Washington Racing Hall of Fame - Jerre Paxton

The impact of Northwest Farms

by Susan van Dyke

In 1973, a fresh new face appeared on the Washington Thoroughbred racing scene, when at the WHBA Summer Yearling Sale, Yakima businessman Jerre Paxton out bid longtime local horseman Maurice McGrath to sign the $25,000 record-breaking sales slip on Swiftsure Stable’s Envoy—Beadah filly. Since that time the Paxton name, first dba Yakima Stallion Station and then afterwards as Northwest Farms, has appeared a dozen times at the top of the yearly state listing of breeders and has been both a leading consignor and buyer at the WTBA sales.
    In addition, Paxton made significant contributions toward the construction of both the sales barns at Longacres and the current WTBA pavilion and office. He stood Drum Fire, Washington’s leading sire for five years, and among his many state champions was Knights Choice, who was bred by Paxton and later returned to his Yakima birthplace to become the only Washington-bred to ever lead the state sire ranks (1991). Northwest Farms has produced 10 other Washington or Emerald Downs champions and was leading owner at Longacres in 1986 and at Emerald Downs in 1999.

Yakima Stallion Station
    In the early 1970s, Paxton began to develop a first class Thoroughbred stallion station and nursery on 80 acres adjacent to the original Kwik Lok production plant. Founded in the 1950s by Jerre’s father, Floyd Paxton, Kwik Lok produces all-plastic bag closure clips that appear on bags of apples, breads, potatoes, etc. With the executive offices located at the Yakima site, Kwik Lok is an international concern with plants in Canada, Ireland, Australia and Japan. For a time, Paxton’s racing silks incorporated “Kwik Loks” into a black, red and white background.
    Before he became involved in the world of Thoroughbred racing, Paxton was involved with Quarter Horse racing, as was his farm manager Dale Leach. “It was a natural transition,” said Paxton recently.
    The first stallion acquired to stand stud at the Yakima nursery was Canadian Gil, an unraced chestnut son of 1967 double classic winner Northern Dancer, who had sired only 23 stakes winners at that time. Before being later sold to California interests, Canadian Gil sired six stakes winners, led by the top national turf runner Sprink, who won the Manhattan Handicap-G1 and placed in two other grade one stakes in New York. Close on Canadian Gil’s heels came the purchase of a stallion whose impact is still felt today – Drum Fire. The handsome son of Never Bend was to lead the Washington sire statistics from 1982 through 1986, before his premature death in April of 1984.
    Foaled in the same crop as Riva Ridge, to whom he finished third in the Pimlico-Laurel Futurity, Drum Fire sired multiple Washington champion Flamme is his first full crop. She was soon followed by runners like Knights Choice, Time of Sale, Sharper One and Firesweeper. The same year (1985) Firesweeper was honored as top juvenile filly in the state, Hilco Scamper (by Knights Choice) was named horse of the year and champion juvenile male. The torch had been successfully passed.
    Other stallions to stand parts of their careers at stud at the Yakima farm through the years included Rock Bath (a Washington horse of the year), Defense Verdict (a full brother to Valid Appeal and champion Desert Vixen), Captain Courageous, Grand Occasion, Sharper One (another Washington champion), Lasting Value, White Fir, Ballindaggin and Chalk Hill.

