By TONY TAGLAVORE, Journal Sports
Baseball was in his name, but horses were in his blood.
Jay Adcock, son of 17-year major league veteran and Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame member
Joe Adcock, played for Louisiana Tech in the late 1970’s. Jay was a good first baseman, but not as good as his dad.
Joe wore the uniform of four teams, hit 336 home runs (despite several injuries) — including an MLB record four round trippers in one game — and broke up Harvey Haddix’s astounding 12-inning no-hitter.
So, when Jay’s college career was over, he went down to the farm. Not to a big-league farm team, but to a real farm to work with his dad.
“I knew what I wanted to do. I wanted to do horses. That’s what I really enjoyed.”
That’s because when Joe retired from baseball in 1969 after a couple of managerial jobs, he went home to Coushatta and Red River Farms.
“He had horses during his baseball career, but not thoroughbreds,” Jay said. “Mostly Appaloosa. He gravitated to thoroughbreds when he got out of baseball.”
And Jay, then 12 years-old, was happily along for the ride.
“The computers and the phones and the instant information you can get at the touch of your fingertips. Back then, we didn’t have any of that stuff,” Jay remembered. “You had one, two landlines in the house — maybe one in the kitchen and one in the bedroom. TV’s, you had (Channels) 3, 6, and 12. Outside was the place to be. We hunted. We fished. I grew up swimming in the pond.”
And learning the breeding business from his father, whose second act was as good as his first. According to the Louisiana Thoroughbred Breeders Association, Joe was named top breeder eight times. He died in 1999, at the young age of 71. But Jay continued his father’s legacy — and has built one of his own. Jay and Red River Farms have won seven top state breeder awards, including five straight from 1997-2001.
“I thought I could make a living at it,” Jay said. “Fortunately, I have. I have no complaints. None whatsoever.”
And neither do the thoroughbreds, at least from February to June. That’s when they, for lack of a better term, get busy. Which means that’s when Jay gets busy.
“(They) are a little bit different than all the other breeds,” Jay explained. “You cannot artificial (inseminate). You have to live cover, which means you actually have to put the mare and the stallion together. We do it in a controlled (environment). We don’t just turn them out there and hope for the best. You hold the stallion. You hold the mare. They actually mount, and breed.”
The goal — the hope — is that the foal goes on to a successful racing career.
“There’s no silver bullet,” Jay said. “Pedigree is awful hard to argue with. The heritage of them. The brothers and sisters that ran. The mommas that produced. The daddies that produced. You take a stallion that’s never had a baby to the races, you’re going on pedigree, you’re going on looks, confirmation, race record. There’s a bunch of intangibles that you try to put together, but it’s not an exact science. You see full brothers and full sisters, one of them is a really nice racehorse, and one of them can’t outrun me.”
Ask 10 breeders what gives a foal the best chance to be a winner, and you’re likely to get 10 different answers. But Jay will give you the same answer each time you ask.
“Pedigree. Blood. My dad told me a long time ago, ‘Son, when they turn for home, unless you’ve got some good blood flowing through the veins, you’re going to get run over down the lane.’ I honestly believe that’s true.”
Louisiana breds do very well racing in their home state. Last year, according to the Louisiana Fact Book produced by The Jockey Club, Louisiana breds won 89 percent of the state’s purse money. Regardless of where they raced, Louisiana breds earned $43 million. The more than $18,000 average per starter was the highest since 2001.
But how do Louisiana breds match up against horses bred in other states? Jay says that’s hard to answer.
“Last year, we ran 332 days in the state of Louisiana. A lot of the horses in Louisiana don’t necessarily leave the state because they get the opportunity to run here year-round. So, they don’t go outside the the state lines and maybe prove themselves on the open market. But don’t fool yourself. There are a lot of Louisiana breds that can run (in open competition). I promise you that. And it’s been proven more and more the last few years.”
At 64 years old, Jay doesn’t have any plans to retire. But if he does, the Adcock legacy is likely to continue. Brandon Adcock, one of Jay’s two sons, is part owner of Red River Farms, and for years has been learning from his dad.
“Growing up, that’s where we went,” Brandon said of going to the farm as a child. “There were no babysitters. Me and my brother, we were out there with (Dad) every day. When we were big enough to do anything labor-wise, we had to do it. I was there every day. That’s all I know how to do.”
At age 31, Brandon is trying to bring his dad — and the farm — into 2022.
“He’s kind of old school,” Brandon said. “He reads what happens in other states three or four days later, when it comes out in press clippings on the computer. You can go to Twitter and see what happened five seconds ago. Dad doesn’t have none of that. He doesn’t know everything right off the bat. I feel like within the next five or 10 years, there are going to have to be some changes made. It’s my job to try not to screw it up.”
That’s highly unlikely. Remember, pedigree is awful hard to argue with.
Louisiana Downs runs Saturday-Tuesday. Weekend post time is 1:45 p.m. Weekday post time is 3:05.
This Sunday, there is a special post time of 4:30.
Contact Tony at SBJTonyT@gmail.com
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