“Sometimes it’s the breaks you don’t get that turn out to matter most.
Take the case of Grand Prix. Her breeder, Hank Nothhaft, took her to the Keeneland September Yearling Sale in 2015, expecting to leave with more money but one less horse than he brought.
He set her reserve at $150,000. Bidding topped out at $145,000. No sale.
The sophomore is slated to make her next start in the Grade 3, $300,000 Charles Town Oaks September 23. The seven-furlong fixture tops the track’s “Race for the Ribbon” card.
“If you get into racing and you have a little moxie and a little luck, these horses can take you anywhere,” Nothhaft said. “It’s amazing.”
Grand Prix began her career in the California-based barn of Gary Mandella. It took her four tries to break her maiden, finally scoring on the synthetic at Golden Gate. She followed that up with a game second – beaten just a nose – in the $50,000 Golden Gate Debutante Stakes.
But for the most part, her West Coast exertions didn’t yield much benefit – just the single win in her first nine starts.
Though Nothhaft, a retired tech entrepreneur, lives in Northern California, he’s a Pennsylvania-bred, as is Grand Prix. So he decided to send the filly back East; though Mandella remains the trainer of record, Grand Prix now operates out of Keith Nations’ Parx Racing barn.
“To be a breeder and an owner to run in Pennsylvania, it’s so much better than the negligible program we have in California,” Nothhaft said.
And Grand Prix has taken advantage of that rich program. She won the state-restricted New Start Stakes at Penn National on the Penn Mile undercard, followed up with a win and a second in allowance company, and last out scored by a length-and-a-half in the $100,000 Dr. Teresa Garofalo Memorial Stakes at Parx Racing, also a state-restricted event.
She has three wins and a second from four starts since coming east.
“All in all, she’s very consistent, fires each time, and seems to be improving,” her owner and breeder said.
In the Garofalo, Grand Prix took on older rivals, besting a field that included salty runners like the multiple stakes winners Power of Snunner and Discreet Senorita.
Still, Nothhaft acknowledges that the water figures to be deeper in the Oaks. The race has drawn 52 nominations. Among the expected runners is Shimmering Aspen, the Rodney Jenkins-trained filly who has dominated at sprint distances at Laurel Park this season.
“I think there’ll be some really nice fillies there,” Nothhaft admitted. “I think it’ll end up being a very interesting race. We would be very happy if she finished in the top three.”
To that end, Nothhaft and his trainers have developed what he called “a detailed plan” to help her acclimate to the surroundings at Charles Town, a place neither she nor Nothhaft has ever raced. She’ll ship in a few days ahead of the race and get a chance to gallop over the track a time or two prior to race day.
“If you’re going to go through all of the trouble of going, you want to make sure you do everything you can to give her a chance,” Nothhaft explained.
Nothhaft also intends to stick with jockey Jose Ferrer, who rode Grand Prix to victory in the Garofalo Memorial.
“First, he gave her a great ride that day,” Nothhaft said by way of explanation. “Second, he’s won (almost 4,200) races.”
For the longer term, Nothhaft hopes to race her through her five-year-old season. After that he intends to breed her. He has, he said, “no intention” of selling her despite her rising value.
Nothhaft has been involved in racing since 2008. He’s bred some good horses. He’s owned some good horses. He’s also slogged through all the ways that the sport can fool or foil you. He knows what sort of opportunity is there for Grand Prix.
“You really need these successes to get you over those valleys of despair,” he said. “For Grand Prix, this is our Breeders’ Cup.” ”
In his fourth start of 2017, Mister Nofty, a PA_BRED, returned to his 2016 form, winning an open 1 mile 70 yard Allowance Race at Penn National going wire to wire unchallenged. Given a field of seven that included no other early speed, Mister Nofty ran free to the lead under the guidance of his regular rider Brian Pedroza and maintained it during the duration of the race.
Trainer Keith Nation, looking for a turf race for Mister Nofty, entered this race with not turf options in sight. Mister Nofty continued his front running style and was able to overcome a reasonably talented field in this open allowance non winners other than 2. This is Mister Nofty’s first strong outing since sustaining minor leg and hoof injuries during the Presque Isle Mile last September.
Mister Nofty came out of this race 100% and will be looking to build on this race. HnR is looking at all options, dirt or turf.
