By Bill Giauque
GoldMark Farm overwhelms the first-time visitor the way Disney World dazzles a child. It is simply jaw-dropping. If you don’t believe me, just ask ToddQuast, general manager and trainer at GoldMark.
The furrow my jaw dug in the Safetrack as he showed me the training facility caused him considerable consternation. Oh, yeah! They don’t just have a six-furlong Safetrack; Gold-Mark has Safetrack throughout its training facility – the shedrows, the toe rings, the enclosed walkers, the enclosed round pens and the path from the training barns to the track.
The farm has 144 stalls with 112 in the training complex. Built on the site of Stanley Ersoff’s former Triple E Farm, GoldMark is absolutely breath-taking from gate to wire. The paddocks and drives are shaded everywhere by thousands of oak trees that were purposely left standing, according to Quast.
The actual buildings are Mediterranean architecture with red tile roofs. The octagonal office sits at the head of the two training barns. Everything is big and spacious. The shedrows are wider, the lintels are higher and the toe rings between the barns are wider than is customary.
“Everything is just a little bigger and better,” Quast said with a note of pride in his voice. In the center of the office building is a beautiful spiral staircase. In the center of the spiral staircase is a glass enclosed glass trophy case running from the ground floor to the ceiling of second floor.
“The staircase was built by Ron Yates,” Quast noted. “It is what he has done all his life. There were never any plans; he just built it.
Just off to the left when en- tering the office is an elevator.
“That’s for when we have been here for years,” Quast joked as he conducted the tour.
Another highlight of the ground floor was a 58-seat amphitheater, complete with a 168- inch television screen and video-conferencing capability.
“Originally, we wanted a room to teach English-Spanish classes for employees,” Quast explained. However, as they added technological capability to the room, it became an amphitheater that can serve a multitude of purposes. On the top floor are offices for owner Paul Bulmahn and Quast with floor to ceiling glass walls that look out over the track, toe rings and round pens. In summing up the construction job, Quast said, “It’s built to outlast everything. The tiles on the roofs have a 100-year warranty.”
As interesting as what they have built, is the confluence of time and events that led Bulmahn and Quast to this point in time and this farm and stable. Bulmahn grew up on an Indiana farm where he dreamed of becoming a jockey.
“(Bulmahn) would crawl up in a tree and push the limbs down where their farm horse could reach the leaves.” Quast said. “Then, he would drop down on the back of the horse and pretend he was Eddie Arcaro. He loved horse racing, but he never had any vehicle to become involved until now.”
He received his undergraduate degree from Valparaiso University, went on to an MBA from Texas State University and eventually, received a law degree from the University of Texas.
The 65-year-old executive served the Railroad Commission of Texas, the Public Utility Commission and Interstate Commerce Commission as an administrative law judge before moving on to serve as counsel for Tenneco’s interstate gas pipelines.
From there he went on to be vice-president and general counsel of Plumb Oil Co, and still later was president of Harbert Oil and Gas Corporation. With this experience, he founded ATP Oil and Gas Corporation in Houston and currently serves as chairman and chief executive officer. These were not the kinds of positions that allowed him to get straw stuck to his Florshiems. It was not until he won a drawing at an entrepreneur club meeting that the horse racing spark ignited the oil and gas man’s interest. The prize for the drawing was a trip to the 2002 Kentucky Derby.
“The trip included an invitation to the Bill Samuels’ Kentucky Derby party,” Quast said. Samuels is the head man at Maker’s Mark, the bourbon maker that sponsors the Maker’s Mark Mile at Keeneland and is the recommended bourbon for making a mint julep, the official drink of the Kentucky Derby.
“He struck up a conversation with Bill during the party, and at the Derby he sat with Bill and right next to (Bob) Baffert and Wayne (Lukas).” Racing fans recognize those names as hall of fame trainers.
That was followed by a trip to Orlando to visit his brother Dave. While there, Bulmahn suggested a trip to Ocala for a drive through horse country. During the visit to Ocala, Bul- mahn walked into the office of realtor Terri Kitchens on W. Silver Springs Boulevard to inquire about horse farm property.
Meanwhile Quast grew up in Texas horse country. He graduated from the Tarleton State University with a B.S. in horse production and management. He then worked for Texas trainer Ed Dodwell for five years. At that time, he landed a job as an assistant with D. Wayne Lukas. “I was 25 years old when I went to work for Wayne,” he said. “I went straight to Hollywood Park and an 80-horse stable.”
