History of Mike G. Rutherford

Lifetime horseman Mike G. Rutherford started riding horses and working cattle on the family ranch near Austin, Texas at the age of 8. While in college, Rutherford started showing Quarter Horses (QH's) at halter and cutting. Pete Heath, a top local horseman, started with Rutherford and became the caretaker of the Rutherford horses while Rutherford was at the University of Texas. After college, Rutherford went to work in the oil and gas business, traveling from Texas to Singapore to London. Over the next 10 years, Rutherford continued to show QH's and became interested in racing QH's. Rutherford became extremely successful winning at all the major QH shows, having two champion cutting horses and three champion halter horses. Rutherford would like to acknowledge that without Pete Heath none of Rutherford's horse success would have been possible. Rutherford's true passion was and still is "horses”. Rutherford will also tell you Pete Heath taught Rutherford the art of showing cutting and halter horses, and he did it well. Most of all, Heath instilled the knowledge in Rutherford to give him that “eagle eye” for picking good horses. An accredited AQHA Judge, Rutherford judged top shows all over the U.S. for 15 years. Rutherford also served as a Director of the AQHA from 1963-1974, resigning when he became more interested in Thoroughbreds. While racing QH's, Rutherford began to have an interest in Thoroughbred horses, seeing the great influence Thoroughbred breeding had on QH's. Rutherford began to realized the large economic advantage the Thoroughbred industry had over the Quarter Horse industry.

Going to the 1974 Keeneland September yearling sale, Rutherford and Pete Heath picked out a beautiful Exclusive Native-Mercy Mine filly from the J.T.L Jones consignment. Rutherford named his new beautiful filly Native Lovin, who did not take long to reward Rutherford. She showed extreme speed while winning her first start in the Riley Allison Futurity trials, and then returned to romp in the $228,000 finals. Next, Native Lovin won the $120,000 Raton Futurity by eight lengths, setting a new track record, and as she continued to win big races Rutherford became hooked on Thoroughbreds. Rutherford's all-time favorite horse to this day remains Native Lovin, who is now buried on his Buda, Texas ranch.

In 1976, Rutherford purchased a yearling filly by What a Pleasure-Swoonalong at the Saratoga Select yearling sale, and he named her Delice - meaning "pleasure" in French. Delice became a multiple stakes winner in California and gave Rutherford many great racing memories. Delice's commanding win in the Silver Spoon S. defeating a stellar field of fillies, including Storm Cat's dam, Terlingua, is one of Rutherford's all-time favorite wins.Today, Delice's blood is still prominent at Manchester Farm. Her progeny have produced numerous graded stakes winners for Manchester Farm, and the Delice family is one of the farm's top families.

In the last 35 years of managing a very select broodmare operation, Manchester Farm has raced or bred over 70 stakes horses. Having built his knowledge of horses in the QH business - and having taken a lot of hard knocks on the learning curve, Rutherford realized the big money in the breeding of livestock was made at the top end. Manchester Farm has stayed with a small boutique broodmare band that represents the highest of quality in the Thoroughbred industry. Manchester is operated as a commercial breeding business, offering the majority of its yearling for sale at public auction. Rutherford still enjoys racing, much through the pleasure and pride of watching Manchester-bred horses win, even if or when the farm no longer owns them. For Rutherford, there is no better feeling than watching its foals develop out in the fields. Manchester also believes healthy horses are raised outside in their natural habitat, not hot-housed in the barn. Weeks before the sales, the farm puts the sale yearling up in the hot of the day, but they are turned out at night, allowing them to develop and get their needed exercise.


In 1977, Rutherford purchased the first of four Northern Dancer yearling fillies that all became stakes winners. The first was Countess North, a graded stakes winner, and a graded stakes producer for Manchester Farm. The following year in 1978, Northern Fable was purchased and became a graded stakes winner and wonderful producer. Northern Fable's second foal, Haiati by Alydar, was the highest selling yearling filly in the U.S. in 1986 at $1.625 million. Northern Fable was the second dam of Cara Rafaela, who was bred and raised at Manchester before becoming a Grade I stakes winner and the Kentucky Broodmare of the Year. Cara Rafaela is the dam of 3-year-old Champion and classic winner Bernardini, a top Thoroughbred sire in the world today. Dance Flower was the third stakes winner of the group of fillies purchased by Rutherford, and she was an impressive winner of her first five races. Dance Flower was sold while racing for a multi-million dollar price. The last of the four regally-bred daughters of Northern Dancer was purchased in 1988, and her name was Primetime North - one of Northern Dancer's last daughters. She became another stakes winner for Manchester Farm before unfortunately being lost to colic. Needless to say, Manchester Farm loved Northern Dancer, and he helped put Manchester Farm on the map.

