October 2019 Member of the Month: John Adger

John Adger (left)

John Adger is the TOBA October Member of the Month

In August, John Adger was elected to the Texas Horse Racing Hall of Fame. The former bloodstock and racing manager to fellow 2019 inductees Bob and Janice McNair, Adger helped the McNairs’ Stonerside Stable achieve great success.

Past president of the Texas Thoroughbred Association, Adger has lived in the Lone Star State since age three. His maternal grandfather, John Haynes, had champion Tennessee Walking Horses at his Haynes Haven Stock Farm near Nashville, Tennessee. Adger’s uncle brought the youngster to the track on occasion, where they watched his horses run.

In the late 1960s, Adger met Arthur “Bull” Hancock Jr. through family friend Howard Keck. While working with his brother in the real estate and brokerage businesses, Adger bonded with Bull’s eldest son, Arthur III, just as Arthur was beginning his Stone Farm. Adger pointed Hancock to buy an attractive filly. That horse wound up becoming future Kentucky Oaks (G1) and Coaching Club American Oaks (G1) victress Goodbye Halo.

Adger also introduced Tom Tatham, who headed up Oak Cliff Thoroughbreds, to Hancock. Adger advised Tatham to purchase the mare Wishing Well; when sent to Halo, Wishing Well produced an Oak Cliff-bred colt, later named Sunday Silence, at Stone Farm.

In fall 1993, Adger met a Texas titan of industry, Bob McNair, who later founded the Houston Texans NFL team. “Bob and I had a mutual friend, a fellow named Bill O’Connell[…]” Adger said. By January 1994, McNair had decided to dabble in horse racing, but he vowed to avoid buying a farm or ever having more than 10 horses. But the Fates had other plans…

The first horse Adger bought for the McNairs, Southern Truce, became a grade 1 winner. Adger introduced the McNairs to Arthur Hancock, and the couple then bought into Hancock’s talented colt Strodes Creek, along with trainer Charlie Whittingham. In 1994, Strodes Creek brought his new co-owners to Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May, where he finished second in Go For Gin in the Kentucky Derby (G1).

“Arthur had a piece of property that he was considering selling,” Adger remembered, “and lo and behold, that fall, the McNairs bought the property which became the Stonerside [farm].” The collaboration reached its culmination when Hancock and Stonerside co-bred 2000 Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus.

Over the years, Adger and the McNairs built up an incredibly talented team, both human and equine, at Stonerside. At the time of Stonerside’s sale to Godolphin in 2008, farm manager Bobby Spaulding, assistant farm manager Ignacio “Nacho” Patino–and his predecessor, Sergio de Sousa-oversaw the property, along with grounds manager Mark Wells and maintenance manager Bourbon Graves. David Sorrell managed the business, while Salvadore Valadez oversaw the yearlings and Vicky Van Camp headed up research and information.

At the 1995 Keeneland September Yearling sale, Stonerside purchased Minister’s Melody, dam of Bob and John, whom Janice McNair named after both her husband and Adger. “He ended up winning the Wood Memorial (G1) and won almost a million dollars,” Adger said proudly. In 1996, the McNairs expanded their equine operation. “We ended up buying the entire Elmendorf [Farm] broodmare band. I think it was 35 mares and they had about 26 foals,” Adger said. In addition to purchasing a percentage of eventual 1997 Belmont Stakes (G1) winner Touch Gold, they also bought Mack Miller’s Aiken, South Carolina, training center, managed by Tim Jones.

Elmendorf-bred Mari’s Sheba was bred to champion Arazi, yielding Stonerside’s versatile grade 1 winner Congaree. Other Stonerside-breds descended from Elmendorf mares include Raven’s Pass, who won the 2008 Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) after the McNairs sold their stock to Godolphin that fall, and champion Midshipman. The list of quality horses Stonerside (co-)owned or (co-)bred seems endless, including E Dubai, Chilukki, Don’t Tell Sophia, and more. Stonerside homebred Fast Cookie foaled Darley’s star Frosted.

Even after the McNairs dispersed, their influence lingers. Most recently, Alms–a Godolphin homebred out of a Stonerside mare–took the October 5 Matron Stakes (G3) at Belmont Park. On the same card, Final Frontier, a daughter of Stonerside’s grade 2-winning mare Sahara Gold, triumphed in the Belmont Turf Sprint Invitational Stakes.

Adger said, “Over the years, I think Bob was certainly very appreciative of the way it turned out, and Janice, too. They were always very, very supportive. When you had bad luck, they were very gracious about things and we would all sit down and [ask], ‘Now what could we have done better?’ or something like that. But I should say, I don’t know how any group of us could have worked for a greater couple. They appreciated the animals and they appreciate the people that worked with us.”