Great to see that Drayden van Dyke is back riding in SoCal. I wanted to post this short video to let Drayden know the positive impact that he has had on others. On May 30th, 2016, Drayden rode our horse Living the Life (IRE) to a win in the Grade 3 All American Stakes @GoldenGateFields. This was one of the best racing days and day of fun and fellowship for my family and friends. Thank you Drayden and welcome back.
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.”■
Racing Biz article by Frank Vespe regarding HnR’s Grand Prix plans for Charles Town Oaks. Frank does an excellent and accurate job of describing Grand Prix’s current status and plans.
by Frank Vespe
“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.
Race Video Video Link via Bloodhorse Magazine
Below is an excellent summary of the race that appeared in the Thoroughbred Daily News on Sept 2nd.
- 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:
“Garofalo Memorial: Grand Prix wire to wire
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.
The Paulick Report Coverage
“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”
Around the Ovals Penn National-New Start Stakes
By Linda Dougherty
Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred Magazine August, 2017
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.
Click on the link below to view photos PHBA Crystal Awards.
See the full list of Category Winners listed Below.
Full Gallery of Photos of the PHBA Awards, Click Link Below:
Hank Nothhaft owner of HnR Nothhaft Horseracing accepts Horse of the Year Award for HnR PABRED Finest City.
After an impressive outing at Santa Anita on May 11, 2017 in an open Allowance Race on the downhill turf course, HnR decided to ship her to Pennsylvania to take advantage of the lucrative PABRED Stakes program. Grand Prix, trained by Gary Mandella, arrived in good order in PA via Tex Sutton Horse Transport.
Based on her race fitness and positive conditioning at Delaware Park in Keith Nation’s Barn, we decided to run her the New Start Stakes, a 6 furlong sprint on the dirt for 3 year old PABRED fillies on June 3rd at Penn National in Grantville, Pa. The New Start Stakes was part of a 7 stakes program including the prestigious Pennsylvania Mile and the Governor’s Cup. Javier Castellano, 4 time Eclipse Award Winning jockey was booked to ride Grand Prix.
Click the above link for Racing Biz Article by Frank Vespe
Grand Prix broke sharply, maintained a position of stalking the leaders about a length off the lead before asserting herself at the 1/4 pole, maintaining her lead to the end of the race, besting undefeated, stakes winner and PA 2 yo filly of the year Rose Tree. We were not only gratified that she won impressively, but her splits and final times of 1:09.61 were certainly on the high end of our range of expectations. Grand Prix came out of the race 100% and will stay on the east coast. We are currently planning at least 3 more races before assessing our next move with her. Photos by B n D Photography.
Henry R “Hank” Nothhaft Photo Anne Litz Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred
This Article Originally appeared in the June 2014 Issue of Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred
It appears here in its’ entirety with Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred’s permission.
This article authored by Cindy Deubler
Click on Photos for larger image and captions. Supplemental videos added to this article.
Henry R “Hank” Nothhaft knows business. Studying spreadsheets, business plans and bottom lines is second nature to the Pennsylvania native who resides in California and made a career of taking hightech start-up companies in California’s Silicon Valley and nurturing them into multi-million-dollar businesses. Nothhaft applies his business acumen to Thoroughbred racing and breeding and has his plans in place. Locking onto the Pennsylvania breeding program, the affable and energetic CEO has leaped in with both feet, building a broodmare band he boards at Northview PA in Peach Bottom, investing in stallions, and creating a racing stable on both coasts. And he’s enjoying every minute of it.
“As a lifelong entrepreneur I knew I’d be bored out of my mind when I retired, so I thought ‘I’m going to have to start a business to run before retirement occurs,’ ” said Nothhaft, 70, during one of his trips to Pennsylvania over the winter to visit his growing broodmare band. “So I did an analytical approach. . . the competition, the data-driven aspects, the massive amounts of bloodlines. It had always appealed to me – it’s very competitive, instant feedback, outsourcing model, no employees, and so on. I put together a bunch of factors and I chose horse racing and breeding.”
