Shared Wisdom: Honor Guest Arthur B. Hancock III's Address At TCA Testimonial Dinner - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report
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Shared Wisdom: Honor Guest Arthur B. Hancock III’s Address At TCA Testimonial Dinner

Arthur B. Hancock III at Stone Farm in Paris, Ky.

Arthur B. Hancock III was the Honor Guest at Monday's  Thoroughbred Club of America 89th testimonial dinner at Keeneland in Lexington, Ky. It's a tradition that goes back to 1932, when Col. E.R. Bradley was honored, and the dinner has been part of the thoroughbred industry's social calendar every year since until the coronavirus pandemic led to a two-year hiatus in 2020-'21.

Hancock, 79, is the son of Arthur B. “Bull” Hancock Jr. and Waddell Hancock. Bull Hancock was the 1960 Honor Guest and his father, Arthur B. Hancock Sr., the 1944 Honor Guest. Arthur's brother, Seth, was honored by the TCA in 2000.

Hancock grew up on the family's Claiborne Farm in Paris, Ky., but 50 years ago established his own thoroughbred nursery, Stone Farm, down the road from Claiborne. Among the 180 stakes winners raised at Stone Farm are three Kentucky Derby winners, Gato Del Sol in 1982 (co-bred and co-owned by Hancock), Sunday Silence in 1989 (co-owned by Hancock), and Fusaichi Pegasus in 2000 (co-bred by Hancock). He was also co-owner of 1988 Kentucky Oaks winner Goodbye Halo. Sunday Silence and Goodbye Halo were sired by Halo, who stood at Stone Farm. More recently, the 2019 Horse of the Year, Bricks and Mortar, bred by George Strawbridge Jr., was foaled and raised at Stone Farm.

Katie LaMonica, past president of the Thoroughbred Club of America, emceed Monday evening's program, and Strawbridge, 2011 Honor Guest, provided introductory remarks prior to Hancock's address. Edward L. Bowen presented Hancock with the traditional scroll and TCA pin.

Following is the prepared text of Hancock's address as the TCA Honor Guest. It included footage of his appearance on Ralph Emery's “Nashville Now” television show with Waylon Jennings and ended with Hancock performing “Sunday Silence,” a song he wrote about the 1989 Kentucky Derby winner and Horse of the Year.

Arthur B. Hancock III: Thank you George for that very nice introduction. I have known George since we were young men and his father and mine went to Princeton together and were also friends. I'm proud to call you my friend and business partner. So nice of you and Julia to travel all this way to be here.

I would like to thank the Thoroughbred Club of America and its Board of Directors for choosing me as the honored guest. It is very heartfelt and meaningful to me to follow in the footsteps of so many distinguished people who have received this award going back 90 years to 1932. But I could be your first mistake …

It is especially moving for me to follow my grandfather, my father, and my brother Seth as the recipient of this cherished award.

But when you see a turtle on a fencepost, you know he didn't get there by himself, and I would like to thank the wonderful clients of Stone Farm for their support, and the loyal Stone Farm employees for their hard work and expertise which keep the farm going.

George said to me a while back, “Arthur, Stone Farm raises a great horse.” I said, “George, that's because of your good mares and without them it wouldn't happen. We can't raise a hog and make him run any faster.”

But the greatest help and inspiration to me over the years has been my wife, Staci. Not only has she been the backbone of the family in raising our six wonderful children, she has worked very hard to help our industry as the organizer of WHOA (the Water Hay Oats Alliance). Also, she has been unwavering in her efforts to stop the slaughter of our horses, who give us our very livelihood. Thank you, Staci.

Over the years, this turtle on a fencepost has gotten some great advice from many mentors and I thought it might be interesting to pass on some of their helpful wisdom tonight. The first person I ever heard use the turtle metaphor was Albert Clay, also a recipient of this award. He owned a half interest along with John Adger in the first mare I ever boarded at Stone Farm.

A good friend of my father and a mentor to me who had some wonderful sayings was Warner Jones. He told me that the best fertilizer on the farm is the owner's footprints. How true. He also said that the forgotten man is the owner, and that we all owe our livelihood to him. We should never forget that.

Mr. Jones also gave me some advice I didn't follow. Back in 1975, Staci was helping him at the summer sale when I stopped by his barn to look at a yearling. I saw her from a distance and asked him who she was. He had a very low voice, and he turned and looked sternly at me and said, “Her name is Staci Worthington, and you leave her alone. She's a nice girl.”

