BOONVILLE — Hope, the endearing filly in Budweiser's Super Bowl commercial this year, may be the star attraction at the Anheuser-Busch breeding ranch this summer.
She was on hand Monday to open the tourist season at Warm Springs Ranch, where the Budweiser Clydesdales roam 300 acres of rolling countryside east of Boonville.
Last year, 16,252 visitors toured the ranch, with its paddocks, stables and 25,000-square-foot breeding barn. Higher levels of attendance are predicted for 2013 — given all the attention on Hope.
This week alone, visitors from more than 10 states, including California and Florida, have reserved spots on the twice-daily tours, according to Allison Hughes, press liaison for Budweiser.
Tours are scheduled at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. daily, except Wednesdays, until Oct. 31. A visit includes interaction with the draft horses, as well as a look at the pregnant mares, the foals and their facilities.
This year, the ranch expects 35 baby Clydesdales to be born. Already, 17 foals are on the grounds, including Hope and a colt named after the late Cardinal baseball player, Stan Musial.
Hope, who will be 3 months old on April 16, has the classic Budweiser Clydesdale markings, only smaller — bay coloring, a black mane and tail, four white socks and a white blaze on her face.
Weighing about 180 pounds at birth, she'll grow to be approximately 2,000 pounds, eat 20 to 25 pounds of grain, minerals and vitamins every day, as well as 50 pounds of hay, and drink 30 gallons of water, according to the Warm Springs Ranch web site.
On Monday, she was grazing and playfully nuzzling visitors, under the watchful protection of her mother.
“Hope is really laid back, a sweetheart," said John Soto, ranch supervisor who has been providing care for the Clydesdales for 33 years.
Less than 3 weeks old when the Super Bowl ad was filmed, the foal became an overnight sensation after the commercial was aired. To date, the YouTube version has had nearly 12 million views.
“The whole commercial was really neat because it basically, in 30 seconds, said what we do here,” Soto said. “We’ve got four guys here, and we really enjoy what we do; raising the babies and watching them grow up.”
Stan, the first foal this year, was born two days before Hope. Budweiser announced in February that he would be named after the baseball legacy who died Jan. 19.
"Stan is all boy. He’s got lot’s of energy, and he bounces everywhere,” Soto said.
Because of their proper markings, Hope is destined to become a brood mare and Stan could be a fine hitch gelding for the Budweiser wagon, Soto said.
Warm Springs Ranch opened to the public in spring 2010, two years after Anheuser-Busch moved its breeding operations and 100 horses from California to Missouri.
Colts remain at the farm until they are 2 years old. Those that match the established look of a Budweiser Clydesdale are trained for another two years before joining one of the traveling hitches.
Tours cost $10 per person, and reservations must be made in advance. New this year are VIP tours costing $500 for groups of up to 16. These visitors will be able to walk through the pastures around the draft horses, meet handlers and travel in a custom vehicle.
Warm Springs Ranch is located off Interstate 70 at 25270 Missouri 98.