Nothhaft (pronounced note-off) was born and raised in western Pennsylvania, near the Ohio border, and had no previous background with horses. His earliest introduction to live racing came at the Standardbred tracks near Columbus, Ohio,as a teenager. It was a fun diversion. Nothhaft went the military route early in his career – he graduated from the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., and was a Marine captain who served in Vietnam – and followed that with graduate school, which led to his introduction to the technology world, which led to sales for high-tech companies in the 1970s. “That’s very close to being an entrepreneur,” said Nothhaft, who is quick to admit that he always wants to succeed in anything he tries to do. “Next thing you know, I wanted to be more than the guy selling the stuff, I wanted to be more involved in the company and running it.”
Nothhaft’s passion for the American dream is boundless. The loss of business in recent decades in the Silicon Valley prompted him to write the highly acclaimed book Great Again, which came out in 2011 and explores solutions to return the United States to prominence as an innovation leader in the world. More than ready to speak out about the political climate in Pennsylvania and its adverse effect on the breeding industry when discussions come up about taking away incentives.
Photo Anne Litz Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred
“People who are serious about making significant investments in any industry, including Thoroughbreds, like to have a long-term horizon. And some predictability,” said Nothhaft. “So if the landscape is negative, you can take that into effect and decide whether you want to be in that business. If you have a positive environment and positive incentives, which Pennsylvania certainly has, but you think they are fleeting and may be taken away at any time, it’s very hard to make multimillion-dollar long-term investments in the industry.”
Nothhaft slips easily into using corporate-world terms when describing his Thoroughbred operation. “The goal is to breed to race and sell and get quality to the point where it becomes self-sustaining or grows from the reinvestment of the profit.” He owns approximately a dozen broodmares, has a stable in California with trainer Gary Mandella and another string at Parx Racing with trainer Keith Nations, who had been based in California. “My commitment to Pennsylvania racing is bolstered by Nations’ move to Parx as my exclusive [East Coast] trainer,” he said. As with any business plan, adjustments are often necessary. Nothhaft initially started purchasing horses in California in 2006, but when the financial market experienced its setback in 2008, he sold off all his California assets (although he still has one broodmare in production in the state) and decided to relocate to Pennsylvania because of the strength of the state-bred program. Nothhaft had already done a lot of homework. “In 2006 I started scratching the surface of studying pedigrees,” he recalled. “I wrote a business plan. This was part of that analysis I did. I went to a couple of seminars that the Thoroughbred Owners of California ran, learning the ins and outs of horse racing, what all the rules were, tax implications and record keeping, breeding. Then I plugged into The Blood-Horse [magazine]. I bought all the books in their library, from breeding theories totaking care of mares. Even though I don’t run a farm, I read all those books and watched all their videos on how to evaluate horse flesh.
“I spent a lot of time self-educating, and then I started meeting people in the business through these seminars and asking a lot of questions. I’ll be quite honest – some of the people I got involved with initially, I made poor choices. They weren’t terrible people, they just weren’t effective and not the right people for me. It’s good I got started to breed to race in California and we had the massive setback. It hit me in the face.”
Photo Hank Nothhaft Jr.
One solid connection Nothhaft made in California was Mandella, his trainer since 2010. Purchasing yearlings for Nothhaft under the HnR Nothhaft Horse Racing banner, Mandella and bloodstock agent Mary Knight selected the Indian Charlie filly Kindle at the Keeneland September Yearling sale in 2009 for the novice owner,
Kindle has overcome numerous setbacksto win or place in nine of 11 starts, take two stakes and hit the board in four graded races. She even pushed two-time Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint-G1 champion Mizdirection in last year’s Grade 2 Monrovia Stakes at Santa Anita, losing by a half-length. Destined for Nothhaft’s broodmare band, the 6-year-old once again went to the sidelines in January following a solid second in the 2014 Monrovia, her first start in nearly a year. Back in training, she is being prepared for the Royal Northern Stakes at Woodbine in late July. Should all go well, a trip to Parx for the Grade 3 Turf Monster in September is on the agenda before returning to California.
