The quest for longevity and perfection in breeding thoroughbred racehorses has kept the Everatt family of St. Thomas, Ontario among the top operations in Canada for over two decades.
The husband and wife team of James and Janeane and their daughter Arika Everatt-Meeuse made it all the way up to the number five breeders in the country in 2010, behind powerhouses Adena Springs, Eugene Melynk, Sam-Son Farm and Gardiner Farms, by earnings per foal. In 2011, products of the family’s Shannondoe Farm won 20 races from 40 starts and two of them, Sand Cove and Euro Platinum, were stakes winners.
And those stats come from yearling crops that have rarely been over a dozen each season.
“We try to produce the best racehorse we possibly can,” said Arika-Everatt-Meeuse, 42, who manages the St. Thomas farm and oversees the workings of the family’s Kentucky farm, Colton Springs.
Among the secrets of their success seem to be their ability to change and adjust according to the health of the commercial breeding market in North America. They have raised hearty Canadian-bred horses with speed and stamina, sold mares and yearlings in the United States and Canada and even have had a small, successful racing stable.
Going forward, Shannondoe is in an expansion mode with twice as many yearlings set to be sold this season and a new venture into the stallion business.
Shannondoe Farm did not start out as a top thoroughbred farm but instead got its beginnings as a large trout farming business when James and Janeane purchased the 60-acres in 1963.
“At the time it was called Shadow Brook and my parents built a commercial trout hatchery that produced over one million fish each year,” said Everatt-Meeuse. “They also had sport fishing available on the property.”
Jim, a self-employed entrepreneur who worked in construction, and Janeane, a nurse, were also avid horse lovers and added American saddlebreds to the property. The trout business kept steady for almost 10 years but frequent winter ice storms eventually played havoc with the electricity and, subsequently, the fish tanks.
“One winter, the electricity was out for more than a week,” said Everatt-Meeuse. “The fish were kept in tanks with a generator until the electricity was finally restored for good. But then, a large icicle fell and severed a wire, and one morning, all we found were dead fish.”
It was 1972 when the Everatts left the trout business behind and re-named the farm Shannondoe (a made up name). They purchased their first thoroughbred, a broodmare, in 1972 for $3,500.
“They re-sold her for $7,500 and were hooked,” said Everatt- Meeuse. “From there, every year they bought a mare or two.”
As the thoroughbreds began to move in, James developed the property himself, building all three barns, the run-in sheds, workshop, an elaborate exerciser, even the Everatt homestead.
“Every stall frame, stall door and barn door was built in the shop by him,” said Everatt-Meeuse. “Every fence post was put in with a level. He is the king of perfection.”
Everatt-Meeuse, who was “was practically born in the barn” and had her first pony at the age of two, was showing hunters and jumpers at an early age.
Following a bad accident that resulted in 13 surgeries on her knee, Everatt-Meeuse switched to riding reining horses as a hobby before learning to pony yearlings, something that would have a big impact on how the family’s yearlings were prepped and their racehorses started.
The family’s first runner was a homebred filly by their own stallion, Fool And His Money, that they could not sell due to an unsightly scar on her chest. Named Arikarin (named for Arika and her lone sibling, brother Aaron) the filly had modest success on the track.
Fool And His Money was one of a handful of stallions who stood at Shannondoe in the early years along with the sturdy runner Mythical Ruler and later, Clausewitz, Varick, a Grade II stakes winner by Mr. Prospector, Jacksboro and Legal Bid.
“Varick was a horse we bought outright off the track,” said Everatt-Meeuse. “He was very good looking but rotten, very self destructing. And without any Ontario sired program back then, he was just not worth the effort. He was later sold to Australia.”
The family eventually left the stallion business for the time being, citing the lack of a strong Ontario sired program.
The first big score for the Everatts came in 1982 with a mare named Gaelic Logic.
“My Dad loved her breeding (Bold Reason – Irish Party, by Irish Lancer) and there was just something about her that he loved. She had been bought back from a couple of sales so my Dad went up to the owner and bought her privately for $32,000.”
Gaelic Logic produced two foals for the Everatts before the mare’s half- brother, Recitation, won a Group I in France. The family took advantage of it and sold Gaelic Logic in foal to Sharpen Up (GB) for a whopping $325,000.
“That was a tough time for the economy too, when interest rates were high,” said Everatt-Meeuse. “So that sale helped my Dad pay off the bank and go out and get a couple of more mares.”
One of Gaelic Logic’s daughters, Little Beaver, became an integral part of the Shannondoe success.
Named for her size and the farm’s own Beaver Creek, Little Beaver was one of the first homebreds broken to saddle by Everatt-Meeuse and also an important producer, despite only having three foals. Her daughter Mythical Status, by Mythical Ruler, is the dam of the 2010 champion older male in Canada, Sand Cove, foaled in 2006 at Shannondoe.
Affectionately known as “Granny” around the farm (she’s 23-yearsold), Mythical Status also produced the fleet stakes winner C’n Stars.
It was a son of Varick, however, that brought Shannondoe to the forefront of Canadian breeders; even if they could not sell him at auction.
Terremoto was born in 1991 and the Everatts knew fairly early that he was going to be tough to market.
