Industry Profile: Bruce Lunsford, Art Collector’s Owner

LOUISVILLE — Bruce Lunsford, who will have his first Preakness Stakes (G1) entrant when Art Collector takes on Kentucky Derby winner Authentic Saturday at Pimlico, knows something about tough races and taking on formidable opponents.

After all, as the Democratic nominee for Kentucky’s U.S. Senate seat in 2008, he gave Mitch McConnell the closest call of the Senate Majority Leader’s long political career.

“Oh sure, even in politics there’s a common thread,” said Lunsford, comparing it to horse racing. “I went into a race that nobody thought I could win. I was 25 points behind; I was tied with two weeks to go. It was like the stretch drive. It was fun, exhilarating, and I got to meet a lot of people. Mitch and I still have a decent relationship today. I think he respected what I did, and I saw where he was quoted as saying the only time he’d had his people write a concession letter was in the race with me. Because two weeks out, it looked like we were going to win.”

The 72-year-old entrepreneur and philanthropist from Louisville has been many things: Founder of a Fortune 500 company, investor in a myriad of start-up companies, producer of movies, partner in the Kentucky Kingdom amusement park and Hurricane Bay water park. He worked in state government as Kentucky’s commerce secretary. Now Lunsford would love nothing more than to add classic-winning horse owner and breeder.

Art Collector, out of Lunsford’s mare Distorted Legacy, is his first Preakness entrant and his second in the Triple Crown, following Vision and Verse, the 1999 Belmont Stakes (G1) runner-up to Lemon Drop Kid at odds of 54-1. Art Collector — who is 4- for-4 this year, including the $200,000 RUNHAPPY Ellis Park Derby and Keeneland’s Toyota Blue Grass (G2) — was supposed to be the first Kentucky Derby starter for Lunsford and trainer Tommy Drury.

Within days of being fulfilled, that Derby dream was derailed when Art Collector sustained a minor and fleeting, but untimely, foot issue. A month later they are back on solid ground for another swing in the Triple Crown.

“It’s the only thing you work on, probably, that you spend weeks and days and everything to get ready and it lasts two minutes or less,” Lunsford said. “So a lot of stuff is just outside your control. I do like the way this horse runs. They all have to get out of the gate. We’ve seen a lot of horses over the years who are really good break bad and it takes them out of the action. This horse has not shown a propensity to do that. If he gets in the flow and we get a fair trip, I’ve got to like our chances to hit the board. Anything above that gets to be gravy. But a lot of the handicappers all of a sudden are picking him. So I don’t know exactly what that means.”

Lunsford wonders how the Derby might have been different had Art Collector been in the field, given that his horse and jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. logically figured to put more pressure than the front-running winner Authentic faced in his absence.

“The good thing is that speculation doesn’t matter, because we’re going to get a chance to run against each other,” Lunsford said. “I’m hopeful both have a good trip, and I’d love to see them down the stretch together. I’ll take my chances.”

Lunsford grew up in Kenton County in northern Kentucky near Cincinnati, his dad a union shop steward who wound up buying a small farm. Young Lunsford got interested in horse racing while attending the University of Kentucky and going to Keeneland. In the summers he’d go to Ellis Park with his fraternity brother and close friend Greg Hudson, whose dad owned horses.

A CPA who also received a law degree from Northern Kentucky University, Lunsford in his early 30s was Kentucky’s commerce secretary under John Y. Brown. In that capacity, he helped bring United Parcel Service’s worldwide air hub to Louisville and was involved with launching the Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts.

A few years later, Lunsford got into horse ownership by claiming a couple of cheap horses with his pal Hudson.

“The good news or bad news, whichever way you look at it, both of them won about $100,000,” he said. “So we thought this game is easy. We found out later it’s a little more complicated.”

A couple of years later, Lunsford wanted to get involved in the breeding side of racing. He purchased one of his first broodmare prospects in 1994, paying $500,000 for a 3-year-old filly out of the Greentree Stable dispersal upon the advice of Claiborne Farm head Seth Hancock.

