If you ever crossed paths with Ashton Moynihan consider yourself lucky.
The first time for me came in the summer of 1990 when Ashton, she was Ashton Nesbit then, headed up the Fasig-Tipton subsidiary Stallion Access.
Our paths crossed, no doubt unbeknownst to her at the time, because as a member of the grounds crew at Fasig-Tipton our crew was charged with transitioning the Saratoga sales pavilion from an auction ring with live horses to any and all things social event, cocktail party and seasons and share auction.
The Stallion Access event was held Friday evening, just after the then three-day Saratoga selected sale of yearlings was conducted and the window to turn the venue around was small.
Ashton didn’t mess around, she demanded things be done efficiently and just right, traits that lasted a lifetime and into another career as one of the leaders of the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance.
I’m not sure our crew took too kindly to some of Ashton’s demands during the setup for her event. Ashton could be tough. Yet at the end of the night she made a point to thank the crew, just like Larry Ensor, Walt Robertson, D. G. Van Clief Jr., Boyd Browning, Terence Collier and many other members of the Fasig-Tipton executive team would do through the years.
Our paths didn’t cross again – aside from random bump ins here and there in Lexington – until a few years ago when Ashton took a lead role in the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance. Ashton took time away from the industry to raise her two daughters but when she returned she came back with the same drive and purpose as those days with Stallion Access.
We’d see each other often at major races, memorably at Pimlico Race Course for Preakness Weekend when the TAA would sponsor the Best Turned Out Awards. Ashton and the late Bill Graves would head up those contests, and even asked yours truly to help judge a race one year.
Ashton even sent along a photo of me with King Leatherbury from that year, when Bill served up a softball and I correctly picked Ben’s Cat as the Best Turned Out winner. Now more than ever it’s one of my favorite photos.
We stayed in touch via email, text and in person through the years, including in the days following Bill Graves’ passing in the spring of 2018. I’ll cherish that exchange, and others through the years, forever.
The Thoroughbred industry lost a great person with Ashton’s passing. Rest in peace my friend.