#FanFriday: Get to Know Starlight Racing’s Chris Mara

Pop Culture
Chris Mara is part owner in Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Jusitfy. (Eclipse Sportswire)

Chris Mara is the senior vice president for player personnel for the New York Giants and is a member of Starlight Racing partners, who co-own Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve and Preakness Stakes winner Justify. Mara recently shared some of his favorite things about the sport with America’s Best Racing as Justify gears up for his attempt at the Triple Crown on June 9 at the Belmont Stakes.

What was the first thought that went through your mind when Justify crossed the Preakness finish line?

We are on to the Belmont.

Where and with whom did you celebrate Saturday night after the Preakness?

Starlight partners, my son, and friends.

Mara and Starlight's Jack Wolf at the Preakness
Mara and Starlight's Jack Wolf at the Preakness (Courtesy Chris Mara)

Did you place a bet on Justify to win the Preakness? How much?

I bet the exacta and trifecta. Plenty.

Who did you hear from after the Preakness win that you were most surprised to hear from?

Bill Belichick. He was standing next to me during the race.

In a few words, how would you describe the feeling of winning the Kentucky Derby?


What’s the bigger thrill – winning the Super Bowl or winning the Kentucky Derby?

It’s the same type of high, but a different sense of accomplishment.

My introduction to horse racing occurred when:

My dad took me to Belmont Park when I was 10 years old.

What I like about Thoroughbred racing:

Incredible and beautiful-looking athletes.

How I became an owner:

I bought a horse with my mom called Itchy Hooves about 30 years ago.

My top three racetracks in order, and what I like about each one:

Saratoga – the history. Keeneland – the setting. Yonkers Raceway – where I parked cars as a teenager.

Favorite place at the racetrack to watch a race:

A box at Saratoga.

What I do when I’m not at the races:

Work and play golf.

One thing that most people don’t know about me is:

My grandfather Tim Mara was a bookmaker at Belmont in the 1930s.

Advice I would give to anyone considering getting into racing as an owner:

Find a partnership that you trust and can have fun with.

Favorite all-time racehorse:

Smarty Jones – until Justify came along.

What is your go-to or signature bet to make at the racetrack:

Trifecta wheel.

Three words that define that Thoroughbred racing means to me:

Fun … action … winner’s circle.

Should the Breeders’ Cup rotate from coast to coast or have a permanent home:

Rotate, as long as it’s held at a track where there’s good weather.

Favorite international racing event:

Irish Derby.

Three ways to attract more fans to the sport:

1. Entertainment for millennials; 2. Convenience; 3. Service.

My biggest gambling score ever at the racetrack was:

Smarty Jones future bet, Kentucky Derby 2004.

Best advice I could give to anyone who wants to learn about betting on the races:

Read the “Racing Maxims & Methods of Pittsburg Phil,” by Edward Cole.

Other sports/teams I follow:

Football – New York Giants; Baseball – New York Yankees; Hockey – New York Rangers; Basketball – New York Knicks.

Favorite non-Thoroughbred racing sports event I have attended:

New York Rangers Stanley Cup Final 1994. The Masters. Yankees vs. Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park.

My favorite athletes of all time:

Lawrence Taylor, Walt “Clyde” Frazier, Gale Sayers, Carl “Spider” Lockhart.

Favorite magazines:

Any ones where my daughters Kate and Rooney are on the cover.

Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram:

None of the above.

Favorite thing to eat after a winning day at the races:

Steak and red wine.

Least favorite food:


Best racetrack food can be found at:

I’m still looking.

Favorite cocktail:

Tito’s Handmade Vodka and whatever.

Top racing websites I visit daily:

Daily Racing Form, BloodHorse, America’s Best Racing (ha!).

Twitter handle:

Don’t have one.

What apps are on your phone:

NYRA Bets, Waze.

I’d like to have dinner with the following three people inside racing:

Todd Pletcher, Bob Baffert, D. Wayne Lukas.

I’d like to have dinner with the following three people outside of racing:

Other than family members, I’ll say Harry Truman, Ronald Reagan, and my grandfather Tim Mara.

My philosophy on life:

Enjoy it, it goes fast.

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