Nick Zito, along with Bob Baffert and Wayne Lukas are joining together to find investors to buy, race, and sell horses.

Nick Zito, along with Bob Baffert and Wayne Lukas are joining together to find investors to buy, race, and sell horses.

Anne M. Eberhardt

Plans Announced for 'Legend' Fund

Trainers Baffert, Lukas, and Zito involved in venture.

The Thoroughbred Legends Racing Fund is a new venture designed to give investors financial clout and access to some of the best training expertise in the business, according to Kentucky horseman Olin Gentry, one of its founders.

The goals of the fund include raising $75 million-$125 million by late August to buy young horses that will be selected and conditioned by veterans Bob Baffert, D. Wayne Lukas, and Nick Zito, who collectively have trained the winners of 26 American classic races since 1980. Details of the venture were revealed during a presentation to potential investors at the Four Seasons restaurant in New York City June 5, two days before Zito saddled Da’ Tara for an upset victory in the Belmont Stakes (gr. I), spoiling Big Brown’s Triple Crown bid.

The fund is the brainchild of Gentry and Thomas Gaines of Gaines-Gentry Thoroughbreds in Lexington and investment banker Tripp Hardy, who is a partner in Gallatin Capital in New York. It will focus on the purchase of yearlings, but also will acquire 2-year-olds in training.

While “there will be plenty of fillies,” Gentry said, the emphasis will be on colts that can be sold as stallion prospects following their racing careers. Plans call for the fund to buy 70 to 100 horses a year for three years at a variety of levels in the market.

To participate, investors will be required to commit a minimum of $3 million each over three years. The fund will charge a 2% management fee and retain 20% of the profits from racing and sales.

“We think the good thing from a timing perspective is that right now there don’t seem to be enough new people coming into the yearling market as buyers,” Gentry said in an interview June 9. "It also is a good time to sell stallion prospects because the stallion market is very competitive. We think we should be able to find a lot of good prospects for reasonable prices, and then later have a good stallion market to sell them into.

"It also will be a positive for the Thoroughbred business because we will be bringing new people into the game.”

Baffert, Lukas, and Zito will share equally in any economic benefits they receive from the fund no matter who is the most successful in training the horses, according to Gentry. However, the trainers will operate separately in picking out horses to buy and in training them.

“I think they absolutely will get along,” Gentry said. “All three respect each other a lot, and they don’t have anything to prove now to each other or the world.”

Even though the country is in the midst of an economic downturn, Gentry is optimistic the venture will succeed. “There are still a lot of people out there with a lot of money who also are intrigued with racing, but don’t know how to get into it in the right way, which is something we feel that we can provide,” he said.

The fund, according to Gentry, will allow investors to be involved in the sport with a large number of horses of different types and with trainers, who have proven “they can do it again and again” when it comes to winning Triple Crown races.

Lukas and Zito both are members of racing’s Hall of Fame.