Mister Nofty is an HnR homebred colt, foaled at Northview Stallions, by Scat Daddy out of Walking Path by Bernardini. Hank Nothhaft worked with bloodstock agent Carl McEntee of Darby Dan Farm, to develop the breeding plan that produced Mister Nofty. He trained at Webb Carroll before starting his racing career.
Grand Prix becomes Multiple Stakes Winner against older rivals at PA Day at the Races Stakes Card at PARX in Bensalem PA
Grand Prix found the fast track at Parx to her liking and won the Garofalo Memorial Stakes wire to wire unchallenged by her older rivals. This was her 3rd win in 4 starts since moving from CA to PA to take advantage of the PA_BRED incentive program. Grand Prix is now in the top 50 of approximately 6500 three year old fillies to race based on 2017 earnings. HnR Grand Prix connections are planning a start in a graded stakes next time out.
TERESA GAROFALO MEMORIAL S., $107,750, PRX, 9-2, (S),
3yo/up, f/m, 6f, 1:10.06, ft.
1–GRAND PRIX, 122, f, 3, Tale of the Cat–Be Envied (MSP,
$200,697), by Lemon Drop Kid. ($62,000 RNA Wlg ’14 KEENOV; $145,000 RNA Ylg ’15 KEESEP). O/B-HnR Nothhaft
Horse Racing, LLC (PA); T-Gary Mandella; J-Jose C. Ferrer.
$60,000. Lifetime Record: 13-4-4-2, $207,750. *1/2 to Finest City (City Zip), Ch. Female Sprinter, GISW, $1,256,394.
2–Mama Jones, 119, f, 4, Smarty Jones–Mohonour, by Honour and Glory. O-Someday Farm; B-Patricia L. Chapman (PA);
T-John C. Servis. $25,000.
3–Power of Snunner, 126, m, 7, Power by Far–Snunner, by Yarrow Brae. O/B-James M. Courtney (PA); T-Timothy C. Kreiser. $13,750.
Margins: 1HF, HD, HD. Odds: 2.90, 16.30, 2.40.
Also Ran: Discreet Senorita, Hey Braciole, Campeona, Anais.
Grand Prix | Equi-Photo
Grand Prix recorded her first career black-type win on the dirt in the New Start S. against state-bred foes at Penn National June 3 before finishing runner-up amongst allowance company going five panels on the grass here June 26. Victorious in the Penn slop July 22, she was given ample support to make it two straight while returning to stakes company.
On the engine from the start, the bay steadily increased her advantage through crisp fractions of :21.90 and :44.51, was clear while drifting out in the stretch and kept it going all the way home to best Mama Jones. Favored Discreet Senorita was fourth.
Be Envied, a half sister to GI Futurity S. winner Burning Roma (Rubiano), is also responsible for champion female sprinter and millionairess Finest City (City Zip), who earned her biggest career victory in the GI Breeders= Cup Filly and Mare Sprint. The
15-year-old mare produced a full-brother to Grand Prix in 2015, prior to aborting the following season.
The Daily Racing Form also published a race summary authored by Jim Dunleavy presented below:
Grand Prix, a 3-year-old daughter of Tale of the Cat, went wire to wire to defeat older Pennsylvania-bred fillies and mares in the $107,750 Teresa Garofalo Memorial Stakes.
Grand Prix, the 5-2 third choice in the betting, sprinted clear early in the six-furlong race, then was never seriously challenged while winning by 1 1/2 lengths. She paid $7.80 and was timed in 1:10.06. The race was run in the rain over a fast track.
Grand Prix is trained by Gary Mandella, was ridden by Jose Ferrer, and is owned by Hank Nothhaft. She has been based at Delaware Park and Parx since May.
She won the $101,000 New Start Stakes over statebred 3-year-old fillies at Penn National on the Penn Mile card June 3.
Mama Jones, a 16-1 shot, raced forwardly throughout and held second by a head over the late-running Power of Snunner. Discreet Senorita, the slight 2-1 favorite over Power of Snunner, was bumped and squeezed back at the start. She rallied along the inside into the stretch but was caught late for third by Power of Snunner, who finished a head in front of her.
Grand Prix, who was bred by her owner, is now 4 for 13 with earnings of $207,750.”