Another significant accomplishment for Nothhaft came through his association with bloodstock advisor Carl McEntee, formerly with Ghost Ridge Farm and Northview PA before leaving for Darby Dan in Kentucky. The two met in the fall of 2010, and McEntee has advised Nothhaft on purchases of broodmares and European-based fillies at the track. Among the broodmares was Sulis, a young winning daughter of Maria’s Mon who cost Nothhaft $105,000 at the 2012 Keeneland November sale while carrying her first foal. Three months later, Sulis delivered a filly by Harlan’s Holiday at Northview PA. In November, the filly was in the sales ring at Keeneland, selling for $250,000, the top price for a Pennsylvania bred weanling last year.
Photo Henry R “Hank” Nothhaft
“Carl has an uncanny eye and a willingness to have a discipline in bidding for horses when buying mares, yearlings or whatever,” said Nothhaft. “We set very specific goals and budgets. . . I go to all the auctions now that I’m retired – even beforeI was retired I went to most of them. Carl and I will sit there and agree on a price before we walk into the room. We haven’t chased the horses – we’ve passed on hundreds But because of our good planning and discipline, we ended up buying a horse like Sulis. A fantastic buy.
“Our goal has always been to buy the mare in foal, and have the first foal cover the purchase. And so far, other than a couple I kept myself that we could have sold for that, we’ve accomplished that.” Another rising star found by McEntee is the 4-year-old filly Living The Life (Ire), a daughter of Two Thousand Guineas-G1 winner Footstepsinthesand out of a Machiavellian mare. Purchased in February in England for $60,000 and transferred to the Newmarket training yard of McEntee’s brother Phil, Living The Life has since
won twice in four starts over the all-weather track at Lingfield.
Photo Becky McEntee
Her final start before shipping to California came in the $252,000 All-Weather Championship Fillies and Mares Condition Stakes April18, which she won easily. She will be pointed to the Del Mar meet this summer. “Part of my plan is to buy pedigreed fillies in the U.K. for value prices equal to their U.S. residual value and then try to step them up by succeeding on the track in the U.S.,” said Nothhaft. Two other fillies following that path are Macaabra (Ire), a 4-year-old daughter of the hot international sire Exceed And Excel out of a Sadler’s Wells mare, and the Irish-bred Halljoy (by Halling), Group 3 placed in England last year at 2. Macaabra joined the Mandella barn in 2013, and won an allowance race at Santa Anita this year. Halljoy shipped to the U.S. with Living The Life and is awaiting her first start in the HnR Nothhaft Horse Racing colors.
Photo Ian Headington
Those silks have special meaning to Nothhaft – they are Navy blue and gold. “I have the same relationship with the Naval Academy as I have with horses, I love it,” he said. And while Nothhaft’s wife Randie and sons Hank and Ryan and their families enjoy the horses and going to the track onthe West Coast, he said it “has turned into more of a business for them because it’s isolated from them.” But Nothhaft can’t help naming horses for family members. One of his most prized broodmares, somewhat to his wife’s chagrin, is Randie’s Legend. Nothhaft laughed when he said, “My wife said I could continue in horse racing as long as I
didn’t name another horse after her.”Another was named First Blue Angel (in honor of his father-in-law Capt. Roy Marlin “Butch” Voris, who founded the Navy’s Blue Angels flight demonstration squadron). And when he had two grandsons born a month apart this past year, Nothhaft named a California-bred yearling using their first names, Sawyer and Jett. “When Sawyer’s Jett goes to the track, we’re all going to go. I had named her something else, but when we had the two babies, I wanted to name a horse after them that they could see.” Nothhaft supports numerous stallions, but connected immediately with two. Smarty Jones was among the first horses he invested in when launching his Pennsylvania operation. Nothhaft not only owns shares of the Pennsylvania-bred star, but revealed “I have a poster of a movie they’ve done on Smarty Jones. I have a Moneigh by Smarty Jones. I’m a true fan of Smarty Jones.”
