The Legacy of Ms. Josephine Abercrombie
Horses were always a part of Josephine Abercrombie’s life. An accomplished rider in her youth, she was very active and competed successfully in the Saddlebred world. In 1949, she made her first foray into the Thoroughbred business when she purchased a group of sales yearlings in a partnership that included her father. Three years later, she and her father acquired 1,348 acres in Woodford County, Kentucky, named it Pin Oak, and they raised Simmental cattle, grew tobacco, asparagus, and other crops.
After 35 years at the original Pin Oak, Abercrombie decided to focus solely on Thoroughbreds, so she designed and developed a new farm on U.S. 60, near the original property. The new Pin Oak Stud was a labor of love, transforming a 793-acre hunting preserve into an efficient, functional Thoroughbred nursery from the ground up. Every aspect was carefully considered and dedicated to raising good horses–planting grass and trees, building roads and fences, constructing barns and residences. A hands-on owner, Abercrombie was present at many of the births of her Thoroughbreds and adored watching the young foals develop.
Abercrombie passed away peacefully at her home on January 5, 2022, just 10 days shy of her 96th birthday. Over the past four decades, Pin Oak Stud has embodied excellence in Thoroughbred breeding and racing, even earning the coveted National Breeder of the Year award in 1995. To date, nearly 100 stakes winners have been bred or raced by Pin Oak Stud, including Classic winners in America and England and Grade/Group 1 stakes winners in three countries. A source of great pride for Abercrombie was racing some special homebreds, such as Eclipse champion females like Laugh and Be Merry and Confessional as well as top colts who went on to become successful stallions, including Peaks and Valleys and Broken Vow. Abercrombie was honored by the Kentucky Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders with the Hardboot Award, as well as the William T. Young Humanitarian Award. Additionally, she was inducted into the Texas Horseracing Hall of Fame. In 2018, Abercrombie was the Honor Guest of the Thoroughbred Club of America in appreciation for her “enduring sportsmanship, acumen, and vision, and her devotion to the loftiest principles established by earlier leaders on the Turf.”
A New Era
Just like Ms. Abercrombie, horses were always a part of Dana Bernhard’s life. Dana Bernhard has been around horses since childhood and Jim became an avid equestrian after their marriage in 1993. Both Jim and Dana are fondly attached to their band of Friesians and frequently describe the affectionate Friesian personality as that of their beloved Labradoodle pups. Visitors at Pin Oak Stud in Kentucky or Pin Oak South in Baton Rouge, Louisiana will often see the Bernhards riding their Friesians around the property, overseeing their business operations and enjoying the land.
The passion for Thoroughbreds began as a husband’s birthday gift of a single Thoroughbred yearling to his wife in July 2021. Within two years, the passion has blossomed into a growing Thoroughbred business encompassing the full spectrum of breeding, raising, and racing the highest quality of racehorses, which led to the purchase of Pin Oak Stud in November 2022. Jim and Dana plan to continue the quality and tradition that Ms. Abercrombie instilled in the brand and Pin Oak Stud will, once again, become a full-fledged breeding and racing operation.
In September 2023, the Bernhards acquired an additional 465 acres from Adena Springs, bringing the total size of the farm to just over 1,250 acres. Adena Springs, which has been honored with eight Eclipse Awards for outstanding breeder and four outstanding owner titles, started its Kentucky operation in Woodford County in the late 1990s, before moving to Bourbon County. The property connects to the existing Pin Oak land on the east side of U.S. 60—commonly known as Versailles Road.
“Frank Stronach’s Adena Springs and Josephine Abercrombie’s Pin Oak Stud are two legendary farms. Both were champion breeders focused on raising the best racehorse possible, and that’s what we aim to do as well,” said Jim and Dana Bernhard.
The tradition of caring for the horse and the sport of racing will continue.
Oh… and that birthday present? He is now named Geaux Rocket Ride, and he became Jim and Dana’s first Grade 1 winner when he dominated in the 2023 Haskell Stakes.