Vincent O'Brien was another family friend and mentor who gave me a lot of good advice, and back in the '70s he told me that when there's something wrong with a horse, they either go the right way or the wrong way, they never stay the same. There's a lot of wisdom there and I quote him all the time.

Once when I was over in Ireland having dinner at Vincent and Jacqueline's house, I asked him if he could sum up his success as a trainer in a sentence, and he told me, “Arthur, I give them every chance, and plenty of time.”

My dear friend and mentor Charlie Whittingham always had a saying for everything. I once sent him a filly for a client and he asked me how I liked her. I told him “If she wins a stake, I'll get out of the horse business.” She was always dead last running with the herd out in the farm fields. Well, she did win a stake, and Charlie said “Don't feel too bad my boy, never say anything about a horse until he's been dead AT LEAST 10 years.”

Another of Charlie's sayings was, “If foresight was hindsight, we'd be better off by a damn sight.” Back in the '80s I bought a filly through Fernando Fantini in Chile named Maria Fumata. She won several Grade 1 races in Chile and everyone said she was one of the best fillies to come out of there. Fantini was obsessed with the idea that she could win the Arc de Triomphe, and would call me every day and say, “We must send this filly to the Arc. She will fight the Arc, I promise.” And “WIN the Arc!” After days and days of this, I finally agreed to do it. She went to France under the care of Francois Boutin, but did not acclimate well. To make a long story short, she ran last. Then I got a bill from Fernando Fantini where he had stayed in the finest hotel in Paris, along with Miss Chile, and the Generalissimo of the Chilean army. I got a bill for $37,000. It was October and raining and the leaves were falling, and I was in a state of total depression. About that time Charlie called me and could sense something was wrong and said, “What's the matter, my boy?” I told him, and he said, “Well, my boy, you do have the unique distinction of having run last in the Arc de Triomphe, and there aren't too many people who can say that.”

Right before Goodbye Halo ran in the Kentucky Oaks, Charlie said, “Arthur, you need a goat.” That was because I was so nervous and as many of you know, we put goats in the stall with nervous horses.

Once my father had a mare named Monarchy, who was a full sister to Round Table. But she was a bad stall walker. So he got a goat for her. After supper one night, we went to go see her, and when we got to the barn, we heard a racket. Monarchy was running around and around in the stall, with the goat right behind her.

I asked Charlie how to tell if a horse would be a grass horse. Big feet, pedigree, long back – what characteristics? He said, “The only damn way I've ever been able to tell is run them on it and find out.”

Some of the advice I got from Charlie, I had to get in a roundabout way. Once I got an offer for a quarter interest in Sunday Silence. I kept asking Charlie if I should sell, and he wouldn't answer me or give me any advice. Finally I said, “Okay Charlie, you put up an eighth and I'll put up an eighth and we'll both get some money.” Right away, he said, “I'm not selling” and I got my advice.

Jimmy Moseley, my good friend and fellow philosopher, had a wonderful saying: “It's not so much what's wrong as whether or not they can fix it.” That applies to many things.

Mr. Leslie Combs told me when I was starting out, “This horse business is not for people wearing short pants.” The older I get, the shorter my pants are.

One of his other favorite sayings was that an old cat needs a tender mouse. And the older the violin, the sweeter the music. I said, “Mr. Combs what in the hell are you going to do with a tender mouse?”

After I got out of college, I worked a year for Eddie Neloy up at Belmont and at Hialeah. He called me in his office my last day of work, and said, “Hitchcock (that was my nickname around the barn), if you ever own any racehorses, always be sure and use your conditions.” Good advice.

Harry Trotsek, another wonderful trainer who trained Ribbon, the dam of Risen Star, used to tell me to always send him the crooked ones; the perfect ones are all still trying to break their maiden.

The very wise and wonderful horseman John Nerud used to tell me, “In this game, you have to position yourself for luck to run over you.”

