Passion Play by Lenny Shulman “Bloodhorse Magazine” 12 January 2019

Hank Nothhaft builds a top breeding program from scratch

BY LENNY SHULMAN
PHOTOS COURTESY OF HANK NOTHHAFT

Nothhaft traded venture technology companies for a career in horses
Nothhaft-bred Finest City, winner of the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint

ELEVEN YEARS AGO VENTURE· TECHNOLOGY COMPANY CEO
Hank Nothhaft looked at himself in the mirror and realized that, after three decades, he was los­ing his passion for his work. He needed a new challenge, one that satisfied his all-encompassing, adrenaline-driven, compulsive lifestyle.

               Hello Thoroughbred breeding and racing.

A decade of immersion into every­ thing horses has yielded significant results for the 74-year-old Nothhaft, a native of Pennsylvania who has traveled the world in both his military and civilian lives. Under HnR Nothhaft Horse Racing (the “R” coming courtesy of wife Randie) Nothhaft has bred Breeders’ Cup Champion Finest City, multiple graded stakes winner Daddy ls a Legend , and multiple stakes-winning homebred Grand Prix. He has also campaigned multiple graded stakes winner Living The Life and multiple grade 2-placed stakes winner Kindle, and has specialized in purchasing modestly­ priced stock that has gone on to perform on the racetrack and in the breeding shed.

There were no horses or racing in Nothhaft’s youth in Sharon, Pa ., between Erie and Youngstown, although today that area is littered with race tracks that didn’t exist decades ago. Nothhaft graduated from the United States Naval Academy and served in Vietnam , achieving his MBA in information systems technology after he exited the military. He assumed ownership of a series of tech companies, which

Nothhaft with Finest City at the 2012 Keeneland November Sale

took him from Washington D.C., to Dallas, and eventually to Silicon Valley in Northern California. There, the racing bug  bit him on friends-and-family outings to Bay Meadows.”   We loved that place, and I developed a positive view of horse racing,” noted Nothhaft. “I was going back and forth to England quite a bit , and read all the Dick Francis novels on those trips, and began going to race tracks like Lingfield, near London, and really enjoyed it. ”

Those good feelings persuaded Nothhaft to take up the challenge of trying to survive in the horse industry, initially as an owner .

“I analyzed a bunch of different industries, and I ended up with Thorough-hred racing,” he said. ” I do look back and chuckle at my naivete in thinking I could do what has subsequently occurred.  I love the competition and the immediate feedback you get on your decisions .

“What I find appealing is you can immerse yourself in the data side of it. I always had a dashboard on any company I was running and loved to throw myself into the statistics and analyze the company in as many ways as possible. So when l started looking at pedigrees and bloodlines, I thought,  ‘Wow, that amount of data is perfect for an insatiable appetite like mine.’ ”

Nothhaft did his homework. He attended seminars put on by the Thoroughbred Owners of California, watched BloodHorse videos on conformation, read books, and then went out and raced some cheap claimers in Northern California, seeking to have fun, enjoy the competition, and hopefully break even. ‘The plan didn’t work well, and Nothhaft used the economic meltdown of 2009 to liquidate his stock, learn from his early mistakes, and start over again.

With the benefit of advice from Gary Mandella and Mary Knight, he began buying better Cal-breds. Chalking it up to “dumb luck,” he bought Randie’s Legend at auction for $ 43,000 in 2008 .

She would go on to produce Daddy ls a Legend. But Nothhaft turned the corner when he decided that Pennsylvania offered more opportunity than did the situation in California. He enlisted Carl McEntee to help buy bloodstock and the operation clicked. Nothhaft grabbed Kindle for  $50,000, Be Envied for $37,000, Living The Life for less than $50,000, and Halljoy, who would become group stakes -placed. for $150,000 . All became valued members of his broodmare band, with Be Envied producing Finest City and Grand Prix.

“Hank came to realize that buying more-commercial broodmares was the most productive place to be, and safest to work within,” McEntee noted. “We’ve had good success and have made smart decisions on our breeding selections, which we both spend a lot of time on. ‘There’s luck involved, because this is the ‘Thoroughbred industry, and there are no certainties. But the harder you work, the luckier you seem to get.”

