This is the first of a weekly installment on Winbak Farms, one of the most successful breeding farms in the sport of harness racing. Today, we look at the rich history of the operation and it's owners.
When Courtly Choice exploded down the center of the Meadowland's stretch to win one of the most prestigious races in harness racing (The Meadowlands Pace) on Saturday, it gave Winbak Farm their first Meadowlands Pace triumph since 2011, when Roll With Joe (Ron Pierce) held off a rallying Big Jim. It was another feather in the cap for one of harness racing's most successful breeding operations. They also have two Little Brown Jug winners, two Hambletonian winners, and numerous bred and raised millionaires on their lengthy and impressive resume.
Winbak Farm was founded in 1991 by Joe and JoAnn Thomson with the flagship farm being located on 2,500 plus acres of Maryland farmland. They also have operations in Delaware, New York, and Canada. The farm is the industry's largest single family owned and operated breeding farm.
About Joe Thomson
Joe Thomson has been involved in the industry since the late 1970's and has served numerous leadership roles within harness racing. He is a member of the Standardbred Breeders Associations in Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, New York, and New Jersey. He is the President of the Standardbred Breeders Association in Pennsylvania, and the past Director of Delaware's Breeders Association in Delaware. He is a past Trustee and Director for the Harness Racing Museum and Hall of Fame, the Hambletonian Society, and the Lexington Trotters and Breeders Association. He was former Director of the Maryland Standardbred Breeders Association and the Maryland Cloverleaf Owners Association.
Thomson grew up in Cynthiana, Kentucky, which is a town of roughly 6,000 people located 30 miles from Lexington and 60 miles south of Cincinnati, Ohio. In his youth, he participated in 4-H and showed dairy cattle. While attending Transylvania University in Lexington, he worked at Keeneland and frequently headed over to The Red Mile to watch the races. He graduated with a degree in Business Administration and Economics. Soon after, he served in the U.S. Army as First Lieutenant.
Upon returning from the military, Thomson decided to put his degree to work. In 1999, Thomson's successful financial services business, Planco, (started in 1977), was sold to Hartford Life Insurance Company. He then joined Hartford as a Senior Officer in 2001. In 2004, he founded Pacer Financial in Pennsylvania. Five years later, he was elected to the Insured Retirement Institute Hall of Fame for his contributions to the annuity and financial services industry. Thomson currently serves on the Maryland World Trade Center Institute Board which concentrates on global opportunities for Maryland business. He was also a member of the board for First Cornerstone Bank (A Pennsylvania community bank).
About Winbak Farm
Winbak Farm stands stallions in Delaware, Maryland, New York, and Ontario. In 1991, the Thomson founded the farm in the Maryland horse country near Chesapeake City, which is centrally located between Baltimore and Philadelphia. They bought Winfield Farm, where the Thoroughbred, Northern Dancer was born. The contract prohibited them from using the name Winfield, so it was shortened to "Win" and they then used the names of their three children (Bradley, Ashlee, and Kimberly) to complete the name Winbak.
With a lifelong passion for horses, the Thomsons have built Winbak Farm to be one of the leading standardbred breeders in North America. They have a long list of awards, which include:
USHWA “Breeder of the Year” for being the breeder of: No Pan Intended (2003), Rainbow Blue (2004) and Muscle Hill (2009)
Leading Breeder in Ontario in 2010, 2013, 2014, 2016 & 2017
New York’s Leading Breeder in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015, 2016 & 2017
2001 Sports Eye Magazine Standardbred Breeder of the Year
2001 Times & Harness Magazine Standardbred Owner of the Year
2009 Little Brown Jug Hall Of Fame Induction
2012 & 2013 Maryland Touch Of Class Award Recipients (Roll With Joe, Bettor's Delight, Betterthancheddar & Lady Ashlee Ann)
2012 International Leadership Award from Maryland's World Trade Center Institute
2012 Lifetime Achievement Award from USHWA Monticello Chapter
2013 Bergstein-Proximity Award
2015 Hall of Fame Inductee (Joe Thomson)The Champions of Winbak
Winbak Farm’s dedication to raising top quality harness horses has earned them Breeder of the Year on three occasions, and three Horse of the Year graduates, among other accolades.
Winbak Farm was the breeder of super stallions: Bettor’s Delight and Muscle Hill. Winbak Farm is the breeder of 3 horses of the year: Muscle Hill, Rainbow Blue and No Pan Intended. In addition, Winbak Farm is the breeder of young stallions: Betterthancheddar and Roll With Joe, who both have offspring doing well in the New York Sire Stakes. Betterthancheddar’s 1st Ontario crop is now 2 and already doing well in the Ontario Sire Stakes.
Other Millionaires that Winbak Farm has bred and raised include: Art Maker, Devious Man, Escape The Wind, Handsoffmycookie, Lady Shadow, Mr Wiggles (sire of superstar Wiggle It Jiggleit), Self Professed, Speed Again and Vivid Photo. Millionaire, Sanabelle Island, was also bred by the Thomsons and raised at Winbak Farm.
Winbak Farm was also the breeder of Hall of Fame Broodmares: Arl’s Troublemaker (dam of Art Maker) and Lady Ashlee Ann (dam of Betterthancheddar, Courtly Choice). Winbak Farm also owned these mares during their prolific breeding careers.
In 2009, Winbak Farm was the leading breeder of 2- and 3-year-olds. This is the only time that Hanover Shoe Farms had been beat in these categories.
Since 1998, Winbak graduates have won 35,019 races & $333,590,634 in purses.
Winbak's Economic Impact
Winbak Farm currently has 91 employees, of which 86 employees are in the US. The Farm in Maryland is home to Winbak’s General Manager, 2 full-time Veterinarians and their veterinary team, an accountant, breeding and foaling team, human resources/property management, office staff, public relations/marketing person, racehorse trainer (multiple outside trainers), and the yearling division team.
Winbak Farm of Maryland takes part in a government program that allows Mexican citizens to come to work at the farm for 10 months a year. Several of them are return employees that are greatly skilled horse people.
Winbak Farm of New York and Ontario each have a farm manager, office manager and barn staff. The Farms in all states offer internships to veterinary students so that they can come and learn about the breeding business.