Even though he didn't grow up in Thoroughbred country, Ray Struder became a racing fan. The bug bit harder when he left his native Knoxville, Tenn., for college at Santa Diego State University and he found his way to Del Mar, Santa Anita Park, and Hollywood Park.
Struder (who races under the banner Landaluce Educe Stables) hits the Breeders' Cup World Championships as an owner with the Ken McPeek-trained Rosalind. An 8-1 shot breaking from post 2 in the Nov. 2 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I), Rosalind is Struder's first Breeders' Cup starter. She'll be the eighth Juvenile Fillies starter for Mc Peek, who has run second with Dream Empress in 2008 and Beautician in 2009.
Struder, 51, just got into racing as an owner in 2010, buying 11 horses through McPeek. Four have become graded stakes performers.
"I knew I wanted to get involved, and after 25 years in business I got to a place where financially I could get in," Struder said. "I knew what I wanted to do, but needed someone to help me do it. Ken gets all the credit. He has taken his time to listen to me and help me. I wanted to be patient, buy two, three fillies a year, and build a broodmare band."
"He's given me a nice budget to come up with some nice horses and we've managed to win the Virginia Oaks (gr. IIIT) last year with a filly named Volcat and we had another graded stakes filly in Niji's Grand Girl. He only buys fillies. I think that is a great approach."
They've approached the Breeders' Cup with Rosalind, a chestnut filly by Broken Vow --Critics Acclaim, by Theatrical. Bred in Kentucky by Hurstland Farm, James H. Greene Jr. and Pin Oak Stud, McPeek plucked her out of last year's Fasig-Tipton Kentucky July yearling sale for $70,000.
"She had a small vet issue that we felt comfortable with," McPeek said. "Alfred Nuckols bred her in a partnership with some others but I thought she was a big, pretty filly and had the hind end I'm always after."
"It was really hot at that sale last July," Struder remembered. "The horses were wilting in the heat, but we looked at her for three days and she was full of energy. She had a lot of attitude. Nuckols said she was a 'tomboy.'"
Sizing up his stable earlier this year, McPeek opted to keep Rosalind in Kentucky and send another of Struder's horses up to Saratoga Race Course. Rosalind broke her maiden at first asking on the turf at Ellis Park Aug. 2.
Wanting to know how good she was, he put her in the Sept. 7 Pocahontas Stakes (gr. II) at Churchill Downs. Rosalind rallied from sixth to finish third going 1 1/16 miles, finishing behind fellow Juvenile Fillies starter Untapable. Rosalind then ran second behind Juvenile Fillies Turf (gr. IT) favorite My Conquestadory in the Alcibiades Stakes (gr. I) at Keeneland.
"She's been real competitive in both of the graded races we've run her in," McPeek said. "She's a really big filly and she's improving."
Struder already has an expanding broodmare band, keeping his mares at Mulholland Springs Farm in Kentucky. Volcat is in foal to Malibu Moon and Niji's Grand Girl has a weanling by Giant's Causeway and is in foal to the late Unbridled's Song.
"I don't think I've seen anybody as passionate," McPeek said of Struder.
That passion has gotten him to the Breeders' Cup in just four years of ownership.