“You know Bruce, he wanted action,” Hancock recalled. “We said, ‘Well look here. You can have your cake and eat it too. Greentree is dispersing these things, and here’s a pretty good racemare who’s got a great pedigree. You’ll have some fun running her and maybe we can make a pretty decent broodmare out of her.’ ”

That half-million dollar filly, Bunting, had one win out of 13 starts for her prior connections, but she also finished second in Keeneland’s Ashland (G1) and Pimlico’s Black-Eyed Susan (G2). In four starts for Lunsford, she won a Gulfstream Park allowance race before being retired to Claiborne Farm. She proved far better than pretty decent as a broodmare.

Bunting’s first foal was Vision and Verse, who won the Illinois Derby G2) and also was second in the Travers Stakes while earning $1 million. Her 11th foal was a filly named Distorted Legacy, a minor stakes-winner who placed second in Belmont Park’s Flower Bowl (G1). Distorted Legacy’s second foal was Art Collector.

Until Art Collector, Lunsford’s home-run horses came around 15 years ago.

His $160,000 yearling purchase Madcap Escapade won 7 of 9 starts and more than $1 million, including Keeneland’s Ashland G1), and finished third in the 2004 Kentucky Oaks. The Frankie Brothers charge was being pointed for the 2005 Breeders’ Cup Sprint against males when she suffered a career-ending injury. He sold a half-interest in Madcap Escapade at auction for $3 million, staying in for the other half, to another trusted advisor, John Sikura, with whom Lunsford also boards mares at Hill ’N’ Dale Farm.

The Brothers-trained First Samurai, purchased as a yearling with his friend Lansdon Robbins of Louisville, won his first four starts in 2005, including New York’s Grade 1 Hopeful and Champagne before finishing third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. The winner of Gulfstream Park’s Fountain of Youth (G2) upon the disqualification of Corinthian for interference, First Samurai’s Derby aspirations ended when he was injured in Keeneland’s Blue Grass. He retired to a stallion career at Claiborne.

Lunsford also bred and sold Golden Missile, winner of the Grade 1 Pimlico Special in 2000, then sold that horse’s mom, Santa Catalina, for $1.35 million five years later. He also bred and sold Canada’s 2006 Horse of the Year Arravale, a two-time Grade 1 winner.

For all his success, Lunsford knows well how difficult it is to just get to the championship races, let alone win.

“Just like the experience at the Derby,” he said. “All things went right, and then he winds up getting what is almost like an ingrown toenail. You’re talking about creatures that have large bodies and small legs. And things happen. Seth Hancock told me one time, you’ve got to learn to take the hard blows in this business… My good friend Don Dizney told me that it’s the lows that make the highs so good. There’s a lot of truth to that. If you can win 15, 20 percent of your races, they cover you pretty well. It’s like the baseball player who bats .300.”

Lunsford today is chairman and CEO of Lunsford Capital, a private investment company he founded in 2003. The companies he has founded include Vencor, a Fortune 500 company now known as Kindred Healthcare, and its spinoff real-estate company Ventas; Atria Communities, the third-largest assisted-living company in America; and Valor Healthcare, Inc., a company that develops and operates outpatient clinics for military veterans under the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

“I was a start-up guy,” he said. “Now what I do is I invest in people that I think have it. I tell people I don’t invest in financial statements, I invest in people. When I realize they have the skillset, we try to give them the things they need to do to make it work.”

Drury is an example. Lunsford one day this summer asked Drury what he had going on for the week. The trainer mentioned the various trips he’d be making up and down the highway to Belterra Park and Ellis Park. “He said, ‘Man, we’ve got to get you to the point to where you’re not bouncing around so much,’” Drury recalled. “He said, ‘Better-quality horses is going to do that to you. We need to sit down and talk.’

“And that’s the kind of guy Bruce is. He’s always willing to help others. Always willing to try to help you reach your goal and get to the next level. It’s like the Blue Grass,” Drury continued, referencing Art Collector giving him his first graded-stakes victory. “It took me a long time to get to that. He knew that and I think he was genuinely happy for me. He’s got a heart the size of Texas. It makes you want to work that much harder and want to win that much more for people like that.”

Lunsford said that at this stage of his life, he only wants to do things that are fun and challenging.

“The thing I’ve done well is I’ve built a really nice staff,” he said. “The guy who runs the whole real-estate company which is assisted living and apartments, his dad was my barber. His son Brian (Durbin) is like my right-hand man. Every time I get out of Jerry’s chair, I say, ‘I just can’t tell you how he’s changed my life.’ I have a team of about six people of his quality. I’ve built a team of people where, if I drop dead tomorrow, they can keep it going.”

