One Doctor's Rx Pad for a Healthy Equine
It is a good thing that Dr. Stephen Sinatra is an innovative, integrative, and invasive cardiologist. His decades of clinical experience in critical cardiac situations prepared him well for the "ups and downs" involved in breeding, raising, training, vetting, transporting and racing thoroughbred horses. It can be an emotional roller coaster of highs and lows; balancing wins and successes against injuries, heartbreaks, failures and loss – both at the track and at the bank.
As Dr. Sinatra energetically enters his 7th decade of life – a time when most people retire and head for a less stressful and demanding lifestyle – his commitment to horse racing is stronger than ever. And he means to bring all he has learned through his many adventures to his own animals. In addition to thoroughbred racing, this septuagenarian continues to enthusiastically participate in research and peer review medical articles, book authorship, product and website development, lecture and media events.
And then there’s his latest passion: creating high quality food products for people that are as pure as any found on the marketplace.
As you read further, you will see this commitment to natural approaches – deferring medication to healthy life-style choices, supplements, and fresh, nutrient-rich foods that nourish the body whenever possible — has never been limited to humans. After watching the positive results of using these same practices on his own family pets, he has been for many years been adding them into the care of his beloved horses. The culmination has been to find a farm of his own to incorporate all these beliefs into daily practice with his own special team — something he has finally accomplished in Maryland. After several years of refinement, Berkley Farm is now open to the public for the boarding, breaking, training, and rehab of their invaluable thoroughbreds.
After years of renovation and expansion, Sinatra Thoroughbred at Berkley Farm now offers concierge care of the equine. At this home of two-time Maryland Million Stakes Winner Admiral’s War Chest, Dr. Sinatra he has seen first-hand the results of the leading-edge approaches he has added to the already pristine 167-acre location. In addition to the top-notch feed program to be explained later, boarders can select from an array of additional services for optimal health and recovery, such as:
- Therapeutic massage
- Equiscope sessions (aka accuscope for humans)
- NES Treatment
- Chiropractic adjustment
- Grounded stalls
- Field exercise with horseshoes removed
And Dr. Sinatra is following the research daily to learn of more interventions to offer. But more details on the farm later. Looking at how it all evolved…
Father and Son
Like many of us thoroughbred racing enthusiasts, Dr. Sinatra can trace his love of the “Sport of Kings” back to his childhood. Growing up in suburban Long Island, his father “Charlie” took him to Belmont Park for a full card of racing before he was a teen. Even before he started playing football and hitting the wrestling mat, the inspired son was fascinated with the athleticism and beauty of the thoroughbred horse. The frequent father and son trips forged a solid foundation. In fact, despite his father’s admonishment save his money and never actually “own a horse”, the budding enthusiasm would follow him into a future of thoroughbred ownership lasting his adult lifetime.
Sinatra, like the racehorse, also has a strong athletic background. In fact, he trained and competed hard enough to put himself through college by earning a wrestling scholarship. No competitive sport more exemplifies the importance of combining a healthy diet, mental preparation, strength, endurance, persistence, precision and execution than that of college wrestling. And he would even come close to trying out for the Olympic team, so Sinatra knows by experience all about the "woulda- coulda", agony-and-ecstacy sports competition moments forged in one’s memories: powerful lessons one never forgets. Just like in horse racing.
"Making weight" before each wresting meet was key, and the young wrestler witnessed first-hand the unhealthy methods some wrestlers chose to manage their weight. These early lessons and disciplines are still ingrained today as he maintains his commitment to fitness and strength training with frequent stretching exercises, flexibility drills, and cardiovascular exercise combined with a natural, organic diet and targeted nutritional supplements — and grounding to the earth.
