Nothhaft ranks Finest City score in Breeders’ Cup among top achievements
Article Written by Tom Law
Published in Mid Atlantic Thoroughbred Magazine Dec, 2016
Breeders’ Cup Photos courtesy Racing Heart Photography
Photos from HnR Nothhaft Horseracing Library who holds rights to utilize on HnRRacing.com
Henry R “Hank” Nothhaft got involved with racing toward the tail end of a career in the high-technology industry knowing he’d need a challenge and something to feel passionate about as retirement loomed.
“I’d gotten into the horse racing business because I knew that being in high tech, that I’d retire, the inevitable cycle of life,” Nothhaft said. “I’m still very interested in it, but I don’t have the overwhelming passion that I had when I first got in it, so I was looking for something else to do. So approximately 10 years ago I got involved. ”
“I didn’t know anything to tell you the truth. I didn’t know how little I really knew. I thought I knew about it, but after a while I realized how naive I really was.” Nothhaft, a first generation American who grew up in Western Pennsylvania and runs his operation HnR Nothhaft Horseracing, admits he’s still got plenty to learn, but he also knows now what it feels like to breed a winner at the Breeders’ Cup World Championships. Nothhaft found that out Nov. 5 as Pennsylvania-bred Finest City upset the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint G1 at Santa Anita Park.
Ironically Nothhaft’s first Breeders’ Cup victory came in a race he was expected to be represented as an owner, with Living the Life (IRE), who missed the race due to injury. Nothhaft watched the Breeders’ Cup from his home in Saratoga CA, with his family, and Finest City’s three-quarter-length win over 2015 Filly and Mare Sprint winner Wavell Avenue factored heavily in a huge weekend for her breeder.
The day after Finest City’s victory, Nothhaft was on hand at Golden Gate Fields to see her 2 year old half-sister, the Pennsylvania-bred Tale of the Cat filly Grand Prix, break her maiden in her fourth start. Nothhaft relished those victories, along with several other on Breeders’ Cup weekend that bolstered his breeding program. “Given my horses and who I’m planning on breeding to, it couldn’t have been any better,” he said. “I have a Gio Ponti and a Gio Ponti won (the Sprint) with Drefong. I haves a Pioneer of the Nile and I’m considering him as the breeding choice for Living the Life and Kindle, another mare I own. He won (the Juvenile) with Classic Empire. I have a Tiznow colt on the ground and Tourist won (the Mile). I’m a City Zip maniac and Finest City won.
“So how could you have a better day than that, short of Living the Life not having won the race? And not to mention Navy beat Notre Dame for the 13th time in 90 years Saturday. How could you haves a better day than that?”
Henry R. “Hank” Nothhaft @Northview PA
The seedlings of Nothhaft’s memorable weekend were planted back in 2011, when he and bloodstock agent Carl McEntee worked the Keeneland November breeding stock sales in search of broodmare prospects. Nothhaft met McEntee, formerly of Ghost Ridge Farm and Northview PA in Pennsylvania and now with Darby Dan Farm in Kentucky, during the re-syndication of champion Smarty Jones. The two also worked on the purchase of Pennsylvania stallion Silver Train and were shopping for mares to breed to the son of Old Trieste when Be Envied went through the ring at Keeneland. “My goal was to support Silver Train,”
Nothhaft said. “I had a really strong belief in the Pennsylvania incentives, both the breeding and owners’ awards. I had a little bit of an emotional attachment to the State considering I was born there.” “I started to develop a broodmare band to support the sire. We set a budget, had criteria we were looking for and we were buying in foal mares at auctions. Considering a guy like me getting involved at such a late stage you’ve got to buy mares in foal if you’re going to accelerate your entry into the industry, unless you’re just writing blank checks and giving all your profits to somebody else. Having been a a high-tech entrepreneur I was thinking about building a business from scratch, putting capital in, doing a lot of boot-strapping of the business. That was my mentality.”
Nothhaft bought Be Envied for $37,000. She was sold in foal to City Zip and the resulting foal born at Northview PA in Peach Bottom in 2012 was Finest City. Understanding the realities of running his breeding program like any other business and looking to generate cash flow, Nothhaft entered the weanling City Zip filly, then named City Envy in the 2012 Keeneland November sale. “I’d named the horse so I wasn’t planning on selling, but after looking at the foals on one of my trips to Pennsylvania and some casual conversations, we said, “Let’s seriously consider selling this foal if we can get enoughmoney for it,” Nothhaft said. “Enough money would be over $100,000 for a weanling out of a mare we paid $37,000 for. She was vetted, she was beautiful, we moved her to Northview Maryland to do sales prep and everything was rolling. We hired Hunter Valley Farm, which is a high-end and reputable consignor. They’re great for a guy like me. We got her down to Kentucky, prep her and we’re all very optimistic. At the sale she’s getting a lot of looks and scopes. She was on fire.”
City Envy (now) Finest City and Hank Nothhaft Keeneland November Sale
Nothhaft, McEntee and Hunter Valley’s Fergus Galvin hoped the filly would bring as much as $150,000 after all the presale action, but were conservative in putting her reserve at $50,000. “When she sold I went in the room–this was the first horse I ever bred that I sold–and there was some bidding initially but it started slow; ran up in small increments,” Nothhaft said. “The last bid was $50,000 and she sold. I couldn’t understand it, Fergus couldn’t understand it, Carl couldn’t understand it. Well, we go back and it comes to our attention that we thought the X-rays were clean, but it turns out the last set taken weren’t completely clean. She had a small OCD issue, and selling as a weanling basically to pinhookers, that’s tough. The people that were looking at her were flunking her and moving on to somebody else, but we didn’t know it at the time.” Cobra Farm bought the filly, and resold her for $85,000 at the 2013 Keeneland September yearling sale to Seltzer Thoroughbreds, which celebrated her victory in the Filly and Mare Sprint with trainer Ian Kruljac.
Finest City with Mike Smith up makes winning Breeders’ Cup Move
Nothhaft bred Be Envied to Silver Train and she produced a filly, subsequently named Move in 2013. Nothhaft sent Be Envied to Tale of the Cat in 2013, the resulting foal being the winner Grand Prix, and Silver Train died after standing in the Southern Hemisphere in December 2013. Be Envied was bred to Tale of Ekati and later in the year was entered in the Keeneland November sale. She failed to meet her reserve on a final bid of $24,000, but was sold privately after going through the ring to representatives of breeders in India.
Grand Prix Wins Maiden with ease
Nothhaft said he doesn’t regret selling Finest City or Be Envied. “I race, maybe if I was only a breeder I would have second thoughts, but I know the racing risk, and how these animals are,” he said. “I’m so happy for these people and the success they had. They did all the right moves. During all of this I’ve been nothing but elated for the horse, the connections and everybody involved. They bought an animal that had some known issues at that time, but were willing to take the risk. On top of that you still had all the racing luck issues you deal with anyway. Plus I own the two half sisters so I’m ecstatic.”
Though he was the only winner, Nothhaft wasn’t the only Mid-Atlantic breeder at the Breeder’s Cup. Six horses bred in the region competed in the 13 races-four in Pennsylvania, one in Maryland and one in Virginia.
Finest City day old foal @Northview Stallion Station PA
Grand Prix Yearling
Grand Prix Weanling
Move by Silver Train out of Be Envied
Be Envied by Lemon Drop Kid