‘Today, Nothhaft’s 10 broodmares produce Pennsylvania-breds after being bred to Kentucky stallions, and he him­self is on the board of the Pennsylvania Horse Breeders Association.

“One of the side benefits of getting into horses is that I’ve reconnected with my home state,”  he said. “I’ve traveled the world, lived for three decades in California (today he lives in Austin, Texas) , and came back to my roots; in Pennsylvania.  I’ve won the Presque Isle Downs Masters Stakes (G2) twice. Where other guys have Kentucky Derby fever, I want to get a PABRED to win the Masters,” which has never happened . It takes all kinds of people, right?”

Most of the mares Nothhaft owns today either raced for him or were bred by him, the notable exception being Sulis, whom he bought specifically to breed to Silver Train, a stallion Nothhaft bought and stood in Pennsylvania, hut who died after just two years. Having paid $105,000 for Sulis, a daughter of Maria ‘s Mon, Nothhaft proceeded to sell weanlings  out of her for $250,000, $130,000, and $ 220,000 within four years.

Nothhaft with his grandchildren at Golden Gate Fields
Nothhaft with Living the Life UK All Weather Champion and 2 times winner Masters Stakes Gr2

As legendary Kentucky horseman Robert Courtney used to say, that’s how you make money in this business.

Because the Pennsylvania incentive program is going well, Nothhaft said he might increase his mare population to 15, but generally he is concentrating on improving the quality of the band rather than increasing its number.

“Carl and I made a decision not to take the risk of raising them to be yearlings .” Nothhaft said of his early preference for selling weanlings . “At least until now. The yearling market is crazy right now so I’m not unhappy to hold onto them another year because the financial advantage is shifting that way. That hasn’t always been true.” That updated strategy comes in part from the American Pharoah-Kindle weanling colt Nothhaft sold for S400,000 who was pin hooked by Peter O’Callaghan and sold for s2.2 million at last September’s Keeneland yearling auction.

Kindle and Kindle 17 who became the most expensive American Pharoah sold so far at $2.2M

Nothhaft supported McEntee during the latter’s time at Darby Dan Farm and has helped bankroll McEntee’s move to open Ballysax Bloodstock, which now consigns the Nothhaft-breds.

“Carl is all energy and is a hard worker,” said Nothhaft. “In his first year in 2018 he’s had good-quality consignments and gotten good results.
“Hank is an incredibly passionate man who has to have something to d rive him and I’m the same way,” noted McEntee.”He’ll call me at 4 or 5 a.m. his time to talk. He knows only one speed, and that’s 100 mph .”

Nothhaft’s single most notable day in the business came on Nov. 5, 2016. when the Breeders Cup Filly & M are Sprint (G 1) was run at Santa Anita Park. The Nothhaft-owned Living The Life, who had won the Presque lsle Downs Masters in 2014 and 2015 and the All American Stakes (G3) in 2016. was slated to compete against the Nothhaft-hred Finest City, whom the breeder had sold as a weanling in 2012 for $50,000.  ‘·My wife and l and other family members were planning to go from our home in Saratoga. Calif. Nothhaft stated. “Then a week before the race,  Living the Life came up lame and had to be retired. I was so bummed out I had a knee-jerk reaction to give my tickets away. So we watched from home. I bet heavy on Finest City  and when she won. there was an eruption . My phone started going crazy, so there was a lot of recognition of our connection to the horse. But l felt silly watching Gary Mandella accept our trophy.”

In the past, Nothhaft annually compiled what he now calls a “fantasy list ” of stallions for his mares, where he and McEntee would generate a roster of studs that fit his mares although they knew they wouldn’t he able to get to those stallions. Today, it is a different story.

“Now that I have better mares. we know we’re able to get to all the stallions on our list this year.” said Nothhaft. “So we’re not playing fantasy football anymore.” Nothhaft bought back a Pioneer of the Nile-Kindle weanling colt in November 2018 on a final bid of $375,000. He .also kept an American Pharoah-Halljoy year­ling filly who RNA’d for $335.000. Those babies are indicative of the quality of stallions to whom he now sends his mares.

“This is a very faddish industry in my opinion,” he stated. “So going to American Pharoah in his first year-if you pick the right first-year stallion it can be a bonanza when you’re selling the progeny. Certainly American Pharoah was a good pick. So we do use some select first-year or young stallions, we call ‘Living the Dream stallions.’ They don’t have anything running yet, or at least won t before (the progeny) sell.