Northwest Farms
    In 1978, Yakima Stallion Station was renamed Northwest Farms. Long before the name change, the name Leach was synonymous with the Yakima facility. Dale Leach, a longtime family friend, had come on board with Jerre’s dad Floyd, raising hay, grain and cattle on Paxton property in nearby Wiley City. Today, as he has for 30 years, Dale manages the farm, his wife Eunice serves as the farm bookkeeper and coordinator, while Dale’s son Kannon is in charge of farm maintenance and yearling sales prep. All three of the Leachs are highly visible during the summer sale and are well respected for their professionally run sales operation.
    Northwest Farms first hit the radar screen as a breeder in 1978, after having two runners in 1976 and an even dozen in 1977, when they had 23 runners win 18 races and earn $189,621, finishing in the number two spot statewide. (It must be noted that the first Paxton-bred Thoroughbred stakes winner was 1977 Yakima Debutante Stakes winner Determined Owl, who had been purchased by Dale Leach.) The farm’s first champion, Knights Choice, raced that season (1978). The following year, they were again second and bred their second state champion in Loto Canada.
    After finishing among the top four breeders during the next quartet of years, Northwest Farms ascended to the number one spot in 1984. They would keep atop that lofty pinnacle for 11 more consecutive years.
    After their first elevation to the top, Leach remarked, “It did sneak up on us, but we did have a sign on the wall when we first started back it 1973 that said ‘We will be Number 1.’” During this timeframe the Northwest Farms broodmare band had steadily grown and Paxton had expanded his operation with the addition of a farm in Versailles, Kentucky.
    In 1990, they set a new state earnings record of $740,368, and then eclipsed that amount two years later with $937,421. Also in 1992, Northwest Farms set a new mark in number of state stakes winners bred in a year with eight, including champions Jellystone Park and Serenity Road. That figure computes to about 13 percent of the total number of Washington-bred added money winners that year. In 1994, they became the first, and only to this point in time, breeder to go over the million mark when their 95 Washington-bred runners earned $1,101,985.
    By 1994, Northwest Farms had drastically reduced their broodmare band. The closure of Longacres and the premature death of Knights Choice being among the deciding factors. Though still ranked #1 in 1995, their total was less than half of what had been earned in 1994, leading second place finishers, Guy and Barbara Roberts, by less than $15,000. The handwriting was on the wall, and by 1998, with now almost entirely Kentucky-bred foals, Northwest Farms finished 23rd on the list of top state breeders and since then has plummeted out of the top 50. Today their broodmare band consists of 35 well-bred matrons which are boarded in Kentucky at Robert Clay’s Three Chimneys Farm and at Bruce Gibb’s Greenfield Farm. Gibbs managed Northwest Farms’ Kentucky farm before the property was leased to Three Chimneys.
    During the 10 years the WTBA awarded “Owners and Breeders of the Month,” Northwest Farms was twice awarded top breeder (July 1994 and July 1996) and three-times named top owner (September 1998, September 1999 and July 2002). As Jerre said in a 1998 interview, “We are raising yearlings to sell and running others to try to prove their dams,” referring to the changed focus of the farm.
    In commenting on Northwest Farms long-term success in a difficult industry, Leach said, “ We are survivors because we are dedicated to this industry.” He then gave credit to his boss and friend, “Jerre has given me the tools to work with.”

Blessed Are the Broodmares
    Besides standing two of the most prominent stallions in recent state history, the Northwest Farms broodmare band was one of the most outstanding in any regional market. In 1978, the farm’s mare Yang, a daughter of *Turn-to, was named Wash-ington broodmare of the year when her first two foals, Hi Chaparral, by Canadian Gil, won the B. J. Gilbert Stakes, and his younger half-brother Knights Choice was named state champion juvenile after winning the Joe Gottstein Futurity and placing in both the graded Sunny Slope and Norfolk Stakes. Yang went on to produce four more winners, including stakes-placed Tyler Jennings.
    Six years later, Pamlisa’s Delight, a daughter of Drone, became their second matron to be named Washington broodmare of the year, and at eight, was the youngest mare to ever attain the honor. As had Yang, Pamlisa’s Delight’s first two foals were stakes winners and included a Washington champion. Her daughter Lissome, by Drum Fire, won two stakes, including the 1984 Vacaville Stakes. Lissome’s year younger full brother, Sharper One, was named the state’s champion three-year-old colt and sprinter after winning four stakes at Longacres. But Pamlisa’s Delight proved to be a better producer in the long run, as she went on to produce Washington champion and stakes winner Money by Choice, by Knights Choice, stakes-placed Pam’s Knight and S. J.’s Delight and six other winners among her 13 additional foals. In addition, her unraced daughter, Delightful Choice, is the dam of graded stakes horse and sire Flying With Eagles. (Flying With Eagles, a Kentucky-bred son of Skywalker topped the 1995 WTBA Summer Sale for Northwest and earned $330,739 while racing for Jill and David Heerensperger.) Both Yang and Pamlisa’s Delight had been purchased as race prospects, but were injured before they could make their racing debuts. Each produced all her foals for Paxton.
    Northwest Farms is the only breeder in Washington to breed six horses to earn over $200,000: Firesweeper ($363,394), Loto Canada ($311,993), Al Renee ($285,534), Jellystone Park ($233,653), Dancing Ova-tion ($226,653) and Money by Choice ($206,040).
    Northwest Farms also bred the stakes-winning first and second dams (St. Helens Shadow and Little Bar Fly) of 2001 Champagne Stakes-G1 winner Officer, whose first foals arrived this year in Kentucky. Northwest Farms-bred Dancing Ovation is the dam of Metatron, a $310,810 stakes winner who recently added a win in the Sir Winston Churchill Handicap to his tallies.
    Another recent Northwest Farms’ product, three-year-old Hosco, won the San Miguel Stakes-G3 and finished second in the San Vicente Stakes-G2 earlier this year.
    The Northwest Farms broodmares continue to be bred to some of the best and most promising stallions in the country. Besides selling a Monarchos—Anita Maria filly for $65,000 and an Honour and Glory—Friday Harbor filly for $33,000 at the WTBA Summer Yearling Sale this past September, Northwest Farms sold a Grand Slam half-brother to their Emerald Downs champion Taste the Passion for $900,000 at the Saratoga yearling sale in August. The colt was the sixth highest priced yearling sold at the premier auction. The farm also was successful at the Keeneland September sale; selling five head for $1,039,000. Other 2004 yearlings were sired by Boundary, Cat Thief, Fusaichi Pegasus, Giant’s Causeway, High Yield, Kingmambo, Lemon Drop Kid, Pulpit, Siphon (Brz) and Thunder Gulch.

