Danon Early, first foal o/o 2016 Eclipse Award Winner and Breeders’ Cup Champion Finest City by world leading sire Frankel, seeks his 2nd career victory in Race 7 at Chukyo Race Track Sunday afternoon June 5th. Finest City, a PABred, was bred by Hank Nothhaft via HnR Nothhaft Horseracing LLC is by City Zip o/o Be Envied by Lemond Drop Kid.
Danon Early has compiled a career record of 8 starts 1 Win 2 Show and 1 Place with $96,000 in career earnings. Danon Early made his first 7 starts on turf before switching to the dirt in a 1600 meter (~mile) effort and coming from the clouds to earn his first win.
Chukyo Race 7 is slated for 1800 meters (~1 1/8 mile) dirt, offering the winner a $60,000 purse. The field consists of a 12 horse field, including older horses, with Danon Early the 4th favorite on the Morning Line in his first start against winners. Norihiro Yokoyama retains the ride for Trainer Takayuki Yasuda. This will be Danon Early’s 3rd start with blinkers
Hank Nothhaft builds a top breeding program from scratch
BY LENNY SHULMAN
PHOTOS COURTESY OF HANK NOTHHAFT
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
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.
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.
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.”■
“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.” ”
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.”
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.
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 (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 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.”
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