By Emily Shields
Elena and Hollis Crim love what they do, which makes all of their hard work worthwhile. Elena grew up showing horses in Wisconsin, and she and her husband have a 400-acre spread in Globe, Ariz., where she breeds and raises stakes-winning Thoroughbreds, as well as sale-toppers.
“Horses are an interesting passion,” Crim mused. “They get in your blood. I guess you could say I was destined.”
Crim’s grandfather raised Standardbreds, which meant her father grew up also loving horses. Crim herself showed horses as a young girl, competing with jumpers. She eventually married Hollis Crim, now her husband of nearly 45 years, and they initially moved to Florida.
“He was involved with cattle,” she explained, “so we bought a ranch in Scottsdale, Ariz., in 1980.” The vast H & E Ranch, named for their first initials, was a dream come true, but Crim found herself “with more time on my hands than I needed.”
She started raising the same kind of hunters and jumpers she knew as a girl but steadily transitioned into racehorses.
“I’ve been improving my lot over the years,” she said, “trying to get updated pedigrees. Now we have horses that are running well.”
The first horse to make a major impact for Crim was Valid’s Valid, a 2002 daughter of Valid Wager—Florida Cracker, by Prospectors Gamble. The California-bred mare took the $72,280 Tuzla Stakes at Hollywood Park in 2007 en route to winning five of 23 starts and earning $233,177.
The following year, Florida Cracker foaled Tonys a Genius, by Beau Genius. The gelding started 62 times, winning 20 of those, including the Chippewa Downs Open Thoroughbred Speed Stakes.
Florida Cracker wasn’t the only broodmare who produced back-to-back half sibling stakes horses for H & E Ranch. Ashley Secret, a mare by Dr. Carter, first produced multiple stakes winner Resolve, by Future Storm. That gelding won the Arizona Breeders’ Derby and two other stakes at Turf Paradise in 2001, then went on to be fifth of 11 in the $200,000 General George Handicap (gr. II) at Maryland’s Laurel Park in 2003. Resolve earned $235,329.
In 1999, one year after foaling Resolve, Ashley Secret produced the Hansel colt Grimm. He would eventually earn $274,560 while winning seven stakes at Turf Paradise. Grimm’s career ended with 11 wins in 25 starts, with four seconds and four thirds.
With Crim’s broodmare band getting noticed and improving regularly, she turned her attention to the sales. Crim has found success in the auction ring selling homebreds and pinhooks.
Th e first pinhook who brought attention was Sea Siren, a daughter of Stormy Atlantic—Spend It On Mom, by Spend a Buck. H & E Ranch consigned Sea Siren to the 2003 CTBA Sales’ Del Mar yearling sale after purchasing her in Florida for $47,000. Sea Siren brought $70,000 and went on to earn $207,741. The biggest win of Sea Siren’s career came in the $150,000 Arlington Matron Handicap (gr. III), where she romped home four lengths in front. In 2013 Crim sold a homebred named Rowdy Dylan, by Sky Mesa—Serious Vow, by Broken Vow, at the CTBA’s 2013 Northern California yearling and horses of racing age sale at Pleasanton for $60,000. Rowdy Dylan was eventually resold for $280,000 to trainer Peter Miller and owner Rockingham Ranch, then broke his maiden by 7 1⁄4 lengths in his second start. Rowdy Dylan finished second in the $103,900 Barretts Juvenile Stakes last season.
The highlight of Crim’s sales career came at the 2014 Northern California sale. Her half brother to Rowdy Dylan by Forestry not only topped the sale at $75,000, but he also bettered the old record of $72,000 for highest price ever at that auction. “He’s in training at Del Mar now,” Crim said of the Forestry colt. “He’s had some works and is getting ready.”
Horse sales are quickly becoming a family affair. Elena and Hollis’ daughter, Hollie, a recent law school graduate, is more interested each day.
“She lives in Los Angeles but accompanies me as often as she can,” said Elena. “She’s been with us around racing all of her life; it’s in her blood, too.”
Hollie helped Crim raise an orphan filly by Holy Bull in 2004. The filly, named Sallie’s Memory, is out of the L’Natural mare Nat’s Sallie, who died shortly after her birth.
“She’s special to all of us,” Crim said of Sallie’s Memory, “and now she’s one of my best broodmares.” Her first foal, Jamaican Memories, has banked $220,559 while winning three stakes races. Her 2014 filly by Tapizar was one of two sale-toppers at the 2015 Barretts select yearling sale at $90,000.
Although Crim considers it “wonderful when they do well at the sales,” she also enjoys racing. “The racing is the most rewarding part. It’s so fun to see them run.”
She and Hollis have horses all over the country, from California and Arizona to Kentucky and Florida. They own 40 broodmares now, but Crim is endlessly busy. She has 11 pensioned mares living out their days on the farm, as well as a few ponies, a draft horse, and a mule. In addition to farm upkeep, Crim travels around the country for sales.
“I try to hit all the major sales every year, absolutely,” she said. “I do more pinhooking now than I used to. But I think, like most people, I’m a creature of habit, and I’ve been coming to the California sales to sell horses for 30 years now. We’ve all developed friendships as the years have passed. The sales in California have such a friendly environment. We see people we know and reconnect.”
The sales in the Golden State are so important to Crim, who has been a California Thoroughbred Breeders Association member since 1987, that she was wary after Fairplex Park closed its racing operation, leading to Barretts relocating to Del Mar.
“We had a history there,” Crim said. “It’s an era lost. We got spoiled with their beautiful barns there. But while transition is a hard thing for everybody, I do hope that Barretts survives. Del Mar couldn’t be a more beautiful place to have it; the choice to come here was extraordinary. You couldn’t have more beautiful weather to look at horses. And there are so many high-quality people dedicated to the horse industry in California. We will be fine.”
When asked how she knows when a foal is special, Crim said, “Maybe it’s just me, but I feel that way when they are about a week old. You can just tell if they’re exceptional. They have a presence about them; they look unusually attractive running around with their mom. It’s no surprise to you a couple of months later when they look great, or when they go on to be really successful on the track. You just remember they were exceptional individuals when they were young, too.”