By Emily Shields
Stormy Hull has never known life without horses. The aﬀable man is the second youngest of seven siblings, and virtually all of his youthful memories stem from the back of an equine. It should come as no surprise that the years of toiling with horses have ﬁnally resulted in a thoroughbred gem brighter than Hull had ever dreamed: multiple stakes winner California Diamond.
“My horse-crazy sister wanted to go riding, but she had to babysit me,” Hull recalled. “It was either take me or stay home, so she would put me on the horse in front of her until I got big enough to sit behind. I had more miles on horseback by age 5 than most people have in their lifetime.”
A horseback newspaper route is just one example of how Hull hardly ever let his feet touch the ﬂoor.
“We grew up learning to ride Shetlands bareback,” he said. “I didn’t sit in a saddle until I was around 11. I remember when I was 6 that I got a cowboy shirt and hat and a little holster for my birthday. I put it on and rode my Shetland out into the ﬁeld and knew, right then, that I was going to train when I grew up, or at least do something with horses.”
Hull grew up in Forks, Wash., a tiny town recently made popular by the Twilight novels. It sits within Clallam County, an area so small that Hull’s graduating class had only 18 students. He cut his teeth on racing at the Clallam County Fair, ﬁrst with ponies, then later bringing one of the family’s Arabian mares over to outsprint Quarter Horses.
“I studied her body to try to ﬁgure out how she got so fast,” Hull said. “My dad was really tough on us, drilling us to train our horses and get out every day to work with them. But he did me a favor. We got a taste of what happened when you get up early, train every day, practice, and got ﬁt. If I’m going to compete in a world full of millionaires, I have to outwork them.”
Hull started breaking horses at age 20 and now lives in Sequim, a Washington town 70 miles from his birthplace, with longtime partner Ginger Samples.
“She has a super good eye for horseﬂesh and picks out the best horses from the sales all the time,” Hull said. “I listen to her input as far as picking stallions goes. We’re a team; I couldn’t do this by myself.”
Hull works with race horses and some of the more challenging “911” cases, such as show horses gone awry.
“Challenging horses are the most rewarding, because if you can get in their mind and ﬁgure them out, read them, live and breathe them, then they become more than just a horse. They’re all more than just a horse, to me.”
Hull got involved in a small racing stable for 20 years, starting horses at Longacres and then Emerald Downs. He galloped at the track, took out his trainer’s license, stood stallions, and even shod horses for a time when the time came to turn his attention to breeding, something he had experience with as a child working with his parents’ Arabians. He had his heart already set on a pair of mares he knew from the racing stable.
“I always wanted a Cahill Road mare, and a call came in for one named Cielo Dulce. She was out in a ﬁeld, and they were giving her away for free because she was too strong to be a dressage horse.”
Cielo Dulce’s ﬁrst foal, the Slew’s Saga ﬁlly Sweet Saga, broke her maiden in the $50,000 Barbara Shinpoch Stakes at Emerald. Years later as her racing career wound down, Hull claimed her for $4,000, adding a second female from the family to his broodmare barn. More recently Cielo Dulce’s 2013 California-bred Tribal Rule ﬁlly named Nine Point Nine has racked up four victories at Santa Anita.
The horse who really lodged herself in Hull’s heart, however, is Carrie’s a Jewel, now the dam of California Diamond.
Hull was involved with breaking the Slewdledo ﬁlly, who carried herself like a colt.
“She was gorgeous, a big, dark black mare,” Hull said. “It was like riding a stud colt; she had a lot of strength in body and mentally. I admired her for her looks and her desire.”
Long after Hull had lost track of the mare, a call came in from Southern California saying she was available. Hull was interested, but “someone from British Columbia had spoken for her just before I
called back. The next day the guy backed out. She was meant to be mine.”
California Diamond, her fourth foal, is a striking Cal-bred son of Harbor the Gold. His name is a play on California Chrome as well as his dam, and it ended up ﬁtting him perfectly.
“The success we’ve had with Diamond has been surreal,” Hull said. “You read about it happening to other people.”
California Diamond broke his maiden ﬁrst out and has since competed exclusively in stakes company. In 2016 the juvenile colt won the $125,345 Santa Anita Juvenile, the $100,000 Barretts Juvenile, the $84,745 Speakeasy Stakes, and the prestigious $200,000 Golden State Juvenile. He also racked up four second-place eﬀorts in stakes, including the $100,000 Bob Hope Stakes (G3) behind a leading Kentucky Derby contender in Mastery.
Midway through his young career, California Diamond topped the Barretts Paddock Sale at Del Mar, bringing $125,000 from Rockingham Ranch. “That’s when I knew we’d made it,” Hull said.
Through the end of 2016, California Diamond had earned $417,780, with ﬁve wins and four seconds in nine starts.
Although a Washington native, Hull as enjoyed dabbling in Cal-breds.
“I want more of them,” he said. “I sent all my mares down there to foal out and be bred back. The weather is consistent, the people are great, and I want those in California to know that. Diamond made
me more money in breeders’ awards last year than I will make working all year.”
With a 2017 full of promise for California Diamond, there is surely more to be had.