Talkin' Horses - Live Discussions

Mike Iavarone Co-President & CEO; IEAH Stables

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Mr. Iavarone (Mike), 37, founded International Equine Acquisitions Holdings (IEAH) in 2003 to take advantage of opportunities in thoroughbred horse racing. He has been a student of the sport for over 20 years. Over this period, he has acquired substantial knowledge of thoroughbreds including the evaluation of their on-track performance and their bloodlines. He has studied the business of thoroughbred racing and cultivated many relationships which have proven valuable in the management of IEAH. He has utilized this knowledge to build the present roster of IEAH runners, which includes Big Brown, Kip Deville, Benny the Bull, Frost Giant and Pure Clan.

In 2004, Mike recognized the need for a state-of-the-art equine medical center and embarked on a plan to construct a facility adjacent to Belmont Park. In this endeavor, he was successful in engaging Dr. James Hunt and Dr. Patricia Hogan, two of the most prominent medical professionals in the industry. As a direct result of his vision and zeal, the Ruffian Equine Medical Center is scheduled to open in 2008.

Mike holds the position of co-chief executive officer with Richard Schiavo who he brought to IEAH to oversee the administrative affairs of the company. As the co-CEO, Mike has the final responsibility for all bloodstock affairs and the strategic development of the company. These responsibilities include the establishment of an "investment committee" to assist Mike in planning and acquiring the stable's "bloodstock portfolio."

Mike grew up on Long Island and graduated from St. Joseph's College. He and his wife Christine reside on Long Island with their two children.

NOTE: Mike has received a very large number of questions and will attempt to answer as many of them as his schedule allows. As always, our Talkin' Horses guests have the option to answer whichever questions he or she chooses. If Mike does not answer your question specifically, please look for another that may cover the same topic. Thanks to all who participated in this week's chat, and don't forget to check back next Thursday, Oct. 2, when Halsey Minor, who is involved with reviving Hialeah Park, will be the guest.

Houston, TX:
Did NYRA really send you an invoice for the extra security they provided during Belmont week and is that the reason why you won't run Big Brown at NYRA tracks?

Iavarone:
The decision to run at Monmouth was based solely on the right course, timing, prize money and the genuine affection the fans showed Brownie when he won the Haskell. NYRA did not charge us an extra security fee and provided excellent service throughout Big Brown's stay at Belmont.

Louisville, KY:
You came out strong against drugs, except lasix. Which is a curious choice since most doctors feel that lasix does nothing to help bleeding but certainly masks other drugs. Why are you not banning lasix?

Iavarone:
We made what we felt was a positive step in the right direction by advising our trainers that we wanted to run our horses without unnecessary medications. Our trainers had no problem with our strategy other than the risks associated with bleeding. We are very pleased to see that many racetracks have come forward and banned the usage of certain drugs and medications. We are hopeful that racing can move toward a standard set of regulations for all racehorses. Our research does not agree with your suggestion that most vets feel that lasix is nothing more than a masking agent. I would love to see what studies you have found that indicates such.

Lexington, KY:
Where is A Won Rocket today?

Iavarone:
A one Rocket is resting comfortably at his retirement home in West Virginia.

Seattle WA:
Hi Mr. Iavarone, I'm a big fan of the stables. Not only for your incredible horses, but for your philanthropy including the funding of the new "Ruffian Equine Medical Center". Curious as you approach the Breeders' Cup? Wouldn't it be prudent to bring both Pictural and Big Brown to SA for at least a work or two? In any case, I'll be there and look forward to rooting home the IEAH contingent.

Iavarone:
That is a very good question and one that Rick and I have discussed regularly. I would expect Pictural to be in Southern California well in advance of the Sprint because he will run next at Keeneland in the Phoenix. He still has work to do before he even gets in the sprint starting gate as he will need to win the race at Keeneland. One thing on his side is he sue has an affinity for the synthetic. Big Brown will stay in NY as long as possible because we want to make sure we have Ian and Alex around his feet 24/7. They deserve so much credit for his success as his past foot issues have been well documented. Thank you for your kind words and support.

