Paul Saylor Thoroughbred Owner
Tuesday, February 20, 2007 at Noon (ET)
In recent years, Paul Saylor has shared ownership in such outstanding runners as the record-setting Keyed Entry and Eclipse Award champion fillies Ashado (2004, 2005) and Fleet Indian (2006), been named Georgia Owner of the Year (2003), and currently serves on the board of The Race for Education.
New Jersey-born Saylor -- founder and CEO of two real estate investment banking and management firms -- splits his time between homes in Georgia, South Carolina, and California, He bought his first horse in the early 1980s, acquired his first Thoroughbreds in 1990, and now owns (most in various partnerships) around 30 horses in training, mostly in the care of Ralph Nicks and Todd Pletcher.
Saylor recently announced establishment of The Fleet Indian Scholarship -- in the amount of $24,000 for New York students hoping to pursue a career in the racing industry -- to be administered by The Race for Education. Saylor had previously established an Ashado Scholarship in 2006.
Mr. Saylor, both your concern for the animals and your philanthropy are admirable. Have you decided whether you will keep or sell Fleet Indian and her foal (assuming she gets in foal)?
Thank you for your comment over concern for animals. The game isn’t real fun unless you really care for the horses. The original plan was to sell Fleet Indian since I am not heavily into the breeding business, but after her injury I decided to get her in foal and make a decision down the road. She was bred last week to Storm Cat and is now turned out. I wish I knew the answer to your question.
I am a huge fan of Fleet Indian. What was your reaction to her injury in the BC Distaff? Could you tell something was amiss during the race, or did it come as a total surprise as she pulled up in the head of the stretch? Did you think she had a chance before the incident? Thanks for all the memories you afforded the public with a spectacular mare like Fleet Indian. I can't wait to see her babies!
My reaction to her injury in the BC Distaff was total disbelief. I was standing with my family as it all came apart in the far turn. Her injury was as much a surprise to me as it was to Jose Santos. I thought she had a great chance to win the race and retire after a fairytale year. She still had the fairytale year. It is nice to know someone will have memories of her racing career besides me.
Mr. Saylor, I was at Churchill for the Cup; Fleet Indian was pulled up almost before me. Thank God she is OK Have you discussed the ambulance delay with track or other industry officials?
The issue over the lack of prompt attention to Fleet Indian during the BC Distaff is ongoing. I have been having discussions with senior Breeders' Cup people and the Executive Director of the Kentucky Horse Racing Authority, among others. I now know the reasons for the ambulance delay (none of them any good), and although there seems to be a commitment to change regulations and be more attentive to daily horse racing safety matters, the involved organizations are moving at a bureaucratic pace.
Do you keep in touch with Ashado? Who was she bred to in 2006 and who is she going to be bred to in 2007?
Thanks to Darley Jonabell, I do keep in touch with Ashado. She was bred to Storm Cat in 2006 and a foal is due at any time. I do not know her 2007 breeding plans. The Darley Jonabell people have been terrific keeping me and the other Ashado racing partners up to date.
Culver City, CA:
Who's that great looking guy in the background of the photo?
You are almost as good looking as my granddaughter.
First of all, congratulations on all your success and thank you for taking my question. Obviously, with slots at more and more racing venues, purses have increased. What will it take, though, for the industry to realize that their long term viability depends on increasing attendance? Other industries like NASCAR and Poker seem to "get it" -- what key actions does the horse industry need to take to turn things around?
You are absolutely correct – the long time viability of the horse racing industry depends on increasing attendance as well as increasing interest by various segments of the population. The key industry need is formation of an effective national organization and the cessation of fragmentation of the industry by conflicting state authorities and old guard determination to “stand pat.” The Thoroughbred horse racing industry needs to be run as if profitability to all participants is the objective. An off the wall comment as to what is needed to “turn things around” – ban the use of the whip.
Hey, Daddy!!! Nice picture and cool that it's on the front page!
Olivia, I hope this is you.
Do you recommend partnerships as a good way to get the foot in the door of ownership? What are the pros and cons of partnerships and what would I need to be aware of?
I have more horses racing in partnerships than I own individually for the primary reason of spreading risk and increasing odds of getting a really good horse. The most important factor in creating a partnership is to make sure you and your partners are on the same page – no whining and the guts to continue on when you are disappointed most of the time. Make sure the partnership has a competent manager whose duties and obligations are clearly identified.
I was just wondering if it is realistic to buy a couple of cheap broodmares and get into breeding for the industry? My brother said I was crazy, that there's not much money to be made at the lower end of the business. Do you think that this is true?
Your brother is correct. There is not much money to be made at the lower end of the business. I know because I spent many years there. However, there have been cases of inexpensive broodmares producing runners that become quite valuable. Do it if it is going to be fun and not a financial burden, persevere and you will eventually get a good runner.
Who do you think are the best three-year-olds who didn't win the Kentucky Derby or Triple Crown?
Recently, Smarty Jones and Barbaro. Historically, Spectacular Bid.
What are the most important handicapping factors in selecting the Derby winner?
I believe the Derby is an impossible race to handicap for the primary reason that it is unlike any other race any of the horses entered have experienced. Not only is the distance longer, the trail to the Derby is physically demanding and a horse has to keep it together mentally in the weeks before the Derby. This latter issue often determines the winner.
New Orleans, LA:
I keep reading that high vet bills are running owners out of horse racing. Most trainers have the vet to look at their horses almost every day and, of course, they do something. Do you think this is a growing issue among Thoroughbred owners?