In 1986, Rutherford took a huge financial step when he went to the Saratoga yearling sale and purchased a beautiful Alydar filly for $2.7 million out of one of America's greatest Thoroughbred female families. Rutherford named the beautiful filly Milliardaire, who turned out to be the highest selling filly in 1986. The gamble was huge for Rutherford. Milliardaire was by the No. 1 stallion in the world, out of one of America's greatest female families. As an individual, she was beautiful, possessed a great neck, shoulder, and was absolutely correct. However, Milliardaire did not race as a 2-year-old because of recurring lung problems. As a 3-year-old, she started twice, winning by a combined 18 lengths under the tutelage of trainer Frankie Brothers. After her second win, Brothers called and advised Rutherford that her lung problem, if stressed, could kill her. Rutherford will forever be thankful to Brothers for his candid advice. Many trainers might not have stopped racing this very talented filly. As a broodmare, Milliardaire made Rutherford's Saratoga gamble pay off nicely, as so far Manchester Farm's cash flow on that gamble has exceeded $15 million dollars and counting. Milliardaire is the dam of the great multiple Grade I winner Lakeway, and the family is one that Manchester Farm has built on over the decades.

Another wonderful family owned by Rutherford is the Twilight Ridge family. At the dispersal of Eugene V. Klein, former owner of the San Diego Chargers, in the late 1980s, Rutherford purchased Twilight Ridge in foal to Saratoga Six on the advice of longtime friend  D. Wayne Lukas. It turned out to be a pivotal investment, as the Twilight Ridge family went on to produce numerous stakes horses, such as Louisiana Derby runner-up Game Coin, stakes winner and stakes producer Daylight Ridge, and Graded stakes winner and multiple Graded stakes-producer La Rosa, dam of Taittinger Rose and Le Bernardin. Twilight Ridge produced 11 winners, with six of those offspring earning Beyer speed ratings of over 100. Manchester Farm has sold millions of dollars worth of racing prospects and bloodstock out of the Twilight Ridge family through the years, and the farm still has six females from the prestigious family in the broodmare band today. Twilight Ridge passed away at 30 in April of 2013. She was truly a queen of Manchester for many years, and her family is the third major family Manchester Farm has developed.

By Seattle Slew out of Milliardaire, Lakeway foaled in 1991. She won her only start as a 2-year-old in the fall of 1993. While training at Hollywood Park the fall of her 2-year-old season, a water truck came onto the racetrack, scaring Lakeway and causing her to dump her rider. The jockey broke his arm on the fall, as Lakeway then jumped the inside rail and landed upside down on a water sprinkler, hurting her hip in the process. It took three months for her to get over the accident, however, she sometimes traveled funny behind after her injury in her first few steps out of the stall. As a 3-year-old, Lakeway won her second lifetime start at seven furlongs, and then won the Grade I Las Virgenes S. at Santa Anita Park, setting a new stakes record that stands today. Lakeway then won the Grade I Santa Anita Oaks in the second fastest time ever recorded in the famed Oaks. She was sent to Churchill Downs for the Kentucky Oaks as a huge favorite, or perhaps even to run in the Kentucky Derby instead. 

