Over the next three years, Brittany Farms as we currently know it will come to an end and
Art Zubrod and Leah Cheverie will retire. Farm owner George Segal said he hopes to find a buyer in the standardbred world for the harness racing breeding institution.
by Dave Briggs
Though the exit plan has been contemplated, in some measure, for years, when it finally came time to put it into motion and say it publicly, Art Zubrod suddenly found himself emotional for the first time. On the phone from Kentucky this week, Zubrod’s voice caught in his throat when he and wife Leah Cheverie announced they were retiring from Brittany Farms and owner George Segal was selling the farm that has long been one of harness racing’s greatest institutions.
“It has been our life, Leah and mine, for 40 years now. It’s something I’m quite proud of. It’s a dream to work with people like those I’ve been able to work with,” Zubrod said, pausing to collect himself. “Sorry, that’s the first time I’ve been emotional since this started.”
Cheverie added, “We’re very proud of what we’ve accomplished and we couldn’t do it without all the people that have been behind it and out there working those long hours.”
“There’s been very little turnover,” Zubrod said, adding that as many as six other people have worked at Brittany for over 20 years.
The good news is that the end of Brittany Farms — at least under its current ownership and leadership — will play out over three years. Zubrod, the farm’s manager, and Cheverie, Brittany’s office manager, will retire after the 2025 Lexington Selected Yearling Sale.
“It happens to be a great time because by the time Art and Leah retire, I’ll be 87-and-a-half years old,” Segal said. “And every time that I think about that, I think I should get a lot smaller, even though we’ve gotten a lot smaller over the last 10 years. I think I should get in a position where I don’t drive my wife and kids crazy after I’m gone. My plan is to sell the farm.
“I would like to sell the farm to someone in the standardbred business, if I can. A perfect scenario would be to sell it to somebody who wants to do their version of breeding and racing or just breeding or whatever and keep most of the employees here. They have been great employees and they’ve been here for many years. I think the longest is 35 years.”
Segal still owns a piece of the Red Mile racetrack in Lexington, KY and is still on the board of the Hambletonian Society. Nearly 38 years after he purchased Bill Shehan’s Clermont Farm in 1985 and Brittany Farms was born, Segal remains as passionate about harness racing as ever. Though, his family is much less so. That makes turning the farm over to an heir out of the question.
“There’s no absolutes in this world, but that is an absolute,” Segal said, laughing. “They have no interest.
“When the kids were smaller, in high school or maybe in college [they had some interest], but they have too much on their plates now. They work and they have families. My wife comes to the Hambletonian and she enjoys it, but it’s not her thing.”
Segal said it is a great opportunity for someone in harness racing to purchase one or both of Brittany’s premier Versailles, KY properties and its fantastic broodmare band — at least the 25 or 26 mares Brittany solely owns.
“This is the perfect farm, either both of them or one of them, for someone in the harness racing business today. Kentucky is a very desirable place; people want to move here. There are new people coming into the business with the sire stakes program and the way it’s set up. It would be great for somebody to buy this place. I don’t want to sell it to a developer or somebody in thoroughbreds. If push comes to shove, I will, but I’d sell for less to a harness person,” Segal said, laughing. “And they can keep the name Brittany Farms, too.”
BRITTANY’S IMMENSE LEGACY
In nearly 40 years, Brittany has bred — or partnered on the breeding of — a long list of champions.
Just a small sample of the champions the farm produced, include: Artsplace, Bettors Wish, Manchego, Continentalvictory, Art Major, Father Patrick, Glidemaster, Mr Muscleman, Six Pack, Mr Feelgood, Life Sign, Perfect Sting, Artspeak, Artiscape, Western Ideal, Self Possessed, American Jewel, He’s Watching, State Treasurer, Pastor Stephen and many, many more.
Brittany has produced 45 millionaires and, as a breeder, has won 30 Breeders Crowns, with 22 different horses. The 30 trophies ties it with Hanover Shoe Farms for the most in Crown history.
That success has increased, if anything, since Brittany moved to a smaller property — eight miles from the original farm location — in 2016. In 2022, for the fifth year in a row, the farm ranked first among all standardbred breeders in average earnings per starter, at more than $57,000 per.
And that doesn’t include the champions the farm has bought and raced under the Brittany banner, such as Cantab Hall, Western Hanover, Three Diamonds and many, many more.
On the list of personal favorite moments, Segal and Zubrod agree nothing tops Artsplace’s 1:51.1 world record win as a 2-year-old in the 1990 Breeders Crown at Pompano Park.
“That was quite the night,” Segal said.
Though, Zubrod added that Life Sign’s win in the 1993 Little Brown Jug was “huge, just huge.”
As part of winding down operations, Zubrod hopes to preserve a lot of that history. Many equine greats were buried at the original Brittany location. Some 12 headstones were then moved to the new farm.
“One of the things that weighed on my mind is what to do with all the trophies and headstones we have here,” Zubrod said. “Some of the trophies can go to different places, but we’ve got too many trophies for someone to accommodate all of them.”
It’s another reason Segal is hoping a standardbred person or group will come along to purchase all of Brittany Farms and carry on the tradition.
“It would be nice for somebody to do that. It would solve the problem of headstones,” Segal said. “I mean, it could be ‘Hanover Shoe Farms at Brittany Farms’ or something. I don’t know.”
AN EMOTIONAL END
Segal said this story is just the beginning of the public phase of bringing an end to Brittany as we know it today.
“I have not mentioned this or floated the idea of somebody buying this farm to anybody,” he said.
Internally, Zubrod said he, Segal and Cheverie have been talking for about a year about how to end it, but plans only started to gel about three months ago. Zubrod will turn 74 this year.
“Physically I’m having trouble doing anything outside, due to some back injuries. I really enjoy doing the [yearling] videos, but I didn’t feel 100 per cent safe out there this year. So, we’ll see. That’s just a part of life. I’ve aged a little faster than some people age,” Zubrod said.
“After the [Lexington] sale in 2025, Leah and I will be retired. I think she plans on doing some work and I’ll definitely help George out with anything he needs, but our grandkids are in Louisville and we’ll move to Louisville at that time. We’ll still be in the horse business. Both my daughters work for my sister, who runs Zubrod Stables, which is the stable that my mom and I started in 1967.”
As the process unfolds, Brittany will continue on as it has.
“We don’t know what the real estate market or the horse business will be in three years. We’re going to continue as is up until about a year before that,” Segal said.
For all but the first two years of Brittany, farm manager Dale Logan and his wife, Patty, have also been a key part of the team. Zubrod said the Logans were sad when they were told the news.
“But, when I told them that it’s not happening for three years, that was a relief,” Zubrod said. “I could’ve walked in there and said, ‘Well, tomorrow is the day.’”
In the meantime, Zubrod said he will, “concentrate on the good things – what we’ve produced and what the yearlings look like. I’m not going to concentrate on the end of it all.
“There was no emotion on my side at all until a few minutes ago. I would say the next time I’m emotional about it will be when we close the door. It’s a good thing and you’ve got to look at the good part of it. The shocker for me will be when we get to the realization that it’s gone forever… One day I’m going to wake up and realize that I’m not going back and that will be sad, but I’m hoping to make the rest of my life as enjoyable as the last 40, 45 years have been.”