Success in Thoroughbred racing is difficult to find and producing the “big horse” is even harder, yet hundreds of small-scale breeding operations persevere. What exactly inspires an owner to invest time and money into what is guaranteed to be an uphill battle? According to Tom Roche of Carmalley Valley Farm, it’s all about the challenge. On his 500-acre spread near St. Charles MO, Roche is raising homebreds to compete on the Indiana and New York circuits.

Roche, a successful businessman whose investments have been in equipment leasing, insurance, and real estate, has lived in Missouri since he was in his teens. He and his family reside west of St. Louis and work on their 500 acre horse farm and vineyard.
Carmalley Valley Farm is in the heart of Missouri wine country with 28 vineyards in 10-15 mile radius of the farm and they are producers for some of the local vineyards in the area.

Carmalley Valley Farm had three stallions at one time, two Storm Cats and one AP Indy. They recently sold both Storm Cats (Cat Dreams and Storm Account) to Saudi Arabian interests, but they still own the impeccably bred Dr large (a son of the great sire of sires AP Indy) standing in the state of New York at Banahan Farms near Albany NY.
Our objective was very simple “I got into the Indiana breeding program about five years ago,” said Roche, “It seemed like it could be fairly lucrative if you had a quality stallion and some quality stock to compete in the state restricted races. Our plan was to produce our own homebreds to sell and race. Indiana sired and bred by our stallions, out of our mares.”
We have since moved that plan to New York and Banahan Farms to take advantage of the very profitable NY breeding program, and the extremely stout purses at the NY racetracks.

Roche’s interest in Thoroughbreds goes back about 15 years to a quail hunting trip in Kansas, when he discovered one of his buddies was involved in racing. “He owned a couple of horses and that’s how it all started,” Roche recalled. “I thought I might like to have a little skin in the game rather than just be a spectator. That side of the sport was intriguing to me.” One of Roche’s first runners, purchased privately as a yearling, was the Miner’s Mark filly Carmalley. Bred in Kentucky by Diamond Oak Farm out of the Danzig mare Danzig’s Song, she won four times and was in the money on several other occasions, always coming with a late run. When she retired, Roche bred her but her foal was stillborn and she ripped badly during the delivery and could not be bred again.
“After a start like that, you’d think I’d know better,” said Roche, who retired the mare and donated her to a local 4-H club. Instead, he named his farm in honor of Carmalley and continued the quest to breed, sell, and race good runners.

Roche said it’s the challenge “I’ve been in the business world my entire life; I’ve operated several businesses that have been successful,” Roche said. “I’m applying those same business principles to my breeding operation.” The original plan for Carmalley Valley’s broodmare band was to start with only four or five mares, then gradually increase up to about 20. When the broodmare market declined, however, Roche was able to purchase several mares economically from “household” lines such as Carson City, Rahy, Nureyev, Smart Strike, and Maria’s Mon, Storm Cat, etc. etc. and the size of the band grew rapidly. Recently he has decided to scale back to five or six of the best mares from a group that numbered about 20 at its largest. “To be honest, we didn’t really anticipate the market was going to stay depressed for so many years,” he said. “We changed our business model several years ago where we actually scaled down our broodmare band to be more manageable and more profitable”.
For a small breeding operation, 20 is a lot to keep track of, especially when you’re shipping out of state to breed.” Among the foundation mares of the Carmalley Valley band is the Nureyev mare Dakini, producer of Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes 400k (Gr 2) runner-up Old Time Religion. Others include mares from some of the top broodmare sire lines in the country like Quiet American, Storm Cat, You and I, and Maria’s Mon.

The stallion they chose to keep was the royally bred 7-year-old son of A.P. Indy (Dr large) out of the Mr. Prospector mare Debit Account. Dr large won 5 times for a total of 215k on the track. He won the Capital City Stakes at Penn National and was third in the Kent Stakes (Gr. 3) at Delaware Park. “He was intriguing to me, not only because he was out of a Mr. Prospector mare like all the great sons of A.P. Indy at stud, or that he had Northern Dancer on the bottom as well, but he has a double cross in his tail female of La Troienne, the great blue hen mare found in many great stallions. This guy was “BRED TO BE A SIRE” Roche said.
The decision to keep Dr Large for the farms stallion of choice has paid off in spades. His very, very, very first runner (Spooled) a Carmalley Valley Farm homebred won her MSW debut by 8 lengths and went on to win back to back Stakes races for a combined total of almost 16 lengths. Dr Large currently has the highest AEI of any son of AP Indy at 3.61 — WOW !!!!

Over the years mares have come from far and wide—including Kentucky, California, Louisiana, Illinois, Ohio, and Colorado—to breed to Carmalley Valley stallions. “Being from Missouri, we’ve had to make friends all across the country,” said Roche. “We depend on a lot of different people with a variety of different skill sets along the way.” The farm also stood the Storm Cat stallion Cat Dreams, sire of Gr 2 stakes winner, Caracortado winner of 840k from 2010-12. He was sold privately to Saudi Arabian interests in 2013′.
“Compared to the big breeding farms, we don’t have the luxury of operating our farm using the ‘best’ theory of buy the best, breed to the best, and hope for the best,” Roche said. “We have to pick and choose our purchases wisely, studying and researching successful bloodlines and historic, successful nicking patterns within our budget. I guess it’s the same theory, only on a smaller scale.” One of the keys to sustainability for Roche has been a willingness to adapt his business plans as he learns more about the industry and its ebbs and flows.
He also is a regular attendee of clinics on pedigree, genetics, conformation, and breeding. “I hate to fail at anything, and I’ve seen a lot of people fail in this industry,” he said, “You have to mitigate your risk in this business by trying to make intelligent decisions, and I’m not saying you’re going to be correct all the time, but you certainly cannot repeat unsuccessful historical attempts.”

Carmalley Valley Farm is a Thoroughbred farm and vineyard with four rail black fencing and two large horse barns.
The Roche family purchased the property over 12 years ago and has kept horses on it for the past 7 years. “If you didn’t know we were in Missouri, you’d think we were in Kentucky,” Roche laughed. “We have a beautiful facility that occupies most of my time, and it’s been a successful business venture but it’s also been a challenge ”. Last year the farm sold 32 horses privately and at auction. According to Roche, those included weanlings, yearlings, 2-year-olds, and mares. But the family also keeps a few for the track, and sells a few in the OBS 2- year old in training sale each year.
Carmalley Valley Farm will have several homebreds hit the track again this year, and have been very successful with racing partnerships and state restricted breeders awards.

We’ve evolved from racing them on our own into partnerships,” Roche remarked. “We used to buy horses somebody else bred, but now we only race and sell our homebreds; we think that’s makes more sense, backing your own brand so to speak.” Roche said 2013′ was a breakout year for Carmalley Valley Farm. “We had many 2-year-olds and 3-year-olds hit the track that year, and our breeders’ awards really kicked in,” the owner said. “We’ve really streamlined our operation to be successful going forward. We’ve built the business and put a lot of time, effort, and resources into it, all knowing the gestation period would be at least four to five years, and we’ve been experiencing the fruits of our labor, and now that we have moved into the New York breeding program we are very excited to see it grow even more and blossom to the next level!