Legends Racing made a powerful debut as a Thoroughbred buyer at the Fasig-Tipton Saratoga select yearling auction, which ended its two-night run Aug. 5 in New York. The new venture, which is acquiring young horses that will be trained by Bob Baffert, D. Wayne Lukas, and Nick Zito, was the sale’s second-biggest spender, paying $3,275,000 for nine yearlings. It also was the immediate underbidder on a $1.5-million Storm Cat – Totemic filly that topped the sale’s opening session.
And there could be much bigger things to come.
“We’re easing into it at this time and look to ramp it up gradually over the coming year,” said Kentucky horseman Olin Gentry, who developed the idea for Legends Racing with his Gaines-Gentry Thoroughbreds partner Thomas Gaines and investment banker Tripp Hardy.
The three men announced the plans for the venture, known officially as the Thoroughbred Legends Racing Fund, in early June, giving a presentation to potential investors in New York two days before Zito saddled Da’ Tara for an upset victory in the June 7 Belmont Stakes (gr. I).
Gentry declined to reveal how much money the fund had raised and other financial details, saying, “Our counsel has advised us not to discuss that.” But he did talk about the coordination and cooperation involved as Legends Racing shopped at the Saratoga auction.
“Each trainer is out there doing his thing, and we look (at yearlings) as well, Thomas and I,” said Gentry prior to the sale’s second session. “We all meet up and talk about the horses we’ve seen and then make a decision. Thomas and I handle the bidding, but we reach a consensus (with the three trainers) before we buy. We want to be opportunistic, so we haven’t tried to define too much what we buy. We just want to buy the best horses for the best prices that we can.”
So far, according to Gentry, the three highly successful trainers are getting along, and he expects them to continue to do so.
“Everybody is on the same team,” he said. “The trainers realize that each of them will be getting one-third of the horses. We’ll address that (who gets which horses) after September. We’ll try and have them get the ones each of them prefers. When there is an overlap or a tie, we’ll decide what to do in as fair a way as we can. There is definitely solidarity among all three of them. They know it is a mutually beneficial arrangement.”
Two of the trainers, Lukas and Zito, are members of racing’s Hall of Fame.
“The nice thing about it is that we’ve got depth in trainer experience with the three of us,” Lukas said. “We’re also very compatible. We get along good and everything. I think it’s actually brought Bob and I and Nick a lot closer together.
“But another thing that’s really nice,” Lukas continued, “is that if the budget holds up, and it looks good, we’ll be able to cover all the bases -- fillies, colts, distance, short, everything – so it will give us a great broad spectrum of race talent to work with. Then, what we do with it from there, it is what it is. The first two years, I think, we’ll have plenty in terms of numbers (of horses). We’re buying athletic horses that fit all of our wishes; we compare notes and everything.”
According to Lukas, pedigree and conformation both are important in Legend Racing’s buying strategy, especially for the most expensive horses.
“When we get up there into six figures, we’re trying to get athletes, of course, but we do want a little bit of page, too,” he said. “When we take off on one like we did on the Rock Hard Tencolt (a $700,000 purchase), we need to have some dam power in there and some classic potential. That’s a horse we think, obviously, could run two turns and could be a classic horse. We would not give that much for a horse that we thought was just going to be a good 2-year-old. We’re trying to develop a horse that will have a lot of bang for the buck. We need a horse that, at the end of the day, when we get ready to ‘cash’ (sell) it, five or six farms will say, ‘We want to stand this horse.’ ”
While Legends Racing’s organizers plan to focus on acquiring yearlings, they said they also will be shopping at next year’s sales of 2-year-olds in training.