LaPenta Talks About World Record Fusaichi Pegasus Colt

Robert V. LaPenta owned the Fusaichi Pegasus -- Hidden Storm colt that sold for a world record juvenile price of $4.5 million at the recent Fasig-Tipton Florida select sale of 2-year-olds in training. Through trainer Nick Zito, LaPenta purchased the colt for $270,000 at the 2003 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga select yearling sale. The colt's increase in value of $4,230,000 was a yearling-to-juvenile pinhooking record.

LaPenta also has a successful racing stable that includes graded winners The Cliff's Edge and Awesome Time.

LaPenta is the president of L-3 Communications, a New York-based company that is a leading supplier of intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance systems and products.

LaPenta was interviewed three days after the Fasig-Tipton Florida auction.

How did you get involved in the Thoroughbred business?

"I started buying horses in a partnership with (University of Louisville basketball coach) Rick Pitino around 1999 or 2000, I'm not sure which year. Rick was buying some horses, and he had a partnership put together with four or five other people, and I became one of the partners. I did that for a couple of years, then I decided I would rather do something on my own, have a little more flexibility. I've been doing that ever since 2001.

What is your game plan?

"I'm in the game because it's a great sport, very competitive. I'm trying to have fun, and I'm trying to do it in a business-like fashion. I'm want to prove to myself you can be honest; you can be smart; you can be a good business person; and you can be successful in the game.

"What I do is buy a number of yearlings in the Saratoga and the Keeneland (September) sales. Then we put them on farms, see how they develop, and then they go to the Fasig-Tipton Calder or the Keeneland sales (of 2-year-olds in training). Our plan is to sell as many horses as we can if we can get our price. As you know, you never end up selling all of them. So, what happens then, we have residuals, and we go on and race with them. I want try to race them in quality races at the high end of the game.

"Last year, we tried to sell The Cliff's Edge. He reared up and had a terrible workout after a cat ran across the track. Nobody bid on him. El Prado Rob was another one. It was toward the end of the sale, and there wasn't a lot of bidding action, plus he had a little bit of a bruise on his shin."

In 2003, you bought 20 yearlings in the name of Whitehorse Stables. How did you get the record-setting Fusiachi Pegasus colt?

"(Trainer) Nick Zito buys my horses. I think he has an incredible talent for spotting good animals. I told him I wanted some Fusaichi Pegasuses. There are certain events that happen in sports that just stick in you mind. Fusiachi Pegasus running down the stretch of the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) was, to me, one of the most beautiful sights I had ever seen in my life. He was one of the most beautiful horses I have ever seen. He was also very talented and bringing a huge amount of money in the breeding shed. We ended up with three Fusaichi Pegasuses The stars aligned, and we were very fortunate to sell the one out of Hidden Storm for a lot of money."

What did you think about the price?

"Obviously, I was very happy with it. It was great. But he was a wonderful horse. In my head, if he didn't bring a certain price, I was going to keep him. I felt he was worth a lot of money. I was going to be very aggressive on this horse, and I wasn't just going to give him away. He looked like his dad and acted like him. If you look at his workout (on video), he just glides.

"This horse was out of the barn the entire week. They took so many X rays of him that I was afraid he was going to get cancer. They had things down his throat. You could tell that the horse was going to get a lot of activity. When I saw the Stephen Got Even that went for $3.1 million, I knew that my horse was the best one in the sale."

What was your reserve?

"I don't want to say, but it was a big price."

How many horses do you have in training with Nick Zito.

"Nine. There is one on the farm."

Are you involved in the breeding business?

"I have a couple of mares that I'm breeding. I just signed a contract to breed one of them to Fusaichi Pegasus."

Tell us a little bit about L-3 Communications?

"We are a New York Stock Exchange company, and our annual sales are currently running at about $6 billion. My name is one of the 3 Ls. I was one of the founders. We founded the company back in 1997 and we're in the high-tech defense electronics, reconnaissance, surveillance, and communications business. We also have big business in Homeland Security. We own about 50% to 60% of the market for checked baggage (screening) machines in airports."

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