A Letter From The President - January
From the desk of Terry Finley:
As we ring in 2007, I look to the year ahead and to where West Point Thoroughbreds is going. Each year, we buy horses searching for that special athlete to carry the black and gold in the world's biggest races. We believe in setting goals, and we believe that the start of a new year represents the perfect time to lay out these goals. In 2007, we seek to surpass the records we broke in 2006 including wins, starts, and purse earnings. We plan to assemble our strongest class of two-year-olds ever, and we aspire to run in our first Kentucky Oaks with our promising filly, Dream Rush.
Beyond long term goal setting, the beginning of the year gives us an opportunity to look at what lies ahead in the immediate future. For me, January kicks off an exciting period leading up to the two-year-old auctions. This month I will scour the sales books and start searching for the members of our new class of two-year-olds. The experience is exhilarating because on the pages of these books lies the likely winner of the 2008 Kentucky Derby.
The competition in this sport extends beyond the starting gate to the wire. Auctions are every bit as tactically demanding as the races in which we run. Buzz Chace and I, along with the rest of our bloodstock team, look for not only standout athletes but also diamonds in the rough. Winning racehorses don't just fall into your lap, and we take the responsibility of finding the best candidates for our program seriously. You must do your homework and gather all the intelligence possible. Compared to the budgets of the headline makers in the auction world, we work with limited funds; so we can't spend our money indiscriminately.
I came across an interesting fact the other day. In 2005, the ten most expensive yearlings purchased at auction cost $42.5 million combined. As two-year-olds, they earned an incredible $172. I did not accidentally drop the zeros off that figure. I think that fact proves two things: First, there are no sure things in racing. And second, if you think that throwing a bunch of money at horses will insure you a winner, you're wrong.
The auction season is also crucial for the pinhookers. These are the people that buy horses then train them with the intent of selling them at auction for a profit. Pinhooking is another facet of our business, and the gratification can be both instantaneous and lucrative. We have enjoyed great success in the pinhooking arena, and we put together another quality venture for Partners this past fall. So, we'll be participating at the two-year-old sales as both buyers and sellers.
This is also the time of year the racing world shifts its focus to the three-year-olds. Everyone wonders who the next superstar will be, and I find myself thinking the same thing. This year, our optimism is high as the aptly named Dream Rush will make her run at greatness as she takes aim on the Kentucky Oaks(G1). She's been doing wonderfully and will make her first start of 2007 in a "two other than" allowance race on January 19th at Gulfstream Park.
Our colts have been turning heads as well. Ollie Jet broke his maiden with ease at the Fair Grounds on December 1st. Apparently, that win seems to have only bolstered his confidence, because he has been training like a freight train ever since. He is scheduled to compete in the $100,000 Lecomte Stakes(G3) on January 13th at the Fair Grounds. We don't know how good Ollie Jet will be, but at this point the sky is the limit. Another potential star is Felonious Monk. Felonious Monk, winner of an "a other than" allowance race on New Year's Day continues to do everything we ask of him. We'll take a hard look at the Sunshine Millions at the end of the month for his next start.
While Dream Rush, Ollie Jet and Felonious Monk are at the head of the newly turned three-year-old class, we had an exceptionally talented three-year-old of 2006 explode onto the scene late in the year in California. Awesome Gem got a late start to his career by making his debut in July of his three-year-old season. Frankly, he was a big, goofy two-year-old that appeared to have a ton of talent but lacked the mental fortitude to be an early runner. We decided to geld Awesome Gem, and the light bulb went on.
A late stretch running horse, Awesome Gem took four starts to break his maiden. He ran second twice beaten less than a length, and then he broke through winning back-to-back races. After an impressive allowance score in October, Craig Dollase decided to freshen him up and point to the Sir Beaufort Stakes(G3) on the turf. We knew how well he was training, and we believed that he was a different horse from the two other times he tried the turf. The public dismissed him at 24/1, but Awesome Gem came within a diminishing length from winning the race. We're heading into the second leg of the Strub series brimming with confidence.
One industry decision we'll be watching in 2007 is the fate of the New York racing franchise. This outcome could shape the future of racing in the United States. I sit on the board of Empire Racing Associates (ERA), one of the entities bidding for the franchise. The new governor of New York, Elliot Spitzer, and the New York legislature will award the franchise this year. Empire has put together a tremendous package. We have teamed with two of racing's most powerful entities, Churchill Downs and Magna Entertainment Corporation. ERA truly takes into account all facets of the industry from the public to the horsemen. We have been careful to craft a bid that demonstrates our commitment to the state and people of New York by incorporating experts from the thoroughbred industry at every level of our organization. We are confident that the governor and legislature will make a well reasoned choice, and we look forward to continuing the dialogue about this very important decision for the future of our sport.
As we usher in the New Year, I wish you all a happy, healthy, and prosperous 2007 and, of course, the best of racing luck.