Lunsford laughed when asked if he’s an under-the-radar Shark Tank.

“I can relate to everything they do, except I don’t have as much money,” he said.

So maybe a Shark Tank Lite?

“That’s right,” he said. “You know I was in the movie business for a while with Ed Hart, had about 10 movies we made. We had a lot of fun. Made a little money, lost a lot of money. But I will say one thing: I was in the two toughest business anybody can be in: the horse business and the movie business.”

Making having a horse of Art Collector’s caliber even more satisfying for the father of daughters Amy, Cindy and Brandy and grandfather to six is sharing the experience with his significant other, Eleanor Porco.

“I have a lot that I enjoy in life, because I like action a little bit,” Lunsford said. “I don’t think I’m an action junkie or anything. But this is one of those things where my friends are able to enjoy it. My two best friends are still alive. I mean, we’re at the age where that could not be true. The whole idea of having a horse of this quality and at a time in my life when I’ve really got a great soulmate with me has just really turned it into a great blessing.

“There are only so many interesting things you can do in life. Outside of having your children and things you do as a kid, sports and otherwise, when you’re older, it’s harder to keep it exciting. I’m 72 years old and my life is still exciting.”

Source: Maryland Jockey Club

Industry Profile: Racehorse Owner Jack Knowlton

From Fairy Tale to Triumph

In 1995 Jack and five pals of his formed Sackatoga Stable. The name was a play on words. A combination of letters from the crew’s hometown of Sackets Harbor along with Jack’s residency in Saratoga Springs creating an amusing name for the enterprise. They chose the staid checkered colors of maroon and gray that matched those of their high school for the stable’s jockey silks.

They liked the name so much that they named their first horse Sackets Six. Little did they know that eight years later lightning would strike them in the form of a three-year-old gelding with the name Funny Cide…

Industry Profile: Perry Ouzts, The 66-Year-Old Jockey Who Won’t Quit

Perry Outz John Engelhardt photo

John Engelhardt photo

Being a jockey is all Perry Ouzts has ever wanted to do. He wasn’t a thrill seeker or a daredevil as a kid. But he grew up in small-town Arkansas with a gaggle of cousins nearby. One of them, Earlie Fires, became a Hall of Fame jockey in 2001. Most of Earlie’s eight brothers also worked in the horse industry.

One day, fifth grade Perry Ouzts sat at his desk. He was the kid whose feet still couldn’t quite touch the floor. His assignment? Write about what you want to do when you grow up.

“Well, this is the first year when my cousin Earlie — when he started riding. This is 1965.” Perry says. “And I got to hear the stories about him and stuff, and I got to thinking, ‘Well, that would be a really cool job,’ because I liked horses already. I was small. And that’s what I wrote about: I wanted to be a jockey…

continue reading about Perry Ouzts

Industry Profile: Jockey Frankie Dettori and his Incredible Year

UK correspondent Edward Sadler has a sit-down interview with superstar jockey Frankie Dettori to look back on his incredible year in the saddle in 2019.

Trainer Bob Baffert’s Key to Success?

Bob Baffert is one of the world’s most successful and prominent horse trainers. The Hall of Fame trainer has coached five Kentucky Derby winners as well as two Triple Crown victors. At the world’s largest horse sale, which takes place every September in Lexington, Kentucky, Baffert told Business Insider […]

The Hall of Fame trainer has coached two Triple Crown winners, Justify and American Pharoah, as well as three other Kentucky Derby winners. Baffert trains horses for owners that include the Sheikh Mohammed of Dubai and the Magnier family of Coolmore farm in Ireland, one of the world’s premier thoroughbred breeding farms. He was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 2009.

Throughout his 40-year thoroughbred training career, Baffert has trained horses that have earned more than $292 million in purse winnings, according to Equibase.

At the Keeneland September yearling sale in Lexington, Kentucky, where buyers from 26 countries dropped more than $360 million on 2,855 one-year-old horses, Baffert told Business Insider that he attributes some of his success to pure luck. But the rest of it comes down to the sheer time he puts into his work, he says.

More about Trainer Bob Baffert’s Key to Success:

The 5 Best Horse Jockeys of All Time

Horse racing is known as the sport of kings… A great jockey can make the difference between a champion and a mere contender. Let’s take a look at […]

# 2 PAT DAY

With 40,298 mounts over a career lasting from 1973-2005, Pat Day’s career total was 8,803 victories (a winning percentage of 21.30%). He saw nearly unparalleled success in the Breeders’ Cup and Triple Crown races.

