Forte, a dark bay thoroughbred, was Amy Moore’s first foal.
Written by Jessica Ruf | Published on
Forte is this year’s favorite to win the Kentucky Derby. Photograph courtesy of Amy Moore.
Some horse breeders spend a lifetime trying to produce a Kentucky Derby-worthy thoroughbred. Amy Moore? She got it on her first try.
“It’s very exciting and a once-in-a-lifetime experience so I’m enjoying it while it lasts,” says Moore, who traded her home in Alexandria for a rural Virginia farm in 2016. Previously a partner at Covington & Burling who had worked as an attorney for 30 years, she is relatively new to the world of breeding, though not new to horses.
Born to a mother who loved horses, Moore grew up riding in Raleigh, North Carolina, where she took lessons but never owned a horse of her own. When friends of hers entered the racing business, she helped them sell their horses at auction and spent a summer exercising other people’s thoroughbreds at Delaware Park.
However, after graduating from law at the University of Virginia, Moore lived a pretty much horse-less existence for most of her career in the District. “I just got too busy with the practice of law to have anything to do with horses,” says Moore, who worked long hours (“a 70-hour week would have been a light week,” she told the Thoroughbred Daily News). At one point, she was considered one of the nation’s top employee-benefits lawyers, according to her former law firm’s website.
Still, it was always her longterm goal to move to the countryside once she retired. Moore bought the 126-acre South Gate Farm in 2015, but to say that Moore has “retired” is a bit of a stretch. She makes clear that breeding horses isn’t just a retirement hobby—it’s a commercial business for her and one that she takes seriously.
A year before buying the farm, she purchased her first-ever horse, Queen Caroline, for the not-so-small price of $170,000. Queen Caroline (so named because the mare “is the queen of any field she is in and quickly lets others know that,” says Moore) would later become Forte’s mother.
Moore spent a few years racing Queen Caroline, who amassed over $400,000 in winnings, before deciding to give breeding a go. She then began the research-heavy process of searching for the perfect sire, and after a couple months, she found Violence, a Kentucky-based stallion whose stud fee currently sits at (prepare yourself) $50,000.
“He was a great physical match for Queen Caroline,” says Moore. “He was precocious. He himself had been a successful runner when he was two years old, and he was successful running on dirt which is what the commercial market wants and his pedigree suggested that he also could sire horses that were successful running on turf, which is what Queen Caroline was good at, so he matched up with her well in a number of different ways.”
As is standard practice for broodmares, Queen Caroline travelled to Kentucky for the rendezvous with Violence and remained there until Forte was born in February of 2020. In May of that year, Forte moved to Moore’s farm in Millwood, where she raised him alongside his mother.
“He was beautiful, very athletic and well made,” says Moore, who also recalls Forte being quite shy as a foal. “He would hide behind his mother when you went into the stall to see him. But, after he was weaned, he became very bold and inquisitive and very personable.”
After spending six months on Moore’s farm, Forte was eventually sold at auction for $80,000.
“I was very fond of Forte,” says Moore, who has no regrets in selling him. “My niece and I taught him to eat carrots and taught him to load and ride in a horse trailer and gave him a lot of early lessons, but it was always my intent to sell him.”
She says it became clear that Forte was particularly talented when he won his first race last year by many lengths. Since then, Forte has won six of the seven races he’s competed in, amassing over $2,400,000 in winnings. If Forte wins the Derby, he would be in the running to win the triple crown—a feat that’s only been pulled off by 13 other racehorses in history, including Secretariat, another famous Virginia thoroughbred.
For now, Moore is excited to watch him compete in what’s been called “the most exciting two minutes in sports.” She plans to attend the race in person with her sister and two nieces.
“People spend their whole lives trying to breed a horse like this,” said Moore, who has bred a total of nine horses thus far, “and I will probably spend the rest of mine trying to breed a horse like this” again.