Since he burst onto the Thoroughbred scene a handful of years ago, Sol Kumin has unmistakably made his mark, even as his methods have been exaggerated and misunderstood by some. The Massachusetts-based Kumin, an investment manager by day, has spread his horse holdings out in a variety of ways leading to comparisons to Monty Hall, who in his heyday couldn't resist making a deal.
But Kumin's current stable stars reflect a far more diverse operation that ranges from yearling and 2-year-old auction purchases to buying horses on the improve but not yet necessarily headliners. In fact, Kumin recently sold part of My Boy Jack, a yearling purchase of his and an entrant in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1), to West Point Thoroughbreds, a group that for two straight years has bought into Derby horses just before the walkover for the race begins.
Kumin can't be happier to go against type as a seller rather than a buyer. "Hey, make fun of Sol now," he said with a laugh, having bought 50% of My Boy Jack (along with Don't Tell My Wife Stables) as a yearling for $20,000, and now having sold a quarter of his share to West Point at premium valuation. Earlier this season he bought into both Justify and Audible, giving him three starters in the Run for the Roses.
Sure, Kumin owns pieces of a dizzying number of racers, but his is not a helter-skelter operation. He has been lucky in his purchases, but he also has been mindful of his bottom line. And although he tries to buy proven horses on the come, he emphasized that he has never bought a horse that has already won a grade 1 event.
"Most of what I've bought have been turf fillies—probably 75%," he said. "I'm trying to create residual value so if I miss, I'm only missing by 30% or so, and if I hit, I'm doubling or tripling my money. I try to run a sensible stable, and if I'm doing that well, then I can take a shot at a Derby horse every year. It worked two years ago; it didn't work last year. And that's OK. It's not going to click every year, but it's a fun way to do it."
It's working this year. Kumin two years ago bought into Exaggerator early in the colt's sophomore campaign, a winning move as the son of Curlin ripped off grade 1 victories in the Santa Anita Derby, Preakness, and Betfair.com Haskell Invitational Stakes. Because of that association with co-owner Matt Bryan's Big Chief Racing and trainer Keith Desormeaux, Kumin went in on a partnership for which Desormeaux bought six yearlings in 2016. One of those turned out to be My Boy Jack , whom Kumin owns with Bryan and Kirk Godby of Don't Tell My Wife.
After his initial outing last season, My Boy Jack was transferred to the turf, where he broke his maiden in the Zuma Beach Stakes in October before a seventh-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf (G1T). After his sophomore bow in the Sham Stakes (G3) in which he ran third, the Creative Cause colt was given one more try on dirt, and he responded with a win in the Southwest Stakes (G3) before a third in the TwinSpires.com Louisiana Derby (G2) and a victory in the Stonestreet Lexington Stakes (G3).
"It's funny how it worked out," Kumin noted. "I thought My Boy Jack was a turf horse more than a Derby candidate until he ran huge at Oaklawn Park. In the meantime, I didn't think I had anything for the Derby, so I approached Elliott Walden of WinStar after Justify's first race in February.
"We had done stuff with WinStar and I wanted to be involved in him, and Elliott made the deal as long as we went in on Audible as well. So I was super-fortunate to get in on both of them, each having since won grade 1s."
Just like that, Kumin has three Derby contenders, owning 15% of Justify and Audible and 37.5% of My Boy Jack. Asked if he had made his plans for the walkover yet, Kumin laughed, remembering his experience from two years ago when he had both Exaggerator and My Man Sam in the Derby.
"I was there with my son, for whom the horse was named; and my father," he said. "So we walked over with My Man Sam, who didn't run well, while Exaggerator almost won the race. So whoever I walk over with this time, you probably want to bet someone else."
Kumin's rooting interest will begin May 4, when his Monomoy Girl figures to be one of the leading contenders in the Longines Kentucky Oaks (G1). Through agent Liz Crow, Kumin bought the filly for $100,000 (split with Michael Dubb) at the 2016 Keeneland September yearling sale. She has a special place in Kumin's stable and heart, partly because of whom she is succeeding.
"Lady Eli will always be my number one horse, but in the current stable the horse I get most excited about watching run is Monomoy Girl," he said. "In a way, she has picked up where Lady Eli left off. I love being part of stories where the horse means so much to the people around her. She is the first grade 1 winner bought by Liz, and the first one trained by Brad Cox. Brad is just about living in the barn with her. He's from Louisville, and the Oaks is a race we've always wanted to win. You want to make it happen so badly for the people involved."
Asked about whether his percentage in a horse affects his excitement level, Kumin said longevity of ownership means more to him.
"The ones you buy as yearlings or 2-year-olds are closer to your heart. You've named them, you remember buying them at the sale and what the people at the farm thought of them, so you feel more attached to them," he noted. "You get to spend more time around them and get to know their personalities.
"My son and I got to hang out with Justify for a while after the Santa Anita Derby; our first bonding period with him. Sentimentally, I guess My Boy Jack would be my favorite, but I'll be jumping up and down thrilled if any of the three win the Derby."