“As far as more proven stallions, we’re not generally going to the heavy hitters such as Tapit, Candy Ride, Into Mischief, and so on. When I was starting out, I bred to Tizbud. a full brother to Tiznow.  Now, I love Tiznow, who is one of the less expensive studs I go to today, so that highlights where I started and where I’m at. But I’m also smart enough to know the minute you think you’ve got it all figured out, you’re actually really stupid because the gods are about to come down and chop your knees off. So I keep my feet on the ground.”

Said McEntee, “Hank is unlike most business people who come into the horse industry, where they tend to lose all of their previous business acumen. Hank has maintained the smart decision-making that got him to where he is.”

Nothhaft has worked diligently to try and help ensure that the Pennsylvania incentive program remains on sound footing, although that has proven to be a tricky enterprise in the past. ”Pennsylvania has had a great program for years,” said Nothhaft, “except that the state (government) kept coming up short on funds and taking money away from the breeding program for the general fund. As a breeder, you never knew what was going to be there going forward. What we’ve done is put  the program in a trust; while that can still be broken, there is a significant penalty for the state if it decides to take funds away, so we feel more comfortable going forward.

“The number of foals is increasing in the state. There are new sires and brood­ mares showing up, and the quality of the talent you need is increasing. We know New York-bred and Cal-bred races are tough, but Pennsylvania isn’t a lay-up, either. But it does run between 400 and
500 races a year for state-breds, and if you have a decent horse, you can find a level at which to race and have a good chance of earning some money which is attractive.” ‘ The man on the street- which I con­sider myself- who doesn’t have 200 horses can realistically breed Pennsylvania-breds and sell or race them with the anticipation of a reasonable financial outcome. That’s the world I thought I was getting into way back at the start.”

A dose of naivete represent standard equipment for those seeking entrance to the Thoroughbred industry as a business proposition . And the addition of successful business people such as Hank Nothhaft to its ranks swells the legitimacy as well as the feasibility of this world of horses. He has embraced a challenge far too puzzling for most; entered on the ground floor and built a sturdy operation upward despite knowing nothing about its workings when he started. That horses can rekindle this sort of passion in a person of substance such as Nothhaft is a huge positive.

“l have been retired from the tech world for three or four years now, and I thank God every morning that l got involved in the horse business because it so satisfying,” he said. “It is extremely difficult, so when things do go right, the satisfaction and the adrenaline and the good feeling you get is so significant that it’s worth all the effort. “For a small guy like me, you have to work really hard to have something good going on, and when it does, it keeps you in a good mood for a while and you re­ally have to inhale the happy fumes and the success . You have to ride over what I call th e Valley of Despair to keep your self going and motivated if you’re passionate about it.”■

Regrouping year is latest good one for Nothhaft

By Emily Shields  
Originally published “PHBA September 2018 Newsletter
Finest City Weanling Keeneland

“Horse racing has taken me some places that I certainly would have never imagined,” said Hank Nothhaft. It rings as an ultimate understatement.

The longtime business tycoon only got into the sport as a means to an end, pursuing racing when he realized he wouldn’t be able to continue his success in the corporate world forever. “As you get older, you think about the next chapter,” he said. “The people working for me were younger and younger, I guess because I got older. Towards the end of my career it was a 40-year dichotomy between the average workforce and myself. It’s such a high energy game that I realized I couldn’t do it forever, even if I wanted to.”

Grand Prix Inside Rail Teressa Garappolo Stakes @ Pennsylvania Day at the Races

Nothhaft feared what would happen if he was suddenly forced to retire via company acquisition, and have nothing to do. “I very consciously decided I needed to get something going on the side, something as satisfying as being a CEO to high growth companies, handling hundreds of millions of dollars. It’s an adrenaline junkie life; I needed something like that.”

Nothing spurs excitement more than horse racing, which can be a fast-paced numbers game. “It would fill my need for analytics, data, and the adrenaline rush, and I could do more with less than the other guys who had more money,” Nothhaft said. But his first attempt – running horses in Northern California – didn’t succeed.