Unfortunately, trainer Gary Jones noticed Lakeway was traveling funny behind and did not work her in an important final workout the week before the big race. On Wednesday, a worried Jones put her on a van to Lexington, KY where the vet x-rayed her before shipping her back to Churchill Downs. The plan was to run Lakeway in the Derby, but after missing a much needed work and having had to ship her for x-rays two days before the Oaks, it was decided the fillies' race looked more promising. In the Oaks, Lakeway broke badly and went wide on the first turn. She was caught five wide on the far turn, and subsequently was defeated by a nose at the wire."That's the closest I will ever have to winning a Kentucky Derby,” Rutherford was quoted as saying. Jones felt that Lakeway would have needed a mile work the week before the Derby to compete in the Run for the Roses. He also felt that if the great filly was 100%, she could have won the Derby that year, especially considering the Derby winner never won another race that year. Lakeway next flew to New York and took the Grade I Mother Goose while establishing another stakes record time. The 1:46.58 was two seconds faster than the previous record held by the legendary Ruffian, and just a fraction slower than Secretariat's track record. She won the Mother Goose by 13 lengths over Inside Information, a very nice filly and Champion Older Mare the following year. In Lakeway's next start, the then 1 1/8-mile Grade I Hollywood Oaks, she again set a stakes record in 1:46.93 while defeating the Kentucky Oaks winner by 4 1/2 lengths. After the Hollywood Oaks, Rutherford later found out several months later that Lakeway had backed up in the gate in the Hollywood Oaks, again breaking her tailbone that had been previously injured in the water truck accident. After the Hollywood Oaks and gate accident, Lakeway didn't give full effort - a fact that would have caused for her to be retired much early had Rutherford known the extent of the injury. In 1994, Lakeway was still the top-weighted filly on the International scale and Co-Champion 3-Year-Old on the U.S. scale. Having a strong Grade I producing family, Lakeway is still highly regarded at the sales. One of Lakeway's daughters had a colt sell at the 2012 Saratoga Select sale for over $1 million dollars, and at the 2012 Keeneland September yearling sale a granddaughter of Lakeway had the sale topper, a colt at $1.6 million. Two other females from the Lakeway family at the same 2012 Keeneland sale had their colts sell for over $500,000. Lakeway has a 2013 filly by Pioneerof the Nile, which is her last foal as a broodmare. Lakeway is now retired from her breeding duties, but her legacy lives on. Manchester has three great daughters of Lakeway in the broodmare band, led by Flying Spur, a Grade I-placed Kentucky Oaks filly. Flying Spur currently has a great looking yearling colt by Tiznow, and a weanling colt by Malibu Moon at her side. Flying Spur is being bred back to Tiznow.

Front Range, a Giant's Causeway filly and full to G1 mare Flying Spur, is a 2-year-old that is currently in training with Bob Baffert Termite, a young Maria's Mon mare out of Lakeway, has a Lonhro (Aus) colt for 2013. Manchester has numerous other Lakeway family members on the farm. Sadly, the farm lost Lakeway's full sister Devine at 19 years of age in February of 2013 to a colon tumor. Devine is the second dam of Canadian champion Grand Adventure, and dam of graded stakes winner Scotus. Devine has a beautiful yearling filly that will be retained. Not only was Devine a terrific producer for the farm, she will be sorely missed mostly as a farm favorite that everyone loved for her sweet personality.

Rutherford remains active in the oil and gas business, drilling in East, West and South Texas. Rutherford has a commercial cow-calf operation at his Pearsall, Texas ranch, and a registered Angus herd at his Buda, Texas ranch. Rutherford served on the Texas Racing Commission for seven years, six of those years as Vice Chair. Rutherford also served for many years on the Breeders' Cup board, where he was especially proud to have made the nomination to bring the 2004 Breeders' Cup to Texas at Lone Star Park. Mike G. Rutherford lives in Houston with his lovely wife Florence, their two Labradors and a dachshund, named Mercedes, Margaret & Citation, respectively. Rutherford has three children including Mike Jr., John, and Sally Anne, as well as eight grandkids.

Rutherford has always believed in having the best people around him in all endeavors. Pete Heath, a champion roper, cutting and great horseman, had 35 years with Manchester. Bob Powell Sr. and son Bobby Powell have impacted the farm through their great service since 1983. While at Manchester Farm, Powell Sr. trained Bobby Spaulding, now manager of Darley at Stonerside, Charlie Bowden, the Stallion Sales manager at U.S. Darley, Bernie Sams, manager of Stallions Sales at Claiborne Farm, and Wayne Sweezy, a former manager at Darby Dan. Bobby Powell Jr. has been the Manchester Farm Manager since 1991, and he also trained under legend Ted Carr. Our assistant manager John Gray has been with the farm for 15 years. Brothers Lee & Victor Brooks have been with Manchester for 21 & 19 years, respectively. Roger Heitzmann spent 15 years with the farm. Our "queen" Twilight Ridge represented Manchester for 27 years. Some may say that if D. Wayne Lukas is the known "Father of Trainers", then Manchester Farm is the "Father of Farm Managers"!