Saratoga’s Sugar Plum Farm Has Found Its Niche as a Boutique Thoroughbred Breeding Operation

Situated on Gilbert Road just two miles from Saratoga Race Course, Sugar Plum Farm is a little patch of equine heaven. The part-time home of multiple graded stakes–winning stallion War Dancer, Sugar Plum sits on 90 acres of land purchased by Robin and Anthony Malatino in 2005. “This place really is magical,” says Robin. “We put in the facilities, the infrastructure, the fencing…but the natural beauty of the place, the tree line, the land, that was God’s work.”

Malatino and her husband were blank-slate newcomers to racing when they bought their first horses at the 2003 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Yearling Sale. “In 2002, I read the book Seabiscuit, and it just unlocked something in me,” says Robin. “My husband and I went to the sale just for a night out, and there was a filly laying down in a stall that got my attention. I thought that was supposed to be special because I read in the book that Seabiscuit did that, and it was considered a rare thing. To say we were naïve is an understatement.” 

It turned out that the filly, Sugar Plum Girl, didn’t end up meeting her reserve price at the sale, so the Malatinos arranged a private purchase. And although she didn’t go on to achieve success on the track, Sugar Plum Girl did inspire and help name their Saratoga farm. “We wanted to have a place where the horses could retire safely and that we could enjoy,” Robin says. “We weren’t going to be those people who didn’t take care of their horses. No way. The rest of it—the stallion side—just developed naturally from there.”

Prior to becoming horse farmers, the Malatinos had been based in Florida but were no strangers to Saratoga. They had led a group in the early ’90s that purchased the Saratoga Beverage Group—producers of the fancy, blue-bottled Saratoga Spring Water—and Robin had served as its CEO. In fact, you can thank the Malatinos for the bottle’s famous hue. “We put the majority of our focus into the packaging and presentation,” says Robin. “We introduced the iconic blue bottle that became so symbolic of the Saratoga Water brand.”

Speaking of successful brand-building, the Malatinos were among the original partners and eventual majority stakeholders of War Dancer during his star-studded racing career—but once he began standing at stud, they were at a loss for how to market his, er, services. (He splits his residency between Sugar Plum and Irish Hill & Dutchess View Stallions in Stillwater, standing for a stud fee of $7,500.) “We needed to come up with a similar blue-bottle concept for War Dancer,” jokes Robin. “[So] we came up with some fun concepts based on the reality show The Bachelor, where War Dancer would be looking for the right girls to ‘date.’ That led to the Breeding with the Stars concept we used to attract mares from other states.” Clearly, the Malatinos have a knack for marketing. War Dancer was bred to more than 100 mares during his first year at stud, and his future as a stallion is “now up to the horse gods,” says Robin. “Hopefully, his babies do well, and he really takes off.” 

As for the future of the farm, Robin says there are plans for more public access and events, and perhaps even a general store. “This place has taken us down an amazing road,” she says. “I’ve met so many people who have found enjoyment and happiness by coming here. That means a lot to me, and it’s something we want to share with everyone.”  

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