I Want Revenge at Churchill Downs on April 28.

I Want Revenge at Churchill Downs on April 28.

Mathea Kelley

Revenge Is Sweet for Puglisi at Derby

New York brokerage firm executive owns a minority interest in morning-line favorite.

Jeff Puglisi is a major buyer at sales of 2-year-olds in training, where some of his purchases have included graded winners Diabolical and Miraculous Miss along with 2008 Frizette Stakes (gr. I) winner Sky Diva. In 2008, the New York brokerage firm executive spent $2,030,000 for 11 horses at the five major select juvenile auctions conducted by Barretts, Fasig-Tipton, and the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Co.

But Puglisi had to venture outside the juvenile marketplace to find his first Kentucky Derby Presented By Yum! Brands (gr. I) runner. Earlier this year, his Puglisi Racing operation acquired a minority interest in I Want Revenge , who is the morning-line favorite for the May 2 Run for the Roses at Churchill Downs. The private transaction was completed prior to the 3-year-old  Stephen Got Even colt’s gritty 1 ½-length victory in the April 4 Wood Memorial Stakes (gr. I), with Puglisi and his partner, trainer Steve Klesaris, buying a small portion of the 50% interest IEAH Stables had purchased from I Want Revenge’s breeder, David Lanzman.

Puglisi’s friendship with bloodstock agent Nick Sallusto led to the deal and also was one of the reasons Puglisi got involved with IEAH in a partnership involving another 3-year-old, Patena, a Canadian added-money winner that was second in the Lecomte Stakes (gr. III),  but finished 10th in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I).

“Nick mentioned to me that he was looking into maybe purchasing a piece of I Want Revenge, and I told Nick he was the type of horse I would be interested in participating in,” Puglisi said. “It kind of developed over a period of a week or so. Nick was negotiating with David while I was talking to (IEAH’s) Michael Iavarone, and I agreed to participate in the partnership with them (IEAH). The price was right, and when I spoke with Steve, we thought that he (I Want Revenge) would be the one of all the horses on the Derby trail we would entertain buying. Obviously, I Want Revenge’s Gotham (gr. III) performance (when he won by 8 ½ lengths) was a head turner for a lot of people.”

In some ways, I Want Revenge’s Wood Memorial triumph was even more impressive as the dark bay or brown colt had to overcome a bad break from the starting gate and traffic problems to win the race. The victory also solidified Puglisi’s opinion that I Want Revenge had the most potential of any Triple Crown nominee.

“That was a very special performance,” Puglisi said. “We were all there, and we expected him to win, but he showed a lot of new dimensions in the Wood, which was a very, very exciting race. After being left at the gate, he just galloped up to the field and then had to fight through all those young horses, getting bumped and getting dirt in his face. And then, he galloped out tremendously. This is a colt that can do special things. He’s a talented individual that is really excelling at the right time for a Kentucky Derby horse.”

Puglisi’s only previous Triple Crown experience as an owner came with Diabolical, who finished eighth in the 2006 Preakness Stakes (gr. I).

“It was that ill-fated race when Barbaro broke down, and it wasn’t a very memorable race for us,” Puglisi said.

He’s hoping for a better outcome in the Derby.

“This is the race every horse owner wants to win in his lifetime, and it is special to have an interest in a horse that is going to participate,” Puglisi said. “I’m enjoying the experience because I think this is a quality horse that’s got a real opportunity to win.”