Patti Murphy loves being farm manager at Hanover Shoe Farms

by Victoria Howard

Although Patti Murphy’s family was not involved in harness racing, one day she would grow up to manage the largest and most renowned standardbred farm in the world, Hanover Shoe Farms.

When she was little, Murphy’s father’s secretary had a brother — John Paul Boyd — who raised and raced standardbreds in Newbury, OH. Murphy and her sister Becky would do small jobs on his farm, such as painting fences and picking up apples in the orchard so Boyd could turn out his mares in the field and not have them colic due to overeating the juicy reds.

“In 1977, Boyd leased my sister and I a 4-year-old trotter named Soxs Rhodil to ride,” Patti said. “We would ride him from the farm where we boarded him to the Geauga County Fairgrounds, down trails, and along the road. He was such a good horse except he wouldn’t canter, but he loved when we hand grazed and groomed him. When ‘Soxs’ went back into training, Mr. Boyd took us to the matinee at Painesville Fairgrounds to watch him race.”

That was the beginning of Patti working on some prestigious farms and tending to some famous horses. Her resume is as strong as it gets.

From 1982 through1984 Patti worked at a private owned training center, owned by Peg and Tom Jones and Barb and Phil Milstein.

“I cleaned stalls, jogged horses, wrapped their legs, aided in swimming the horses in the pool and worked with the broodmares and foals,” Patti said. “At the time two of their best mares were Springwood Tami and Springwood Barb. I also took paddocks at Northfield, but loved working on the farm the best.”

From 1986 through 1995, Patti worked at Success Acres; at the time it was owned by Merle Mullett. Patti started “foal watching” on weekends and once she graduated from Otterbein University with an Equine Science degree and minors in English and Business, Patti worked full time at the farm collecting stallions, breeding mares, stallion handling, yearling prep, etc.

From the years 1995 through 1998 Patti co-managed a 100-acre farm in Slate Lick, PA owned by Bob and Patty Key, helping to build sheds and fences, pasture management, foaling, and yearling prep.

In 1999, Patti was employed at Perretti Farms. The farm was owned by Bill Perretti, Marty O’Hare was farm manager and Keith Feister was breeding manager.

At Perretti Farms, Patti acted as assistant manager in charge of mare and foal care, stallion collections, did record keeping and assisted the outside veterinary team at Walnridge Farm.

This highly respected and significant resume would pave the way for Patti to one day work at the nation’s No. 1 standardbred horse breeding facility, Hanover Shoe Farms.

“Marty O’Hare recommended my husband and I for the position at Hanover located in Lambertville, New Jersey and we met with Jim Simpson and Dr. Jablonsky,” Patti said.

From 2000 through 2012, Patti worked for Hanover’s president/CEO Simpson and Dr. Jablonsky, collecting stallions, maintaining 60 acres of property, including mowing, fence repairs, public relations, researching racing news and stallion write-ups for Hanover Shoe’s website.

From 2012 through 2019, she was appointed to oversee the hiring and firing of horse caretakers, disciplinary, assistant farm Manager (under Dr. Jablonsky), payroll recording, coordinating moving horses around, collecting stallions and supervision of employees.

“Presently my job at Hanover is [during the breeding season] to tease mares, bringing mares to the breeding shed on breed days, collecting stallions on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, record keeping of mares cycles, coordinate with blacksmiths, and foal micro-chipping/freeze-branding,” Patti said. “We foal everything ourselves on the main farm so we rotate the pregnant mares; a continual process until all mares to foal by June…

Once the foaling is done, focus shifts to the sales and beyond.

“After Harrisburg, plans for the upcoming breeding season are underway so I plan for weaning week and decide how the weanlings will be grouped,” Patti said. “After weaning we work on booking mares and start frozen semen season by December for export which usually lasts until the end of January and then the cycle repeats: foaling and breeding all over. It’s a never-ending process, but I absolutely love what I do.”

Breeding season is the busiest time of the year at Hanover and all other breeding farms. Every year at Hanover they foal close to 300 mares and have eight active stallions they stand commercially at stud. The four trotters are Greenshoe, International Moni, Captain Corey, and Volume Eight. The four pacing stallions are Captaintreacherous, Tall Dark Stranger, Papi Rob Hanover and Stay Hungry.