Bronx, NY:
Mr. Iavarone - My question to you is: Why does an upright and honest team such as IEAH continue to work with the trainer Richard Dutrow? As a member of the veterinary profession and long standing fan of thoroughbred racing, I admire your commitment to the health of the thoroughbred racehorse.

Iavarone:
Rick and I have shared our differences on certain things, but one thing is for sure, is that he loves our horses. He also has had tremendous success and we have benefitted most from that and his work should not be discounted. With that being said, Rick has never had a medication violation with any of our horses and as long as tat continues we will continue to support him.

Macon, GA:
Hi Mike, my question pertains to Big Brown's running strategy on the anticipated Pro-Ride surface at Santa Anita. Do you think he can win the race from further 3 lengths off the pace? And because he seems to have a preference for the outside, if you draw an inside post (as he did in the Belmont), would you want him placed immediately in front?

Iavarone:
The million dollar question that always seems to surround this horse is his trip. The simple answer is Big Brown is at his best when allowed to maintain his cruising speed. When he is grabbed on or forced out of his natural gait things can go wrong. The distance he maintains from the lead or whether he is in front is not what concerns us, as long as he is comfortable in his cruising speed at points early in the race. The best examples of this are his allowance race at Gulfstream and the KY Derby.

Plainfield, CT:
Big Brown is a HUGE fan favorite, and has created a "buzz" around the sport that is great for the industry. With him retiring and most likely Curlin as well, once again fans are going to be left out in the cold with no really big name horses to root for. Why is it that IEAH agreed to retire Big Brown to stud at the end of his three year old year? Was it the money, or worry of him reinjuring his bad feet?

Iavarone:
The move to retire Big Brown was determined by the structure of the contract with Three Chimneys. As a racing stable there is nothing more exciting than to watch my boy run, but we realize we are not a breeding farm and had to make a deal with such an entity. Every farm that we negotiated with carried the same demand.

El Paso, TX:
Really enjoyed watching Big Brown run a spectacular ran race on the turf at Monmouth Park. Boundary--Danzig by a NUREYEV mare. This breeding says Turf, Turf, Turf. I think you have GREAT turf horse on your hands. My question to you is this: Will you consider running Big Brown only on the turf as a 4-year old?

Iavarone:
His pedigree and his action both scream turf but after winning 4 grade 1's on the dirt he must also be considered an outstanding dirt horse. We have come to the conclusion that he can be effective on any type of going against all competition. With that being said BB will be retired at year's end.

Hastings, NY:
I am a High School student and my dream is to be an Equine Veterinarian. Will there be any opportunities to volunteer/intern at the Ruffian Equine Medical Center?

Iavarone:
Your best years are ahead of you and what a great profession to be involved in. You can reach out to us through the contact us on our website at IEAH.com. Thanks for the interest.

Ontario, Canada:
Can you comment on your position on the horse slaughter issue?

Iavarone:
My position is horse slaughter is pretty obvious as I have been somewhat outspoken against it and Dr. Patty Hogan who will be our head surgeon at the Ruffian Center has given testimony in Washington DC against it.

Syracuse, NY:
Where will Benny the Bull enter stud?

Iavarone:
Benny's stud plans are in the works, I won't tell Brownie but Benny has always been my favorite and we will make sure he has a great life.

Las Cruces, NM:
If want to get involved in a partnership, or specifically involved in IEAH, how would I do so? Would I have to contribute a lot of money to own interest in an IEAH horse?

Iavarone:
Our partnerships are not for the faint hearted, we seek expensive assets that have proven themselves on the racetrack before we purchase them. We have a certain financial criteria required from an investor before he invests with us. We all understand this is high risk and high reward and should be treated as such.

Somerville, AL:
Mr. Iavarone, I have a request. Would you consider bringing Big Brown to race at Churchill Downs before he goes to Three Chimneys. Many people in this area would love to see him and Louisville is the closest place.

Iavarone:
I would love to bring Brownie to CD and a match race with Curlin. I think it would be great for the sport. The two most wanted on racing's most important venue...

Davis, CA:
Mr. Iavarone, I am curious how you decided to settle on Three Chimneys Farm as the place to stand Big Brown. I have great respect for Case Clay and the Three Chimneys team, so I know you made the right decision. But I am curious how you approached the selection process. Thank you in advance for your answer!