In fact, at retirement, Day was the leading money-winner in Breeders’ Cup history with $23 million over 12 Breeders’ Cups. He won this race in 1984 on Wild Again, 1990 on Unbridled, 1998 on Awesome Again, and 1999 on Cat Thief. The legendary jockey was also successful at the Triple Crown, winning each race at least once:

Industry Profile: Morning Line Maker Jon White

ARCADIA, Calif. (Sept. 24, 2019)–An unmistakable treasure on the American Racing landscape, the indefatigable Jon White is back for his 11th year as Santa Anita’s highly respected Morning Line Maker as the track opened on Friday, Sept. 27.

A proud native of Spokane, WA, White’s affinity for horse racing traces back to trips with his late father to tracks such as Playfair in Spokane and Yakima Meadows, where his dad worked in their pari-mutuel departments.

Upon graduating from Lewis and Clark High School in Spokane (“ESPN’s Neil Everett went there too”), White soon set about a career in racing that has seen him cast in a myriad of roles in a number of different states. (White is also quick to point out that he attended Eastern Washington University, where he noted, the LA Rams’ Cooper Kupp also attended, as did Fox Sports’ Colin Cowherd).

Santa Anita San Gabriel

copyright Cheryl Ann Quigley

“I’ve been in racing 45 years now and I’ve been involved in many different aspects,” said White, who is also married to popular racing writer Tracy Gantz, whose stories appear in BloodHorse Magazine and The California Thoroughbred, which is published by the CTBA. “I started out in 1974 as a chart-caller and columnist with Daily Racing Form at Northwest tracks and I got promoted in 1981 to the position of reporter-columnist here at Santa Anita and all the other Southern California tracks.

“The racing during that period of time was incredible, as were the jockeys and trainers that I dealt with on a daily basis. In 1986, they assigned me to be the DRF chart-caller and I worked on this circuit in that positon until 1993.”

In addition to his print career at Daily Racing Form and as a free-lancer for several industry publications, White has also toiled as a racing steward in various locales–Yakima Meadows (1979), Les Bois Park in Boise, ID (1990s) and has been a licensed CHRB steward since 2010. His most recent CHRB assignment put him in the stewards’ stand at this year’s Los Alamitos Summer Thoroughbred Meet in July.

Following the 1993 Del Mar meeting, White hired on with the newly created HRTV, working as an on-air racing personality for some 20 years until taking his current position as Santa Anita’s Morning Line Maker.

With a soft spoken, low key demeanor that belies an intense passion for racing, White’s historical perspective and broad-based knowledge are legendary in racing circles.  Following is a question and answer session with White, who will also be making the official morning line for this year’s two-day Breeders’ Cup World Championships on Nov. 1 & 2.

     Q                Who’s your all-time favorite horse?

     A                No question, it’s (Washington-bred) Turbulator.  He didn’t race as a 2-year-old because he became so ill that he very nearly died. He didn’t race as a 3-year-old because he severely injured a knee on a farm. His breeder, owner and trainer, Tom Crawford, then tried to trade the horse for two cows. But due to the injured knee, the swap didn’t take place. Turbulator finally did make it to the races as a 4-year-old in 1969.  He lost his first three starts, but then won seven straight in just nine weeks from six furlongs to two miles at Playfair. In 1970, Turbulator broke three track records, one of those also being a world record. In another of his 1970 victories, he carried 134 pounds. A huge fan favorite, there were Turbulator T-shirts, coffee mugs, campaign buttons and refrigerator magnets, all items I possess to this day, along with two of the shoes he wore when he broke the world record for 6 ½ furlongs.

     Q                Favorite all-time jockey?

     A                Laffit Pincay, Jr., although Bill Shoemaker, Gary Stevens, Eddie Delahoussaye and Joe Baze, Russell’s father, certainly all rank right up there. I’ve said many times that if I ever needed a horse to win a race or I would die, I would pick Laffit to ride the horse. On the last day I was ever at Longacres, in a prime example of Laffit’s sheer strength on horseback, he won the 1986 Longacres Mile by a neck on Skywalker.  I flew back to LA on the plane with Skywalker and his trainer, Michael Whittingham.  Skywalker would go on to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic later that year with Pincay aboard.