Be Envied by Lemon Drop Kid o/o While Rome Burns Produced Finest City, Grand Prix and Move while owned by HnR Nothhaft Horseracing LLC

The economic crisis in 2008, “crushed all the discretionary money endeavors,” and Nothhaft realized he needed to change his business model. “I hadn’t gotten involved with the right people. It became clear that there was no viable business opportunity running claiming races in Northern California. I got aggressive and unloaded all the horses I had; I ended up with two horses that I couldn’t place successfully.”

One of those two was Randie’s Legend, a Benchmark half-sister to stakes winners Eternal Rule and Frumious. “That’s turned out to be a great story,” Nothhaft said, but another great story unfolded first.

Randie’s Legend Northview PA

“I realized I needed to find more attractive financial footing if I was going to make a go of it,” Nothhaft said. He met Carl McIntee, who lured him out to Pennsylvania several times before Nothhaft decided the state breeder incentives were exactly what he wanted. He purchased the mare Be Envied in foal to City Zip and became the breeder of record for Pennsylvania-bred Finest City. Nothhaft sold the “quirky” filly for $50,000; she ended up in the barn of young trainer Ian Kruljac.

“I’m absolutely convinced if she had gone into a big stable she would have been lost in the shuffle,” Nothhaft said. “With the idiosyncrasies of her personality and the minor physical difficulties she overcame, it was a blessing that she ended up where she was.” That’s why Nothhaft has no residual regret about Finest City going on to earn $1,266,394 and winning the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint-G1.

And he still has something from the family, being the owner of stakes winner Grand Prix. The four-time winning Pennsylvania-bred was injured earlier this year, but is back in training at Keeneland with Ben Colebrook. “She’s got dirt and Tapeta to train on there,” Nothhaft said. Another half sibling, the winning Silver Train mare Move, was bred to Verrazano this year.

The predominant reason that Grand Prix hasn’t been retired is because Nothhaft considers it a life goal to win the Presque Isle Masters-G2 with a homebred. He’s already won it twice with Living The Life (Ire), who scored in 2014 and 2015. She missed by a head in 2016. “People want to win the Breeders’ Cup, etc., but my realistic goal is to win the Masters with a Pennsylvania-bred. I’m hoping that will be Grand Prix.”

Daddy is a Legend Weanling KY

With so many horses on the sidelines or back in training, Nothhaft notes that this is a “regrouping” year for him, but one horse he bred is tearing up the turf.  Randie’s Legend, one of the mares he couldn’t sell when leaving California, produced a Scat Daddy filly in 2015. The Pennsylvania-bred Daddy Is a Legend was sold for $140,000 as a weanling, and now races for Jim and Susan Hill and trainer George Weaver.

She won the Jimmy Durante Stakes-G3 at Del Mar as a juvenile, and added the Lake George-G3 at Saratoga on July 20.

Daddy is a Legend wins the Grade 3 Jimmy Durante @Del Mar Turf Club

In between, Daddy Is a Legend was fourth in graded stakes races at Keeneland and Belmont, and third on the Kentucky Oaks undercard at Churchill Downs. That race, the Edgewood Stakes-G3, was run in a driving rain where Daddy Is a Legend missed the victory by a half-length behind Toinette and Breeders’ Cup winner Rushing Fall. She once again followed Rushing Fall home in her most recent effort, when third in Saratoga’s Grade 2 Lake Placid on Aug. 18.

“The fickleness of horse health is so fleeting,” Nothhaft said. “I had to be prudent and sell some of my horses, otherwise you’re not putting a lot of money back. I’m obviously tickled pink that Daddy Is a Legend got into such fantastic hands. She has proven the commerciality of Randie’s Legend and rewarded my loyalty to her.”

1st The 32Red.com All-Weather Fillies’ And Mares’ Championships Conditions Stakes at Lingfield 18/4/14 O: Mr Henry R. Nothhaft T: Phil McEntee J: Adam Kirby

Hank Nothhaft purchased future star, Living The Life (Ire), in England in 2014

Randie’s Legend has a City Zip yearling colt and a Tiznow weanling filly, both of which Nothhaft still owns. The mare has been bred back to Candy Ride (Arg) for 2019.

“Pennsylvania has been really good to me,” he said. “I’ve figured out how to have success here whether I own them or sell them to others. It’s a fantastic program.” Fielder, who Nothhaft bred but is racing for Waldorf Racing Stables LLC, won the Marshall Jenney Stakes at Parx on July 21. He finished second in an allowance race against open company at Laurel Park three weeks later.

