Ginger Hyland considers Florentine a special horse.
Considering Florentine’s success this year in quarter horse racing, it comes as little surprise.
Florentine, one of the favorites in tonight’s $125,000 Breeders Championship Classic at Los Alamitos, won 5 of 6 races in 1988, and is the 19th quarter horse to earn more than $1 million.
Yet Hyland put up the horse for sale less than 1 1/2 years ago.
The oddity is not lost on Hyland, who runs a quarter horse ranch at the White Oak Ranch near Lake Hughes, Calif.
A potential world championship horse was not on the agenda when the Hyland family bought White Oak in 1959. They were looking for a place to escape from the pressures of the city, where Ginger’s father, Lawrence A. (Pat) Hyland, was manager of Hughes Aircraft.
On a picnic excursion to the Lake Hughes area, Pat Hyland stopped at an apple stand and asked if there were any ranches for sale. He was directed to the White Oaks Ranch.
“It was a weekend place for the family,” said Hyland, now 91. “I wanted a place to get my mind off business.”
He had no intention of entering the horse breeding field. He was a man of technology. From 1926-1932, he worked in naval research that led to the development of radar.
Hyland worked for Hughes from 1954 to 1980, when he retired.
“My dad would talk to Mr. ( Howard) Hughes about once a year, but never about business,” Ginger Hyland said. “I didn’t know how important he was until he asked if I wanted to go watch a satellite being tracked at Hughes. We walked into the room and all these important people started treating my father with such respect. Then someone told me my dad invented radar. He was always just Dad to me.”
Ginger Hyland wasn’t interested in technology. She liked horses.
After buying White Oaks, Pat Hyland purchased a few horses for recreational purposes. His daughter and her friends would ride on weekends.
“I like to see things productive and utilized,” Pat Hyland said. “I didn’t want to ride. I had lived on a horse for a couple of years when I was a sergeant in World War I. That was the extent of my knowledge.”
In 1964, Pat Hyland went to a neighbor’s ranch to see a foal that had been sired by Go Man Go, one of the best quarter horses of its time. He returned with the pony.
“It never won any races, but it sure infected us with the desire to raise quarter horses,” Pat said.
He and his wife, Muriel, began breeding horses and Ginger went to college. But it was understood that Ginger would take over the ranch when she graduated.
After 2 years at Cal Poly Pomona and 2 more at the University of Kentucky, where she studied animal science, she returned in 1971.
“Since I was 2 years old, I’ve had a passion for horses,” she said. “Nobody knows where it came from, certainly not my parents. My mom said she went riding once and was eating standing up for a week.”
Ginger Hyland has been an active owner of the ranch. She even acts as midwife for almost every birth.
Florentine, however, was one she missed.
“Here we had this beautiful foaling barn and her mother goes out into the pasture,” Hyland said.
Florentine did not appear destined for greatness. She certainly didn’t seem to be another Dashingly, who was bred and raised at the White Oaks Ranch before being sold and then winning $1.7 million.
“We had two other yearlings that were more promising,” Hyland said. “Florentine placed fourth in a consolation race and that was her best. We just didn’t expect much from her.”
In 1987, Hyland offered Florentine in the Ruidoso Super Select Sale and brought a bid of $90,000.
“About then, Florentine started showing this elusive quality,” Hyland said. “Something that made us think she would develop.”
Hyland withdrew the horse from the bidding.
This year, Florentine has won the Grade I Vessels Maturity and the Go Man Go, as well as the Grade II Anne Burnett.
Florentine will go off as one of the two favorites, along with New Mexico’s Dash For Speed, in the Breeders Championship. A world championship is also within grasp.
“I guess when you’re so close to something, it’s hard to have perspective,” Hyland said. “All these people come up and tell me that Florentine is something special. I’m dumbfounded. I guess I can’t believe I raised a horse that is this good.”