Tactical weaving leads to Stewarts’ success

Steve and Cindy Stewart’s Hunterton Farm bred Trotting Sire of the Year Tactical Landing and his son, presumptive Trotter of the Year, Tactical Approach.

by Debbie Little

Last year was a mother of a good one for Steve Stewart, as his broodmares, Southwind Serena and Sarcy, each have a 2023 Dan Patch honoree.

Stewart and his wife, Cindy, own Hunterton Farm that bred inaugural Trotting Sire of the Year Tactical Landing and his son, presumptive Trotter of the Year, Tactical Approach.

From the time when both Tactical Landing and Tactical Approach were weanlings, Steve said he felt they were special. Both colts displayed incredible talent at 3 at The Meadowlands with Tactical Landing beating older foes in the TVG Championship Open Trot — the last start of his career — while Tactical Approach shone brightest on the world’s biggest stage, winning the Hambletonian from post 10.

The Stewarts are part of both the Tactical Landing Syndicate and the Tactical Approach Syndicate, but were it not for a pivotal and life-changing dinner in Lexington with Myron Bell, this would not have been the case.

In 2016, Tactical Landing sold for $800,000, the biggest price tag ever at the Lexington Selected Sale at that time.

Steve and his partners, Black Creek Farm and Andrea Lea Racingstables, Inc., co-owned Tactical Landing’s dam.

At the aforementioned dinner, directly following the sale of Tactical Landing, Steve remembers Bell asking him what he thought of Tactical Landing.

“I said, ‘He’s a hell of a colt,’” Steve said. “I said, ‘He’s got everything going for him. He’s big, he’s handsome, he’s smart, he’s courageous. He walks like a stallion, he acts like a stallion, but he’s not mean. He just has a lot of confidence.’”

According to Steve, Bell then asked if he was planning on keeping part of the colt.

“I said, ‘Oh, no, no, no, that’s bad luck, I’m out,’” Steve said. “He said, ‘You know, the last person that told me that was Mike Parisi.’”

Parisi owned White Birch Farm and was the breeder of Captaintreacherous.

According to Steve, Bell said that Parisi was not planning to keep a piece of Captaintreacherous, with the same bad luck comment, but Bell convinced Parisi to change his mind, just as he did for Steve.

“I gave a breeding [to Tactical Landing] to Myron a couple of years ago to say thank you, because if it wasn’t for
him, we probably would not have owned 10 per cent,” Steve said.

In Hunterton’s 40-plus years in the business, Steve said that many have given him and Cindy advice along the way, especially mentors Joe Taylor — who literally wrote the book on breeding and raising racehorses — and Hall of Famer Bill Shehan.

“Both of them are dead now, but I think they’re looking down and smiling,” Steve said.

In regard to the 2023 Dan Patch Awards, with both Tactical Landing and Tactical Approach being recognized, Steve said it’s humbling when you think about it.

“It’s an honor and it gives you a lot of confidence that we’re doing it right and we’ve always felt like we were doing it right,” Steve said. “A lot of times over the years, people would say, you should do this or you should do that and we just stuck to our guns and did it the way we thought was the right way to do it. And we had a lot of foundation through [Taylor and Shehan].

“Probably the main thing you could say is, it’s a validation of hard work and 40 years of doing what we do, which is breed to raise great horses. You don’t want to say a culmination because we’re far from done. We stayed in our lane and it’s a validation of what we’ve tried to do and, hopefully, it’s far from finished.”

People have also questioned the fact that Hunterton does not have any stallions on their farm, only broodmares.

Steve said that not having a stallion leaves him open to many possibilities, a veritable smorgasbord if you will, to choose from for his mares.

He also acknowledges that from beginning to end, breeding is a long process, but for him, the result is worth the wait.

“I think a lot of people want instant gratification, but breeding is not instant gratification, it’s the opposite,” Steve said. “But I think it’s very rewarding when you realize you’re the one that created it.

“We don’t make the shirt; we make the yarn, so somebody has to take that yarn and sew it and that’s what trainers do and they get a lot of credit for what they do, obviously, but sometimes people forget where the yarn came from.”