A municipal bond trader by day, Tony Grey knows a thing or two about playing percentages. The Florida-based breeder/owner will take a calculated risk May 19 with his Zetterholm in the Preakness Stakes (gr. I).
Zetterholm, by Silver Train out of Grey’s Lord At War mare Holy Wish, rides a three-race win streak into Baltimore, albeit against maiden, entry-level allowance, and minor stakes company at Aqueduct Racetrack. The bay colt hasn’t faced the same class of animal as many of those entered for the second jewel of the Triple Crown, but all three wins have come around two turns. And he has trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. at the helm, the conditioner of 2008 Kentucky Derby (gr. I) and Preakness winner Big Brown .
Zetterholm won the one-mile Patsyprospect Stakes April 6, getting a mile in 1:37.75 under Junior Alvarado.
Grey, like his first Preakness runner, is a New York-bred. Raised on Long Island, Grey met Steve DiMauro Jr., whose father was a trainer, in high school. Those were heady days in the summer of 1975 for DiMauro Sr. as he trained champion Wajima to victories in that summer’s Travers Stakes (gr. I) and later a victory over mighty Forego in the Marlboro Cup (gr. I). A record-priced yearling at $600,000, Wajima was syndicated for stud duty for $7.2 million that September.
DiMauro also trained Dearly Precious, that year’s champion 2-year-old filly, and he would also land the Eclipse Award as that year’s outstanding trainer.
That clearly left an imprint on a young Tony Grey, who wanted to enter veterinary school at Cornell but eventually went into accounting.
At the turn of the century, with success in business and a plan to enter the Thoroughbred game with about 10 broodmares, Grey was introduced to pedigree analyst and nicking expert Jack Werk. He also met Becky Thomas, who was getting more involved with New York stallions and breeding with Sequel Stallions. Werk suggested Grey buy into a stallion, and he did—buying a nice percentage of Freud , a full brother to Giant's Causeway (Storm Cat—Mariah’s Storm, by Rahy), who entered stud at Sequel in 2002 for a fee of $5,000.
“I had always liked Lord At War and his mares were a good nick with sons of Storm Cat,” Grey said.
Grey went shopping. He went to Diane Perkins’ Wimborne Farm dispersal in 2002 where he picked up the Lord At War mare Holy Wish (out of Holy Moly, by Halo) for $15,000.
She would be the cornerstone of his breeding program and the dam of his Preakness runner.
In 2005 Holy Wish produced Wishful Tomcat, by Storm Cat’s son Tactical Cat. Wishful Tomcat would win 16 of 38 starts and $665,754 while collecting five New York-bred stakes and the Discovery Handicap (gr. III). Her 2006 foal, Uncle T Seven (by Freud), would win four New York-bred stakes and $446,365. Lucky Lewis, Holy Wish’s 2008 foal by Forest Camp, won a pair of stakes in 2011 in Pennsylvania.
Grey is also the breeder of Fanny Freud, a New York-bred star and winner of the 2010 Prioress Stakes (gr. I). He is a staunch proponent of the New York State Thoroughbred Breeding and Development Fund.
“Steve DiMauro Sr. helped start the New York-bred program,” Grey said. “He convinced me it was the right state-bred program.”
He’s ridden the ups and mostly downs of the program since he entered the business, but has risen to the top in about a decade. He was honored by the Thoroughbred Breeders and Owners Association as the top New York breeder in 2010.
“Even after the passage of slots (back in 2001), they promised slots by 2005,” Grey said. “It was in limbo such a long time. In 2008 and 2009 with nothing on the horizon, the breeders’ awards kept me solvent. It was tough to call it a business. Now everybody wants a New York-bred.”
Upping his game, Grey has a weanling colt by Elusive Quality out of Holy Wish that arrived in January. And he has Zetterholm, who races under Grey’s Winter Park Partners banner, though Grey is the sole owner.
That’s a pretty good percentage.