Jim Philpott's life journey has taken a lot of twists and turns. And though he was casually involved with horses at a young age, he never imagined his career paths after law school would eventually revolve around the Thoroughbred world.
“I grew up in North Carolina, and as a child, I had ridden at camp and had a horse that I kept on a farm mainly for trail riding, so I had a lifetime interest in horses, but I never expected to be working with them full time,” said Philpott, 61, who is the only surviving member of the initial Breeders’ Cup board of directors. He is now an attorney for Stoll Keenon Ogden, whose major clients include Darley and Keeneland.
Philpott explained how his interest in racing began more than a decade prior to his first direct involvement in the industry in the 1970s.
“On my first date with my wife, we were at her parents’ house in the afternoon and watched Chateaugay win the Derby in 1963, so that’s when we both became really interested in the Thoroughbred business,” he said.
After attending law school at Washington University in West Virginia, Philpott practiced at Cravath, Swaine, and Moore in New York, which happened to represent Thoroughbred owner John Olin’s Olin Corporation.
Olin owned 1974 Kentucky Derby (gr. I) winner Cannonade and a number of other horses that he kept at Gainesway near Lexington. As a result of that connection, Gainesway also ended up using Cravath, Swaine, and Moore for their Thoroughbred stallion syndication work.
“The first horse I worked on in New York was Lyphard, who was imported from France,” said Philpott, who in 1978 assisted the Kentucky Secretary of Agriculture in developing the original code of practice for contagious equine metritis (CEM) when another stallion he imported contracted the disease.
Philpott moved to the Bluegrass state to work for Gainesway full time in 1980.
“I was doing legal work and financing, networking for the banks, and I was also involved with Mr. Gaines and the establishment of the Gaines Center (for the Humanities) at the University of Kentucky,” he explained.
During that time, Philpott was also involved with Gaines in negotiations to form the Breeders’ Cup. Along with other industry figures such as Arnold Kirkpatrick, Brereton Jones, and Arthur Hancock, Philpott helped craft a business plan that would get the Breeders’ Cup up and running in 1982.
“Since then, I’ve been either assistant secretary or secretary, and have kept the board minutes for virtually every board and executive committee meeting,” said Philpott.
In 1984, Philpott decided to start a bloodstock business called Stallion Management Services with his friend Bobby Trussell, but it launched as the market was taking a downturn and did not last. Along with John Jones III, Philpott and Trussell instead focused their efforts toward starting an enterprise called Live Foal Co.
“That was very interesting—it involved purchasing 220 seasons with no guarantee, and then selling them live foal,” said Philpott, who served as vice president and general counsel of the company.
“Basically, it provided the customers with the prospective foal insurance, financing, brokers, commissions, and everything wrapped into one simple package, and we had a big deductible policy where we would pay the bank back if anything went wrong.”
During that time, Philpott also raced numerous horses in partnership with Trussell, most of which were campaigned in Europe.
“We were sending our horses to England to race in the beginning and hoping to keep them sounder on the turf, and then bringing them back to the states,” noted Philpott, who assisted Trussell with purchasing their bloodstock, most at the Keeneland sales.
Philpott took a break from the industry during the 1990s when he decided to practice law full time again as a settler practitioner, which is the role he held prior to being hired at Stoll Keenon Ogden.
One of the attractions of coming to the firm last summer was that a significant portion of Philpott’s practice would include the syndication of stallions. During his career, Philpott has syndicated more than 190 stallions to stand at farms located in nine states and seven countries.
In the past, Philpott had also worked with Buddy Bishop, a Keeneland trustee and partner at Stoll Keenon Ogden who died last April.
Philpott had crossed paths many times over the years with Bishop, who had represented numerous owners standing syndicated stallions.
“We always had a great working relationship, and I knew from that that there would be a lot of quality lawyers (at Stoll Keenon Ogden) that could help out, as well as great people. So I thought it was the right time to make the move.”
In addition to making sure stallions had the right papers to shuttle back and forth at Stoll Keenon Ogden, Philpott also completes their tax planning since most the owners don’t reside in the same countries as their horses.
When reflecting on his favorite aspect of working on stallion syndications over the years, Philpott said he enjoyed how when shuttling first started, the complexity of his work was suddenly amplified. The first stallion in this situation he worked with was Brocco in the mid-1990s.
“I enjoyed when the stallions started rotating—that was a lot of fun, having the opportunity to learn about the international tax transactions involved in horses between hemispheres. It was more exciting legally, and there were a lot more challenges.”