Nothhaft, who recently broke an ankle and tore his meniscus in a stairwell accident, will be out of action for a while but has plenty to keep his mind occupied. “I have 10 brood- mares, roughly 15 horses on their way to the track, and six or seven in training.  Right now, I don’t have any horses that I own that I didn’t breed. They’re all homebreds. I’m not in any partnerships with anybody. I’m striving for quality, not quantity. This whole sport has kept me grounded and headed in a positive direction.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

High-Tech Entrepreneur Making His Mark in Racing Game

 

By Terry Conway

Pennsylvania Equestrian March 2017

Link to Article by Terry Conway Pennsylvania Equestrian

A few years back Henry “Hank” Nothhaft wrote the popular business book “Great Again” about how America can revitalize its innovation leadership and kick-start the economy again.

It captured the wisdom of his 35 years in California’s Silicon Valley where the serial entrepreneur fashioned a career of taking high-tech start-up companies and transforming them into highly touted, businesses. Nothhaft showed how small technological companies with manufacturing and engineering skills can survive, and even hit the winner’s circle if they take the right risks.

Born and raised in Sharon, Pa. in the western part of the state, several years ago, Nothhaft (pronounced note-off) saw retirement staring him in the eye. Not a sit around kind of guy, Nothhaft began researching opportunities that would continue his lifelong entrepreneurial quest.

“I landed on the thoroughbred industry– big rewards if you take the right risks, ” he explained in a telephone interview from his home in Saratoga, Calif.

“I took my usual analytical approach. I love the competitive, data driven field of racing and breeding. You acquire instant feedback and have a limited number of employees. I jumped in. I treated it as a start-up, a boot-strap operation that could be self-sustaining, generate cash flow and reinvesting the capital.”

Nothhaft attended a number of California Thoroughbred Owners seminars, mapped out a business plan, dove into tax implications and spent countless hours studying pedigrees and analyzing the best sires to mate with his mares.

“I bought books, videos, started reading Blood-Horse on how to evaluate prospective sires and mares. It was a lot of self-educating,” said Nothhaft, a graduate of the U. S. Naval Academy, and a former Marine officer who served in Vietnam.

“It hasn’t been a curve left to right to profitability, more a jagged edge. But all things considered it’s worked out very well.”

Nothhaft’s first taste of racing came at a Standardbred track near Columbus, Ohio as a teenager. He purchased his first thoroughbreds in California in 2006, operating under HnR Nothhaft Horse Racing. His business model was mostly breeding to race but when the economic meltdown hit in 2008, two years later he sold his horses and eventually relocated the business in Pennsylvania teaming up with Northview Stallion at Peach Bottom, Pa. Gradually he started adding some mares he could sell after their racing careers or keep to be bred.

Purchasing Euro Fillies
Nothhaft knew he couldn’t afford the top-tier yearlings at sales in the U. S., but understood he could obtain better value with racing fillies in Europe. Working with Darby Dan Farm sales and bloodstock director Carl McEntee, Nothhaft travelled to England where in 2013 he purchased Macaabra, who came to Santa Anita and scored in an allowance race in early 2014.

Pleased by the result, McEntee was sent back the following year and zeroed in on a pair of sharp fillies, but the more highly touted filly failed to pass the vet’s exam. The plan was when that filly passed the exam, Nothhaft would ship both over to Santa Anita.

In the meantime, McEntee’s brother Phil was training a small string on an English farm. The second filly was the quirky Irish-bred Living the Life, daughter of Footstepsinthesand. She became his pet project.

“Phil had time to work with Living the Life and eventually he figured her out mentally,” Nothhaft noted. “So we entered her in a handicap at Lingfield Park’s synthetic racecourse that she won and then turned in a nice performance there in a much tougher race finishing third.”

The owner and trainer entered the filly in the $247,000 All-Weather Fillies and Mares Championship Final staged on Good Friday in April 2014. With Adam Kirby in the irons, the 8-1 favorite Living the Life dominated from the get-go, cruising to a 3 1/2 length score. Nothhaft calls it his biggest thrill in racing.

