Darley at Greentree

History remembered, history being made

The Greentree property in Saratoga Springs, New York, was acquired by Sheikh Mohammed’s Darley in January of 2008. Since then, the property has undergone major renovations, with both historic training barns being completely rebuilt and the training track resurfaced in an all-weather synthetic.

Adjacent to the backside of the Saratoga Race Course, the property has long been tied-in with the history of Saratoga, beginning with the Trask family. Brooklyn-born financier Spencer Trask and his wife Katrina purchased land in Saratoga in 1881. Trask was a well-known philanthropist whose business dealings included reorganizing The New York Times (of which he was majority shareholder and chairman), financing Thomas Edison’s invention of the electric light bulb, and serving as the president of the world’s first electric power company, New York Edison. His wife was an author and poet and patron of the arts.

After tragically losing all four of their children, the Trasks decided to open their Saratoga home, Yaddo, as an artists’ community and retreat. Incorporated in 1926, Yaddo has fulfilled their ambition, serving as a retreat to the writers of works honored with 66 Pulitzer Prizes and a Nobel Prize. Among the residents have been Truman Capote, Sylvia Plath, Leonard Bernstein, and David Foster Wallace. Yaddo remains a major attraction in the community, with the Trask home and gardens the heart of the property.

Bordering the Yaddo property, Spencer Trask’s father had also acquired land, which he sold to Edward F. Simms in 1920. Simms, a Kentucky horse breeder and owner, had made a vast fortune in the oilfields of Texas and Louisiana and used a portion of his income to develop the beautiful Xalapa Farm outside of Paris, Kentucky. Simms added stables, a blacksmith shop, a trainer’s cottage and a one-mile training track to the picturesque Saratoga property.

In 1930, the Saratoga property transferred to John Hay “Jock” Whitney, scion of the famous first family of American racing. While no official transcript of the circumstances exists to common knowledge, rumor has long had it that Simms lost the property to Whitney in a friendly game of cards.

With Whitney’s ownership came the moniker of “Greentree,” which originated with the Long Island estate of Whitney’s father Payne in 1904 and came to be associated with many of the greatest American racehorses of the 20th century through the family’s Greentree Stable. The Greentree name was also associated with the Whitney family’s Thoroughbred farm in Lexington, Kentucky (now owned by Gainesway Farm) and their training center in Aiken, South Carolina, as well as a plantation in Georgia. A twelve-room home dating to 1870 was renovated and became a popular retreat for Whitney and his wife, Betsey Cushing Roosevelt Whitney, the former daughter-in-law of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Whitney, an avid polo player and philanthropist who served as U.S. Ambassador to the Court of St. James’s, died in 1982. Among many ventures, he had been a major investor in the Technicolor Corporation, President of the Museum of Modern Art, and, with cousin C.V. Whitney, had put up half the money for David O. Selznick to option Margaret Mitchell’s novel “Gone With the Wind.” Mrs. Whitney died in 1998, leaving an estimated personal fortune of $700-million. A major art collector, Mrs. Whitney sold a Renoir at Sotheby’s in 1990 for $78.1-million, at the time the second-highest price ever paid for a piece of art at auction.

The Saratoga property was sold by the Whitney estate in 2000 to the owner of the NFL Houston Texans, Robert McNair, and his wife Janice, who owned and bred horses under the name of their Stonerside Stable. Like Trask, McNair had made much of his fortune in the business of electricity, selling his Cogen Technologies in 1999.

The property underwent numerous renovations during the McNairs’ ownership, while the barns were leased out to leading trainer Bill Mott, who conditioned a number of Stonerside’s runners at the Greentree property, as well as his two-time Horse of the Year Cigar.

After Mott’s lease expired, the Greentree barns were leased to Darley from 2005 through early 2008, when Darley negotiated the purchase of the entire 106 acres from the McNairs. Later that year, the McNairs disbanded their Stonerside Stable, and save for a handful of runners, they sold the remainder of their equine properties and horses to Sheikh Mohammed’s Darley. Included in the sale was their Bourbon County, Kentucky farm, Stonerside, ironically just down the road from Edward Simms’s former home, Xalapa Farm.

In addition to the main house, a guest lodge and staff housing, the present-day property includes two 400-foot long barns with 100 total stalls and a manager’s office. Great attention was paid during renovation to historic details, such as slate and copper roofing, timber frame constructed hay lofts, and custom yellow pine wainscot in the stalls. Modern amenities include a cathedral ceiling in the main office area with exposed beams, exterior wash stalls, equine specific rubberized floors and drains, and a custom equine therapy spa.

The one-mile training track has been resurfaced in the synthetic Polytrack, allowing the Godolphin horses to train in all weather conditions.

Some of the top Darley and Godolphin runners to train at Greentree over the years include champion 3yo QUESTING, Grade 1 winners WEDDING TOAST, DANCE CARD, IT’S TRICKY, EMCEE, ALPHA, BETTER LUCKY, FLASHING, GIROLAMO, and 2015 Wood Memorial winner and Belmont Stakes runner-up, FROSTED.