Ciaran Dunne, a native of Kildare, Ireland, graduated from the prestigious Irish National Stud Thoroughbred breeding course before emigrating to the U.S in 1987. 

He initially worked in Kentucky at Margaux Farm and Glennwood Farm, where he met his wife Amy, an exercise rider at the time. The couple relocated to the true Horse Capital of the World® in 1994 and founded Wavertee Stables in 1995. The 180-acre Wavertree Stables is now one of the country’s pre-eminent breaking and training facilities and was the nation’s leading consignor of 2-year-olds six times in 2012-’14 and 2019-‘21. They have been among the top three leading consignors of 2-years-old every year since 2010 and are currently ranked second in 2024 to date with 69 head selling for more than $15 million.

For Dunne, the breeding portion of their operation evolved naturally. 

“We’ve just kind of fallen into the breeding part of it. It took us a while to establish the business and then, as we established the business, it started to take more equity in the horses we were selling and there would always be one or two that would get left over. The first one we really bred in Florida was first called Hy Riverside who we found to be a really nice horse. He was very good to us in terms of the breeders’ awards. We actually just got him back. He’s [12] now. He came home this spring after racing down in Puerto Rico. Now that he’s here on the farm, we’re trying to figure out a new life for him,” Dunne said. 

But it was a horse named Leinster that really changed things for the Dunne’s. The four-time graded stakes winner of $764,971 was originally an $85,000 yearling pinhook by the Dunne’s. When he didn’t sell as a 2-year-old, the Dunne’s raced him instead. 

“Leinster was very good to us. We went to two graders’, and he was fortunate enough to be placed in one of them. And now, we have him at stud over at Pleasant Acres [Stallions]. With him in our breeding operation, it has just mushroomed, to say the least.” 

“Since the advent of Leinster, we’ve gone from probably having three to five mares to the 25 we have now,” Dunne said.

The Dunne’s have followed up by consigning a succession of high-performers from their Wavertree Stables, including Leinster’s half-brother, Stormy Liberal, who won the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1) in 2017 and 2018, earned $2,212,580 and was presented the 2018 Eclipse Award as Champion Turf Male.

Since then, Wavertree has consigned a number of top sellers such as Unbridled Slew, who sold for $2.5 million at the 2006 Barrett’s May Sale. In 2009, at the Fasig-Tipton Florida auction, Al Zir sold for $1.6 million and became Grade 1-placed.

This week, the Wavertree Stables Inc. consignment is located in barn 5 and is represented by 13 juveniles at the Ocala Breeders’ Sales June Sale. The lone Florida-bred in the consignment is Hip 223, a filly they bred by Audible out of Street Smart, by Street Sense. Street Smart is a half-sister to stakes-winners Annulmant and Youngest Daughter. 

Thursday, the Dunne’s will be represented by Florida-bred Classic of Course in the $150,000 Tremont Stakes at Saratoga. The son of Awesome of Course was bred by the Dunne’s with Amy retaining ownership with trainer Patrick Biancone.

“Our horses have really taken us to places that we never imagined we would go as owners and it’s been an amazing journey,” Dunne said.

Return to the June 4 issue of Wire to Wire