Records and More Records
    Through Paxton’s 30 year involvement on the Washington racing scene, his farm and runners have been responsible for many records. Some have already been mentioned, and others can be deciphered from the enclosed sidebars.
    From 1980 through this year’s summer sale, Northwest Farms has been the leading consignor by gross in 25 WTBA-held sales: three horses of racing age sale (1980, 1983 and 1984), five winter mixed sales (1986 and 1988-1991) and 17 summer yearling sales (1982-1984, 1986-1987, 1989-1993, 1995 and 1999-2004). During that time, the Yakima farm was responsible for 13 sale toppers.
    In addition, at the 1988 WTBA Summer Sale, Northwest Farms was the second leading consignor by gross with $118,500, only $100 less than leader DanDar Farm. The two highest selling individuals at the 1992 WTBA Winter Mixed Sale were consigned by the Estate of Heather Dedomenico. Both had been purchased as yearlings from their breeder/consignor Northwest Farms. The $120,000 sale topper Twenty Is Plenty came from the 1991 WTBA Summer Sale and $75,000 purchase Jellystone Park was a 1990 WTBA Summer Sale graduate.

Northwest Farms Racing Stable
    Paxton has always kept a personal racing stable as well.
    The first Washington champion to race for Northwest Farms was not a homebred, but the good filly In Your Defense, who was bred and sold by A. Jo Postell. An astute $35,000 claim, In Your Defense, a daughter of Good Counsel, won the Bay Meadows Oaks and placed in two additional stakes en route to championship honors in 1979.
    Paxton homebred and raced Time of Sale earned her state champion title after winning the Sorrento Stakes at Del Mar, running second against the boys in the Joe Gottstein Futurity and finishing third to the ill-fated national heroine Landaluce in the Anoakia Stakes-G3 at Santa Anita.
    In between his two state champions, Paxton received national recognition for a Raise a Native colt he campaigned. Raise a Man would prove to be one of the fastest members of his generation. At three, Raise a Man won the San Felipe Handicap-G2 (over The Carpenter and Rumbo) and the San Vicente Stakes-G3 (over Super Moment). He was bound for Churchill Downs en route of classic glory before his disappointing finishes in both the Santa Anita and Hollywood Derbies. At four, he would add wins in the grade two Malibu Stakes and the Phoenix Gold Cup and a second to Doonesbury in the San Fernando Stakes-G1. In 12 career starts, he won six, earning $257,450 and a SSI of 25.12.
    Paxton took his homebred champion Firesweeper to the 1985 Breeders’ Cup at Aqueduct. Only the second Washington-bred to ever compete in the series, Firesweeper, with Bill Shoemaker aboard, gave Pacific northwest racing fans a thrill when she sped to an early lead in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies-G1, setting the quarter fraction of :22 3/5. Unfortunately after the first half, the daughter of Drum Fire was eased during the drive. Firesweeper came back the following year to earn her second championship title, and before her illustrious career was through, she had won a record 12 stakes at Longacres. In 1991, Washington Racing Hall of Famer Captain Condo equaled the gallant filly’s stakes total.
    Northwest Farms was the leading owner at Longacres in 1986 with $263,973, a new record at the time and overall the third highest meet total in track history.
    In 1999, Paxton led the owners’ ranks at Emerald Downs with $182,785 in winnings, including those won by the meet’s champion two-year-old filly Taste the Passion. 1999 also marked the season, when over the weekend of September 5 and 6, he won two major stakes races after the first place finishers were disqualified. Vino Rossi won the $100,000 Eagle Hardware and Garden Derby after American Justice’s number was taken down and Taste the Passion was moved to first place in the $55,000 WTBA Lassies Stakes when Enduring Knight was disqualified for bumping. 1998 Emerald champion two-year-old colt Vino Rossi also won the Gottstein Futurity and 1999 Seattle Slew Handicap for his breeder. Other non-Northwest Farms-bred colorbearers winning stakes in the Paxton colors at Emerald include 2002 top sophomore filly Lasting Code and 2003 King County Stakes winner Strikes No Spares.
    It is unusual in this day and age for an entity, especially when dealing with something as mercurial as Thoroughbreds, to last as long and be as successful as the legacy built by those involved in Northwest Farms.
    “Jerre gave me opportunity to work with him to develop and manage the most suc-cessful Thoroughbred farm in the state,” said Dale Leach. “I sincerely thank him.”
     The soft-spoken Eunice Leach summed up the Paxton legacy, “You have to give Jerre a lot of credit. He has committed to the Washington industry for a long time. He really loves racing.”

