When we decided to put ten stalls in the tobacco barn on the 100-acre property we had just purchased in 1972, we thought that perhaps we could attract some boarders. We fenced an 8-acre field and three 1-acre paddocks. We started with just nine mares owned by Peter Burrell.
It wasn’t until the following spring that I met Peter and Connie Burrell when they came to visit their mares. He never let on that he had built the National Stud in England and was an advisor to The Queen – those stories came later. He became one of by best friends and mentors. He was 93 when I spoke at his funeral in Newmarket.
Never in my wildest imagination did I think that Three Chimneys would become what it is today. The foundation of our business is simplicity: taking good care of the horse and the land, taking care of the customer, and surrounding ourselves with good people.
We offered our first consignment of one yearling in 1973, a Bold Tactics colt for my dad that sold for $37,000. He was the last horse through the ring on a Tuesday night. I often walk by the stall in the barn he occupied, thinking of the fun we had that night. Case had just been born a month earlier. Little did we know that 40 years later, he would lead Three Chimneys as a top five stud farm and consignor.
We entered the stallion business in 1984, syndicating Slew O’ Gold. Our concept of being a boutique stallion operation was somewhat novel at the time, since our main competitors’ rosters numbered in the 20s, 30s and 40s that same year. This approach, treating each stallion and his syndicate with individual attention, allowed us to attract a special group of horses within a short period of time, including Seattle Slew, Chief’s Crown, Wild Again, Capote, Nodouble, Dynaformer and Rahy.
In 40 years, we have consigned approximately $500,000,000 worth of horses at public auction, and our sires’ progeny have earned nearly one billion dollars and more than 1,000 stakes victories. We are proud to play a leadership role in the industry. The farm has grown from one hundred acres to over 2,000, from one employee to well over 100, and has built a brand that is recognized worldwide.
What I’m proudest of, however, are the people that have worked to make all of this possible, past and present. All of us at Three Chimneys have a steadfast commitment to the notion of “honesty without hesitation: and it has served us well in business and in life.
As we begin our 40th year, I take this opportunity to thank all of our customers and the wonderful animals they have entrusted in our care. I thank all of the team members who have called Three Chimneys home. A special thanks also goes to Blythe, Heather, and Case, without whom I am not sure what I would have done.
Robert N. Clay