Evergreen Coolmore stalwart Tale of the Cat is the sire of progressive filly Grand Prix (3f Tale of the Cat x Be Envied, by Lemon Drop Kid), who landed another Black type victory when taking out the $107,750 Dr Teresa Garafalo Memorial Stakes at Parx Racing on Saturday .
A homebred for HnR Nothhaft Horseracing trained by Gary Mandella, Grand Prix raced clear to win the six furlong sprint by a length and a half.
Ultra-consistent, Grand Prix has the overall record of four wins and six placings from 13 starts with prizemoney topping $200,000.
Grand Prix is bred to be good as a half-sister to 2016 Champion US Female Sprinter and winner of the 2016 Grade I Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint Finest City.
Grand Prix is the third winner from stakes-placed Be Envied, a half-sister to Grade I winner Burning Roma.
“HnR Nothhaft Horse Racing’s Grand Prix was a sharp, front running winner of the $100,000 Dr. Teresa Garofalo Memorial Stakes for fillies and mares three and up. The 3 year-old daughter of Tale of the Cat broke sharply and was in front after the first sixteenth of a mile. She’d opened a clear lead after hitting the quarter in a quick 21.90 and from there, was never really threatened. She led by two entering the far turn, three approaching the top of the stretch and then was geared down late by winning jockey Jose Ferrer to win by an official margin of a length and a half. Trained by Gary Mandella, Grand Prix went off as third choice in the wagering at 5-2 and paid $7.80 to win. She covered the six furlongs in 1:10.06”
Finest City will represent her namesake city-San Diego-in the 2017 Breeders’ Championships at Del Mar on November 4th and then be presented for sale at the Fasig-Tipton NIght of the Stars Auction on November 6th. Given her breeding and on track accomplishments, Finest City will command strong interest and most certainly will be a 7 figure sale. Below is a link and copy of a Daily Racing Form Article summarizing this latest adventure.
Finest City half sisters Grand Prix and Move, also PA_Breds continue to compliment Finest City and vise versa. Grand Prix, already a stakes winner, and Move will be entered at PARX on Pennsylvania Day at the Races Sept 2nd.. Demonstrating the versatility of broodmare Be Envied, Grand Prix will be sprinting 6 furlongs on dirt, while Move will be going 1 1/16 mile on the turf. Grand Prix is by Tale of the Cat while Move is by Silver Train.
Finest City, the champion female sprinter of 2016, will be offered at this year’s Fasig-Tipton Kentucky fall selected mixed sale, two days after a planned start in Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint at Del Mar on Nov. 4.
The 5-year-old City Zip mare won last year’s edition of the Filly and Mare Sprint at Santa Anita en route to her Eclipse Award honors.
Finest City has won 5 of 19 starts for earnings of $1,256,394. In addition to her Breeders’ Cup score, she has won the Grade 2 Great Lady M. Stakes and Grade 2 Santa Monica Stakes, and her seven graded placings include four in Grade 1 company.
Ian Kruljac trains Finest City for owner Seltzer Thoroughbreds. Kruljac will consign the mare as agent for the owner at the Fasig-Tipton sale, which will take place Nov. 6 in Lexington, Ky.
“Finest City has been a dream to care for,” Kruljac said. “Her brilliance, durability, versatility, and personality have given us a lifetime of memories. She has battled the best mares of her generation on any surface and at any distance.”
Bred in Pennsylvania by HnR Nothhaft Horseracing, Finest City is out of the stakes-placed Lemon Drop Kid mare Be Envied, whose three foals to race are all winners, including stakes winner Grand Prix.
Her extended family includes Grade 1 winner Burning Roma and Grade 3 winner Vivano.
“We are blessed to have one more chapter to write in this year’s Breeders Cup Filly and Mare Sprint before she goes to auction and begins a well-deserved career as a broodmare, and passes on her brilliance for years to come,” Kruljac said.”
HnR’s Sulis Available Along with Sulis 17 at Keeneland November Sale
Fasig-Tipton’s Saratoga Yearling Sale is rightfully billed as one of the premier, if not the elite, U.S. yearling sale. Entrants are carefully selected and vetted for both outstanding physicals as well as pedigree.
From day one, our philosophy has been to try to breed horses that we cannot afford to buy. The opposite of course is to breed horses that we can’t afford not to sell.