The Early Years
After graduating from medical school, establishing his cardiology practice, and starting a family, Dr. Sinatra heard the call to return to the sport of horse racing. A college friend invited him to invest in one of his horses. Sinatra’s early involvement in the sport during the 1970's developed into partnerships, breeding and even claiming. One horse, NY Bred Snake Oil Stevie, out of Pass Catcher, was good enough to compete at both Belmont and Saratoga racetracks. He maintained Sinatra's engagement in horse racing as he took his own teenaged son Drew to the track to watch the horse compete. Full cycle father and son.
Sinatra continued to race his horses on the East Coast, boarding them at several locations with several trainers. But with his limited time, budget and experience, the horses he owned were of average quality. None ever allowed him to affirmatively answer the question horse owners are asked at dinner parties — or any other time that they admit to having a thoroughbred:
"Have you ever had a horse good enough to run in the Kentucky Derby?"
Like so many other thoroughbred owners across the country, that seemingly unreachable goal slowly became Sinatra’s secret dream…
In the late 1990's Sinatra ventured into the arena of World Class breeding. He expanded his business to purchase interests in some broodmares, one of which was named Sage Cat. The Tabasco Cat sired mare had a solid reputation for producing impressive, well confirmed foals. Sinatra and his partner made the decision to risk the 2005 investment to breed Sage Cat to a quality stallion, finally deciding to go to Street Cry.
In early 2006, Sage Cat's physically striking foal was born. Even the grace, poise, and strength with which the colt walked was notable. It was decided to dub him Cry of the Cat, after his parentage.
After obtaining interest from many of Kentucky’s leading farms, the young colt was sold in the Keeneland September yearling sale. Eventually, Cry of the Cat was resold to Sheik Mohammed, who renamed him Desert Party; he was now a Godolphin Stable hopeful. As a 2-year-old, Desert Party made an impressive debut, even victorious in the Grade III Sanford Stakes. Godolphin shipped him to Dubai where he competed as a 3-year-old in the UAE 2000 Guineas—and won! http://i.bloodhorse.com/stallion-register/pdfs/desertparty.pdf
In 2009, Desert Party was entered into the Kentucky Derby https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=desert+party+injured+in+2009+kentucky+derby&qpvt=desert+party+injured+in+2009+kentucky+derby&view=detail&mid=01ED9E8F5B88F9FA9C9901ED9E8F5B88F9FA9C99&FORM=VRDGAR , along with his stablemate Regal Ransom. Finally, one of Dr. Sinatra’s dreams was being realized. Though he did not OWN a Kentucky Derby contender, he had bred one. And that was enough for his wife to book them seats so that they would be at Churchill Downs that first Saturday in May. They brought friends and family alike to celebrate this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to have a horse running in first leg of the infamous Triple Crown.
Sadly, Desert Party suffered an injury breaking out of the gate that day, but recovered to become a leading sire for Godolphin, standing at Darley Farm in Lexington. Another example of the heartbreaks of thoroughbred racing…
Throughout the years, Dr. Sinatra continued to increase the quality and quantity in his barn. Horse racing is not for the faint of heart. Neither is it always it a financially prosperous business. So, like his counterparts in thoroughbred horse racing, Dr. Sinatra financed his hoped-for expansion by selling off some of his foals. In 2014, his beloved Sage Cat was also sold at Fasig-Tipton. With necessary financial infusions, the farm and his dream continued to gain momentum…
As small successes with his thoroughbred operation began to accumulate, Dr. Sinatra was approached with an offer by Godolphin to "buy back" Desert Party in 2016. The doctor had sent many of his best mares to breed to Desert over the years. He made the decision to reconnect with his favorite stallion, who currently stands at Irish Hill farm in Saratoga New York . Under the guidance of Rick Burke, Dr. Sinatra recently reduced Desert Party's stud fee to $2,500.
Realizing the mounting advantages of owning his own horse farm, Dr. Sinatra started looking in the 1990’s, starting close to his Connecticut home and cardiology practice. He checked out Massachusetts, where he had stood Snake Oil Stevie. He looked as well at a small farm in Saratoga, New York. After relocating to Florida, he even checked out several farms in Ocala near where he was boarding. But nothing quite fit.