Photo Henry R “Hank” Nothhaft
He also had a special connection to Breeders’ Cup Sprint-G1 winner Silver Train. Standing a stallion in the region was an integral part of Nothhaft’s initial business plan and his analysis led him to look for a horse who could stand at a fee to suit the region, throw winners at distances up to a mile, and produce durable runners. Silver Train checked every box he moved to Pennsylvania for the 2012 season. The millionaire and A.P. Indy grandson was well received during his two years in the state and provided Nothhaft an opportunity to experiment. Soon after his arrival, Silver Train had a website and Facebook page.“I feel horse racing is an under-covered sport,” said Nothhaft. “So we had our own website, and we could put up any information on Silver Train that we wanted instantly. I had a blog, I wrote a lot of the articles that were there. We had a very active Facebook page. We had really core, true followers who were following the horse. I did a lot of that activity personally. So I learned that social media can be a powerful force.”
The use of social media remains important to Nothhaft, whose mare Kindle has a Facebook page (HnR’s Kindle) and a section on the Silver Train website.
Photo Henry R “Hank” Nothhaft
“It’s amazing when we put a note on there, the interest levels we’ve got on her,” Nothhaft said. “We’re trying to create value, and Kindle is a brand. She’s got a following. People want to know when she’s racing. I’m going to try to have some of my horses as the HnR brand. Hopefully that [Harlan’s Holiday] foal we sold will go to Saratoga. I hope they get a million dollars and I won’t have any regrets. I own Sulis,
and I sold the horse for good money, and it would help our brand. That’s how you have to look at it.”
The loss of Silver Train, who colicked while in quarantine in Brazil after standing in the Southern Hemisphere last fall, was an emotional blow to Nothhaft. And it was a blow from a business point of view. “I do insure myself, so it wasn’t a nearterm loss of capital, it was the business momentum,” said Nothhaft, who owned 87.5 percent of Silver Train. “It takes years to get this pipeline going and we had two years worth of getting him going and we were ready to press on the accelerator. It was a setback.”Nothhaft has moved away from stallion ownership.
Photo Anne Litz Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred
“As far as being an entrepreneur you have to assimilate that, reassess your plan, look at your strengths and weaknesses, see where you are and go forth,” he said. “I’ve definitely shifted the emphasis very heavily to high-quality mares, with some ownership of seasons as it makes sense. I found I really don’t need to own the stallion and it gives me more flexibility.” In addition to his interest in Smarty Jones, Nothhaft has shares in Northview PA stallions Jump Start and El Padrino. Nothhaft also uses stallions in Kentucky, this year sending mares to, among others, Scat Daddy, Gio Ponti, Tale of Ekati and Dunkirk. Nothhaft plans to keep his Silver Train offspring to race. He has five yearlings by the stallion, including a colt named Thepennsylvaniakid. The final Silver Train foal bred in his name, a filly out of the Unbridled’s Song mare Aloft born April 19, will be named Silber Zug, which is German for Silver Train. “I’m German by heritage. . . I generally don’t name horses that I might sell – so that one’s a keeper.” This year’s Pennsylvania foal crop for the breeder numbers nine, including a Scat Daddy filly out of Sulis, a Stormy Atlantic colt out of Randie’s Legend and a Ghostzapper colt out of Canary Diamond, one of Nothhaft’s more recent purchases, out of the Adena Springs consignment at Keeneland last November.
Photo Anne Litz Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred
“The thing I do like about horse racing, it’s a constant, instant feedback on your decisions and how you are doing,” said Nothhaft. “Between the racing stock, the ones in the pipeline, the broodmares, the foals and everything we’ve got going, there is constant feedback on your decisions and how well you are doing and how well you are managing your business.
“It’s just exciting, I just have a passion for it. Everything I have ever been involved with I’ve had a passion for it. I don’t have many regrets, if any, but one is I wish I would have gone into this business 20 or 30 years ago, because it’s a long lead-time business. To do it yourself, and bootstrap it, and create the success yourself takes time.”
Nothhaft appears to have found the formula of mixing business with pleasure. “Having a long-term plan, and setting achievable stretch goals, and managing that plan – that could work in any business. So you get into the horse-racing arena – I’m sure this is true of startups in technology too – some companies have very concise goals, very well thought out plans, they execute, they review their results, they adjust accordingly and so on. Those outfits sometimes can succeed without having the best technology. That certainly applies to the horse industry. “[The racing industry] has a variety – big companies to the individual participant. But at any level, the person who has the appropriate plan will be the most successful. I really believe this.”