Iavarone:
This one was pretty easy. Of all the farms interested in Big Brown, I felt most comfortable with his future at TC. The Clay's run a first class operation and we are delighted to be a part of them.

Chicago, IL:
Wanted to get an update on Papi Chullo; will he return to the races at any point?

Iavarone:
Spoke to Gary today on Papi Chullo and he told me he is training up a storm and will likely resurface in about 3 weeks. Can't wait for the big gray to return.

Paris, KY:
Good luck moving forward with Brown! Could you comment on the obvious weight fluctuation, the horse has showed between the Haskell and this last race?

Iavarone:
Big brown is maturing and a racehorse. He went through a tough Triple Crown campaign and it took its toll on him. Rick has done an outstanding job keeping him fresh and he looks as good now as he ever has.

Port St. Lucie, FL:
How good is Frost Giant?

Iavarone:
Frost Giant is a difficult horse. He has all the talent in the world but he continues to be a challenge to all his handlers. Rick and Company have done an amazing job with him as he can be the nastiest horse on the planet. With that he is brilliantly bred and the only son of Giant's Causeway to win at a classic distance. He will be a valuable stud and the farms have been ringing.

New York, NY:
I was wondering if you were aware that many in this sport see you as someone who thinks he re-invented horse racing, so to speak? If you are aware, does your negative public image bother you?

Iavarone:
Don't see where I have ever said that I or IEAH has reinvented racing. All we have tried to do is bring new people to racing and try to be competitive in a market that is difficult to be successful. We have many happy people associated with our family and that is my first and foremost priority. We have tried to make a positive impact on the game and most importantly tried to put the health of the horses above all. If this is deserved of a bad reputation then we are guilty.

Edmonton, KY:
Mr. Iavarone how do you get the people together to invest in the horses you purchase?

Iavarone:
The partners that we have are mostly people I know and their friends. We have not gone to the general public to solicit investors. We are very different from most partnerships as we put up our own money in every horse. Then we accept partners to take minority ownerships in the horses if they wish.

Elmont, NY:
What happened with your purchase of Lawrence the Roman who was also running for Dutrow?

Iavarone:
The Lawrence the Roman deal was done preceding his race in the Whirlaway a couple of years ago. It was done on a handshake the day of the draw. The horse performed poorly in the race and Larry called me and said he wants to buy his share back because he does want us to think he tried to do us wrong. He also said he wanted to retire the horse and stand him stud himself. I told him that was a wonderful gesture but he didn't have to do that. He insisted and the deal was rescinded. The man is a class act and did something that was unexpected and he did not have to do. I understand that Larry has returned him to training.

Toronto, Canada:
Hey Mike, I had the pleasure of seeing Kip Deville at Woodbine on Woodbine Mile Day. He looked terrific prior to the race, but seemed to be fighting Cornelio during the race. How did he come out of the race and are you still going to the Breeders' Cup?

Iavarone:
When Kip does not run his race it is a shock to all of us. We walked away disappointed and perplexed. He was rank down the backside and was pulling Cornelio pretty good, but he is a horse that likes to be held up and balanced. I still though we were OK at the top of the stretch but when the running started he had no response. Further post race evaluation has shown no issues and we can only chalk it up to the soft course or a bad day. He will get them in the Cup!

Charlottesville, VA:
Hi Mr. Iavarone: I have been involved in horse racing for more than thirty five years, and have been disappointed at times with the lack of positive coverage by the media of the successes of people such as yourself. What would you like fans, such as me, to know about you, and IEAH that does not make the headlines?

Iavarone:
We are most proud of our participation behind the scenes. We donate to many charities and give back all we can to the community. We are also very proud of our newly constructed Ruffian Equine Medical Center. Thank you for your caring and support.

Richmond, VA:
Mike, Thanks for supporting the Colonial Downs season once again and congratulations on the great year. Is Court Vision going to run the Breeder's Cup Turf? Why not take a shot?

Iavarone:
Court Vision will run in the Jamaica Handicap at Belmont and be pointed to the Hollywood Derby in November. Court Vision has to pick up his game a level or two before tackling the monster. Maybe next year as he will be back.

Pierre,SD:
What brand of sunglasses do you wear?