Sinatra searched for a farm where he could maximize the physical environment and be able to but a care model based on his belief in high quality personalized equine care over maximizing medications. He envisioned the kind of concierge care for horses that he had trouble acquiring. You see, not all the farm mangers and trainers were not “on-board” with Dr. Sinatra’s requests for special feed, supplements, and alternative healing strategies for horses. They might agree to take their shoes off for a bit, to ground with the earth, or offer water training in a pool, but most had their own approach to training that they adhered to and had faith in.
After spending so much his career finding natural methods to treat a variety of medical issues, Sinatra found it as difficult to convince trainers and farm managers of his approach as it had been other doctors. A bit of a renegade in his own profession — authoring over 20 books about alternative medicine— Dr. Sinatra knew the ropes. And how to forge out on his own.
After looking at so many farms, the cardiologist had a mental list of the prerequisites he was looking for, but could not quite find:
- a fresh source of water, both for the animals and for a training track, the latter of which could minimize the impact on young horse’s joints
- a country setting that would provide a horse exposure to as much fresh air, open space, hilly terrain, and positive energy as possible
- turn out pastures safely enclosed with quality grass for exercise and grazing
As he was muddling over the feasibility of his prospects, a tragedy happened. Alan Murray, who owned Murmur Farm for breeding, and had just developed Berkley Farm for training, died suddenly of a heart attack. Sinatra has been boarding, breeding, birthing and training with Alan and his wife Audrey for years, and deeply respected how they operated their Maryland farms.
Eventually, Audrey and her son approached Dr. Sinatra about taking over the training facility he had watched Alan develop over the years. The location was perfect, in idyllic Darlington, Maryland just outside Havre de Grace. Dr. Sinatra stopped in regularly at Murmur and Berkley, as his publishing company was in Potomac, then moved to Bethesda. So, he knew the farms well.
He knew rural Berkley Farm to be convenient to I-95, providing the tranquil setting needed for the development of a horse. Murray had already built a 5/8-mile track, 3 barns, a breaking pen, and a European-style walker, and an indoor galloping arena to allow for year-round training, With over 160 acres, the farm had ground water wells, a small pond, and gentle, grassy slopes for horses to run free of their stalls—and plenty of potential for growth.
So, Dr. Sinatra consulted his financial advisors, and took the big step. He and his wife closed the deal on an auspicious date: her 65th birthday, and the birth of a strong foal out of Desert Party: General JC. Born in Saratoga at Irish Hill, “JC” resided and trained at Berkley farm, and is now in training with Ned Allard, at PARX.
After a time, it became evident that the 5/8-mile track needing some "tweeking". Dr. Sinatra selected Randy Block and his company "Horse Track and Equipment" to renovate the track surface. The company is from Louisville and has built hundreds of racetracks around the world, including rehab work on Gulfstream Park. Then came a setback: that the farm soil was deficient in the clay that would provide the track a good cushion. Refusing to take shortcuts advised by some, Dr. Sinatra invested "whatever it took" to ensure the track surface was sufficiently cushioned and drained to prevent injuries in the training animals.
Dr. Sinatra continued to build on Alan Murray's short-cutted dream. Equibase inspected the facility and endorsed it. Berkley Farm workouts are cited on the Racing Form under the symbol STR, for Sinatra Thoroughbred Racing. Horses prepping for the racetrack can now workout in the tranquil farm setting and have their times recognized as equal to those at the racetrack.
Great care has been taken to instruct all employees of the steps needed to maximize the care of the animals. Sinatra feeds non-GMO, high quality feed to the horses, as well as a regimen of vitamins and minerals he developed himself. Oats are even roasted over an open fire with special ingredients, and served fresh.
As space became available, Sinatra began to transfer more and more of his horses for training and recovery from tracks and other farms to Darlington.
