For Mike Pietrangelo, fun is the name of the game. An attorney by trade, Pietrangelo owns and breeds in partnerships. Through calculated maneuvers since his entry into racing 25 years ago, he has had numerous success stories, including recent Spring Fever Stakes winner Aireofdistinction, whom he co-bred with Bill Harrigan and Mark McEntree.
Pietrangelo’s first exposure to racing came through close family members. “I grew up in the Northeast and I had some uncles and my dad, and we’d go to Monmouth in the summertime fairly frequently,” he said. As an adult, he began to enquire about getting involved in the sport. He reached out to a friend’s son-in-law, who happened to be Allen Kershaw, former manager of Gainsborough Farm for Sheikh Maktoum bin Rashid al-Maktoum of Dubai. Kershaw, in turn, introduced Pietrangelo to Harley Clements, who told the longtime Memphis, Tenn. resident that racing wasn’t just a sport – it’s a business. Like any corporation, Pietrangelo would suffer some losses so he should invest what he could afford into a stable, but also have some fun.
And he has gone on to do just that. With longtime business partner Bill Harrigan – who first broke yearlings for Pietrangelo, then pinhooked horses with him – racing and breeding have become significant pastimes. “Mostly, Bill and I breed to sell but for one reason or another, [if] we can’t sell, then we’ll race,” said Pietrangelo. He’s found that this gives the partners an advantage in a depressed yearling market. “A lot of folks couldn’t take their yearlings back to the farms and say, ‘Well, we’ll race them; well, we’ll try [them] as two-year-olds.’ We had that option with Bill. So, it’s been good, and, we’ve had some success in [the] breeding business, so between that [and] racing I get into a few partnerships.”
Seeing his horses, whether he owns all, part, or none of them, thrive is a thrill for Pietrangelo. High Point Thoroughbred Partners, of which he is a member, was the leading owner at Parx Racing in 2013 and co-leader at Monmouth Park. When it came to High Point, Pietrangelo let the experts take the lead. “We just put some money in and had someone who knew what he was doing claim claimers for us, anywhere from $7,500 to $25,000. And then we would take them, rest them, make sure they got on a good diet, good trainer, and run them where they could win and it was really very successful.” Pietrangelo currently owns about six or seven horses with that group.
For Pientrangelo, partnerships are a good introduction to the business and a logical option for owners. “I think I decided a long time ago that it’s really a numbers game. I also found out that if your horse crosses the finish line first and you get to the winners’ circle, it’s nice to have 100%, but it’s pretty darn nice just to have a percentage because you’ve had the experience,” he said. In addition to introducing Pietrangelo to new friends, “partnerships are good because racing is a numbers game and partnerships help. And I think partnerships today are really outstanding – Dogwood, West Point – they do a really good job for their clients, clients that don’t have time to do this, or clients that aren’t fortunate enough to have a partner like Bill, who does 95% of what needs to be done.”
His breeding operation isn’t too shabby, either. Pietrangelo boards the approximately 10 mares he co-owns with Harrigan at that latter’s Miacomet Farms in Georgetown, Ky. One standout from his operation has been Aireofdistinction. A four-year-old filly by Songandaprayer out of Clear Distinction, by Storm Cat, she is now owned by Gillian S. Campbell. Pietrangelo notes that conformation has played a big role in his mating decisions, including that of Aireofdistinction. “Bill’s really good at this. I mean, I’m still learning from everybody. But the first look is the physical – what they look like, how they’re going to match up together. If you’re trying to correct something that your mare has, you might go to a stallion obviously that’s got that corrected.” Such was Songandaprayer, whom he deemed “a very underrated stallion.”
Like his racing operation, Pietrangelo’s breeding philosophy is practical. “I think the old adage is breed the best to the best, but you can’t do that because everybody’s got a budget,” he noted. “I think you look at the conformation of the mare and the stallion… you’re trying to correct any imperfections, and then look at nicking... I think nicking is a good indication of what comes out. And we like to take chances on first-year stallions as well. If you’re going to race them, that’s one thing, and if you’re going buy to sell, that’s different.”
Congratulations to Mike, TOBA's March member of the month!