The Brehm family at Santa Anita for the FrontRunner Stakes. (Photos courtesy of Erich Brehm, Jr. unless otherwise noted)
Breeders’ Cup Juvenile contender Texas Red might be a longshot on the tote board but he is a star in the Brehm family stable. The colt, who they own in partnership, finished third in the Grade 1 FrontRunner Stakes behind American Pharoah and is their first Breeders’ Cup horse. Read on to hear from Erich Brehm Jr., who chatted with ABR ambassador Dan Tordjman about the family’s involvement in racing and the thrills the Brehms have experienced so far.
How did you and your family get into horse ownership?
In 1974, my father, Erich Sr. and his buddy Wally (who I now call Uncle Wally) were undergrads in college. Wally's grandfather had taught him how to bet horses and he in turn taught my dad. They would study every night until around 10 p.m. and then head to the harness track, because they could get in for free after the seventh race. The eighth race was a perfecta race and the 10th race was a $3 trifecta race.
After about a year, they started winning trifectas. They even had T-shirts made that said “Trifecta Kids.” After a year of winning, they paid down their student loans, bought cars and took vacations ... always with a pocket full of money. I can't tell you how many times I’ve heard these stories, and they never get old. It’s exciting to have the opportunity to share them.
BREHM SR. WITH TEXAS RED
In the early 1990s, Josh Pons was writing a series for The Blood-Horse called Country Life Diary, which he won an Eclipse Award for. If you were a regular reader of the series, you felt like you knew Josh, and my father was a regular. One day, dad saw an ad in The Blood-Horse for a Seattle Slew mare named Seattle Queen in foal to Malinowski. The mare was located in New Jersey, not far from Country Life Farm. He called Josh and asked if he would check out the mare and if she looked OK, Dad would buy her for $5,000. Next thing you know, the Brehms were proud horse owners. Seattle Queen’s second foal was a Citidancer colt we named Fat Wally who set a track record at Retama [Park] when breaking his maiden by 13 lengths!
I remember that day … seeing my father’s expression as his colt crossed the finish line first had me hooked forever.
BREHM JR. and SR. (SECOND FROM RIGHT AND FAR RIGHT) AT CHURCHILL DOWNS
We spent many weekends at the track as he taught me his tricks of the trade. Later in life, I was lucky enough to spend some time at University of Arizona’s Race Track Industry Program and intern at Lone Star Park. While the business side of this sport has always had my full attention, I remember the very day that I became passionate about this sport. On Jan. 30,2005, Javi Suervo, a colt we named after my high school friend Javier Martinez, won first out in a maiden special weight race at Sam Houston Race Park by 7 lengths. What an emotional freakin’ rollercoaster. Still to this day, that win at that little track is my fondest memory in racing, and I believe it will continue to be forever.
Team Brehm went on to own mares, racehorses and even a stallion share in Polish Numbers. We tried a lot of things, many times losing money but always having fun.
Around 2009, my father met Keith Desormeaux. Soon after, Keith began training horses for us and our friend/partner Gene Voss. In addition, Keith helped us buy better horses. Once we mixed in pinhooking with racing, the whole operation became profitable and has grown for us ever since. Horses we’ve raced with Keith include Shape, Speargun, Whiskey Bravo, Attack and Texas Red. With Keith's oversight, the game has really become fun for all involved.
Was this always the goal? Did you ever dream you'd have a Breeders’ Cup contender?
The goal is to continue growing our horse business around a solid financial plan with advice from Keith Desormeaux and April Mayberry. If you own racehorses ... you dream! All owners believe “The Dream” can happen to them; that's why we stay in the game.
CONNECTIONS IN THE SANTA ANITA PADDOCK
Back in 2004, the Breeders' Cup was held at Lone Star Park in Texas. Friends from all over came to the races with us that day; even Uncle Wally, Uncle Freddy, The King, and other close friends my father grew up with in Chicago. We had such a great time that every single year since then, the same group comes back to Texas and we throw a three-day Breeders’ Cup party at the Brehm house. The party consists of golf, horse betting, poker, bags [cornhole], pitching quarters and lots of eating and drinking. This year, with Texas Red in the Breeders' Cup, we’re moving the party to California. Thirty-plus Texas Red fans are staying in rented houses in Malibu and, other than Saturday, it will be the same as always ... but on the ocean!
How did you acquire the horse? Who picked him out? Why?
Keith purchased three horses for the Brehms from the 2013 Keeneland September sale. We pinhooked a Stormy Atlantic, kept a Quality Road and formed a partnership with four friends to race the Afleet Alex, named Texas Red (purchased for $17,000 at the September sale).
TEXAS RED AT DEL MAR
Photo courtesy of Julie Clark
Keith is one of the partners along with Erich Sr.’s regular horse partner, Dr. Gene Voss. Family friends Wayne Detmar and Lee Michaels also own equal shares in Texas Red. Lee’s husband, Paul, bought the share for her as a present, and it’s also worth mentioning that this is the first Thoroughbred the Detmars or the Michaels have ever raced. How great is that?
When did you know you had something special on your hands?
Actually, as early as his first race. Red ran in a 5 ½-furlong maiden special weight at Arlington Park, and we weren't expecting anything as it was way too short for his pedigree. But Red came flying at the end and almost won. That really raised our expectations. We shipped him to the West Coast shortly after that.
What does it feel like? How do you feel about your chances?
The biggest surprise is how distracting it is mentally. We are all on cloud nine.
As for our chances ... well, I'd be lying if I said we weren't hoping for a speed duel [which would suit] Texas Red’s closing style. No matter what, this is going to be one exciting race.
Finally, you're pretty active on social media. Just watching the last few weeks, it’s kind of like a lot of other people are getting to share in the experience, they’re rooting for this horse because they know you through social media, and they sort of feel connected to you and the horse. How cool has that been for you? Just talk a little about that dynamic.
You know, Texas Red is receiving more and more support from the online horse racing community. I try not to go over the top with pictures and updates, but it seems like I get more and more requests for that kind of stuff. I do my best to address any questions or comments that come our way on Twitter at @EBrehmJr. So far we have received nothing but positive mentions and well wishes.
Growing up we always rooted for the underdog to pull off the upset, the nice guy to finish first ... maybe this year it’s our turn.