Michael Sisk is the face of a pioneering company that deals with the diagnosis and treatment of low testosterone in men, having co-founded the wildly successful Low T Center chain of testosterone therapy clinics in the Dallas-Fort Worth area in 2009.
Less than a decade later, Sisk, 49, is getting a boost from another source—Thoroughbred racing. Sisk captured his first career owner's title during the 55-day Oaklawn Park meeting that concluded April 14, outpointing four-time defending champion Danny Caldwell 21-17.
"That's what he wanted," said Robertino Diodoro, Sisk's primary trainer. "He's a very high-strung guy, but he's a great owner. Good for the game. Lots of energy and lots of enthusiasm. Got lots of goals ahead of him."
The title at the Hot Springs, Ark., track came a little more than a year after M and M Racing (Michael and wife Mickala) started its first horse.
On the strength of 17 victories, including Mind Reader's score in the $100,000 Snack Stakes at Indiana Grand Racing and Casino, M and M bankrolled $833,748 in purse earnings last year to rank 139th for owners with at least one North American start, according to Equibase.
M and M, racing primarily in Arkansas and New York, has already blown past both figures this year, with 28 victories and $951,439 in purse earnings, the latter ranking 16th nationally through Tuesday. M and M ranked second in purse earnings at Oaklawn ($671,919), winning a healthy 20% of its starts. Diodoro trained all but one of the 21 winners.
"We were sitting together at Saratoga and I was like, 'Hey, I want to win the owner's title at Oaklawn. What would it take to do that?'" Michael Sisk said. "I think that was in July. So we put this together from July until now. They've got a great group of people. Robertino and his team are incredible. They make it easy for me."
Sisk met Diodoro through the trainer's connection to M and M's racing manager, Cody Autrey, a highly successful conditioner in the late 2000s who now lives in Hot Springs. M and M now has approximately 30 horses in training—the bulk with Diodoro—but that total was in constant flux this year at Oaklawn because of heavy activity at the claim box.
Two-thirds of M and M's winners were in for a tag.
M and M has already started to retool its philosophy, purchasing a colt from the second crop of champion Shanghai Bobby for $180,000 at the 2018 Ocala Breeders' Sales March 2-year-olds in training sale and spending $334,000 to acquire four more horses at the Texas Thoroughbred Association's 2-year-olds in training sale April 10.
M and M bought the TTA sale-topper, a Louisiana-bred filly by Bind, for $140,000 and a Texas-bred son of Grasshopper for $120,000. The colt, a full brother to multiple stakes winner Supermason, equaled the second-highest-priced horse sold.
The first broodmare raced by M and M, Summer House, was bred this year to Pioneerof the Nile , Sisk said. M and M claimed the 6-year-old daughter of Tiznow for $80,000 out of a sprint victory in August at Saratoga Race Course. Summer House represented M and M's second stakes winner in the Jan. 12 $50,000 Eldorado Stakes at Delta Downs Racetrack Casino & Hotel and was retired Jan. 27 following a runner-up finish in the $125,000 American Beauty Stakes at Oaklawn.
"We're going to try to get a horse in the Pegasus next year," Sisk said, referring to the $16.3 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational Stakes (G1). "I'm going to put the money up. We're going for more quality. But this is fun. We've had a blast."
Sisk and his wife reside in the Dallas suburb of Flower Mound but spend much of their time during the Oaklawn meeting and in the summer at their home on nearby Lake Hamilton. M and M's emerald green, black and white silks are like an equine billboard for local tourism, with "Hot Springs, AR" stripped across the front and back.
"It's home," said Michael Sisk, who has camped or rented vacation houses in Hot Springs for more than 20 years. "That's the base of our horse operation."
Sisk said he's been a "race fan forever" and met Autrey approximately three years ago when the owner was building his lake house. Since he and his wife spent so much time in Hot Springs, Sisk said the thought of purchasing a horse would give them "something to do" and "would be entertaining."
"One became two, two became 60," Michael Sisk said with a laugh.
M and M's first starter, Mishegas, also represented its first winner in a Jan. 21, 2017, allowance/optional claimer at Oaklawn. Diodoro had claimed the gelding about a month earlier for $40,000 at Los Alamitos.
Mishegas was M and M's only winner from six starters at the 2017 Oaklawn meeting. But a double Jan. 13—the second day of the 2018 meeting—and doubles Feb. 3 and Feb. 24 propelled M and M to its first owner's title.
Mission accomplished, Sisk said.
"I'm a business guy, we're competitive," said Sisk, who grew up about 80 miles east of Memphis in Selmer, Tenn. "If we're going to do anything, we're going to be here to compete. We got the lay of the land, and it was like, 'Hey, how do they keep score here?' It was like, 'The guy that wins the most races.' Great, let's go do that."