I commented in a recent interview that as a kid I wanted to be a vet and now I hate vets. I don’t really hate vets, I just hate their bills. While attentive vets can add to a horse’s ability to run big, in general I believe vets tend to over-treat and over-prescribe.
Saratoga Springs, NY:
Mr. Saylor, I am a small scale horse breeder here in upstate New York. I have a pregnant broodmare and her yearling colt and have been trying to find a partner or two to share the risks and expenses but haven't had any luck. These are nice horses and I wondered if someone with your experience and success might have an idea how I may attract some partners? (And Keyed Entry looked great in his comeback race)!
Thank you for the comment about Keyed Entry. He is a terrific sprinter and his rebound is a great example of the ups and downs (or in this case, downs and ups) of horse racing. The Sackatoga guys (Funny Cide) are the best example I can recall of buddies getting together and hitting it big. Pick five or six of your closest friends, have a brief partnership agreement prepared, take them to a bar, and convince them they will never have more fun in their lives.
Considering the recent suspension of one of your trainers for a violation he vehemently denies, do you think the current drug rules in racing need to be revised? In what way? More uniform?
The days Todd Pletcher got were an absolute joke. The drug rules in racing need to be completely revised. I believe a current major factor in issuing days is that other trainers have gotten days for alleged like-kind violations. Until there is a central (probably national) regulatory agency and competent uniform testing, the issue will remain unresolved.
Do you like South American-bred race horses?
Yes, but I like South American-bred jockeys more.
Do you have a particular sales strategy each year when deciding what horses to purchase at auction?
For yearlings, most of my acquisitions are made in partnership with Jack and Laurie Wolf’s Starlight Stable and Donald Lucarelli, based on the advice of Barry Berkelhammer. Every once in a while, I come across an older horse that I purchase solo.
I am a big fan of Fleet Indian. What is her personality like and how is she recovering from her injury?
Her recovery could not be going any better. She has been on schedule all the way. She was bred to Storm Cat last week and now she is turned out with other broodmares. Her recovery period is over. In addition to exceptional vet care, the primary reason for her recovery is her personality and character. Coming right off the track and into a stall for a substantial period of time takes a heavy mental and physical toll on most horses. She handled herself perfectly before and after the medical procedure. It is often said that great horses’ unique character sets them apart.
Ormond Beach, FL:
As an owner, don't you agree that the industry needs to get back to breeding horses who are strong and conformationally correct and not worry so much about breeding 2-yr-olds who can do the quarter in :21 to impress prospective buyers but just as often wind up breaking down, often with TRAGIC consequences?
To realize a much needed increase in popularity, the industry needs greater breeding focus on producing heroes, which results from good horses becoming great horses over time. As you correctly point out, there is too much emphasis on producing young speed balls which often never make it to the races or have very short careers. The economics of the industry should be recast to de-emphasize crunching on young horses and promoting longer racing careers.
Keep up the good work; I love to watch great fillies run. I was wondering if there are instances where the ideas within your racing partnerships have conflicted with your individual ideas, and how much compromise goes into keeping everything running smoothly?
Any time you own horses, real estate, etc. in partnership, you will have some conflicting ideas among the partners. There is certainly the need to compromise, although that can be minimized by initially establishing partnership objectives and management practices agreed upon by all partners.
Do you have any Derby or Oaks contenders this year?
Realistically, no. Starlight Stable and I had one who is on the Derby Trail that we sold in December. His name is Mindfield and he is now in Dubai. He looks like the real deal.
Were you surprised at the price that Ashado brought at Keeneland or was it what you expected?
The price Ashado sold for was a little higher than I anticipated. Although she was not in foal at the time of her sale, she achieved a world record price based in large part on her breeding as well as her race record and character.
First, I would like to make a comment on Fleet Indian and how much I enjoyed watching her run. I wish her continued success as a brood mare! Do you remember the first horse you ever owned that won a race? What race and what was the horse's name?
Yes, I do remember. It was in 1985 and ‘86. The race was a claiming Quarter Horse at Manor Downs in Austin, Texas and the horse was Sarah’s Gone Native.
Hi, Paul I really enjoyed following the careers of Fleet Indian and Keyed Entry. I'm curious though, about the importance of a good trainer in the life of a good horse. Isn't it true that a great horse will have a great career even with a mediocre trainer, but a great trainer doesn't stand a chance with a not-so-good horse?
I believe a horse’s level of talent is more important than the trainers’ but a really good trainer can make a great horse out of a good horses.
Keyed Entry is a fabulous sprinter. What was your decision process to run him in last year’s Kentucky Derby?
More hope than sense.
Virginia Beach, VA:
What do you think of the new (artificial) track material? Do you think it can help save so many horses from being injured? If it does, do you think something should be done to make all tracks switch to a safer track surface?
So far the statistics indicate fewer breakdowns on synthetic surfaces. I would like to see uniform track surfaces throughout the country. I also believe synthetic surfaces provide some turf horses with an alternative.
Please tell us about the personalities of some of your famous horses. Which was the kindest? Which is the hardest to handle?
Of current horses, the kindest was Ashado. And the toughest to handle, once he is out of the barn, is Keyed Entry.
You have received an Eclipse award in each of the last three years, which one was the most special and why?
For most of my racing career it was impossible to believe I would ever get an Eclipse, let alone three in a row. While the Ashado awards were extremely satisfying, I have to say Fleet Indian’s is the most special based on the fact I solely own her, she raced in my colors, the level of her success came as a surprise, and Jose Santos got to ride another big horse.
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