There definitely should be a historical marker standing outside the entrance of Stockplace Farm.
"We're in the process of getting one," owner Tom VanMeter said. "And apparently it's a process. You've got to get people to write letters. They want to know: Is the community behind it? Is it really historical?"
Of course it's historic. After all, the first Triple Crown winner in 37 years was foaled right here in the barn — "the stork barn," VanMeter calls it — on top of the hill at the 120-acre farm off Briar Hill Road in Fayette County.
American Pharoah, owned by Ahmed Zayat, and out of Zayat's mare, Littleprincessemma, was born on Feb. 2, 2012, under the watchful eye of VanMeter, 57, a veterinarian and a Winchester native whose relationship with Zayat began with a good-natured joke.
Zayat bought a horse from Eaton Sales, where VanMeter was working at the time. Zayat was so happy with the deal he named it Eaton's Gift.
"He simply out-traded us," VanMeter said with a laugh.
As a 3-year-old, Eaton's Gift won the Swale Stakes and the Matt Winn Stakes. As a 4-year-old, he won the Smile Sprint Handicap at Calder.
So Zayat, VanMeter and another owner bought Kit's Girl, the dam of Eaton's Gift. Eaton Sales also sold some horses for Zayat, who kept some of his retired fillies as mares to breed to his stallions. He began sending those mares to Stockplace.
One was Littleprincessemma, named for Zayat's daughter. Unplaced in two career starts on the track, Littleprincessemma was bred to J Be K in 2010, Maimonides in 2011 and then Pioneerof the Nile in 2012. All were Zayat stallions. Pioneerof the Nile finished second to Mine That Bird in the 2009 Kentucky Derby.
On Groundhog Day 2012, about 11 p.m., VanMeter got a call from the foaling barn that Litteprincessemma's water had broken. VanMeter arrived five minutes later. The foal was born at 11:15.
"Everything could not have been more normal," VanMeter said. "It was a good-looking foal, but there was nothing out of the ordinary."
In fact, VanMeter didn't take any pictures or shoot any video. He didn't keep the halter or any other memorabilia. "I wish I had," he said. "People keep asking for it."
A couple of days later, Littleprincessemma and her new foal were shipped to VanMeter's Pretty Run Farm in Clark County, off U.S. 627. It's the normal procedure. Stockplace is the "maternity ward" for the mares, and Pretty Run is used to care for the foals.
That summer, American Pharoah was shipped to Vinery. He was then sent to Taylor Made Farm to be prepped for sale. He didn't sell, however. Zayat liked the yearling so much he wouldn't take less than $1 million. When Pharoah failed to reach that amount in the sales ring, Zayat bought him back and sent him to the McKathan Brothers Training Center in Ocala, Fla.
"I had heard good things about him," VanMeter said. "But then J.B. McKathan told me, 'He's fast. He's really fast.' I said, 'Who?' He said, 'The (one out of) Littleprincessemma.' Then I knew he could really run. J.B. really knows what he's talking about. He's one of the great horsemen of our era."
VanMeter did not see Pharoah run in person until Kentucky Derby day, however. In fact, it was a pretty good weekend for VanMeter and his girlfriend, Renee Dailey, who also works for VanMeter Sales. They watched Lovely Maria, a filly they had consigned for sale, win the Kentucky Oaks. Then they watched American Pharoah win the Derby.
"You know where it hit me?" VanMeter said. "Mr. Z was nice enough to have us in the winner's circle, and when I heard the governor (Steve Beshear) say, 'We're so thrilled it's a Kentucky-bred,' that's when it hit me. He started at Stockplace."
Family weddings kept VanMeter from traveling to either Baltimore for the Preakness or New York for the Belmont. His brother George's daughter Anne got married on Preakness Day, and his son Rick got married on Belmont Day.
"Rick's wedding was at Simpsonville in kind of a farm setting," VanMeter said. "He got married about 5 o'clock or 5:30, and they had a TV, but there were 200 people jammed around this TV. Everybody knew my association with the horse. They were mussing my hair up and slapping my back. It was fun. But as soon as the race was over, the bride's father turned the TV off and said, 'OK, everybody back to the wedding.' It was great."
The days since have brought untold numbers of text messages and congratulatory emails and media requests.
"I've been interviewed by everybody from the Winchester Sun to Abu Dhabi television," VanMeter said. "This is sort of my 15 minutes of fame."
Not just his fame, of course. It's great for Stockplace, where VanMeter had 40 mares and 30 foals this year.
"It's about my dedicated staff that is on call 24/7. They're shepherds. They live with the horses," VanMeter said. "It's also about this fabulous land where the Thoroughbreds romp on — here at Stockplace and at Pretty Run."
Zayat no longer has mares at Stockplace, but VanMeter said the two have a good relationship and talk often.
"I appreciate him giving us the opportunity with what turned out to be a fabulous mare and this incredibly talented horse," VanMeter said. "We didn't mess it up. We did our job and everybody else was able to do their jobs, too. It's just so exciting for everybody."
Not just exciting, but historic.
And that deserves a marker.