Along that same line, Vincent O'Brien had his own theories about luck. The first mare I ever bought was named Punctilious, and she had a nice Forli colt but he banged his ankle before the Summer Sale and if you remember George Swinebroad from Keeneland, he told me the buyers would penalize us up at the sale because of that bump. Mr. O'Brien was having dinner at Claiborne, and said he would look at the yearling – and he said, “If I like him, I'll sell half of him to a man in England who is very lucky.” I said, “Mr. O'Brien, do you really think that matters?” and he said, “Arthur, I think it means everything.” So he sold a half to Charles St. George and we named the colt Dapper. He won the Gladness and the Tetrarch Stakes, and was third in the Guineas, and we ended up selling him for a good price. Over the years, I am a firm believer in Vincent's luck theory.

Horatio Luro who was from Argentina, and who trained the great Northern Dancer and Decidedly to win the Kentucky Derby, said to me several times, “Do not squeeze the lemon dry in any phase of this game.”  When he was stressed out, he would always say, “I need the tranquility.”

Longtime friend and advisor Dr. Bob Copeland once told me, “Don't settle for anything short of perfect – you won't get a second chance.”

Paul Sullivan, my best friend since we were 12 years old who is here tonight, gave me some of the best advice I've ever had. In early 1989, after Sunday Silence won the San Felipe but before he won the Derby, I was offered a million dollars for a quarter interest in him. I owed a lot of money at that time, and I thought I probably should take it. I asked Paul what I should do, and he said, “Hell that won't even pay your interest for one year. You'd better hold on and hope.” He said, “You're like the man who's been in a casino and lost everything – you've got enough to make one more wager, so you'd better put it on the line, and hold on and hope.” I did, and Sunday Silence saved the farm.

But in the end, some of the best advice I've ever gotten was from my father. He said nobody needs to own a racehorse, and nobody needs to bet on a racehorse. We're only as good as our reputation, and once it's gone it's gone.

  • A good bull is half your herd and a bad bull is all of it.
  • Genetics is an inexact science. Did you ever hear of Richard Nixon's full brother?

And then you see these ads about Hancock's Law, and his opinions about stallions. Let me tell you what Hancock's Law really was. I asked him why he wouldn't take a few more mares to Bold Ruler who had only 36 mares on his book. The stud fee was $100,000, which would be about $500,000 now. He said, “Because, Arthur, overbreeding a stallion compromises the quality of their offspring.”

He thought a stallion should have around 100 covers a year, which back then would have been a book of 40 mares at 2.5 covers, and now it would be about 80 mares at 1.3 covers per stallion.

He said that overbreeding is not fair to the customers because of the law of supply and demand.

Some of my own thoughts on that subject are the same as my father's.

  • If you breed a lot of mares to a young stallion and he's a flop, you have polluted the gene pool.
  • You can have one of 50 yearlings in the sale, and it might be a nice one, but there is no money if you're not in the top 15 or 20 percent.
  • We have been shut out of breeding our mares four times this year at Stone Farm, and had to switch stallions. That's just not right, given the owner's investment and risk.
  • Also, this overbreeding has not produced a Man o' War or a Secretariat I've seen recently, like in the old days.
  • Another theory of my father's which I agree wholeheartedly with, is if you're breeding the stallion to a bunch of mares, the mare is not getting the best that the stallion has to offer. The strength of the sperm is diluted. And Daddy studied genetics at Princeton

OK, enough of this serious stuff and my thoughts on breeding. Mr. Ted Bassett, who will be 101 this year, has another wonderful quote: “Age is a matter of the mind, and if you don't mind, it doesn't matter.” Speaking of age, here's a video from 33 years ago with another old friend of mine – Waylon Jennings – who often joked, “I've always been crazy but it's kept me from going insane. ” And has that ever been true in my case!

After Sunday Silence ran in the Belmont, which we lost to Easy Goer, we had scheduled a win, lose or draw party at the 21 Club in New York. Waylon Jennings and his wife Jessi Coulter were fans of Sunday Silence, and they were among the guests. Towards the end of the dinner, Ted Bassett arranged for a piano to be brought in from another room, and Jessie played her wonderful song “Storms never last, do they baby. Bad times all pass with the wind.” Her words that night lifted the day's depression from having lost the Triple Crown.

Another thing Mr. Bassett arranged was for me to go to Australia to speak before the Carbine Club at their annual Melbourne Cup luncheon. I asked another of my mentors, Bill Young, before we went whether I should take the guitar. He said “Arthur, they won't remember a damn thing you say … but if you take the guitar, they won't forget you.” So I did, and I sang a song I wrote called Sunday Silence, which I wrote on the plane on the way back from the Belmont. I'd like to close with that same song tonight. I bet you never saw a turtle on a fencepost play a guitar!


