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The car seller unveiled his gem at a Lexington, Ky., showroom in November. Speed-seekers worldwide congregated, inspected, assessed, exalted. A British rep closed the bidding at $500,000.
From a modest production line, auto dealer George Doetsch Jr. had delivered a Maryland-bred blockbuster. Here’s the thrust: A chancy broodmare who raced winless and foaled in a field has him steering among the cavalcade of horse-making glitterati.
How’d he do it? The same way Doetsch ditched a journalism career by a flurry of gunfire, then rose from clerk to national vice president of Ford Motor Co. in barely 10 years. The same way he launched or acquired 15 dealerships (one in Russia), got a pilot’s license and bought some planes, amassed barns full of vintage cars, married and divorced four times, embraced philanthropy. He took the fast lane.
“I was an impetuous kind of guy,” Doetsch, 78, offered in December, nearly 15 years after he’d died.
Doetsch said he never saw the white light of afterlife from that stroke-induced, heart-stopping terror in 2005. But he spurned the glum prognosis and revived quickly, surprisingly, damn near fully. Then he ascended as a breeder on the wings of Wanda Jones, manager of his Marama Farm in Clarksville, Md., and John Mayer, bloodstock-counseling owner of venerable Nursery Place in Kentucky.
In 2013, Doetsch spoke interest in a Galileo (Ire) broodmare to refine his mostly unadorned band of five. Surely too pricey, said Mayer, who eventually peddled a more tenable prospect, one by Grand Slam out of the Sadler’s Wells mare Faux Pas (Ire).
Uniformly Yours had finished no better than fifth in six starts in Southern California and hadn’t dropped a foal, but she offered size and blood: Half-sister Sans Souci Island won a stakes and produced River Seven, a Grade 3 winner of $810,266. Mayer found pedigree, saw robustness, smelled potential.
“I’ve known the family a long time,” he said. “I explained it to [Doetsch]: At the December sale, the Galileo mares were out of sight. This might be an opportunity.”
Doetsch, on the other side of the sales pitch, considered the strategy. As Uniformly Yours approached the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky mixed sale in February 2014 in foal to Ghostzapper, Mayer asked, “Can we go a hundred thousand?”
The road made clear, Mayer bid the limit, got the mare.
The view of white-fenced hills from his sprawling custom-built rancher improves with silhouetted horses, Doetsch believed; he wanted Jones to deliver the foal, like his others, at Marama. The resultant Maryland-bred filly, Enchanted Ghost, sold in Maryland as a $75,000 yearling.
Mayer conveyed the result, Jones said, as she drove Doetsch to an airport for an African safari. No better time, she figured, to tout a $50,000 fling between Uniformly Yours and the Kentucky stud More Than Ready. Again, Doetsch saw no speed bump.
Uniformly Yours’ second foal, later named Selflessly, commanded $190,000 as a November 2017 weanling. The following spring, soon after Enchanted Ghost became a stakes winner in Laurel Park’s Wide Country, the nascent black-type producer presented an Honor Code filly. Then Doetsch spent $60,000 to get Uniformly Yours to Kitten’s Joy.
That subsequent delivery started and stalled. For a week or more in April 2019, the mare Jones calls Eunice seemed reluctant to foal indoors.
“Big mare, big foal,” Jones said. “Nothing was happening.”
So she made a change.
“You know what?” Jones told herself. “She’s unhappy about something. Let’s put her back in her natural environment.”
Maybe two hours later, in a chilly, soggy, sunlit paddock, Eunice introduced her first colt.
“Of course, she went right to the muddiest part of the field to have it,” Jones said.
By September, a luster prevailed. Mayer, prepping the Kitten’s Joy weanling for sale, rang Jones.
“Wanda,” he said, “This is a nice colt.”
“Oh, thanks,” came the reply. “Is everything else OK?”
“Wanda, this is a nice colt.”
Mayer echoed the belief, then echoed the echoes, which left Jones wondering whether to foal all the mares outdoors.
The Marama engine revved and soon zoomed:
• September 13: At the Keeneland yearling sale, Samantha Siegel of Jay Em Ess Stable nabbed the Honor Code filly on a $100,000 bid.
• September 29: Selflessly, the More Than Ready-sired second foal from Uniformly Yours, won the Miss Grillo-G2 for Klaravich Stable and trainer Chad Brown.
• November 1: Selflessly finished fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf-G1, wide throughout and 4 lengths from victory.
• November 7: An agent for Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s Shad-well Estate Co. plucked Uniformly Yours’ colt by Kitten’s Joy for $500,000 at Keeneland’s breeding stock sale, the stallion’s priciest weanling yet sold at public auction.
