Thoroughbred racing lost one of its most energetic evangelists June 21 when owner and occasional breeder Glenn Stone Bromagen died in his home at Ashbrook Farm near Versailles, Ky. He was 90.
Born in Sharpsburg, Ky., Bromagen got exposed to horse racing during the unofficial bush races run around rural Kentucky. He grew up in the cattle business, and after serving in the Air Force and graduating from the University of Kentucky, he went to work in Chicago with the Union Stock Yards for Armor and Co. In the late 1960s, he joined the Chicago Mercantile Exchange as a cattle broker and soon after co-founded the brokerage firm, Rufenacht, Bromagen and Hertz, which became the largest futures cattle operations.
Bromagen’s time in Chicago also included frequent visits to Arlington International Racecourse (then Arlington Park) where he honored his skills as a handicapper. Also in the late 1960s, he got the itch to be a racehorse owner.
“You know this game, once you enjoy a little bit you can not help yourself and it was early enough in his life and his career that he could grow a stable and play the game pretty hard,” said his son Glenn “Bo” Bromagen II.
Glenn Bromagen raced his first graded stakes winner in August 1974 with trainer Tommy Kelley when Tappahannock won the Pucker Up Stakes (G3) at Arlington. They would score another graded stakes win later that year with Mr. Door in the Clark Handicap (G3) at Churchill Downs. Soon the stable was finding regular success at the top of the game with Marauding, who won the Oil Capitol Handicap (G3T) at Hawthorne Race Course in 1978, and Man’s Man, who won the 1978 Donn Handicap (G2). By 1980, he and trainer Glynn “Tee Red” Bernis had a starter in the Kentucky Derby (G1) with Tonka Wakhan who finished 10th.
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Bromagen took all the losses in stride and was quick to look ahead to the next race. He would have plenty of victories to celebrate, including with Discovery Handicap (G2) and Omaha Gold Cup Stakes (G3) winner Tricky Creek, who was also third in the 1989 Blue Grass Stakes (G1). The colt by Clever Trick was the first graded stakes winner for a long and successful partnership that developed between Bromagen and trainer George “Rusty” Arnold II. The trainer picked Tricky Creek out of the 1987 Keeneland September Yearling Sale for $ 41,000 and the colt went on to earn $ 873,288.
“You know, my dad worked with a number of trainers over the years … but he really found his man in Rusty in the mid-80s,” said Bo Bromagen. “He respected his horsemanship and they found early success together, but what he admired most about Rusty was that he was honest. He played it straight and told it like it was. It grew into a friendship that lasted 40 years.”
In 1982, Bromagen bought the Central Kentucky farm that became Ashbrook and moved his family there in 1984.
By the early 1990s, Bromagen temporarily stepped away from racing. His children Ashley, Bo, and Tyler were busy with a range of activities and traveling, so racing took a backseat. Also at this time, Arnold moved his stable to New York and while Bromagen was loyal to the trainer, he loved most to be at the track when his horses were running.
Bromagen and Arnold stayed in touch over the next 10 years. In 2007, Bromagen discovered that Arnold was back in Kentucky and they immediately went horse shopping. With the help of agent David Ingordo, Bromagen bought a Macho Uno colt for $ 75,000 at the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Spring 2-Year-Olds in Training Sale that became grade 1 winner Wicked Style , who captured the Lane’s End Breeders’ Futurity (G1). Bromagen and Arnold had picked up right where they left off and went on to campaign Central Bank Ashland Stakes (G1) winner Weep No More and multiple graded stakes winner and grade 1 winner Concrete Rose .
“They don’t make them like him anymore,” Arnold said of Bromagen. “He was really good to your barn. He was good to your help. He was good to you. If he had a good one ready for a big race, he was all for it but he never pressured you or forced you into a big. race. He just loved the action and loved to watch his horses run. “
Bo Bromagen said, while his dad was competitive, it was the atmosphere of the racetrack he loved the most and was most excited to share with friends.
“He loved to bet on his horses and he loved to win, but it was a shared success. He would buy tickets for the grooms and the hotwalkers and the jockey,” he said. “He brought people to the racetrack with him to share that experience of having a horse run, and he was just an evangelist in that regard. He would try to convert non-racing fans to racing fans, and I think he converted quite a few . “
Bromagen said looking back at his father’s life, he is most proud of how much he accomplished from a modest upbringing in Sharpsburg, where he shared a one-bedroom house with his mother and six siblings.
“What he’s done with his life and then to play this game at the highest level and be successful is something we’re all extremely proud of,” he said.
Besides his children, Bromagen is survived by his wife, Sandi, who was every bit as engaged with the racehorses. The family is holding a visitation at 10 am June 25 at Pisgah Presbyterian Church, at 710 Pisgah Pike, with a graveside service starting at 11:15 am In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Glenn S. Bromagen Sharpsburg Memorial Fund at the Bluegrass Community Foundation, 499 E. High St, # 112, Lexington, KY 40507.