Bred in Kentucky by Stone Farm, Air Force Blue is by neighboring Claiborne Farm’s super sire War Front (Danzig) out of the Maria’s Mon mare Chatham. The dam was bred by W.T. Young’s Overbrook Farm and sold in that famous farm’s dispersal at the 2009 Keeneland November sale. Arthur Hancock picked the mare up for $190,000, in foal to Arch, and almost immediately began making money with her.
There couldn’t have been more on the line for Arthur Hancock III heading into the 1989 Breeders’ Cup Classic.
Not only would second place likely fall short of saving his troubled farm and his family’s financial future, but his colt was matched against a foe with connections that represented a personal rivalry.
Such a backdrop created drama of the highest order, and the race delivered once-in-a-lifetime tension, not to mention a fantastic finish.
Asked what he liked about the dark bay colt, Bell said, “Mostly the people who raised him.” Then he added, “He was an athlete. He was one of the best movers that I saw all day. He had everything I want in a horse.”
Arthur and Staci Hancock have ensured that Stone Farm in Paris will remain an important feature of the local landscape and agricultural economy.
Since Arthur Hancock purchased his first farm in Bourbon County in the 1970s, he has seen many of the neighboring farms change hands, some being sold off as smaller parcels. He could have done the same, and for a big profit, but he had other ideas.
Arthur and his wife Staci, who live and work on their Stone Farm in Paris and have raised their six children there, call this farm home. It is part of their history and they want to keep it safe for the future.
“My motto has always been: “If you take care of the land, the land will take care of you,” Arthur Hancock said.
Photo by Kevin Thompson
Breeder Arthur Hancock III, who had broken away from his family’s famed Claiborne Farm to start nearby Stone Farm in Paris, Ky., became the first in his family to own a Kentucky Derby winner as Gato Del Sol came from last under jockey Eddie Delahoussaye to beat Laser Light by 21/2 lengths. Hancock and trainer Eddie Gregson created a fuss when they skipped the Preakness to concentrate on the Belmont, in which Gato Del Sol finished a distant second in the slop to eventual Horse of the Year Conquistador Cielo. Gato Del Sol, so beholden to a fast pace, never won a top race again, though he did win Hollywood’s Cabrillo at ages 4 and 6 (in his final start). He was the first Derby winner to race at 6 since Tomy Lee in 1959 and the last until 2003 Derby winner Funny Cide.
Unsuccessful as a Kentucky stallion, Gato Del Sol was sold to a German stud in 1992 but bought back by Hancock in 1999 to ensure a good retirement home. He died in 2007 and is buried at Stone Farm.