By Teresa Genaro
When T. Paul Bulmahn was a little boy, his mother offered him an incentive for doing a good job with his family’s sharecropping chores on an Indiana farm. If he raked and hoed and planted well, she said, he could climb over the fence and hang out with the draft horses next door.
“I loved them,” he said this week. “And they seemed to really like me as well. It began a love affair.”
These days, Bulmahn has his own farm and his own horses, and he can walk out his front door and hang out with them whenever he wants.
Bulmahn’s professional background is in the energy industry: he is a former president and director of Harbert Oil & Gas Corporation and a former vice president and general counsel of Plumb Oil Company. He has also worked on the regulation end of the industry and he founded ATP Gas and Oil Company in 1991.
He got serious about horses and racing in the early 2000s, when he purchased land in Ocala, Florida; razing the existing structures, he built a farm that, he says, “is designed as a show place, and a place where Thoroughbreds are treated regally.”
A commercial training facility, Goldmark Farm opened its doors in 2006, offering a range of training, rehabilitation, and boarding services, for Bulmahn’s own horses and for the farm’s clients. Among the horses that have come from Goldmark are Shackleford, winner of the 2010 Preakness; Pluck, winner of the 2010 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf; and Dullahan, winner of the 2012 Pacific Classic.
“I was really happy to have them at the farm,” said Bulmahn. “Both Dullahan and Shackleford have great personalities; they are both such hams.”
This Saturday at Belmont Park, another Goldmark graduate, this one belonging to Bulmahn, will take on the winners of this year’s Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes in the $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup. Purchased by Bulmahn for $300,000, Cross Traffic is a lightly raced four-year-old who won the prestigious Whitney Handicap at Saratoga last month.
While most Thoroughbreds begin racing at age two or three, Cross Traffic didn’t make his first start until January of this year, a result, said Bulmahn, of his belief that a training program should fit the horse, and not the other way around.
“When he began his life in training as a racehorse,” said Bulmahn, “he seemed to develop slowly, so we tried to do the best by the horse. Our trainer at the farm, Todd Quast, is a true horseman, and he feels as I do, that we bring horses along at their own timetable.”
When it was time to begin training at the racetrack, Bulmahn shipped the horse to trainer Todd Pletcher, but at three, Cross Traffic developed a shin problem, further delaying his first start.
“We backed off right then,” said his owner. “We gave him more time to mature, and clearly, he’s rewarding us this year.”
Cross Traffic won his first two races, in January and March of this year, then finished second in two agonizingly close contests, missing the Westchester Handicap by a head and the historic Metropolitan Handicap by a nose.
“They were really tough,” Bulmahn admitted, “We drew the gate in both races, and we knew that in order to break well, in order to not get pinned in, we felt we had to send him [to the front] both times. He went and set all the fractions in both, and then to be nipped at the wire by a nose…that was tough. That was really, really tough.”
This year also saw Bulmahn get a horse to the Kentucky Derby. Owned in partnership with Mandy Pope’s Whisper Hill Farm, Mylute finished fifth, followed by a third in the Preakness. He’s currently at Goldmark Farm for a break.
“Over the span of about a year he ran 11 races,” Bulmahn explained. “He deserves to have a break to get him ready for next year.”