Quast didn’t care for the racetrack, and after two years, he switched to Westerly, the training center where Lukas’ horses were prepared for the track. Altogether Quast worked with Lukas for ten-and-a-half years.
“I didn’t care for the racetrack. Randy Bradshaw didn’t like the farm at that time, so we switched,” Quast said. “It was a great time with great horses. We had Serena’s Song, Flan- ders, 13 Breeders’ Cup winners and 14 Eclipse winners. “From ’94 to ’97, we had seven classic winners in a row.”
When Lukas relocated his training operation to Padua Stables, Quast found himself in Summerfield, Florida. And when Satish Sanan of Padua and Lukas ended their business association, Quast found himself with a small 20-acre farm to sell.
Terri Kitchens sold his farm for him and became acquainted with Quast in the process. From that point, time and events converged. Remember a few paragraphs ago, Paul Bulmahn walked into Kitchens’ office inquiring about buying a horse farm. Kitchens naturally told him he should talk to Quast. That was in the summer of 2002.
What happened from there is nothing short of amazing. By November 2002, Bulmahn purchased Stanley Ersoff’s 350- acre Triple E Farm on NW 130th Ave. Eight subsequent land purchases over the next six years increased the size of GoldMark to 2,500 acres.
First came houses for Bulmahn and his wife of 35 years, Mary, and for Quast and his family. Quast had experience designing and building farms.
“The Padua training center design was all mine,” he said. Bulmahn and Quast needed a general contractor to proceed with the plan. He found one in Chris Morrison of AAA Building.
“He is a large part of getting this done the way we wanted it.” Quast worked right with Morrison as they built the Quast house, Bulmahn’s 23,000 square foot house with a waterfall inside, and put in the infrastructure of the farm—drives, fencing and underground electric.
After that, Quast and Morrison started on the track, barns, round pens and walkers. By then a full three years had lapsed. It was now 2006, and those three years were an unusual time for Quast. “It was very peculiar, getting up every morning and not having any horses,” he said. “I was with Wayne for ten-and-a-half years. It was horses 24/7.”
As they moved into 2006, they bought the first GoldMark horses more than three years after buying the land. “We buy 20 to 25 yearlings every year,” Quast explained. “When we started with the horses, we had three, five and ten-year plans. By year three, I wanted to be sure and have a good horse.”
That good horse emerged this summer in Kentucky and Saratoga when GoldMark’s two- year-old colt Backtalk won the grade-three Bashford Manor Stakes at Churchill Downs and the grade-two Sanford Stakes at Saratoga in July.
Although he has already established himself as one of the leaders in the two-year-old colt division, the son of Smarty Jones took a step backward Labor Day when he ran fourth in the G1 Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga. While Quast was disappointed in the Hopeful outcome, he has not lost faith in Backtalk. He simply believes that Backtalk did not get a trip that suited him in the Hopeful.
“Two turns is what it is all about for Backtalk,” Quast said. “He has professionalism that is beyond his years. From here on, it is all two turns (longer races in which the horses run around both turns to complete the distance), and that suits Backtalk.”
Once they began buying horses, Bulmahn and GoldMark did not have to wait long for the action to begin. Syriana’s Song won the first race in GoldMark colors at Saratoga on August 22, 2007. She was in GoldMark’s first crop of two-year-olds, having been purchased as a yearling in 2006. Syriana’s Song went on to run second in the Letellier Me- morial Stakes at Fair Grounds in New Orleans.
Another filly in that same crop, Elusive Lady won the grade-three Tempted Stakes at Aqueduct in New York and ran second in the grade-two Demoi- selle Stakes also at Aqueduct. These kinds of performances took the daughter of Van Nistlerooy, Bulmahn and Quast to the grade-one Kentucky Oaks the following year.
However, the track came up muddy, and when a horse broke down in a race earlier on the card, Bulmahn told Quast, “’I don’t want to run. I’m not going to take a chance on getting her hurt.’
“Paul has made a commitment to his horses and to be the best.” GoldMark is just in its infancy. It is just now toddling, albeit in spectacular fashion, to the end of its first three-year plan, and Backtalk may be that horse that Quast wanted in the first three years.
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