“He was the biggest, ugliest yearling that’s for sure,” said Everatt-Meeuse. “He was not commercial, the mare, Laurada Rose, was 18-year-olds when she had him. And we could not get $7,500 for him. So my family kept him.”
As a two-year-old, Terremoto (Italian for earthquake) could not get it together but he won his maiden for claiming as a three-year-old and from there started to really figure it out.
Trained by Beverly Buck, Terremoto went on to become one of the most popular runners in Canada in the 1990s, winning stakes races until the age of seven, in 1998, when he was named Canada’s champion older male at the Sovereign Awards.
Terremoto is also the answer to a popular trivia question in Canadian racing: the gelding was the last mount of legendary jockey Sandy Hawley.
It was the 1997 Dominion Day Stakes and, while Terremoto hated to run inside of other horses, Hawley’s fellow jockeys had him hemmed in for much of the way and the pair finished third.
Terremoto’s most remarkable race was also a loss, by a scant nose in the Clark Handicap at Churchill Downs in 1997 to Concerto after falling too far behind early.
At the turn of the millennium, the Everatts continued to move forward with improving the quality of their broodmare band and upon the purchase of Colton Springs in 2003, began to focus on prepping and schooling their yearlings in Kentucky.
Everatt-Meeuse is intent on doing a lot of hands-on work with the yearlings including ponying them around the farm getting them accustomed to a lot of hustle and bustle.
“I like to think that by the time we sell our yearlings, they are almost broken,” said Everatt-Meeuse. “It’s important to get to know the horses throughout the summer, get them jogging along almost like a pony.”
Among the success stories for the Everatts in recent years is Miami Deco, who won the Breeders’ Stakes at 1 _ miles on the grass in 2010 for Jim and Susan Hill. Miami Deco was a $47,000 (U.S.) Keeneland September yearling purchase.
Sand Cove, a son of top Canadian sire Bold Executive, was a $60,000 Canadian sale yearling and the millionaire has, appropriately returned home.
The Everatts will once again stand stallions at the farm as Sand Cove and Charles Fipke’s graded stakes winning Society’s Chairman, will hold court in 2012.
The family is also excited to race Sand Cove’s two-year-old full sister this season as well as prep two dozen yearlings and foal that same number of mares.
The entire family is involved in their various businesses too. James and Everatt- Meeuse’s husbands Tim manage the nearby 200 acres of hay fields while Aaron runs their North Shore gravel pit business.
“Mom does the barn chores every night, every single day of the year,” said Everatt- Meeuse. “She loves the horses and always heads out with lots of peppermints.”
Everatt-Meeuse said the family plans on concentrating more on the Ontario sire and yearling auction programs in the coming years, supporting their two new studs and the local industry.
“I work on all the matings, go over it with Dad,” said Everatt-Meeuse. “I look for longevity in the breeding and we put a lot of hands-on work into our homebreds.” That family teamwork has certainly paid off for Shannondoe and one can expect it will continue to do so in years to come.
EXPECTANT MOTHERS AT SHANNONDOE
Mare name (details, sire)-Covering sire (booking for 2012 if decided)
VALID MOVE (SW, Valid Expectations)- Congrats (mare booked to Gio Ponti)
DOMASQUARADE PARTY (multiple winner, Domasca Dan) – Where’s The Ring (booked to Society’s Chairman)
PARISIAN JADE (wnr, Parisianprospector) – Sharp Humor (booked to Sand Cove)
MI’AN MAR (wnr, Mister Jolie) – Sharp Humor (client)
HIGH MIST (SW, Olmodavor)- Sharp Humor (mare booked to Gio Ponti)
ROMANCED (wnr, half-sister Miami Deco, by Smoke Glacken) – Majestic Warrior (booked to Society’s Chairman)
INDYLYN (A.P. Indy)- Yes It’s True
DREAM DATE DIVA (wnr, Gulch)- Scat Daddy (booked to Old Fashioned)
HOLD THE SUGAR (Forest Wildcat) Yes It’s True (booked to Scat Daddy)
LOCHREA (Lord at War)- Old Fashioned (booked to Sand Cove)
SWEETDETERMINATION (wnr, $240,000, Alphabet Soup)- Yes It’s True (client)
DEVIL’S BRIDE ( Devil’s Bag)- Congrats (booked to Scat Daddy)
NEW ATTRACTION (Honour and Glory) – Northern Afleet
MISS DIXIE CITY (Dixieland Band) – Wando (booked to Sand Cove)
MISS MCDREAMY (wnr, Lost Soldier) – Tale of the Cat (booked to Haynesfield)
MYTHICAL STATUS (wnr, Mythical Ruler)- Bold Executive
NITHI (SW, Wolf Power (SAf)- Old Fashioned (booked to Sand Cove)
SIERRA PASSION (Our Emblem)- Unbridled’s Song
JULES BEST (Jules)- Scat Daddy (booked to Flashy Bull)
WITCH CRAFT (Crafty Prospector)- Old Forester (booked to Society’s Chairman)
Fro zen Music (half-sister to SW Joyful Victory, Langfuhr) – Corinthian (client)
Latin Lust (Petionville)- Mobil (booked to Society’s Chairman) Jo Zak (Vilzak) – Munnings (booked to Society’s Chairman)