Therefore, I was more than pleased to see HnR bred Sulis 16, a colt by Scat Daddy, appear as Hip 71 in the first book of this year’s Saratoga sale. This is the first HnR bred that made an appearance here.
Since HnR still owns Sulis by Maria’s Mon out of Medicine Woman by Dr. Blum, we have more than just pride on the line as to how Sulis 16 would be received by the discerning, global buyers at Saratoga. Sulis, in foal with a colt to Bodemeister, also produced a wonderful Lemon Drop Kid filly, Sulis 17, who may be her best foal yet, and that is saying something. Bodemeister, of course, sired Always Dreaming, winner of the 2017 Kentucky Derby.
HnR purchased Sulis in 2012 at the Keeneland November sale as Hip 1026 for $105,000. She was in foal to Harlan’s Holiday and produced her first foal, a beautiful filly @ Northview Farm in PA, a registered PA_BRED.
Since we breed to race and sell, we decided to offer Sulis 13 as Hip 509 at the Keeneland November, 2013 sale. With the premature and unfortunate demise of Harlan’s Holiday, there was added interest in the foal. When the hammer came down, Sulis 13 sold for a strong $250,000. This was the highest price for a PA_BRED filly at the Keeneland sale.
Being a strong fan of Scat Daddy, we bred Sulis to Scat Daddy in 2013. She produced another attractive filly, Sulis 13, also sold at Keeneland in the November 2014 sale. Once again, a Sulis foal registered a six-figure price at $130,000.
We took a calculated risk for our sire choice for 2014, and the verdict is still out on this decision. We decided to breed her to Gio Ponti, a fantastic racehorse, but at that time unproven sire. Unfortunately for us, and many others, Gio Ponti got off to a slow start, which made his 2015 foals unattractive from a commercial point of view. Therefore, we decided to keep Sulis 15, another filly, and named her That’s What We Do.
Fortunately, as Gio Ponti’s horses became three year olds they performed at a much better level producing both a Canadian Classic Winner as well as a Breeders’ Cup Champion. We trained That’s What We Do as a 2 yo at Webb Carroll’s Training Center. We now have her turned her out for further maturing, and will start on her in the fall in FL. We expect her to be a two-turn turf horse.
We made a much better sire decision in 2016, once again choosing Scat Daddy. HnR was rewarded with a handsome Scat Daddy colt. Given the commercial value of this foal, coupled with intensified demand based on Scat Daddy’s sudden passing, we again decided to sell. Sulis 16 became Hip 71 in the Keeneland 1st book and produced a sale price of $220,000. This was the colt, resold as a yearling as Hip 72, @ Saratoga for a premium price of $325,000. We are very pleased that the connections had a successful pin hook with this foal.
In 2016, HnR decided to breed to proven, classic quality and chose the Lemon Drop Kid. This mating resulted in a foal that is arguably Sulis’ best foal yet–a phenomenal Lemon Drop Kid filly, Sulis 17. We are very excited about this foal.
Based on our goal to continue to evolve our broodmare band to black type mares that raced for HnR Nothhaft Horse Racing, we have worked to implement this transition steadily over the last couple of years. Therefore we have decided to not only offer Sulis 17 at the Keeneland November 2017 sale but also to offer our wonderful mare Sulis. Anyone seeking a young mare who is a reliable producer of six figures knock out foals should check Sulis out. Anyone looking for one of the best Lemon Drop Kid weanlings available should be looking at Sulis 17. Interested, contact Carl McEntee @Darby Dan Farm (Carl@darbydan.com)
After beginning her career in California, HnR Nothhaft Horse Racing’s homebred Grand Prix made the first foray in the state of her birth a successful one as she triumphed in the $100,000 New Start Stakes, the first stakes on the Penn Mile undercard.
A half-sister to champion Finest City, also bred by Hank Nothhaft, Grand Prix was sent off as the second choice behind 2016 Pennsylvania-bred champion 2-year old filly Rose Tree. With Javier Castellano aboard for trainer Gary Mandella, Grand Prix stalked the early pace set by long-shot Risque’s Diamond through the opening quarter of the 6-furlong test.
While racing outside horses, the winner then took the lead on the turn and increased that lead to 2 lengths in mid-stretch. Castellano kept her mind on business to the wire and she won by a length over the rallying Rose Tree. The final time was 1:09.61.
