Jed Cohen has seen pretty much everything over his 60 years in racing. Under his Red Baron's Barn banner, Cohen campaigned graded stakes winners such as Wavy Run (IRE), Call Me, Deploy Venture (GB), Janet (GB), Perim (FR), Suances (GB), and Si Sage.
He has watched can't-miss prospects lose races and fall short in every way imaginable. But he has never seen one of his horse compete in the Breeders' Cup World Championships—at least not until Itsinthepost walks onto the Del Mar racetrack for the Longines Breeders' Cup Turf (G1T) Nov. 4.
Of course, that won't come as easily as it could have, either. Itsinthepost encountered traffic and poor racing luck virtually every step of the way in the Aug. 19 Del Mar Handicap (G2T), ultimately losing the "Win & You're In" race by 3/4 of a length to Hunt. French-bred Itsinthepost thus cost Cohen $100,000 in supplemental entry fees for the Turf.
"It's very exciting," Cohen said. "I've always said people in this business are insane, and I now have proof of that personally. How do you spend $100,000 to run in this race? Initially I wasn't going to, but I got a lot of push from a lot of people. This is the Academy Awards for horses, so I guess we deserve to take a shot. I've never treated this business like it was sound economics anyway."
Cohen knows all about economics. He grew up poor in New York City but made his way to NYU Law School, giving legal advice on the side to the number runners and bookmakers whom he befriended. He moved to California early on and switched from the law to finance, serving as an economic advisor to the John F. Kennedy administration.
Cohen watched his father pool money with friends to make $2 bets on Saturdays at Belmont Park or at the old Jamaica racetrack. When the younger Cohen saw Alfred Vanderbilt leading Native Dancer into the winner's circle at Belmont, he determined that someday he would own a racehorse. His first one, Wayward Jenny, won at Santa Anita.
"My life was over right then," Cohen said. "I had died and gone to heaven."
Red Baron's Barn (named after a Beverly Hills restaurant Cohen was given a piece of when a client couldn't pay for Cohen's financial counseling) started with claimers, but now has a small breeding operation going, and has typically enjoyed its greatest success bringing European turf runners to the States. Enter Itsinthepost (American Post—Sakkara Star, by Mozart), who showed some ability early on in France.
"He won in Marseille, which is similar to an American racetrack in that it is flat and left-handed," said bloodstock agent Hubert Guy, who brokered the purchase of Itsinthepost for Cohen. "He showed a nice turn of foot at 2 going nine furlongs and looked like he'd be a nice, promising 3-year-old. He was a nice individual."
Things did not go according to plan. His 3-year-old season was a winless bust in allowance optional claiming company, and it took Itsinthepost 11 starts to finally win in the U.S. Moved from the retiring Darrell Vienna to Jeff Mullins, Itsinthepost won two allowance optional claiming races in 2016 and jumped up into graded stakes company at the beginning of this season. The gelding ran second in both the San Gabriel Stakes (G3T) and the San Marcos Stakes (G2T) before rolling off consecutive victories in the San Luis Rey and Dixiana Elkhorn Stakes (both G2T), both at the Breeders' Cup Turf distance of 12 furlongs. He most recently won the Oct. 1 John Henry Turf Championship Stakes (G2T).
"He's been a delight to own, trouble-free," Cohen said. "Jeff thought he was a really good horse from the start and really got him turned around."
More than a decade ago, Cohen purchased a 600-acre farm and ranch in Ventura County north of Los Angeles named Rancho Temescal. His son Tim manages that operation, which stands the Cohens' stallion Suances (GB) along with client horses Tenga Cat and Roi Charmant. It provides boarding, foaling, breaking, and rehab for horses; avocados, lemons, blackberries, celery, and whatever else you could put in a salad grow there; and film companies use the property for location shooting.
"With the consolidation of farms in California, the ones that are left are busy," noted Tim Cohen, who partners with his father in the ownership of Itsinthepost. "We've had HBO up here shooting quite a bit, and we've had commercials shot here. Every few weeks we have something going on. It's good for variety, and free lunches."
As for the competition facing Itsinthepost in the Turf, the Cohens know they are going to need to get a lifetime-best performance from their charge to get to the winner's circle. But they're game.
"There's stiff competition, but we're hoping for a home-court advantage," Tim said. "The turns are tighter and the ground firmer than the Euros are used to. He's sturdy and he tries every time, and he's really dropping his head and wanting to get there now."