Northwest Farms’ (Kwik Lok Corp.) Washington Record

  • 1976 – 2 runners, 1 win, $593.
  • 1977 – 12 runners, 5 wins, $29,504.
  • 1978 – #2 leading Washington breeder: 23 runners, 18 wins, $189,621; SW: Washington champion 2YO colt Knights Choice.
  • 1979 – #2 leading Washington breeder: 30 runners, 22 wins, $338,768; SWs: Washington champion 2YO colt Loto Canada; Hi Chaparral, Talkeetna.
  • 1980 – #2 leading Washington breeder: 30 runners, 17 wins, $346,558; SWs: Washington champion 3YO colt Loto Canada; Segula Spy, Stormy Canadian.
  • 1981 – #3 leading Washington breeder: 24 runners, 12 wins, $246,741; SW: Loto Canada.
  • 1982 – #2 leading Washington breeder: 30 runners, 20 wins, $241,288; SWs: Washington champion 2YO filly Time of Sale; Canadian Shadow, Hot n Bold.
  • 1983 – #4 leading Washington breeder: 29 runners, 38 wins, $211,468; SW: Sharper One.
  • 1984 – #1 leading Washington breeder: 34 runners, 20 winners, $366,353; SWs: Washington champion 3YO colt and sprinter Sharper One; Copyright Girl, Lissome, Maid’s Miracle.
  • 1985 – #1 1eading Washington breeder: 38 runners, 21 winners, $377,115; SWs: Washington champion 2YO filly Firesweeper; Run Roni Run.
  • 1986 – #1 leading Washington breeder: 48 runners, 27 winners, $527,130; SWs: Washington champion 3YO filly Firesweeper; Foxy Island, Grey Satan, Talk’s Cheap.
  • 1987 – #1 leading Washington breeder: 53 runners, 30 winners, $495,974; SWs: Firesweeper, High On the Town, Showtime Lady, Talk’s Cheap, Thank You Quaker.
  • 1988 – #1 leading Washington breeder: 57 runners, 33 winners, $334,664; SWs: none.
  • 1989 – #1 leading Washington breeder: 67 runners, 43 winners, $542,814; SWs: Washington champion 2YO filly A Dollar One; Saucy Writer, Stormy Verdict, Taylor North, True Bart, and Ithad to Besure (in partnership with Dale Leach).
  • 1990 – #1 leading Washington breeder: 97 runners, 41winners, $641,509; SWs: Knight Predator, Money by Choice.
  • 1991 – #1 leading Washington breeder: 70 runners, 41 winners, $740,369; SWs: Washington champion 2YO colt Tough to Crack, Washington champion older mare Money by Choice; Andi’s Knight, Knight Predator, Sharper Lover, That Knight.
  • 1992 – #1 leading Washington breeder: 81 runners, 54 winners, $937,421; SWs: Washington champion 3YO colt Jellystone Park, Washington champion sprinter Serenity Road; Kazbar, Knight Predator, Shingen Dream, Suzanastasia, Tough to Crack, and Twenty Is Plenty (in partnership with Heather Dedomenico).
  • 1993 – #1 leading Washington breeder: 96 runners, 68 winners, $892,437; SWs: Washington champion 2YO filly Dancing Ovation, Washington champion 2YO colt Al Renee; Grambo, Money by Choice, Mr. Easy Money, What a Knight, and Twenty Is Plenty (in partnership with Heather Dedomenico).
  • 1994 – #1 leading Washington breeder: 95 runners, 58 winners, $1,101,985; SWs: Acquitted, Al Renee, Kazbar, Medipal, Mr. Easy Money, Run Tuffy Run, Serenity Road, Sports Funagin, and not included in totals, Kentucky-bred Baby Barfly.
  • 1995 – #1 leading Washington breeder: 62 runners, 40 winners, $513,836; SWs: Al Renee, Lady in Sable.
  • 1996 – #5 leading Washington breeder: 45 runners, 50 wins, $290,232; SW: Dancing Ovation.
  • 1997 – #7 leading Washington breeder: 31 runners, 42 wins, $204,281; SW: Dancing Ovation.
  • 1998 – #23 leading Washington breeder: 18 runners, 20 wins, $98,033; SWs: none.
  • 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003 – not included in top 50 Washington breeders.

