The Breeders’ Cup World Championships next week at Santa Anita Park will bring together a diverse group of owners, all seeking to claim one or more of the 13 Grade 1 races that confer industry-wide prestige and can lead to year-end Eclipse Awards and lucrative stud deals down the road.
This year’s event on Nov. 4-5 features many of horse racing’s most successful owners, with long histories of winning Breeders’ Cup races, along with quite a few interesting newcomers intent on making an impact on the game’s biggest stage.
Check out the backstories of a few of the familiar owners as well as a trio of newcomers:
The Coolmore empire has been a constant presence in American horse racing and breeding for more than 40 years. Headquartered in Ireland, the storied stud farm grabbed the spotlight on these shores in the mid-1990s, when British bookmaker Michael Tabor bought eventual 1995 Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes winner Thunder Gulch. Coolmore Stud’s bloodstock agent advised Tabor on the purchase, and Coolmore owner John Magnier subsequently purchased part of the horse and stood him at Coolmore’s Ashford Stud in Central Kentucky.
Coolmore’s involvement in the Breeders’ Cup goes back to its beginning, when Royal Heroine won the inaugural Mile in 1984 wearing the silks of associate Robert Sangster, and in 1990 the Classic Ireland Stable of John Magnier, Sangster, trainer Vincent O’Brien, and other partners won another Mile with Royal Academy. But a re-organized Coolmore group picked up the pace in a big way from the late 1990s onward, sending hordes of horses to the World Championships usually under partnerships officially consisting of Susan Magnier (wife of John, daughter of Vincent O’Brien), Tabor, and, starting in the mid-2000s, fellow bookmaker Derrick Smith. This contemporary Coolmore entity has collected 10 Breeders’ Cup wins since Johannesburg’s Juvenile in 2001, and the group also purchased a 50 percent share in Shanghai Bobby several days before he captured the 2012 Juvenile.
This year, Coolmore’s contingent is highlighted by the filly Found, who won the Breeders’ Cup Turf last year, took down the prestigious Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe this year, and will attempt a second straight win in the Longines Turf on Nov. 5. Highland Reel, second in the Arc, and the filly Alice Springs, a very good second in last year’s Juvenile Fillies Turf, will be major contenders in this year’s Longines Turf and Mile, respectively. All three horses are sired by Coolmore Stud’s leading international stallion Galileo.
Jerry and Ann Moss had two Breeders’ Cup starters in the inaugural 1984 running at Hollywood Park: Night Mover, who finished eighth in the Mile; and their first major stakes winner, Fighting Fit, third in the Sprint. Since then, the Mosses have returned to the Breeders’ Cup with horses such as Sardula (second in the 1993 Juvenile Fillies) and Tiago (third in the 2008 Classic). Their 2005 longshot Kentucky Derby winner, Giacomo, ran fourth in the 2006 Classic.
Of course, the Mosses will always be associated with their incomparable Hall of Famer Zenyatta, who provided some of the most cherished Breeders’ Cup moments in history for three straight years. The filly easily won the 2008 Ladies’ Classic (Distaff), next defeated males in the 2009 Classic (both at Santa Anita), and then, in perhaps the century’s most thrilling race to date, came up a head short to Blame in the 2010 Classic at Churchill Downs, halting her unbeaten streak at 19.
This year, Jerry and Ann Moss will send 2-year-old Gormley, dominant winner of the FrontRunner Stakes, to the Sentient Jet Juvenile. The Malibu Moon colt is trained by John Shirreffs, who also trained Zenyatta.
A native of the Bronx, N.Y., Jerry Moss co-founded A&M Records with trumpeter and bandleader Herb Alpert in 1962. They enjoyed early success with the album “Whipped Cream & Other Delights,” by Herb Alpert’s Tijuana Brass, and A&M grew to become one of the major record labels of the late 20th century, including among its artists The Carpenters, Cat Stevens, Peter Frampton, Bryan Adams, Janet Jackson, and The Police. Zenyatta is named after The Police’s third album, “Zenyatta Mondatta.” Moss and Alpert were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2006.
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Film producer and executive Gary Barber tallied his first Breeders’ Cup win last year when Catch a Glimpse, owned in partnership with Michael James Ambler and Windways Farm, took the Juvenile Fillies Turf at Keeneland. Twice before that, horses owned by Barber posted near-misses in Breeders’ Cup events: Laugh Track (2nd, 2013 Sprint, co-owned with WinStar Farm); and Cost of Freedom (3rd in a photo, 2009 Sprint, co-owned with his brother Cecil).
This year, Barber is loaded for bear in the Breeders’ Cup, with five starters entered either as sole owner or with partners. They are: the aforementioned Catch a Glimpse in the Filly and Mare Turf; Ballerina Stakes winner Haveyougoneaway in the Filly and Mare Sprint; Tourist in the Mile; Channel Maker for the Juvenile Turf; and sharp Dixiana Bourbon Stakes winner Keep Quiet, also in the Juvenile Turf. The first four are owned by Barber with various partners, and Keep Quiet is owned solely by Barber.
Barber, a native of South Africa, is currently the CEO of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc. He is the co-founder of the production company Spyglass, Inc., which broke big with the box-office smash “The Sixth Sense” in 1999. Since then, Spyglass has made such pictures as “The Legend of Zorro” and J.J. Abrams’ 2009 reboot of “Star Trek.” Spyglass also produced 2003’s critically acclaimed “Seabiscuit,” one of the best movies made about horse racing.
