The owners of Breeders’ Cup contenders are as varied as the Thoroughbreds they race. From seasoned veterans to newcomers, they are doctors, former trainers, immigrants, moguls and sheikhs. Here are just ten stories of the myriad of owners with hopefuls competing the first weekend of November.
Owner: Klaravich Stables
Seth Klarman, head of Klaravich Stables, grew up going to the races at Pimlico Race Course, which was three blocks from his home. In high school, he witnessed Secretariat’s Preakness Stakes victory from the infield. He graduated from Harvard and became a hedge fund manager. Klarman’s 25-plus years as an owner began when he was offered an opportunity to participate in a small partnership, and he evolved to be the head of his own stable. He often gives his horses names with nods to the finance industry. In 2017, he celebrated his own Preakness victory as a partner in Cloud Computing.
Owner: Katherine Ball
Limousine Liberal’s owner and breeder Katherine Ball previously worked as a trainer. In this role, she saddled 76 winners with over $2.1 million in earnings. She is very involved with her horses, maintaining an almost-daily presence at the barn. Her in-laws are Don Ball and Mira Ball. Don Ball, who died earlier this year, was a prominent central Kentucky homebuilder and philanthropist along with his wife. The Balls own Donamire Farm near Lexington, and Limousine Liberal races under the black-and-white Donamire Silks.
Owner: Kaleem Shah
Kaleem Shah grew up going to the races in India. His father, Majeed Shah, was a trainer who won the Indian Triple Crown twice. He discouraged his children from getting involved in horses and instead wanted them to focus on their studies. Shah came to the United States and earned a master’s in computer engineering at Clemson and an MBA in international finance from George Washington University.
He founded Virginia-based communications company CalNet and became a U.S. citizen in the early 1990s. A few years later, he purchased his first Thoroughbred and chose American flag silks in honor of his beloved country. Shah campaigned 2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Bayern.
Owner: Joel Politi
Contender: Serengeti Empress, Tito’s Handmade Vodka Juvenile Fillies
Joel Politi’s father was a pediatric allergist who had a 12-horse barn in their backyard. As a boy, Politi spent a lot of time with these horses and watching others at his home tracks, Thistledown and Mountaineer, which was then known as Waterford Park.
Politi has followed closely in his father’s footsteps. He is an orthopedic surgeon from Columbus, Ohio, who livestreams some of his procedures to high school classrooms. He has also been a horse owner for more than 13 years. A joyful contingent was with him at Churchill Downs for Serengeti Empress’s win in the Pocahontas Stakes, Politi’s first stakes victory.
Owner: Peter Brant
Owner Peter Brant recently returned to Thoroughbred racing after a long absence from the game. His success in the 1970s and 1980s includes Eclipse Award winners Waya and Just a Game. He was a partner in Swale, the 1984 Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes winner. He bred and owned Gulch, who won the 1988 Breeders’ Cup Sprint. Brant also bred Gulch’s son, Thunder Gulch, who won the 1995 Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes.
Brant is the owner of White Birch Paper Company, an art collector, friend of the late Andy Warhol, magazine publisher and a former polo player and patron of that sport. Financial and legal troubles caused Brant to withdraw from the industry for a while during the late 1990s and into the 2000s. However, after a year of studying to re-learn the ropes, he is back at the top levels of the game.
Owners: Churchill Downs Racing Club
Warrior’s Club is the first horse owned by Churchill Downs Racing Club, which was formed in 2016 to provide fans with a low-cost, low-risk experience in horse ownership. Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas purchased the horse on behalf of the group, and 200 partners made a contribution of $500 to be a part of the experience.
The track set realistic expectations, encouraging members to join without any anticipation of profit. However, the inaugural horse is giving partners thrills of a lifetime. He has competed twice in the Kentucky Derby undercard. He also raced in the Runhappy Metropolitan Handicap on Belmont Stakes day. His biggest win came this past April in the Commonwealth Stakes at Keeneland, when, at 23.40-1 odds, he beat favorite Limousine Liberal by a neck. Now, Warrior’s Club partners will get to experience being owners at the Breeders’ Cup at their home track.
“I've won a few Derbies and I've never seen a crowd react like they react, these people,” Lukas said. “This is a wonderful concept. That's what it's all about.”
Owner: Ara Aprahamian
Contender: Uncle Benny, Juvenile Turf Sprint
Ara Aprahamian, 50, a semi-retired former pharmaceutical sales executive, was a member of an ownership group for several years. After taking a couple years off, he started on his own, and he has eight horses now. He also started a syndicate called Beach Haven Thoroughbreds, which he said has two horses.
Uncle Benny is his first Breeders’ Cup contestant. He named the horse for his uncle who was like a father to him. Although Aprahamian said his family is supporting the horse, they have not done so in person. Displaying a superstitious nature, Aprahamian, who wasn’t present for Uncle Benny’s previous races, told BloodHorse that he plans to watch the Breeders’ Cup on TV.
Contender: Vale Dori, Longines Distaff
Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa al Maktoum is Dubai royalty and the Minister of Land Affairs. He won the United Arab Emirates Triple Crown with Asiatic Boy, who finished second to Curlin in the 2008 Dubai World Cup. Now, he campaigns Asiatic Boy’s daughter, Vale Dori, in a bid to pick up his first Breeders’ Cup win. His horse Mubtaahij finished eighth in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Classic.
His first cousin is Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai and founder of Godolphin Racing, one of the largest stables in the world.
Owners: John and Jerry Amerman
After visits to Monmouth Park, John and Jerry Amerman became interested in horse racing. The former CEO of Mattel toy company and his wife joined the Team Valor ownership group in 1987, and then they started Amerman Racing in 1995. They again grew their involvement in the industry when they decided to breed horses. They run 62-acre Peacefield Farm in Temecula, Calif., where they keep about 45 horses. The Amermans raced 2003 Breeders’ Cup Distaff winner Adoration.
Owner: Phoenix Thoroughbred
Phoenix Thoroughbred is a racing investment fund that has purchased more than $25 million in bloodstock while establishing stables in the United States, Europe, Australia and the United Arab Emirates. Launched in March 2017, the fund was founded by Dubai-based businessman and racing enthusiast Amer Abdulaziz. Their initial group of 12 horses included Dream Tree, early 2018 Kentucky Derby contender Mourinho and Gronkowski, who finished second in the Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets to Justify.