“I love the racing atmosphere in England,” he explained. “To me that victory is what racing is all about. I’ve also been a big fan of Dick Francis’ horseracing mysteries and I felt like I was living one of his books that day. I met everyone and anyone in British racing. The day before we travelled to Newmarket to take in all its splendor. What an amazing adventure.”

Afterwards Living the Life was shipped to Santa Anita trainer Gary Mandella (son of Hall of Fame trainer Richard) who began mapping out a racing schedule. Under Mandella’s tutelage, she won the Presque Isle Downs Masters Stakes (Grade-2) twice but just missed a third score, when Living the Life ran second despite a compromising trip last September. A synthetic-track star, Living the Life whipped the boys last May in the All American Stakes (Grade-3) at Golden Gate Fields and finished runner-up in the Santa Margarita Stakes (Grade-1) on the dirt.

Pointed at the $1 Million Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint, the 6-year-old Irish-bred mare developed an ankle injury the week leading into the race. She was scratched and retired. Living the Life concluded her racing career with a 10-6-4 record from 35 starts and $1,028,394 in earnings. She joined Nothhaft’s broodmare band of seven at Darby Dan Farm in Kentucky.

Homebred BC Champion
Still, Nothhaft had another strong rooting interest in the BC Filly & Mare Sprint, his homebred Finest City. He purchased her dam Be Envied (by Lemon Drop Kid) for $37,000 at the Keeneland Sales while in foal to City Zip. Finest City was foaled at Northview-Pa.

Named for the city of San Diego, Finest City fought off a late challenge by Wavell Avenue (the 2015 winner), to win the 2016 Breeders’ Cup race by three-quarters of a length. She joined an elite group of three other Pennsylvania-breds (Alphabet Soup, Go for Wand, and Tikkanen) who have won a Breeders’ Cup race.

A pair of father-and-son tandems contributed to Finest City’s success. Wayne and Tyler Seltzer race her in the name of their Seltzer Thoroughbreds, while Eric and Ian Kruljac have collaborated on the 4-year old mare’s training. Finest City was the first horse that 28-year-old Ian trained under his own name.

When Living the Life came up lame Nothhaft gave his Breeders’ Cup tickets to Gary Mandella, a decision he still regrets.

“We have a racing room in our house and my family and I were glued to the big screen TV watching Finest City’s race” he recalled. “When she won we were excited beyond belief, literally jumping for joy. Within moments my cell exploded with texts and calls. I’ve never experienced anything like that.”

Finest City kicked off her 2017 campaign with an impressive victory in the $200,000 Santa Monica Stakes pulling away in the stretch to win by 3 3/4 lengths on January 21 at Santa Anita. That evening she took home the 2016 Eclipse Award as top female sprinter.

“She was a knockout from day one, athletic, well-balanced and somewhat precocious,” Nothhaft remembered. “One of the reasons Carl and I decided to sell her was we thought we were going to be able to get $150,000 for her to build up my breeding business. She was the first horse I bred who sold commercially at auction.

“We had some top-flight horsemen looking at her at Keeneland. But, the bidding just never took off. You could feel the air go out of the room. Later I found out that on x-rays at the auction it looked like there’s a cyst or OCD of some kind, shadows that showed up. It held the price down. She went for the reserve, $50,000. I never would have entered her in the sale, but kept her to race, as I did with (his homebred stakes winner) Mister Nofty for the same reason.”

Building Breeding Program
Nothhaft credits the PHBA awards program for the purchase of Silver Train that enabled the owner to move him to Northview-Pa. where he built a broodmare band to support the stallion. Finest City was one of the first colts produced.

Silver Train Looks Fit Enough to Win Another Sprint

Silver Train Northview Stallions PA

Then tragedy struck. In late December 2013, Nothhaft received a phone call that Silver Train had died from a swift attack of colic while traveling to quarantine in Brazil awaiting his return to the U.S. Even though he was accompanied by a veterinarian when he became ill, the 11-year old horse by Old Trieste died before reaching an equine hospital. Silver Train had just completed his second season of Southern Hemisphere stud duty.

The winner of four graded races including the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (Grade-1) and Metropolitan Mile (Grade-1), Silver Train moved to Northview-Pa. in September 2011, after being purchased by Nothhaft. Ranked among the nation’s leading young sires since his runners first appeared in 2010, He sired 14 stakes winners, six of them graded/group winners and two champions. From 2011-2013, his progeny earnings exceeded $3 million. His runners averaged an impressive 17 starts for their careers.

