Call it the 15-year itch.
In 1997, as Robert and Janice McNair were preparing to populate their Stonerside Farm near Paris, Ky., with Thoroughbreds, they purchased half of Holzmeister from Frank Stronach. Eventually they swapped a part of that one for a quarter interest in the colt Touch Gold, who had a troubled Preakness (gr. I) trip before returning three weeks later and defeating Silver Charm (gr. I) in the Belmont Stakes (gr. I), denying him the Triple Crown in the process.
Now, the McNairs return to the Belmont in the name of their Magnolia Racing Stable, having purchased a half interest in Street Life from Hidden Brook Farm, several of whose principals are or have been affiliated with—wait for it—Frank Stronach.
"It may be deja vu every 15 years," said John Adger, longtime advisor to the McNairs. "I had a lot of respect for Silver Charm and have a lot for I'll Have Another ."
The McNairs bought in on Street Life after the Street Sense colt broke his maiden in his second start last February.
"We were impressed with the way he broke his maiden, his turn of foot, and his pedigree," noted Adger, adding that the McNairs keep a relatively small stable these days. Bob Baffert has a few head for them, as does English conditioner John Gosden. Most of Robert McNair’s attention these days is trained on the Houston Texans of the National Football League, a franchise he owns.
Street Life returned to win the Broad Brush Stakes at Aqueduct Racetrack, and then ran unplaced in the Resorts World Casino New York City Wood Memorial (gr. I). He next made a late move to get up for third in the Peter Pan Stakes (gr. II) May 12 at Belmont Park. Chad Brown trains Street Life, who is out of Stone Hope and drew the rail for the Belmont. Street Life is not only by a Kentucky Derby (gr. I) winner (Street Sense), his broodmare sire is Derby victor Grindstone.
Jack Brothers, one of the Hidden Brook principals, said that it was a series of fortuitous circumstances that led to Hidden Brook campaigning Street Life.
"Our team was at Keeneland identifying short lists for our clients at the September sale," said Brothers. "Street Life was on one of those lists but a vet ended up taking him off for reasons unknown to me. So we reconvened as a team and bought him for $130,000, most of which we didn’t have at the time."
The plan was to pinhook the colt as a 2-year-old, so Hidden Brook partnered with David Scanlon to that end. While he trained well coming up to the sale, he ended up with a minor shin problem, and the decision was made to scratch him from the sale and buy out Scanlon.
Hidden Brook sent the colt to Brown to train. After that maiden score at Aqueduct, offers began coming in, some to buy the horse outright. But Hidden Brook was high on Street Life, so they sought out partners that would come in for a piece. Brothers said he and partners Sergio de Sousa and Dan Hall liked Street Life’s presence, walk, balance, and mind.
"We weren’t dissuaded by one vet’s opinion and we stayed on him," said Brothers. "It’s not what we typically do, especially stretching on the price, but that’s how much we like him.
"We have a long relationship with John Adger going back to Touch Gold and Congaree (the McNairs’ multiple grade I winner who stood stud at Stronach’s Adena Springs)," noted Brothers. "We have a lot of admiration for the McNairs and their program. So we took some money off the table, found a great partner, and got our cake and ate it too."
"The Wood we’re drawing a line through; that race didn’t tell us a lot," noted Brothers. "We felt there was more in the tank. Chad put the blinkers on him before the Peter Pan to get into the race earlier, and I think that race shows he belongs in here."
If the 15-year deja vu angle pans out, the McNairs will have touched gold once again.