The members of Little Red Feather Racing started 2017 with a feather in their caps. They co-own Midnight Storm, a newly minted six-year-old by Pioneerof the Nile who tallied a 1 ¼-length victory in the January 1 San Pasqual Handicap (G2) at Santa Anita.
In 2016, Midnight Storm finished an excellent third to Tepin and Tourist in the November 5 Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1T). On turf, he captured the Shoemaker Mile S. (G1T), Eddie Read S. (G2T), and Del Mar Mile H. (G2T), and he rounded out the season by winning the November 27 Native Diver (G3) on dirt at Del Mar. Alex Venneri and Marjorie Post Dye bred Midnight Storm from the Bertrando mare My Tina, and Venneri sold a portion of the horse to LRF after his 2014 Del Mar Derby (G2T) win.
“We’re so thankful, we’re so blessed, and we appreciate Alex Venneri for allowing us to buy a piece of the horse, and it’s just worked out fantastic,” enthused LRF founder Billy Koch, who, alongside childhood friend and entertainment lawyer Gary Fenton, serves as a managing partner. “He was always a very talented racehorse, but he wanted to go so fast early,” Koch mused. “Now he’s a grade II winner on dirt, he’s a grade I winner on turf, he’s earned almost $1.5 million, and for our partners, he’s what you dream about.”
Koch caught the racing bug early—his grandfather, movie producer Howard Koch, owned horses and brought his grandson to the track after school and on weekends. After graduating Northwestern University in 1991, Billy Koch put together his first syndicate, which ended soon after. His second venture, Thoroughbred Management International (TMI) - named after the fictional sports agency in the film Jerry Maguire, which Koch worked on - lasted several years.
In 2002, Koch asked longtime friend Bruce Corwin, chairman and CEO of Metropolitan Theatres, and his son David, to borrow funds for a new project. Koch brought on Fenton and enlisted trainer Don Chatlos Jr. to find runners for what he dubbed Little Red Feather Racing. Chatlos purchased a package of three horses in Florida; one became 2004 Breeders’ Cup Mile (G1T) winner Singletary.
“Singletary winning the Breeders’ Cup Mile in 2004 really put us on the map,” Koch said. LRF currently includes about 400 investors who come together for the joy of the game. “We have built a family. We really look at LRF more as a family than some big corporate giant,” he added. Members of all ages and from diverse backgrounds are what make LRF thrive. Koch noted, “Our partners make it happen. We can find the horses...but without our partners, our clients and our LRF family, we’re nothing.”
Last year, the partnership also raced Midnight Miley, who won two Canadian grade III races at Woodbine in 2016. After not reaching her reserve at the 2017 Keeneland January sale, Midnight Miley was recently sold privately. And the partnership’s success didn’t stop there: At OBS’s spring 2016 sale of two-year-olds in training, LRF’s executive bloodstock agent, Tom McCrocklin—on behalf of Little Red Feather’s pinhooking arm, Solana Beach Sales—sold a handsome Broken Vow colt for $1.2 million after purchasing him for $105,000 at the 2015 Keeneland September sale.
LRF’s leading earners also included top turf mare Egg Drop. Tom McCrocklin snatched up the daughter of Alphabet Soup, whom he dubbed a “little white rocket ship,” for $12,000 at the 2010 OBS two-year-old sale; she went on to win the 2013 Matriarch (G1T) and to sell for $1.9 million (in foal to Tapit) at the 2014 Keeneland November sale.
Koch looks forward to more success with his clients, especially using LRF’s user-friendly website, which offers up plenty of information for prospective and current members alike. Koch is proud of its digital footprint: “One of the ways that this sport is going to grow is with new owners and we have to educate them and bring them in.” He added, “We want you to come to our website and learn all about us...provide information for you the consumer, the potential new client.” The partnership is ultimately a business, but Koch and Fenton remain committed to their horses, both on and off the track. They founded LRF Cares, a non-profit aimed at finding retired runners homes.
A member of TOBA’s bBoard of tTrustees, Koch is also enthusiastic about what the organization can bring to the industry. He attended the recent Thoroughbred Owner Conference a recent owner-breeder seminar in California and spoke on a panel about partnerships, noting, “Talk about a great event with potential to grow exponentially!” He added, “I believe they’re a tremendous organization; obviously, they do so much for our industry.” Calling TOBA “a one-stop shop of anything you wanted to know about horse racing and breeding,” Koch said that it’s an excellent resource for horsemen nationwide.