“As I watched the race and the splits unfold 21.90, 44.61, 56.77 and saw her hold off a really nice filly like Rose Tree, she actually exceeded my already high expectations,” said Nothhaft, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur who races in California and in Pennsylvania, and is a strong supporter of the Pennsylvania breeding program. “My thoughts as she came across the finish line were one of pride and thinking how cool that she’s living up to her name- Grand Prix – as well as her big sister Finest City.”
Nothhaft, who stood the late stallion Silver Train at Northview PA, where Grand Prix was foaled, shipped the daughter of Tale of the Cat to Pennsylvania from California several weeks before the New Start Stakes to take advantage of the state’s incentive program . ” Grand Prix is a late foal [April 28) and is still maturing,” said Nothhaft.
“Also , she runs well on turf, dirt and Tapeta. Depending on her performance going forward I can shoot for the Presque Isle Downs Masters Stakes-G2 in September or fall back on the original plan to pursue the Pennsylvania-bred circuit.
Being from Sharon, Pa., the Masters is a special race for me, and maybe Grand Prix will get me back there for the fourth year in a row.” Living The Life (IRE), a multiple graded stakes winner and millionaire campaigned by Nothhaft, won the Masters in 2014 and ’15 and finished second in 2016. Grand Prix, out of the Lemon Drop Kid mare Be Envied, earned S60,000 for the New Start and sub subsequently finished second in a June 26 allowance at Penn National against older mares to boost her career bankroll to $126,510.
The Pennsylvania Horse Breeders Association (PHBA) hosted Its’ 38th Annual Iroquois Awards Banquet on June 9 at The Hershey Hotel. PHBA members, the board of directors, and top Pennsylvania breeders and owners were present for a great night of dinner, cocktails, and conversation.
Brian Sanfratello, Executive Director of the PHBA, served as Master of Ceremonies for the gala evening. Roger Legg PHBA President offered his greetings and welcome to the assembled group, while the Honorable Russell Redding, Secretary of Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture provided insightful comments on the current status and support by PA for the thoroughbred industry.
Henry “Hank” Nothhaft provided the Keynote address describing his journey to breeding Finest City, one of four, and the first PABRED Breeders’ Cup Champion in 24 years, and Eclipse Award Winner as Best Female Sprinter.
Click on the link below for the full script of Hank Nothhaft Keynote.
Finest City Moves to take Decisive Lead in Breeders’ Cup F & M Sprint
PHBA AWARD BANQUET
JUNE 9, 2017
Acknowledgements/Brian/Roger/Board/Guests/fellow PA Breeders/honor to speak. Topic=Story how Finest City came to be PABRED Breeders Cup winner and ultimately Eclipse Award Winner as best female sprinter. One main takeaway is without the PHBA Breeder fund incentives there would not have been a Finest City.
Before I present “My Finest City” story, I want to highlight my strange connection to the first PABRED Breeders Cup Winner-Go For Wand. During my Marine Corps tour in Vietnam, 1968-1969, approximately two decades before Go For Wand’s 1989 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies win, I met and worked closely with a young (we both were young :)-) Marine Lieutenant, Bret Lunger, who went on to become one of the first American Drivers in Formula 1 auto racing.
Fast forward to 1984 and the creation of the annualBreeders’ Cup World Championships. Not surprisingly top breeders like Christiana Stables were soon participating and producing winners. Go For Wand not only won the Breeders Cup Championship in 1989, but also like Finest City, won an Eclipse Award for Best 2 year old Filly. The connection between Go For Wand and Finest City is that Bret Lunger’s mother Jane Dupont Lunger owned Christiana Stables and bred Go For Wand. So there is definitely a strange coincidence and a bit of karma between PA’s 1st and 4th Breeders Cup Champion Fillies.
Saturday November 5th Santa Anita Park, the Great Race Place, in the shadow of the San Gabriel Mountains, the hallowed grounds that hosted the likes of Sea Biscuit, John Henry, Zenyatta to American Pharoah, 72,811 Fans on hand, the largest crowd to attend a Breeders Cup since introduction of the two day format— cheered on as Finest City is about to go against 12 competitors— challenging to win the Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint Grade 1 world championship including Wavell Avenue the previous year’s champ. Not the favorite, but with Money Mike Smith, up in a wide open race, Finest City is getting some respect and is sitting at 4/1 to 5/1 odds.
