Michael Iavarrone got into horse racing the old-fashioned way--going off to the New York racetracks with his father after giving his mother the ol' misdirection play.
Now 37, he no longer needs to sneak away to the races. In fact, as an owner of likely Derby favorite Big Brown, Iavarone is walking through the front door Saturday to the biggest race of the year.
Iavarone did well enough as an investment banker to put some of his cash into buying Thoroughbreds, and his and partner's Richard Schiavo's IEAH Stables has proven just as successful as his investment business.
"I thought maybe I should own 'em instead of gambling on 'em," said Iavarone, a Long Island native.
The IEAH partnerships now boast some 70 investors and 85 horses. Most were associates and friends in the financial field. Although he still does investment work for a select group of clients, Iavarone is mostly focusing on the horse business these days.
IEAH's Kip Deville took the NetJets Breeders' Cup Mile (gr. IT) last autumn at Monmouth Park.
"That was an amazing experience," Iavarone noted. "I remember leaving Monmouth that day and thinking, 'How can it get better than this?' But it's starting to sink in now, being at the Derby, that this could be even more amazing."
Big Brown is undefeated in his three starts, and trainer Rick Dutrow has been extremely outspoken in his confidence that the son of Boundary looks to him to be the best in the Derby field.
"We're going to have to hire a publicist for Rick," joked Iavarone. "But the horse himself is what's giving him the confidence, so even though we may hear a few boos Saturday, ultimately everyone is here for the horse, and we hope they'll appreciate him."
With Big Brown's success, IEAH is having no trouble attracting more partners.
"Our only marketing at this point is word of mouth," Iavarone said.
He hopes Big Brown does most of the talking come Saturday.