Iavarone:
Maybe the best question asked yet... They are Versace.

French Camp, CA:
What are your long term goals for IEAH, do you intend to increase the size of your stable?

Iavarone:
Our long term goals are to build a stable full of stars. If that allows us to be 200 plus in training than let the good times roll!!!

Chagrin Falls OH:
Can you tell us how Kent Desormeaux acquired the mount on Big Brown? What is your thought process when selecting a jockey for your horses?

Iavarone:
Kent got the mount through perseverance. He was riding so hard for us in lesser races that I promised him a top mount. Who would have thought that my decision would cause so much controversy???

Chicago, IL:
Congratulations, on a very impressive year. My question for you is what is one thing that horse racing can do to appeal more to the general public or casual racing fan?

Iavarone:
Horse racing needs to market its top stars better, clean up its image and tackle the new generation. New York and NJ have done a nice job in the last couple of months promoting Brownie and Curlin. This needs to be the common and not the exceptions. Let's get the people back to the track to enjoy our great sport.

Leah, NY:
Mikey, who has bigger teeth? You or Big Brown?

Iavarone:
I hate when my mom refers to me as Mikey!!!

Toms River, NJ:
Wondering if you've given any thought to running Big Brown on the grass in the BC Turf considering his recent success?

Iavarone:
No thoughts there. TheClassic it is.

Slade, KY:
How were you introduced to horse racing? Did you grow up around it, or did a co-worker introduce you?

Iavarone:
I grew up at the racetrack with my Dad. Was a fan first and foremost and still am.

Doral, FL:
Mike; I’ll be at the BC 2008 and would like to know how I would go about obtaining a shoe or another souvenir of Big Brown for my collection. Thanks for any help.

Iavarone:
Look me up at SA and we will see what we can do for you. I think the last time I did this I ended up buying back his halter on Ebay.

Doral, FL:
With all the past publicity, how are Big Brown's hooves now?

Iavarone:
We are in good shape with his feet. He is always a work in progress and requires constant attention but everyone around his feet have done a brilliant job.

Nashville, TN:
Several top-class European horses could be shipping in for the Classic; is there any European horse you all worried about?

Iavarone:
One must respect every horse in the starting gate in the Classic. The Euros are bringing over the Duke, who seems to be a monster on the grass. If he can transfer his grass ability to the synthetic he can be very dangerous.

Florence, SC:
Thanks for ALONE having the class to pay tribute Eight Belles on the winner’s podium after the Derby. In the wake of your champ's thrilling win, how did you learn of the tragedy?

Iavarone:
I was told of her breakdown by Bob Costas while on the podium just before being interviewed. It hit me hard and deflated the emotion that one would usually possess in winning the Derby. It just underlined the obvious, these horses are what it is all about; they will put their lives on the line for our entertainment. We should never forget that...

Florence, SC:
"Piano Man" was blasting at the concert behind the grandstand on hot Belmont Day; I thought I spied you walking by quickly with a friend, and I wondered WHAT could be your thoughts on that day, hours before the race.

Iavarone:
Only thing that was going through my mind was" please God get us through this". Oh yeah one other thing. It is damn hot out here...

Pasadena, CA:
Your IEAH website has a ton of content on it. Is it maintained in-house or do you have an outside company take care of it for you?

Iavarone:
We put a great deal of effort into our site and our people at IEAH work with outside sources to maintain that high quality and really do a great job.

San Diego, CA:
What part do pedigree, conformation, racing ability (in the form of Beyer, Rag, or Thoro-Graph #'s), or some other secret formula play in determining your valuation of prospective purchases?

Iavarone:
All of the above is what is most important to us. His ability, conformation and pedigree are the bread and butter of our selection process. Those ingredients plus a lot of luck is what it is all about.

LAST UPDATED: 1:13 P.M. (ET)

Editor's Note: BloodHorse.com moderators retain editorial control over Talkin' Horses discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests; guests may decline to answer questions. Opinions expressed by guests of Talkin' Horses are those of the guest and do not represent the opinions of Blood-Horse Publications, its employees, associates, or affiliated organizations. Guests, dates, and times of Talkin' Horses discussions are subject to change.