Glued to our big screen TV, pacing nervously back and forth at home in Saratoga CA, reflecting on, not only the strange week leading up to the race, but also the fact we were not at Santa Anita, which is basically our home track, and the improbability of possibly being the Breeder of a Breeders’ Cup Champ, and that Champ if she does succeed will be a PABRED, 1st in 24 years and 4th in History.
Why weren’t we at the race? Besides Finest City, we actually had another Mare in the race as owner and nominator (explain nominator)-Living the Life-3 times Graded Stakes Winner-including two Grade 2’s Master Stakes wins, and a Grade 3 Win over the males in the All American Stakes. She was Grade 1 placed on dirt, and had over 1 million $$ in her bank account. As a connection to two runners in a 13 horse field we had made elaborate plans to attend the race.
Devastatingly, in her last prep workout, LTL came up lame and could not participate. In a knee jerk reaction to this disappointment I gave away our tickets and canceled our travel package. Twenty-four hours later, and to this day, I regretted my decision, but it was too late to go back.
Now the rest of the story.Born in Sharon PA, a son of German immigrants with no connection to horse racing,I got involved in thoroughbred breeding and racing relatively late in life, hopefully not too late, in my early 60’s. I’m hoping the old adage that horsemen live longer than the general population —because they are waiting for the next big horse to come along—–is true.
I spent the majority of my business career breathing life into pre revenue, high tech start-up companies— generally taking them to positive exits after 4 to 6 years of compulsive commitment. Either I became an adrenaline junky from this lifetime pursuit— or I was an adrenaline junky in the first place, and this was the cure for my addiction.
Reflecting on a future, that no longer involved running another upstart, entrepreneurial venture, I decided that I needed to create a glide path to something I could create myself that would fulfill this need. I continued my business career until a couple years ago while launching my horse racing business in parallel. The last 18-24 months I have been full time on my thoroughbred business.
After some analysis of my likes and dislikes, I decided to put together a plan to breed and race thoroughbreds.
“Feel Free to laugh.”
It was a good thing that I didn’t realize how little I really knew about “The Game” or I likely would have never started down this road. Over the years, I was a casual thoroughbred horse racing fan who really enjoyed attending live racing a couple of times a year mainly Bay Meadows and occasionally Del Mar.
Plus, during most of my business career I visited the United Kingdom frequently. I was an avid reader of Dick Francis novels, an ex-jump jockey, whose popular crime mysteries tied to the inner workings of British horse racing. I became somewhat of an anglophile and attended races in the U.K. ,almost as a ritual during most of my trips.
No doubt I read one too many Dick Francis novels because it gave me a romanticized view of the horse business and being an owner.
As I took my first steps, one thing in my favor was decades of entrepreneurial experience bootstraping companies after receiving initial tranches of seed capital.Armed with unabashed enthusiasm and confidence—-only outweighed by my naiveté, ——-I started my quest for success in a completely new field of endeavor, far from the technology world.
Attending some Owner seminars sponsored by TOC in CA, auctions, visiting farms and meeting a few folks involved in the then vibrant Nor Cal horse racing scene centered on Bay Meadows and Golden Gate Fields, I jumped in.
My goal was to run successfully at the tracks in Northern CA, eventually with horses bred by myself. I targeted claiming level races and claimed a few horses as well as buying some yearlings at auction for modest sums.
On the business side, the attraction I saw in the thoroughbred business was an opportunity to create a business with no employees or partners, through outsourcing and self funding; lots of analytics and data, intense competition; mobile assets; most deals done on a handshake; and instant gratification of the racing. During this time I became a voracious reader and student of every book, magazine, newsletter, video and TV program that I could digest which is ongoing.
And as seemingly=== endlessly====and ==== unpredictable=== the horse business is, I always have an updated plan so I am managing against predefined expectations, knowing full well that it will have to be adapted as reality unfolds.
And after all of that, then I fell in love with the horses, whose stewardship became my top priority.That was it. Thoroughbreds became my new compulsion!
Off and running, I got into the business just in time for the 2008/2009 financial meltdown that impacted our industry so savagely. What many, if not most, in our business viewed as a significant setback or worse, was a blessing in disguise for me.
I was going through a rapid learning process via the school of hard nocks via trial and error. Especially errors. My first efforts were less than successful.