Northwest Farms Sales Toppers

  • Sale – Sex, Pedigree, Price, Consignor
  • 1973 – WTBA Summer Sale, filly, Envoy—Beadah, $25,000*, Swiftsure Stable
  • 1982 – WTBA Summer Sale, filly, Drum Fire—Market Rose, $70,000, Valleymeade Farm
  • 1982 – WTBA Winter Sale, mare, Pretencia, $55,000, John C. Beeson
  • 1984 – WTBA Winter Sale, colt, Drum Fire—Navira Flame, $17,000, Wm. Buckley and McMurry Farm
  • 1985 – WTBA Summer Sale, filly, Cajun Prince—Press to Test, $45,000†, T. K. Roe
  • 1985 – WTBA Winter Sale, mare, Ginger Sauce, $26,000, Beeson Farm
  • 1987 – WTBA Winter Sale, filly, Table Run—Leather Hands, $27,000, Guy Bar Farm, agent
  • 1990 – WTBA Winter Sale, filly, Table Run—Commercial Venture, $22,000, Foothills Farm
  • Sale – Sex, Pedigree, Price, Buyer
  • 1979 – WTBA Summer Sale, colt, Drum Fire—Spokane Native, $52,000**, Herman Sarkowsky
  • 1980 – WTBA HIT Sale, colt, Drum Fire—T. V. Actress, $27,000, Terry Knight, agent
  • 1984 – WTBA HIT Sale, filly, Balance of Power—Kentucky Maid, $30,000, Valley View Ranch
  • 1984 – WTBA Summer Sale, filly, Drum Fire—Skysweeper, $67,000, Edwards Bloodstock
  • 1986 – WTBA Summer Sale, colt, Knights Choice—System Lady, $70,000, Paskey Dedomenico
  • 1987 – WTBA Summer Sale, filly, Knights Choice—Pamlisa’s Delight, $130,000, Paskey Dedomenico
  • 1989 – WTBA Winter Sale, colt, Table Run—Determined Owl, $29,000, Brian J. Maier
  • 1991 – WTBA Summer Sale, colt, Skywalker—Got You Runnin, $60,000, Heather Dedomenico
  • 1991 – WTBA Winter Sale, colt, Tough Knight—Her Special World, $18,000, Ron Crockett
  • 1992 – WTBA Summer Sale, colt, Time for a Change—Got You Runnin, $50,000, Henry Eisenstaedt
  • 1995 – WTBA Summer Sale, colt, Skywalker—Delightful Choice, $120,000***, David and Jill Heerensperger
  • 1997 – WTBA Summer Sale, filly, Star de Naskra—No Extra Charge, $140,000+, Dan J. Agnew
  • 1999 – WTBA Summer Sale, filly, Mt. Livermore—Spectacular Bev, $125,000, Darby Dan Bloodstock
  • 2000 – WTBA Summer Sale, colt, Miner’s Mark—Jamaican Me Smile, $185,000*, David and Jill Heerensperger
  • 2001 – WTBA Summer Sale, colt, Fit to Fight—Non Stop Chatter, $105,000, David and Jill Heerensperger
  • 2001 – WTBA Winter Sale, colt, Devil’s Bag—No Extra Charge, $37,000, Bill Feeley
  • 2002 – WTBA Summer Sale, colt, Siphon (Brz)—Renee’s Reflection, $120,000, Fleetwood Bloodstock LLC, agent

*New Washington record; ** co-sale topper; *** new Washington record for a colt; + equaled record price for yearling; † purchased with Stan Thurman.

Click here for a complete list of all the Washington Hall of Fame inductees.

WASHINGTON THOROUGHBRED, November 2004, page 842

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