Following are excerpts from some of the dinner program's testimonials to Arthur B. Hancock III:

Seth HancockSunday Silence, Gato del Sol, Goodbye Halo, Fusaichi Pegasus, and Bricks and Mortar are just a few of the horses Arthur has bred, raised, raced and/or sold for himself and his clients. He also bred and raced Grade 1-winning Harlan and stood him at stud. Harlan sired Arthur's Blue Grass winner, Menifee, as well as Harlan's Holiday, sire of today's leading sire, Into Mischief.

In addition to all this, he and his wife of 44 years, Staci, have founded WHOA (Water Hay Oats Alliance), which has been so instrumental in getting  HISA (Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act) passed. They are also the proud parents of six Grade 1-winning children and three grandchildren.

Let's tonight celebrate Arthur on his much-deserved and long overdue honor.

Helen Alexander Arthur could have been many things: song writer, musician, singer, poet; but chose instead to be a horseman.

Over the years we have had wide-ranging discussions on breeding horses and Arthur has always had strong beliefs on how things should be done and what will make a great horse. One of his theories led to his breeding Kentucky Derby winner Gato Del Sol, so how can you argue with that? Personally, I believe he just has an uncanny knack for seeing what's best in a horse that's often missed by others. Kentucky Derby winner number two, Sunday Silence, is an example of that, first having been purchased by Arthur (thinking he was doing a favor for the owner) and then being led out unsold on another occasion. I know it pained him to sell Sunday Silence and lose what he knew was going to be a great stallion, but it was the right thing to do at the time. …

The industry has a lot to thank Arthur for. His dogged persistence in trying to “clean up” racing will be a lasting legacy. He is always a man of his convictions. I am truly grateful to call you friend.  

James E. Bassett IIIArthur Hancock, renowned owner and breeder of classical winners across the world, joins a distinguished list of TCA honorees. He has built, designed and crafted his own successful and personal legacy in Stone Farm. He is being recognized as one of racing's most honorable, knowledgeable and respected leaders.

Jim Squires If horses could shape their own lives, they would choose to be born on Stone Farm and raised by Arthur Hancock. If raising good horses is an art, there is no better “Old Master” than Arthur. While that designation must be shared with a few others, he has earned one clear distinction as the earliest, often lonely, and most powerful voice protesting the flagrant use of drugs in the breeding of and enhancing the performance of racehorses. If like other sports horse racing awarded a Most Valuable Player, over the last 25 years it has been Arthur Boyd Hancock III.

Alex G. Campbell Jr.Having known Arthur for over 50 years, I have seen his love for horses and his dedication to the sport. He is a gentleman and a fierce and honest competitor. Arthur has been an outspoken voice for our horses and their treatment and has worked to promote and keep the equine industry vital and fluid.

Arthur has led by example and has shown his compassion for the people and animals involved in the sport of thoroughbred racing. He is not afraid to express his disdain for those not doing the right thing for our equine athletes.

Paul Sullivan ­About 20 years ago, Arthur told me point blank, “drugs and thugs are killing horse racing. I can't stand back and watch this happen.” With virtually no support from the industry I saw this endeavor as the river too wide to cross. Nevertheless, with the help of Staci, he helped and supported the recent passing of the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act.

George Strawbridge Jr.  – Arthur has always strongly supported any cause that has as its objective the protection and care of the horse. For this reason and the extraordinary success he's had raising horses is why he justly deserves to receive the honor he's receiving tonight.

John GosdenArthur Hancock represents all that is good about the American racing and breeding industry. He has consistently maintained the highest standards of horsemanship throughout his long and accomplished career. From the rearing of his young horses and their management he has always put their welfare ahead of all other considerations. His diligent care has been the template at Stone Farm and his family ethos has been an example to us all. Charlie Whittingham had the highest regard for Arthur and that is as great a compliment as any horseman could ever receive.

John Ed AnthonyIt's certainly fitting for Arthur to be recognized by the Thoroughbred Club of America for the leadership he has shown during a lifetime of involvement in breeding and racing.

Foremost has been his recognition of the crisis the abuse of permissive medication was creating in our industry.

By leading and promoting the WHOA Initiative and doggedly urging action on the matter he was instrumental in the passage of the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act. His effort and that of his team may very well be the savior of racing as we know it.

 

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