     Q                Favorite all-time trainer?

     A                It’s a dead heat between Charlie Whittingham and Laz Barrera. I was very lucky to get to know them both quite well. They were incredible horsemen and wonderful people. I miss them a lot.

     Q                Favorite all-time race?

     A                It’s another dead heat, this time Secretariat’s spectacular 31-length Belmont Stakes victory to sweep the Triple Crown in 1973 and Zenyatta’s sensational win in the 2009 Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita, which I saw in person…As I stood in the mass of humanity during Zenyatta’s furious late charge to become the first female Thoroughbred to ever win the Classic, I was so overcome with emotion that I had tears in my eyes.

     Q                You’ve had so many great moments in racing, I know Justify’s Kentucky Derby win last year ranks way up there?

     A                As we all know, Justify didn’t make it to the races until Feb. 18 here at Santa Anita. I managed to get a one hundred dollar future book wager on him at 100 to one to win the Kentucky Derby, so that was pretty incredible. But my biggest score was hitting a Pick Six at Santa Anita that paid $45,981.  It was on Dec. 28, 2003, and I did it on a $120 ticket.

     Q                If you retired tomorrow, what would you do for kicks?

     A                I honestly don’t know. My feeling is I will cross that bridge when I get to it.

Industry Profile: QnA with Hall of Fame Jockey Mike Smith

After over 40 years in the saddle, Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith remains at the top of his game. To date, the 54-year-old (as of today — happy birthday, Mike!) jockey has 26 Breeders’ Cup wins, the winner of two Eclipse Awards, and an Excellence in Sports Performance Yearly Award. Mike has won horse racing’s largest races including two Kentucky Derbies, two Preakness Stakes, and three Belmont Stakes and has piloted some of the best-known Thoroughbreds like Unbridled’s Song, Arrogate, Bodemeister, Zenyatta, Songbird, and 2018 Triple Crown winner, Justify…

4. Who is your favorite horse at the moment?
McKinzie (four-year-old colt, with seven wins out of 12 starts and $2,238,560 in earnings).

5. Which racetrack do you enjoy riding at the most?
In California: Santa Anita and Del Mar. In New York: Belmont and Saratoga. I love Lexington, Kentucky, and Oaklawn Park in Arkansas. All special for different reasons.

Industry Profile: Trainer Linda Rice

From The Blood-Horse Magazine:

Linda Rice was 17 years old, a time when the real world begins to come into view for most teenagers. She and her father, Clyde, had attended a Keeneland sale in Lexington, and were driving back to their farm in Pennsylvania when an accident ahead of them caused a….

She left Penn State after two years and took out her trainer’s license in 1987. Clyde understood and was so supportive he assigned her half a dozen horses or so at the outset. Now viewed as the leading female trainer in the United States, Rice was hardly an overnight success.

“It was very difficult getting started,” Rice said. “My father was my first client and then I grew from there. But it was many years of building the business. It’s taken many years and a lot of hard work.”

If she had an advantage in what continues to be an aspect of the industry populated largely by men, it was her upbringing.

“When you grow up around horses, you learn the behavior of horses, the psychology of the horse,” she said. “It allows you to be very advanced and have many years of experience by the time you start training them.”

Trainer Kevin Patterson is On Fire

Mountaineer racetrack

When Frank Passero, a brash Canadian laying siege to Gulfstream Park, saddled a record 14 straight winners in 1996, the odds of performing that feat stood roughly similar to your shot of getting hit by a meteor. In fact, a theoretical $2 parlay on those victories would have returned a staggering $7 million. Kevin Patterson’s Mountaineer streak stands six short of that, by comparison, and while letting a deuce ride on that cinchy octet would merely make your car payment for the month, those eight MOVED like meteors, most leading at all calls. This ostentatious parade of speed should come as no surprise to followers of the bonafide super-trainer.

“Kevin extracts speed,” said Patterson’s main client, Robert Cole, who as a skilled handicapper and longtime student of the game well comprehends the advantage of shaking loose in front, even tailoring his acquisitions to fit Patterson’s training style. ” I don’t claim closers,” stated the long-successful Cole, who once led the nation in wins and made his considerable fortune in the mortgage business.

With his own best successes, like …