“Mares like this, these are gifts,” Mayer said of Uniformly Yours. “I’ve had a lot of very well-bred mares – we’ve bred ’em to proven horses, and it doesn’t work out like this. She is the definition of the blue hen. You’ve gotta turn over a whole lotta rocks and look in a lotta eggs to get one like that.”
An encore awaits, Uniformly Yours is due to deliver another Kitten’s Joy foal early in April.
In a Queen Anne armchair in a stately great room at Marama, Doetsch regarded his horse-breeding coup as a man accustomed to breakthrough. To high-pitched, open-beam ceilings, even his tempered words rose: “We’re really small in the big leagues.”
He spoke in even tones, as if his implausible tale self-punctuated. Effects of the stroke, at times, left a word or name at large. “I can’t remember a lot,” he said before remembering much.
In 2005, at the Howard County, Md., farm he owned before Marama, Doetsch set out for a pleasure ride atop Clancy, his Tennessee walker.
“I had just bought him,” he said. “And I saddle him up, bridle him up. I got into the saddle. Never got into the stirrups, and whoomp!”
The horse sprang; Doetsch struck his head on the barn transom, fell and stayed unconscious on a chopper ride to the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center in Baltimore. After doctors stemmed the brain bleed over five days, Doetsch went home with three broken ribs, cuts, bruises and strict instructions to avoid the daily 81 mg aspirin he’d taken near a decade. A blood clot formed, roamed and lodged in the left side of his brain. Ten days later after his hospital release, in the dark before dawn, Doetsch had the stroke.
Friend and orthopedic surgeon Cliff Turen answered the distress call, dressed, drove to Doetsch’s, administered CPR and had him breathing again when paramedics arrived around 4 a.m. By the time they delivered him to Shock Trauma, Doetsch had no heartbeat.
“Cliff gave me a chance,” he said, “but I was dead when I got there.”
The medical staff went to work, regained a pulse. He’s not sure how many days remained black. Then he awakened to a doctor friend’s dim assessment: Expect to speak and walk no more.
Seventeen days hospitalized, Doetsch managed unsure staccato steps on the arm of an orderly. After five months of therapy, intense and exhausting, he walked without aid and described the sensation.
“That was a long, hard road,” he said. “I’m 99 percent back.”
Pithy one-liners implied as much. To the question of Marama, and its meaning, Doetsch said, “It’s a Polynesian term about wild women. And I’ve had four of ’em through here.”
He offered that pearl as he walked indoors, toward a three-car garage that showcased three keepers: a baby blue 1931 Cadillac roadster; a wood-paneled, green and black 1930 Ford pickup; and a maroon 2004 Chevy Corvette. The overwhelming balance of the classic fleet filled a barn downhill.
Neither cars nor horses marked Doetsch’s destiny. He grew up in Arbutus, Md., a Baltimore suburb, the son of a WBAL radio sales executive. At age 9, Doetsch said, he needed a nickel to make the Hollywood Theater movies with friends. Dad lowered his newspaper: A kid with a job, he said flatly, wouldn’t have to ask.
A couple weeks later, Doetsch said, he was delivering two Baltimore papers, the Sun and News-American.
Barely a teen, he’d bike-ride to Patapsco Valley State Park just to tab the doings and gauge the movements of trail horses. The marvel lasted, and Doetsch soon got weekend work at a riding stable on Wilkins Avenue with one great benefit: On Sundays, he climbed atop a 3-year-old off-the-track Thoroughbred and sped like hell.
Enrolled pre-med at University of Maryland, Doetsch bumbled through calculus and physics and turned to journalism. He became a reporter/photographer for the school newspaper, The Diamondback, and got a job post-graduation at the Sun.
On a photo assignment to burlesque dancer Blaze Starr’s 2 O’Clock Club on The Block in downtown Baltimore, shooting started before Doetsch focused a lens. Bank robbers sprayed bullets along East Baltimore Street; the young newspaperman took cover, looked out and saw the road fork.
“It wasn’t worth the risk,” he said. “I never really made any money in journalism. I could have – you get syndicated, you’re OK. But that takes forever.”
He took a sales job at Martin J. Barry Lincoln-Mercury in Baltimore and soon considered a position as used-car manager. But Ford made a better offer, and a decade later Doetsch held title of corporate vice president at the company’s national headquarters in Dearborn, Mich.
He returned to Maryland to run Ford dealerships, then started buying them. At one point, his 15 “stores” included Concern Technopolis, a Chelyabinsk, Russia showroom that has become a metal-producing, house-building, multinational-trading conglomerate. Doetsch said he used to travel there every two months; less now.
At a Marama Christmas party this past December, Doetsch extended glad tidings by handing son George Doetsch III, known as Chip, the keys to Apple Ford Lincoln in Columbia, Md. Twenty-six years in the business, dad said, made Chip an able, deserving successor.