“Silver Train was all class, the consummate professional, ” said Nothhaft, the majority shareholder. “Given his proclivity for producing winners, we expected big things from Silver Train for years to come. With our expansive plans for him in 2014, his sudden passing was a real shock.”

Nothhaft’s strategy has been to move up the value chain with both mares and sires in order to address the high end of the market which has been good to strong for some time.

“The middle of the market commercially is hit or miss, and the low end commercial market is not viable from an economic point of view,” he noted. “As a result, I have retained my middle market bloodstock and am racing them, primarily in PA. Of my top of the market horses, I am selectively selling and retaining the rest for racing.”

Nothhaft’s primary stable is with Gary Mandella at Santa Anita and he keeps a string of runners at Parx with trainer Keith Nations, who had trained for the owner in northern California. Through 2016 HnR Nothhaft Horse Racing has career earnings of $2,058,285 with 34 wins, 33 seconds and 36 thirds.

One of his top runners is 3-year old Grand Prix who scored her first stakes victory in 2016. She is a Pa.-bred, a filly by Tale of the Cat, trained by Mandella.

“We’re hoping she continues to develop so we can ship her to the Masters at Presque Isle where I had some much success with Living the Life,” Nothhaft observed. “Her value has been significantly enhanced by Finest City’s Breeders’ Cup win.”

Breeding to Top Stallions
This year Nothhaft bred two of his mares to American Pharoah. Kindle is carrying a colt and graded stakes placed Halljoy, who he purchased in UK and raced in California, is expecting a filly.

“The plan is to sell the Kindle and retain the Halljoy to race,” he said. “We believe the Kindle could be a very commercial foal. This year Kindle and Living the Life will be bred to Pioneer of the Nile. We are moving to stress quality over quantity. I can’t think of anything better than to own a high-quality PA-bred running there. As the breeder and owner, the right PA-bred horse can be very exciting and profitable.”

Nothhaft believes Pennsylvania’s breeding program has weathered the storms of budget fights in Harrisburg that stopped its momentum after the economic meltdown of 2008/2009. He sees reasonable stability and improved breeding incentives.

“I am starting to increase my activity again in PA after moving resources to other states over the last few years,” he noted. ” The current program is one of the best if not the best in the U.S. The PHBA has become aggressive in promoting PA’s advantages. It takes a while to turn a large ship, but I see activity and enthusiasm starting to pick-up. Our industry is fueled on discretionary income, and the stock market is always a good barometer on how things are going to develop.”

Nothhaft is bullish on mid-Atlantic racing, pointing to Pennsylvania being in the early stages of a turnaround with new legislation and increased breeder awards, along with Frank Stronach’s strong commitment to Laurel Racetrack as well as Delaware Park’s being stabilized at a reasonable level.

“If nothing changes we could be at the beginning of a golden era for the Mid-Atlantic,” Nothhaft observed. “My view is one of guarded optimism and excitement going into the next few years.”

 

Finest City is Newest PA-Bred Breeders’ Cup Winner

City Envy (AKA Finest City) and Hank Nothhaft Keeneland November 2012

By Nikki Sherman

Originally published in PHBA February, 2017 Newsletter published in Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred Magazine

Photos HnR Nothhaft Media Library

 

Other than the Kentucky Derby, winning a Breeders’ Cup World Thoroughbred Championship race is the dream of every breeder in the United States. It often takes decades-if it happens at all-to reach that pinnacle, but for Henry “Hank” Nothhaft, it took just a few years.

“I have not been involved in horse racing very long, “ Nothhaft admits. “I became directly involved in a very limited way around 2008, with the idea to create a business I could run and enjoy while I was moving into retirement from my business career in the technology world.”

Nothhaft, who breeds and races under the name HnR Nothhaft Horseracing LLC, wanted to go through a hands-on learning experience in the Thoroughbred industry and was able to purchase the promising young stallion, Silver Train, in 2011. That November, he and agent Carl McEntee attended the Keeneland November mixed sale to look for mares that would cross well with the son of Old Trieste. There, they found a Lemon Drop Kid mare named Be Envied, who was in foal to the popular sprint stallion City Zip. Nothhaft purchased Be Envied for $37,000 and shipped her to Northview PA in Peach Bottom to foal. That foal was a lovely chestnut filly he decided to name City Envy.

