February 2019 Member of the Month: Joe Minor

(L-R): Bellafina, (granddaughter) Ellie and Joe Minor

Joe Minor is the TOBA February Member of the Month.

Joe Minor is riding high after major successes on the track. Three-year-old Bellafina, bred in Kentucky by Minor, kicked off 2019 in grand fashion. She tallied consecutive wins in the January 6 Santa Ynez Stakes (G2) and February 9 Las Virgenes Stakes (G2), both at Santa Anita.

Minor grew up surrounded by all things equine. He said, “My family was involved in horses. I grew up on a small horse farm on the north end of Lexington and my dad had horses and at the time, when I was growing up, I thought they were at a high level. He had some success and then he passed away pretty early.”

As an adult, Minor diversified his professional portfolio, but eventually returned to Thoroughbreds. Now splitting his time between Lexington and Naples, Florida, he recalled that “Lexington, when I grew up, was a small town, so I knew John [Greathouse] and his brother David and his other brother Allen.” After participating in syndicates with the Greathouse family, Minor kickstarted his own JSM Equine.

Minor consults experts like the Greathouses and bloodstock agent Justin Casse to find potential superstars. “You run into a lot of really good people involved in the industry at all levels,” he said, noting his appreciation of others who truly appreciate the horse. He added, “When Blofeld came along, John Greathouse and I had decided that, with his knowledge and his eye and that sort of thing, that he would be the person that certainly picked out the horses, and I would be the bank, so to speak.” They planned to buy fillies as yearlings and pinhook them as two-year-olds, prepped by Ciaran Dunne of Wavertree Stables.

JSM Equine also bought future grade 1 winner Dream Tree at the 2016 Fasig-Tipton July Yearling sale for $225,000. Through Wavertree Stables, he pinhooked her the following year for $750,000 at the 2017 Fasig-Tipton Florida Select Two-Year-Olds in Training sale.

At the 2014 Fasig-Tipton March sale of Two-Year-Olds in Training, Minor spotted a unique horse. “He was with Peter O’Callaghan, and Peter only had one horse at that time in the consignment and it was right outside the offices of Fasig-Tipton,” he said. “Ciaran came to me and said, ‘I want to show you something special.’”

The resulting horse had just one problem: he was a colt, not a filly. “We can take care of that,” Minor said. “John and I decided to buy the horse and we were successful.” For $225,000, the pair purchased the Quality Road colt, later named Blofeld. They planned to sell him the following year, but a minor chip meant he remained with the Greathouses’ Glencrest Farm and Minor. Blofeld captured the 2014 Futurity Stakes (G2) and Nashua Stakes (G2), adding the 2016 Gulfstream Park Handicap (G2).

After Blofeld’s success, Minor was sold on Quality Road as a sire. “Quality Road, like a lot of really, really good horses, just had that look about him, that he was going to be something special,” he observed. At the 2014 Keeneland November sale, Minor purchased a mare called Akron Moon, in foal to Quality Road, for $175,000. The foal she was carrying turned out to be two-time stakes winner Diamond King.

Stakes-placed in her native Canada, Akron Moon was sent back to Quality Road, producing an attractive bay filly named Bellafina. Minor noted, “The filly of Akron Moon’s—at that time, from the time she was born, I believed in her anyway. I thought everything about her just said, ‘I’m a racehorse.’” Minor was impressed by the big, strong filly, telling Casse, “Justin, if that’s not a racehorse, I don’t know one.”

At the 2017 Keeneland September Yearling sale, Bellafina RNA’d for $220,000. But, the following year, she sold for $800,000 to eventual owner Kaleem Shah at the Fasig-Tipton March sale. A finalist for champion juvenile filly honors last year, Bellafina won the 2018 Sorrento Stakes (G2), Del Mar Debutante Stakes (G1), and Chandelier Stakes (G1), before finishing fourth in the Tito’s Handmade Vodka Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1). She has won five of seven starts and earned $828,000.

Owner of about a dozen broodmares today, Minor sold Akron Moon privately to Mandy Pope of Whisper Hill Farm and the Torrealbas of Three Chimneys Farm. He still retains a percentage of the mare. In 2019, Akron Moon foaled a full brother to Bellafina and will be bred back to Quality Road. “She’s had two foals to run and both of them stakes winners. Two for two,” he said. Still owner of Akron Moon’s Verrazano two-year-old filly, Minor is unsure whether he will sell her. One thing’s for sure, however: The future is bright for Joe Minor and his Bellafina.