ourselves in a room for about a month and do about five to six hours a day of deciding who we’re going to breed with those 30 mares. We put a lot of effort into picking these pairs and trying to find just the right combination of traits. We breed for physical characteristics first. A lot of people in polo are looking for pure dirt speed racehorses, like Storm Cat. But there’s not a lot of high level polo played on dirt. We are trying to breed horses that are going to play in the U.S. Open, so we look for turf horses. When you look back at great polo breeders like Kerry Packer at Ellerstina, they did a lot with New Zealand mares, which are great for long distance and they are long backed horses. So we are trying to do more of what we think has worked in the past. The thing with breeding is though, no one really knows what that their talking about. A lot of it is trial and error.”
What are some of your favorite stallions?
Hutton: “So we had Valid Expectations, who we owned as a racing stallion. We had him forever. It turned out that he was probably one of the top two horses in the world for polo breeding, we just didn’t know it. Now, unfortunately, Valid [Expectations] is dead, but we actually cloned him. The first time we cloned him, it didn’t work. But now we have a foal due in August. As far as other stallions go, Graymar Farms has a stallion named Reds Isaac that we absolutely love. Our best horses, that aren’t by Valid Expectations, are by Reds Isaac. He is a full Thoroughbred from Wyoming but he’s only been used for polo breeding. For our Kentucky Polo breed we’re looking for horses that are really smart and very tough-minded, but also sensitive. All of our babies by Valid Expectations and Reds Isaac have that balance of characteristics.”
Kako: “We like Reds Isaac’s babies so much because they have a great temperament, great mouths, and conformation. They are also just the right amount of sensitive. In polo, you play really hard so a horse has to have the right combination of sensitivity and toughness. It’s a very difficult balance to find and perfect.”
Do you have an all-time favorite horse?
Hutton: “One of my favorite horses that I’ve ever had was a gift from my uncle, it was a horse named Mango. Mango was a gelding. We are getting ready to clone Mango, so that we can basically have him as a stallion. Mango was such a great athlete, I loved to play him. I was given this horse when he was 19 and I still played him in two U.S. Open’s. The horse never had a bad day, he was always completely sound.”
Kako: “When they made Mango into a polo pony, he was already a gelding. He played a few Open’s in Argentina and was really amazing. But no one knew how good Mango would be as a polo horse, which is why they decided to geld him.”
What are your thoughts on cloning in polo?
Hutton: “When we found out that we had one of the best stallions for polo in the country [Valid Expectations], we immediately wanted to try cloning. We knew that we were limited in how long he was going to be able to breed and especially as an older horse, we were worried about his health. If you clone a horse, they aren’t necessarily going to have the exact same athletic abilities. They’ll probably have the same capacity, but it won’t be exactly the same. There will still be genetic mutations that happen. But even though there are these differences, the semen that the clone will produce will be within around 97% identical. So if we clone Mango, he might not be the same three-time Argentine Open pony that we knew, but he is going to have the same semen as the original Mango. A lot of people are trying to clone in order to clone exact athletes; we are cloning for the purpose of breeding style only. Ultimately when you clone a stallion, you are making that stallion immortal.”
What tournaments do you host at Mt. Brilliant Farm?
Hutton: “We used to have more tournaments throughout the summer but now our main tournament is during September. We have a bunch of young horses so we’ll still be doing slow chukkers and young horse polo out here. My brother and I will also put in teams at our local club, Lexington Polo. But our big event here at Mt. Brilliant is our 14-goal tournament in September. Our teams change every year; my brother and I like to mix it up. We also do a charity game every year and the general public in Lexington loves to come out for that. We get close to 1,000 people. It’s really fun. We bring out a band and have a party in one of the old barns, it’s a lot of fun.”
For more information on Mt. Brilliant Farm visit their website or Instagram page, @kentuckypolo.