Ramona Bass has been deeply involved in the Thoroughbred industry for years, but to date has had only one Breeders’ Cup starter – 2012 Filly and Mare Sprint fifth-place finisher Rumor, co-owned with Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider. This year, she is pointing the late-blooming Avenge to the Filly and Mare Turf.
California-based Avenge has won three consecutive starts on the grass as a 4-year-old this fall, including the John C. Mabee Stakes and the Rodeo Drive Stakes. The War Front filly is trained by Hall of Famer Richard Mandella, who has won eight Breeders’ Cup races.
A resident of Fort Worth, Texas, Ramona Bass is one of the state’s leading philanthropists along with her husband, Lee. She is a leading wildlife conservationist who has contributed millions to the Fort Worth Zoo and many other organizations. Bass is the daughter of the late Arthur Seeligson Jr., owner of 1975 Belmont Stakes winner Avatar.
Iowa-based Albaugh Family Stable returns to the Breeders’ Cup this year after a successful debut in 2015, and boasts one of the top buzz horses of the event in Sentient Jet Juvenile contender Not This Time. Last year, Brody’s Cause ran third in the Juvenile for Dennis Albaugh’s family operation, which is managed by his son-in-law, Jason Loutsch. Brody’s Cause would go on to win the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes this year and run in the Kentucky Derby.
Albaugh’s Unbridled Outlaw also ran in the 2015 Juvenile, and as an original member of the Jerry Crawford’s Iowa-based Donegal Racing partnership he had already sent Paddy O’Prado to the Breeders’ Cup Classic in 2010. Not This Time enters the 2016 Juvenile off of two straight open-length wins, the most recent coming in the Iroqouis Stakes at Churchill Downs.
Dennis Albaugh is the founder and CEO of the agrochemical company Albaugh LLC. A longtime fan of the sport, he jumped into ownership in the mid-2000s and enjoyed success right off the bat with stakes-winning sprinter Miss Macy Sue. Albaugh also owns a famous collection of vintage Chevrolet convertibles.
Susan Chu made a memorable first impression on the national scene as an owner in 2013, when her Triple Crown contender Super Ninety Nine won the Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park. Super Ninety Nine missed the Derby, but one year later, she brought a horse to the Run for the Roses in Sunland Derby winner Chitu.
Charles Chu jumped into racing following his wife’s early success, and now, his very first horse is slated to contest the TwinSpires Breeders’ Cup Sprint. Drefong, purchased by Susan Chu’s Tanma Corp. as a yearling in 2014 for $450,000, has won four consecutive races since losing his first start as a juvenile. The Gio Ponti colt enters the Sprint off of a blowout win in the Grade 1 King’s Bishop Stakes at Saratoga, and races in the sky blue and white silks of Charles’s Baoma Corp. Bob Baffert has trained all three of the Chus’ stakes winners.
Charles Chu owns a company that manufactures global positioning systems (GPS). The Chus are natives of Taiwan and live in Massachusetts. They became attracted to horse racing while following I’ll Have Another’s march to glory in the 2012 Kentucky Derby and Preakness.
Gayle Benson, wife of New Orleans Saints and New Orleans Pelicans owner Tom Benson, burst on the scene earlier this year with two Kentucky Derby starters, Tom’s Ready and Mo Tom. Both horses took the Fair Grounds express to Louisville, as Mo Tom won the Lecomte Stakes and Tom’s Ready finished second in the Louisiana Derby.
Mo Tom won the Ohio Derby after starting in the Kentucky Derby, but Tom’s Ready has found new life as a sprinter. The Dallas Stewart trainee won the Woody Stephens Stakes in June and recently took the Ack Ack Handicap at Churchill Downs in preparation for a planned start in the TwinSpires Breeders’ Cup Sprint.
Gayle Benson had a long career in interior design before switching her focus to philanthropy. The Bensons are major donors to various institutions in New Orleans, and established charities following Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the BP oil spill in 2010 that raised more than $3 million to assist victims and aid in recovery efforts. Gayle Benson launched G M B Racing in 2014.
David Wilkenfeld started Pick Six Racing to make the vault from successful handicapper and gambler to owner. He has done just that, thanks in large part to the efforts of a hard-trying gelding who has returned to top form at age 6 — Vyjack.
Wilkenfeld, who owns the PromGirl online retail website, purchased Vyjack for $100,000 as a 2-year-old and named him after his parents, Vivienne and Jack. Vyjack emerged on the Triple Crown trail during winter 2013 by winning three stakes races in New York, but finished 18th in that year’s Kentucky Derby. This year, Vyjack has won two of four starts, including the City of Hope Mile Stakes in October. Vyjack drew the first post position in the Las Vegas Dirt Mile, and will be Wilkenfeld’s first Breeders’ Cup horse.
A native of Long Island, Wilkenfeld is a lifelong fan of horse racing. Several of his biggest scores as a gambler have been well-publicized, including one in particular that served as inspiration for his ownership venture. In 2008, Wilkenfeld had the lone winning Pick Six ticket for a Santa Anita racecard, cashing in $3.3 million.