Relief was about to arrive from an unexpected source.Given my years as an entrepreneur, I recognized the financial tsunami that “gob smacked” the entire world financial structure as the opportunity for a full stop, and a restart, with a new plan. Failure in Silicon Valley is not vilified, but considered a right of passage, so I didn’t find this initial setback as something out of the ordinary. So a “restart” is what I did.
With frenetic energy and focus, I found homes for my entire stable with the exception of a couple mares bothwhich I retain to this day.The biggest thing I learned from this initial foray was “There is no such thing as a cheap horse.” Upkeep is relatively the same, so head up market as high and as fast as possible. The biggest thing I accomplished was setting the cornerstone for a foundation of able, trusted advisors, which I continue to rely on and grow to this day. And finally, my horse named Danger, a 16:1 long shot, placed 2nd in the Cavonnier Juvenile Stakes in 2008. That put the hook in very deep. I was so excited that I remember little of the 3 hour drive home from Santa Rosa CA except the overwhelming feeling of euphoria.
Armed with real world experience, what to do next? The racing fabric in CA was ruptured. Bay Meadows our wonderful local track shut down. Breeding and racing horses in CA and at least breaking even financially was a dream of the past.
During this transition I broadened my horizons. I attended the Kentucky Derby & Oaks, the Preakness and toured several breeding farms in KY including Winstar Farms. I remember specifically visiting Tiznow, an icon to me, from the famous Winning one for America Breeders’ Cup Classic Win. I thought, “Wow, wouldn’t it be cool to breed to some of these top sires”. I also went to the Breeders’ Cup races several times at Santa Anita.
The totality of these experiences raised my aspirations as to what might be possible. My mindset went from breeding claimers to breeding horses that I couldn’t afford to buy.
Searching for a better venue to relaunch HnR, I met Carl McEntee, then of Ghost Ridge Farm in late 2010. Carl was attempting to re-syndicate Smarty Jones. Even a newby like me knew about PENNSYLVANIA hero Smarty Jones, and the idea of being a Smarty Jones’ season holder was exciting, and led me to investigate the racing landscape in PA for breeders an
I found the PHBA program to be a major incentive to become involved in PA. It looked like Utopia compared to CA. And being originally from PA was the icing on the cake.Doing the deal for Smarty Jones to move from KY to PA took a lot of time and was complicated. It gave me a chance to get to know Carl and his boundless energy and optimism.
Frankly, I never thought Carl would pull it off. I likened it to what we call a “cram down round” in the venture capital world, but he persevered and we bred a mare to Smarty Jones in 2011 and produced our first PABRED, Smarty’s Legend in 2012.
Later that year, Carl moved to Northview Stallion Station in Peach Bottom, bringing Smarty Jones, Jump Start and E Dubai with him. I came out to visit several times to evaluate the facilities and discuss various opportunities in PA. Our strategy expanded to include breeding to sell, in order to diversify and balance the risk of racing.
One of these trips took place the week before the 2011 Preakness. Animal Kingdom two weeks from winning the Kentucky Derby, was deep in preparation for the Preakness at Fair Hill Training Center. Through a mutual friend, Carl and I were told we could come by and see Animal Kingdom in his stall. The weather turned sour and a strong spring storm with a bit of thunder spooked the horses. We waited patiently to see the big guy, but in the end we weren’t granted an audience.
During the long wait in the car, Carl and I discussed a plan and economics required to buy a proven sire, move him to PA and support him with an appropriate broodmare band. I am almost certain, without that chance thunderstorm waiting to see Animal Kingdom, hatching a plan to buy a sire for PA would never have materialized. It was pretty spontaneous.
After fleshing out a business plan to support the PA Sire Plan, Carl and I identified a short list of sires that met our criteria in terms of bloodlines, likelihood of availability, and price. Our initial target was Henny Hughes. At one point we thought we had a deal to buy him, but it didn’t materialize. We moved to Silver Train and couldn’t get a deal done and so on. The list was not very long after that. It didn’t look good. Then a major downdraft occurred in the stock market. The 2008/2009 financial collapse was still an open sore among investors. A radio interview with Tom Ludt Chairman of the Breeders’ Cup regarding the flight of discretionary money encouraged me to reapproach the Silver Train syndicate. This time the deal was consummated quickly at a price that met our budgetary constraints.