“As of [May 1, 2024] the farm population at Hanover was 1,104,” Patti said. “We have had 35 foals born since then so that brings the total to 1,139 as of May 22, 2024 and are expecting 33 more foals. Hanover Shoe Farms has 287 active broodmares, nine stallions, 222 yearlings, 10 teasing stallions, 17 retired mares and miscellaneous horses. There are also 212 outside owned horses on the farm including broodmares, yearlings, foals and retired horses.”

Patti cared for some very famous horses throughout the years, but she definitely has a couple that stand out.

“My favorite horses will always be Cam’s Card Shark and Western Ideal who both moved with me from the New Jersey farm,” Patti said. “Sadly, Cam’s Card Shark passed away in July 2020, which was extremely sad for my husband Joe and I.

“Western Ideal is now a ripe, old man. He is 29 years old and lives in a paddock next to my office. He’s very sweet and has slowed down a lot but still loves ‘girl watching and the foals’ when he’s turned out in the paddock.”

No Nukes was said to be one nasty horse to work with, but Patti was able to keep things good between them.

“By the time we worked with him, No Nukes was older,” Patti said. “He was still a big, powerful horse, standing 16.1 hands tall and yes, he was intimidating to say the least, but when it was time to give him his carrots, he would be accommodating, so I would keep my pockets full of carrots whenever we needed to handle him for the breeding shed.

“He had a breeding halter with rings and a chain that you would hook a pole on him to lead him. We always had to have two lines on him for collections. Otherwise, he was pretty well-behaved to groom or trim hooves.”

Patti also had something to say about some of the other stallions at Hanover.

“Papi Rob Hanover and Tall Dark Stranger are both drop-dead gorgeous who stamp their foals,” she said. “Volume Eight is standing his first year here and he has been getting a lot of respected, beautiful mares. Captain Corey’s first crop sells this fall and they are nice, solid individual with good temperaments.

“Captaintreacherous is a classic! Stay Hungry always cracks me up for he is the class clown with a great personality. He has steadily climbed up the stallion rankings and International Moni and Greenshoe are showing some decent 3-year-old earnings so far this year.”

Patti also shared some good and sad memories from her years at the farm.

“My most memorable time was when my husband and I worked at Hanover in New Jersey,” she said. “It was a great place to raise our two daughters, Emily and Sara. We had four stallions: No Nukes, Cam’s Card Shark, Donerail and Western Ideal. It was so peaceful there. You could mow for hours and enjoy the wildlife and scenery. We raised our own horses there, too, and I took pride in how they turned out.

“The most heartbreaking time would have to be whenever we had to euthanize a horse. No Nukes and Cam’s Card Shark are two that stand out, but there were numerous mares and foals that had to be put down and each time it’s heartbreaking. When we euthanized Cam’s Card Shark, he was ready, and he went quietly.

It’s obvious that Patti is very proud of where she works.

“Hanover Shoe Farms is a legacy, No. 1 by progeny in earnings that has been the breeder and birthplace for many, many world champions,” Patti said. “They have always been respected because they are honest, good people who want their customers to succeed. They strive for their yearlings and stallions to be the best.

“They sell their yearlings and don’t compete against our customers in the racing industry and their business is to breed ‘The best to the best’ then present and offer the results at public auction. Some years we may take a lump at the sale, but always come back the next year with a wonderful crop.”

Authors note: Some historical tidbits about the farm.

Hanover Shoe Farms is a North American standardbred horse breeding facility that traces back to the early 1900’s. In 1926 the farm began to sell small consignments of yearlings and in 1928 Hanover’s Bertha was the first to be sold. She went on to set a 2-year-old trotting record of 2:02, paving the way for other Hanover future champions. such as Armbro Romance, Super Bowl, Bret Hanover, Romeo Hanover, Laverne Hanover, Ralph Hanover, Donato Hanover, Rocknroll Hanover, Delmonica Hanover, Western Hanover and many others. In more recent times added to that list are Hannelore Hanover, Bulldog Hanover, Papi Rob Hanover, Caviart Belle and the list goes on.