Hartwell Farm Celebrates Call Me Midnight


Photo: Hodges Photography / Lou Hodges Jr.
Call Me Midnight (left) wins the Lecomte Stakes at Fair Grounds Race Course

Located just outside the south side of Lexington is Hartwell Farm, home to Robbie and Susie Lyons, breeders of the Lecomte Stakes (G3) winner, Call Me Midnight . The 3-year-old colt added stakes success to his rèsumè Jan. 22 with an upset victory at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots.

"Yesterday was exciting. Call Me Midnight broke his maiden fairly impressively and he didn't run a terrible race in the (Kentucky) Jockey Club Stakes (G2); it just didn't go his way," Robbie Lyons said Sunday. "The race yesterday was set up great for him. He had a brilliant ride by fellow Irishman James Graham, and great training by Keith Desormeaux."

Peter Cantrell's Call Me Midnight went into the race with a 1-1-0 record in six starts. He broke his maiden at fifth asking at Churchill Downs as a juvenile going a mile then was sent two weeks later to the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes, in which he didn't get the desired trip, finishing seventh. His Saturday performance was a breakout effort over favored rivals Epicenter  and Pappacap , with a grade 3 achievement added to his accolades.

The Lyons picked up Call Me Midnight's dam, the Juddmonte-bred, unraced First Defence  mare Overseen, for $16,000 from the Mill Ridge Sales consignment at the 2013 Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale. While small in stature, the mare comes from an established family by way of the second dam Slightly Dangerous , a group 3 winner on the turf in England and second in the Epsom Oaks (G1).

By Roberto, Slightly Dangerous went on to produce nine stakes horses including Warning, who captured the Swettenham Stud Sussex Stakes (G1), Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (G1), and Queen Anne Stakes (G2); Deploy, second-best in the Budweiser Irish Derby (G1) and a stallion in both England and Ireland; Commander in Chief, winner of the Ever Ready Epsom Derby (G1) and Irish Derby and who later stood in Japan; group 3-placed Totality; Dushyantor, a multiple group/graded stakes winner who was multiple group/grade 1-placed in England and the United Stakes, including when third in the Breeders' Cup Turf (G1T), before standing in Ireland; and the fast Danzig filly Yashmak who ran in England, France, Ireland, and the U.S., where she captured the Flower Bowl Invitational Handicap (G1T). Overseen is out of Slightly Dangerous' Danzig daughter Jibe, a stakes winner who was second in the Fillies' Mile (G1).

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Lyons recalled Call Me Midnight, a son of Midnight Lute  , as a weanling and initially sending him under the hammer at the 2019 Keeneland November sale, where the colt changed hands for $25,000 to Milton Lopez.

"He was actually a nice colt as a weanling. Midnight Lute was a bit of the 'flavor of the month.' I struggled to get him sold for $25,000," Lyons commented. "The mare, I purchased her on a whim from Juddmonte, mostly because of her family. She's a tiny mare, very small; I sort of regretted my decision at the time. In fact, after the 2013 Keeneland November sale, I entered her in the 2014 Fasig-Tipton February Sale but didn't get her sold there either."

Overseen has produced a stakes-placed filly by Bayern , Bayerly Seen , who was second in the 2019 Woodbine Cares Stakes as a juvenile. The mare has four foals on the ground, all of which are runners, and is expecting a Frosted   foal this year.

"Her Bayern filly was also small. She sold for $25,000 to Gastar Thoroughbreds (at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale). She initially went to Brad Cox. She ended up being a fast filly, breaking her maiden in Indiana first time out and then chased a stakes race up in Canada, a really gutsy filly," Lyons said.

Hartwell farm, located in Jessamine County, foals out around 50 mares a year, 10-12 of those being personal mares for the Lyons and the rest for clients. Lyons originally came over to the states from Ireland in 1978 and has owned and operated Hartwell for the past 28 years.

"We have everything on the farm. We sell them as weanlings if they look like they have a limited future or we need cash, one or the other to keep it all going," Lyons said.

As far as matings, Call Me Midnight was more a modus operandi for Lyons.

"I bred (Overseen) to a proven horse in Temple City   in 2015 and then got a deal on a Bayern season in 2016, eventually sent her to Midnight Lute in 2018, another proven stallion—since I ended up having to keep the mare," Lyons said.

"Not a great deal of thought was put into who we bred her to, to be honest. Midnight Lute is a well-proven sire that every now and again comes up with a class horse, which was the hope."

Hartwell Farm mainly breeds to sell and has a consignment at each Kentucky sale throughout the year. Last year they sold the dam of $2 million earner and multiple grade 1 winner Serengeti Empress , Havisham, in foal to Uncle Mo   for $1.15 million at The November Sale, Fasig-Tipton's premier breeding stock in Lexington, to Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings—their top-priced offering in 2021.

Photo: Courtesy Hartwell Farm/ThoroStride
Havisham, the dam of Serengeti Empress

"We breed to sell, but I have gotten to the point where I won't breed a mare to a stallion that I'm not willing to race," Lyons said. "With that in mind, we have a nice stakes-winning filly running, Wait for Nairobi . She will run Jan. 29 at Turfway Park in the Wishing Well Stakes, and she is in partnership with SF Racing."

Wait for Nairobi, by Carpe Diem  , was bred by Hartwell Farm and SF Bloodstock. She went through the 2018 Keeneland November sale as a weanling, failing to meet her reserve at $50,000.

Wait for Nairobi wins the 2021 Cincinnati Trophy Stakes
Photo: Coady Photography
Wait for Nairobi wins the 2021 Cincinnati Trophy Stakes at Turfway Park

"If you breed commercially, I suppose you really have to breed to first-season stallions for the interest and excitement that it is, but you can get caught out very easily doing that," Lyons added.

When asked what keeps him motivated, Lyons responded with a chuckle: "It's roses, it's the love of the game. When you have to work through a day like yesterday and the weather the last few weeks, it's something you have to be passionate about and truly enjoy."

Lyons commented: "Yesterday's win will carry us through the rest of this breeding season. And hopefully, Call Me Midnight will get another race or two under his belt. I think Kent thought the race was set up nice for (Call Me Midnight) to win, but I imagine he will run him back, all being well, if there is a start. I think he has (done well) at the Derby with some long shots as well. We will see what happens."