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William Hamilton, Jack Russells, Mint Juleps, and Quality Road

Filed under: Looked Into   Tagged: , ,

Emily Gordon writes:

From the Andover homepage, courtesy of my alumni email newsletter (I went there for only a year, but it was an eventful year!), a nice horse story that also has a New Yorker cartoonist connection:

Horse breeder Ned Evans ‘60 has a Kentucky Derby contender

April 15, 2009 - According to renowned New Yorker cartoonist and fellow PA alum William Hamilton ‘58, Ned Evans would rather spend the day with his four Jack Russell terriers on his 3,000-acre farm in Casanova, Va., than sipping mint juleps at Churchill Downs on May 2. But Evans will just have to settle in and make do: his colt, Quality Road, posting 5 to 1 odds, will be competing in one of the biggest horse racing events of the year—the Kentucky Derby.

A top-ranked North American equestrian breeder, Evans has raised horses for 40 years on his sprawling Spring Hill Farm. And although he’s turned out some 70 stakes winners, three-year-old Quality Road is his first Derby contender. Evans, however, declines to partake just yet in the sweet conjecture of what a Derby victory would mean to him.

“I’ll tell you afterward what it means,” he proffers. “I’m mainly concentrating on getting there and doing the best we can.”

After graduating from Andover, the Greenwich, Conn., native earned a BA degree from Yale in 1964 and an MBA degree from Harvard in 1967. Known to many in New York’s top business circles as a shrewd entrepreneur, Evans’s many successes culminated in 1979 when he became chief executive officer of publishing giant Macmillan, a position he held for more than a decade.

What some associates may not have known until recently is that starting in 1970, while climbing the ranks of New York’s business world, Evans, a self-proclaimed “weekend commuter,” was quietly creating and expanding a vast horse farm on the old Civil War grounds of Virginia’s rolling countryside. Today, Spring Hill is home to roughly 200 horses at any one time, all handpicked and paired for breeding by Evans himself.

“I arrange all the matings and 15 months later a foal is born,” says Evans. “They don’t go into training until they’re 2, and all kinds of things happen along the way, not enough of them good.”

But it wasn’t until this past November that Evans knew he had bred a special one. Quality Road had burst onto the scene for his maiden race at Aqueduct and “caught everyone’s eye,” says Evans. According to reports, the proud owner turned down a $2.5 million offer for the galloping wonder and decided he would take Quality Road to the Derby himself, thank you very much.

As for what Evans would do if Quality Road were to take the Derby title, his fond friend Hamilton may know best. “A Derby win would leave him at least briefly ecstatic. He would probably give his terriers a treat and smile a moment at the sky.”

To which Evans replies, “He seems to know the situation.”


All of us at the Virginia Thoroughbred Association are cheering on Evans and Quality Road. You can follow his road to the Derby via our blog for him www.vtablog.org or become a fan on Facebook or Twitter.

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2008 Webby Awards Official Honoree