May 7, 2011

Animal Kingdom brings Team Valor deserved Derby glory

Barry Irwin is the man! One of my first Derby idols was Cot Campbell, when the pioneer of horse racing syndicates campaigned the ever popular, Summer Squall, to a runner-up finish in the 1990 Kentucky Derby to Unbridled. Then in early 1997, the sharp eye of Barry Irwin led him to drop a large sum of money to acquire a horse for his racing syndicate with a crooked leg called Captain Bodgit after a third place finish at Gulfstream Park. Not only was Bodgit a paddler, he was from an unheralded sire, Saint Ballado. But Irwin's intuition reigned supreme and the Captain finished just short of Silver Charm in that year's Derby and Preakness Stakes after winning two Grade I preps in the interim.

While other top owners and syndicate managers keep overbidding for the same bloodstock in American sales, Irwin quietly goes about his business attending races and sales in South Africa, Brazil and Germany -- not quite the racing meccas. He acquired Animal Kingdom's dam with this model and in her first foal (that essentially occured as a backup after the sire he sought for the mating - Kingmambo - was injured) he captured the greatest two minutes in sports with a horse that still appears to have huge upside, considering he is also a beast on turf and synthetic surfaces. And if any of you reading this has a stamina laden mare ready to hit the mattresses in the Florida region, now would be a good time to visit the funny named sire Leroidesanimaux before his stud fee rockets past the 2011 price of $10,000.

Having recently set up a similar syndicate to purchase a two year-old in training from a top regional sire at the same 10K stud fee, this is the success that pulls in fringe players like several of my partners to hopefully be hooked by the sport and become major owners of tomorrow. Irwin has ushered in countless of new owners into the game with a business model that isn't sexy, but posts much higher than average ROI with his discipline and keen eye for detail. And to top it all off, he started his career as a sports-writer (like I aspire to be!). So Barry Irwin, you didn't just win the nation's greatest race for you and your dozen or so partners, you won it for racing enthusiasts everywhere. And your post-race comments were those of respect and humility, something you need to teach to the new kids on the block.

Animal Kingdom claims Derby 137 in a decent time (especially after historically slow fractions) with the largest group of spectaters to ever view The Derby. Following Barry Irwin's plan and resulting success, I am thrilled to be a member of this sport along with several other new owners with dreams of our own stakes races that lie ahead. And I have a feeling that many other potential owners will be lining up with dollars after hearing more about how easy horse ownership can be with folks like Mr. Irwin at the helm. And if you haven't read my morning blog, my respect for him sure doesn't hurt after having a certain #16 horse keyed in some backup exotic bets (and if Santiva had gotten up for fourth - beaten about a length - I would have a ticket that could get me at least a 10% share of Team Valor's next offering. There's always next year!).

I hope all your Derby dreams come true, either today or in the future. Don't give up on the dream. Something good happens to good people every day. Trainer Graham Motion and owner Barry Irwin are proof of that. And a tough break for Robby Albarado, who won a stakes race on the undercard in spite of a recent smashed up face and broken nose, but lost the mount on Animal Kingdom because of the injury. I hope to see you on "the King" again in the Preakness. I'll definitely be pulling for you.

Happy Derby Dreams to all!

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