Full time farm manger and trainer Corby Caiazzo stayed on when Dr. Sinatra purchased Berkley, continuing to reside on the farm with his wife Ali (LMT, who performs massage, NES, and equiscope on the horses) and his two children, who are developing into proficient riders and “horse people”. In fact, seeing Derek and Maddie come to the barns after school every day to pet and care for the horses is just another aspect Dr. Sinatra loves about the family-centered, personalized care the farm offers.
Dr. Sinatra saw almost overnight the effect of the Berkley environment (and the Caiazzo's) on horses relocated there. Caiazzo was helping him to finally start realizing his dream. http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/harford/fallston-joppa/ph-ag-berkley-farm-1204-20151217-story.html The equines had more energy, their coats were shinier, they were healthier, and they benefited from the time in the fresh air of the paddocks and lush open fields.
Admiral's War Chest (think War Admiral generations past), in particular, thrived on the farm environment and the Sinatra Concierge Care. The horse’s performance began to improve so dramatically, that he became a two-time winner of the prestigious Maryland Million Stakes Race.
Admiral’s War Chest Story
In October 2015, Admiral’s War Chest was entered in the Maryland Millions Classic. The Admiral was the poster child for the Sinatra approach to training the thoroughbred, receiving concierge care at Berkley. He was only lightly regarded by those wagering that day, but won the race in a narrow finish. https://marylandmillion.com/index.php/about/news/249-throwback-thursday-admirals-war-chest-wins-maryland-million-classic
Admiral proved this victory was not a fluke when he defended his title in 2016 winning the same race handily. Despite some slight injuries summer 2017, he prepares to hopefully defend his title later this month.
After years of work, setbacks and successes, Sinatra Thoroughbred Berkley Farm is "making strides'. As the momentum builds, Sinatra is offering more horses at sales. Like breeders everywhere, his heart wishes he could just keep every sweet foal frolicking in the pastures. The reality is that to get capital for the farm and racing operation, some treasured equines need to be sold.
Last week, Steve’s yearling, World Affairs — raised at Berkley Farm — was the sales topper at the Fasig-Tipton Mid-Atlantic Fall Yearling Sale.
With the bloodline and confirmation of horse-combined with premier care received at the farm – the horse went for an amazing final offer of $300,000. https://www.paulickreport.com/news/bloodstock/follow-first-session-fasig-tipton-saratoga-sale/
Because of the dedication to all involved — the Caiazzo family, the grooms, and the riders— Berkley continues to blossom and emerge. Admiral’s War Chest preps in hopes to have a third consecutive try at the Maryland Million Classic later this month.
Recent successes have Sinatra convinced that focusing on the natural methods of developing and healing the equine is the proper way. He has seen this in his human patients for years and after a long, trying foundation is beginning to see the results in his equine stock.
Sinatra did not invest in the Berkley Farm purely for the needs of his own thoroughbreds. Rather, he created the farm for other horse owners looking for individualized care, natural feed ingredients, and alternative medicine approaches so that they, too, would the place to send their horses that he could never find. The Berkley Farm provides a full range of concierge care from breaking, boarding and to recovery from injury, to layup after surgery.
Berkley Farm invites visitors to the farm. For more information, please check out www.racehorses.com. Or call the farm manager Corby at 443-472-3722.
Links for more information
- Broodmare sale for Berkley farm: http://www.drf.com/news/10000-broodmare-buy-hits-big-berkley-farms-sinatra
- Dr. Sinatra’s views on the pre-race dosing of Lasix (used to treat heart failure in humans): http://www.racehorses.com/lasix-forum/
- Berkley Farm Training Videos: http://www.racehorses.com/berkley-farm-video/
- Check out our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/racehorsescom
- Regal Ransom Remembered: https://www.darleyamerica.com/about-us/inside-darley/regal-ransom-remembered
- The horse that ran for Dr. Sinatra’s granddaughter who can’t: http://cs.bloodhorse.com/blogs/racinghub/archive/2013/08/20/filly-runs-for-a-little-girl-who-can-t.aspx