George Jr. said he’ll help steer that and other dealerships and remain active on boards, for the Shock Trauma Center (a position he held before the stroke), for a private-sector entity that serves Maryland National Guard, Army and Air Force Reserve veterans, for the Washington Area New Auto Dealers Association and others. Board work got him friendly with Bob Manfuso, the Chanceland Farm co-owner who stoked Doetsch’s interest in horse breeding and connected him with Nursery Place and Mayer.
Doetsch bought Marama in 2008, collaborated with Mayer on his first broodmare three years later with the $95,000 purchase of stakes-winning Florida-bred Aroma de Mujer (Trippi—Cuchu, by Storm Creek), in foal to Quality Road. The colt she carried, His World, proved a $120,000 yearling. Her third foal, the Ghostzapper-sired G Zap, sold as a yearling for $37,000 and became stakes-placed.
In foal to Carpe Diem, ‘Aroma’ has a Kantharos yearling but probably will encounter a Maryland stud in 2020, farm manager Jones said. At Laurel Park’s stallion showcase Nov. 30, she fancied the bone and paper of Force the Pass; the Wasabi Ventures stud will stand his first season at Anchor and Hope Farm in Port Deposit.
Late last year, Doetsch spent $65,000 on a seventh broodmare, Speightstown-sired Miss Adele, in foal to $2.3 million winner Oscar Performance. A 6-year-old gray from the Dynaformer mare Dynamite Cocktail, Miss Adele has three stakes-winning or -placed half-siblings. She’s booked to Mendelssohn this year.
“With the size we are,” Jones said, “we always have to remember we’re trying to support Maryland.” So the remaining broodmares – My Golden Belle, Happy Hailey, Seeking Gold and Sentimental Memory – could go to in-state stallions.
Doetsch breeds to sell and steadfastly foals at home. Despite the now-global commercial success of Uniformly Yours, he sends Maryland-breds to market.
“We’re a Maryland farm that produces Maryland horses,” he said. “I’m fine with that.”
Mayer initially questioned whether Doetsch’s Maryland-breds would muster sufficient auction cachet among proven Kentucky bluebloods. No longer.
Uniformly Yours’ foals, he said, “have all been horses with quite a bit of leg, like her. But, for big horses, they’re incredibly well-balanced. Good bone, substance – which is kind of everything she is.”
The November score, Jones acknowledged, moved sales companies to call about acquiring Eunice, a growing force at age 9. Except to be bred, Doetsch said, she’ll stay parked at Marama indefinitely.
On a certain December day, Eunice, fresh from a mud loll, strolled to the fence-line with hardened dirt caking both flanks.
“Nice and clean,” Jones said, pulling wrapped peppermints, the bulbous kind, from a coat pocket. “Way to make a good impression.”
She stroked Eunice’s striped face and said, “It’s really kind of unheard of to have this kind of success this quickly. And how would I replace her? I mean, really. She’s become the queen of the farm.”
A Pennsylvanian whose 30 years with horses included a stint for trainer Jeff Runco at Charles Town, Jones has found reward through perseverance. She arrived at Marama on May 15, 2011, her 51st birthday, amid a tumultuous adjournment between Doetsch and his fourth wife.
“In the beginning, it was Marama,” Jones said, “as in drama.”
The “rocky start” now velvety, Jones consults with Mayer on stallion matchups and delivers the foals herself.
“All the work falls on Wanda,” said Kelly Doetsch, who lives with husband Chip on the farm. “Late nights, and watching those cameras. She’s sometimes really a one-woman show down there in the barn. It’s incredible.”
Jones described more joy than bother. “This has been the best move I ever made in my life, to come work for this man,” she said. “George did something nobody else did. He believed in me.”
As he did Cliff Turen, the respected orthopedic traumatologist and volunteer firefighter who found Doetsch dead in 2005 and revived him. Doetsch had schooled Turen as a pilot; they shared many lofty adventures. In January 2013, flying a single-engine plane from Georgia to Dover, Del., Turen aborted two landings in dense fog, then made a third approach. He had the instrument training to pull it off, but the gas tank ran dry, and the crash killed him at 55.
“Without Cliff, I wouldn’t be talking to you,” Doetsch said. “And that was his reward. I taught him how to fly an airplane. Not all our good ideas pay off, I guess.”
Lingering anguish doesn’t mask the notion that the shrewd horse dealer, like the shrewd car dealer, invests in human capital. Good employees and good friends, he said, will enrich your business and your life.
The notion stirred a fitting question: So what’s the difference between selling a car and selling a horse? Doetsch gave the customer a reassuring smile and heartfelt reply.