With Silver Train acquired, we put together a budget to acquire mares to support his breeding program. We were confident Silver Train would be very popular the first two years standing in PA so our efforts were multi-year, aimed at supporting him in the critical third year.
Our acquisition program included buying mares in foal, racing prospects, and claiming mares that were still racing. Our Golden Gate Fields based trainer, Keith Nations move to PARX buoyed our confidence in our program. He was a trusted ally we could rely on to train and claim horses.
Carl and I did extensive analysis for the 2011 Keeneland November Breeding stock sale. The plan was to purchase up to 5 broodmares taking advantage of depressed prices to score some bargains. Besides pedigree, physical compatibility, race record-some black type highly preferred, and youth, our goal was to recover the purchase price of the mare from sale of the first foal and then breed the mare back to Silver Train.
After creating a list of suspects, we spent days walking the grounds and bidding on mares that we believed met our criteria. We lost out on a number of our candidates, but bought 3 mares including Be Envied.
Our thoughts were— we must be geniuses—-or missing something—- because we purchased this beautifully pedigreed 9 year old daughter of the Lemon Drop Kid in foal to emerging leading sire City Zip for $37,000, Though City Zip stood for a modest $10,000 in 2010, he was on the rise and his precocious capabilities were documented. Be Envied had a good race record, black type and was ½ to Grade 1 winner Burning Roma with lot’s of black type on the rest of the page.
The next morning, Be Envied was on her way to Northview Stallion Station. She settled in nicely and produced a beautiful light chestnut filly on March 28, 2012.New to the commercial auction market, I set off to name my foals, giving little thought to whether they would be sold.
Everyone who looked at Be Envied 12 thought she was a knockout weanling. I started thinking about racing her, having bred only a handful of horses in CA, none of which were commercial. Given the name of the sire and the mare, I registered her with the Jockey Club as City Envy.
Time passed quickly, and the raves continued. By late summer, 2012, Carl was convinced that we could hit a homerun by selling City Envy as a weanling and perhaps get 5 times what we paid for the mare in utero. My entrepreneurial background kicked in, and I saw this as a potential path to enhance our cash flow.
We x-rayed her and the results were clean. We started early sales prep on her at Northview MD and then consigned her to Fergas Galvin’s Hunter Valley Team for final sales preparation. She was very live in the run up to sales day with a huge number of looks and vetting. Fergas who is rightfully very conservative even caught the fever.
Though we set the reserve at $50,000, we expected her to bring up to $150,000. When the actual bidding started, it was weak and ended exactly on her reserve of $50,000, so she sold.We had a debrief after the auction to try to understand how we could be so wrong. It turned out, she was not vetting clean due to a cyst in her stifle.
Unfortunately, the cyst was not detected in our initial x-rays, or we wouldn’t have entered her in the sale. We definitely had mixed emotions after the sale.Cobra Racing purchased City Envy. We thought they would keep her to race. Instead they sold her at the 2013 yearling sale to Seltzer Thoroughbreds for $85,000.
Through a family gift, a 3rd generation horseman, but brand new trainer, aged 28, Ian Kruljac, took on Finest City, renamed for San Diego, home base of Seltzer. How new? Through the end of 2016, Ian has run a total of 6 horses under his stable name, with virtually all the victories coming from Finest City.
The good news is Ian had plenty of one on one time to spend on quirky Finest City’s and some of her minor physical maladies. As I waited for Breeders’ Cup announcer Larry Colmus to call the race, I reflected on what Ian told me about Finest City.I quote.“I would just add she’s on the small side, but has the biggest heart. She will hold her own/ compete against any other. She holds herself with so much confidence that’s not to be messed with. I truly stay out of her way mentally. She pulls me around the walking ring directs where she wants to go. Workouts are the same; she’s never asked. Very few have her will. “
I liked our chances.
I wasn’t disappointed.
Brief description of the race.
Pandemonium followed. My Cellphone exploded with calls and texts as my wife and I stopped cheering and jumping up and down. The first horse that I bred and sold at auction had just won a Breeders’ Cup Championship.!!
Finest City joined Go For Wand, Alphabet Soup and Tikkanen as the 4 Breeders Cup Champions from PA during the Breeders’ Cup 34 year history.