Nearly a year after Nat Rea bought his first Thoroughbreds, the Canadian will see the first runners bearing the colors of his Regis Farms stable in action before the end of the current Saratoga Race Course meet.
"We have three 2-year-old fillies sitting on races that will make the meet," said Richard Hogan, Regis Farms president, while in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., for the Fasig-Tipton selected yearling sale. "We have 11 2-year-olds and I would say half of them will run this year and about half will develop and run next spring."
"I can't explain how excited I am," said Rea. "It's a dream."
Rea, who resides on a ranch in Woodbridge, Ontario, Canada, with his wife and five children, retired last year from Martinrea International, an auto parts company he founded and later sold. The company grew into a multi-billion dollar entity that manufactures fluid systems assemblies, tubing products, stampings, and welded assemblies.
The fillies that likely will seek action at the Spa are: Zinzay, by Smart Strike —Music Room, bought for $700,000 from the Hartley/De Renzo Thoroughbreds consignment to this year's Fasig-Tipton Florida March 2-year-olds in training sale; T. R. Indy, by Dixie Union—Sugar Canyon, bought for $485,000 from the Niall Brennan Stables at the FTF March sale; and Zindaya, by More Than Ready —Aristocratic Lady, a private purchase.
The Regis Racing silks consist of a royal blue Maple Leaf in the center emblazoned with an "R" and blue sleeves.
Since making his foray into the Thoroughbred business, Rea has been busy, putting together his team (or "family" as he calls his hires), selecting trainers, making upgrades to his farms in Kentucky and Canada, and buying more horses privately and at auction.
In addition to Hogan, Rea has hired Sarah Campion, who was previously with Ingordo Bloodstock, to assist with the management of the operation, and named Peter Kirwin to manage Silver Springs Farm, a 300-acre nursery near Paris, Ky. bought by Rea.
After an in-depth search, in which Rea, Hogan, and Campion combed through data and made personal visits to many racetrack barns across the U.S., Regis has engaged trainers Rusty Arnold, Roger Attfield, Christophe Clement, Bill Mott, and Dallas Stewart to condition his runners.
"We wanted guys that can develop young horses," said Hogan. "When you're new in the business you get to see who you're comfortable with, who fits your style. How a barn is run says a lot about someone."
While the stable will operate under the Regis name, there are no plans to re-name the Kentucky farm, according to Hogan.
Although Rea generated considerable buzz within the industry earlier this year when he bought a just-turned yearling daughter of Street Sense for the huge sum of $1.45 million Jan. 8 at the Keeneland January horses of all ages sale, his purchases have usually been well below the seven-figure level.
At the Saratoga sale, Regis Farm was listed as buyer on two fillies for a total of $300,000 but was underbidder on the $1,225,000 Dynaformer filly that topped the sale.
"We are not into buying a lot of horses," Rea said. "We just want quality horses, to try to bring back as many good solid horses as we can."
"We appraise the horses and come up with numbers we're comfortable with and take it from there," Hogan said. "We try not to go too far above what we appraise them for. Stick with the plan."
Hogan said Rea is taking an unconventional approach in attempting to buy horses privately. In one case when negotiating to buy a colt, Rea has pledged to have the horse stand at stud at the selling farm should the individual go on to a successful career on the track.
"Those little things can mean the difference between getting the horse bought and not," said Hogan, noting he had worked out similar arrangements during his career in Canada. "Working all the avenues. Sometimes you have to be a little creative. Building relationships. Working with people. It is important they know it's not a one-shot deal. It's a win-win for everybody."
Rea is also trying to build interest in racing by involving children in the selection of names for the Regis horses. In addition to a financial award for having their name selected, the children are encouraged to follow the horses' careers and whenever possible to attend the races to see them run.
Despite his excitement at seeing his first horses take to the track, Rea said he will not likely be a frequent visitor to the winner's circle when they win.
"I probably will never be in the winner's circle. I want to be in the stands," Rea said, adding he wants Hogan to be the one to take credit for any success the stable achieves. "He eats, sleeps, and drinks this business. If anybody deserves it (success), it is him."