The filly was entered in the 2012 Keeneland November sale as a weanling after colleagues convinced him that she should easily bring $150,000. However, early interest in City Envy, who Nothhaft had named before his decision to sell came about, fizzled out when on-site veterinary inspections discovered an existing OCD on X-rays. She just barely met her reserve of $50,000, selling for that price to Cobra Farm, who in turn pinhooked her at the Keeneland September Yearling Sale in 2013. Seltzer Thoroughbreds purchased the filly for $85,000 and the father-son team of Wayne and Tyler Seltzer decided to rename her Finest City after their hometown of San Diego.

“She was a knockout from day one” remembers Nothhaft. “Unfortunately, that’s one of the reasons I decided to sell her, as I thought we were going to be able get six figures for her and I was focused on building a broodmare band for Silver Train to race in Pennsylvania. She was one of the first two or three PA-BRED horses I bred and was the first horse I bred who sold commercially at auction.”

The Seltzers’ trainer Ian Kruljac clearly had great hopes for their new filly from the beginning, as Finest City made her career debut at the prestigious Del Mar summer meet in July of 2015. The filly finished a solid second behind eventual graded stakes winner Gloryzapper. Her next start would be a different story-Finest City ran off to an impressive 8 ½ length score in a $70,000 maiden special weight at Del Mar. After an unsuccessful stakes debut over Santa Anita’s downhill turf course in her next start, Finest City returned to the winner’s circle with an easy 3 ¼ length score in a $53,000 allowance at Del Mar.

Finest City competed against some of the top female sprinters on the West Coast throughout the winter of 2015-16, and by April she finally broke through becoming a stakes winner when she captured the $200,000 Great Lady M Stakes-G2 at Los Alamitos. That race earned Finest City a chance to compete in the Breeders’ Cup, where she nearly faced off against Nothhaft’s own multiple graded stakes winner, millionaire Living the Life (IRE).

Living the Life with Flavien Prat up

Living the Life (IRE) Flavian Prat up

“We originally had fairly elaborate plans to attend the Breeders’ Cup, but when Living the Life came up lame before the race, I canceled our reservations. I came to regret this decision,” Nothhaft admits. “So, my wife and I were glued to our TV watching the race. I must be honest, I thought Finest City could win, but was really more confident in a top-three finish. When she did win, we were cheering and literally jumping for joy. Within seconds, my cell phone exploded with texts and calls beyond anything we had ever experienced.”

On the first Saturday of November 2016, Finest City joined an elite group of just three other PA-Breds who have captured a Breeders’ Cup Race when she crossed the wire first in the $1,000,000 Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint G1, holding off defending champion Wavell Avenue by three-quarters of a length under heavy urging from Hall of Fame Jockey Mike Smith.

Those other Breeders’ Cup-winning PA-Breds are some of the most talented athletes to grace the Breeders’ Cup. Alphabet Soup won the 1996 Classic in a thrilling stretch battle with Louis Quatorze and Cigar. Go For Wand captured the 1989 Juvenile Fillies as part of a campaign that culminated in her being crowned that year’s Eclipse Award champion 2 year-old filly, and Tikkanen, wh set a couse record at Churchill Downs in the 1994 Breeders’ Cup turf.

Finest City enjoyed a short break following the biggest race of her life, but has since returned to Kruljac’s Santa Anita Barn. She is steadily working towards a 2017 campaign that would ideally give her the opportunity to defend her Breeders’ Cup title, this time in her owners’ hometown of San Diego at her favorite track, Del Mar.

Finest City 6

Finest City making her winning Breeders’ Cup move with Mike Smith up

She was also named a finalist for the 2016 Champion Female Sprinter, along with Haveyougoneaway and Paulasilverlining-both whom finished behind Finest City in the Breeders’ Cup.

Win or lose, nothing will compare to the thrill of winning a Breeders’ Cup race. Tyler Seltzer said it best when the NBC Sports camera crew caught up with him immediately following the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint. The excitement was overwhelming, and all he could think to say was an emphatic, “She’s pretty great.”