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WPT June E-Newsletter

June 29, 2010 · By · Share

Jockey Interview: Ramon Dominguez | Summer Meets: They're In The Gate |
| 25 Questions with Terry Finley |
Racing History: Leslie Combs II | FORE! The West Point Golf Outing

Jockey Interview: Ramon Dominguez

The nation's second leading rider and top jockey in New York, Ramon Dominguez, came to Philadelphia Park specifically to ride West Point Thoroughbreds' Belle of the Hall.  We were able to catch up with him for a few minutes before the race to learn more about this future Hall of Fame rider.  Check out the video below.

Back to TopSummer Meets: They're in the Gate

With the summer meets at Del Mar and Saratoga less than a month away, it's time to get ready for the fun and racing at two of the nation's premier meets. Whether you are out where the surf meets the turf or under the elm trees at Saratoga there will be plenty to do this summer. Here are some facts to help you plan your stay:

Del Mar:
Racing Dates
: July 21st through September 8th (Dark on Mondays and Tuesdays except Labor Day)

Post Time:
2:00 PDT except Fridays.  First four Fridays' post 4:00 PDT, last three Fridays' post 3:30 PDT.  Post time for Pacific Classic Day is 1:00 PDT.

Big Race Day:
August 28th - Pacific Classic(G1)

Fun Event: Friday Summer Concert Series

Must Do: If going to Del Mar, make sure to attend Daybreak at Del Mar from 7:30-9:30 every Saturday and Sunday morning.  Our own Jeff Bloom serves as host for breakfast and to watch the horses train.  To learn more about Daybreak at Del Mar click here.

Did You Know: Del Mar was built by a partnership of Bing Crosby, Jimmy Durante, Oliver Hardy, Charles Howard and Pat O'Brien.

Going to Del Mar? If you're going to Del Mar and are ready to take the next step and become an owner, then schedule a visit with us to see the horses train and visit the barn by contacting Liz Crow at [email protected]

Racing Dates: July 23rd through September 6th (Dark on Tuesdays)

Post Time: 1:00 EDT except Friday, July 30th and September 3rd when first post will be 2:30 EDT.  Post time for Travers Day is 12:30 EDT.

Big Race Day: August 28th - Travers Stakes(G1)

Fun Event: Hats Off to Saratoga (7/23 through 7/25)

Must Do: After having dinner at one of the fine restaurants downtown, take a stroll up and down Broadway in downtown Saratoga.  If you're on the quest for ice cream or gelatto you might just run into Terry Finley.  If you're looking for a good guide to Saratoga, click here for a good site with info about what to do when going to the track.

Did You Know: Did you know that Saratoga Racecourse is the oldest organized sporting venue of any kind in the United States? It opened on August 3rd, 1863.  The first meet lasted only for days.  The meet now runs  for over six weeks.

Going to Saratoga? If you're going to Saratoga and are ready to take the next step and become an owner, then schedule a visit with us to see the horses train and visit the barn by contacting Casey Irving at [email protected]

Back to Top25 Questions With Terry Finley

We've all seen him on TV or in the Winner's Circle.  We know he started West Point Thoroughbreds in 1991 and named the company after his alma matter, the United States Military Academy at West Point.  However, what does Terry like to do in his spare time? Is he a Coke or Pepsi man? Which Grade 1 winner would he choose, Dream Rush or Lear's Princess? Check out the video below to find out the answers to these and other burning questions!

Back to TopRacing History: Leslie Combs II

Leslie Combs IIThe summer heat of July also heralds the beginning of the yearling sales season. The Fasig-Tipton July sale (this year on July 13-14 in Lexington) kicks off the carnival, followed two weeks later by the most venerable of American horse sales, Fasig-Tipton Saratoga, under Saratoga's ancient elms.

For the first four decades of the post-World War II era, however, Keeneland's July sale of selected yearlings was easily the most prestigious-and certainly the most entertaining-horse sale in the land. The man who added much of the glitz and glamor-as well as a touch of lovable rascality-to Keeneland July was Leslie Combs II.

Combs was a descendant of Kentucky Thoroughbred royalty. One of his great-grandfathers Daniel Swigert once managed Woodburn Stud and founded Elmendorf Farm, and his bachelor uncle Brownell Combs owned and bred the great racemare and foundation broodmare Myrtlewood. Leslie Combs II, himself, however, endured a comparatively penurious youth because of the early death of his father, but he married well. His wife, Dorothy Enslow Combs was an heiress to the Columbia Gas fortune, and Combs used part of her inheritance to purchase 127 acres of Elmendorf Farm in 1936.

Combs named his farm Spendthrift after one of the many champions Daniel Swigert bred as manager of Woodburn, and eventually expanded the property to around 4,000 acres. Combs built his breeding operation around descendants of his uncle's great mare Myrtlewood but it was his salesmanship and showmanship that made Spendthrift the dominant commercial breeder of the post-War decades.

Combs' expertise in recruiting new money to the Thoroughbred world first became apparent through stallion syndication. His first big buy, *Beau Pere, died before covering a mare in Kentucky, but he quickly replaced him with another expensive purchase from the same source, movie producer Louis B. Mayer, in *Alibhai, a big success. In 1955, Combs put together the winning syndicate that purchased champion Nashua, the first million-dollar Thoroughbred, after the infamous death of his owner William Woodward Jr. (an event immortalized in Dominic Dunne's brilliant novel The Two Mrs. Grenvilles).

Between 1961 and 1974, Combs and Spendthrift Farm broke the world record for highest-priced yearling in history five times. Beginning with John M. Olin's purchase of Swapson for $130,000 in 1961, Combs and his clients upped the ante to $625,000 for Wallace Gilroy's purchase of Kentucky Gold in '74. Spendthrift sold the top-priced yearling at Keeneland July ten times.

Combs talked, dressed, and even looked a little like the contemporary image of Colonel Harlan Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chicken, but he didn't need 31 spices to charm his clients. The master of Spendthrift catered to his best clients by flying them into Lexington, picking them up in a limousine at the airport and ferrying them straight to his home at Spendthrift, where they resided during the sales.

Combs had already decided which of his yearlings his wealthiest clients were going to buy, and he seldom had any difficulty convincing them of the wisdom of his choices. Liquor flowed freely at Spendthrift house and at the Spendthrift barn at Keeneland, and "Cousin Leslie", as he liked to be called, seldom let his clients out of sight.

In those days the Keeneland July sale was a black tie affair with both afternoon and evening sessions. Combs and other consignors like Tom Gentry hosted massive parties before the sales began and lavish, often very liquid, dinners between sales sessions.

Leslie Combs and Elizabeth ArdenCousin Leslie's genial charm brought cosmetics magnate Elizabeth Arden (pictured with Combs on right), industrialist John M. Olin, Canadian oilman Frank McMahon, Beverly Hills heiress Dotty Green, and Minnesota contractor Franklin Groves, among many others, into the Thoroughbred industry.

In a business as competitive as Thoroughbred breeding, of course, Combs could not rely solely on liquor, fine food and charm, and Spendthrift Farm produced the goods for its clients. Among its sale toppers were 1969 Kentucky Derby winner Majestic Prince, his English champion full brother Crowned Prince, and good stakes winner and immortal sire Mr. Prospector.

Perhaps my favorite Spendthrift-bred, though, was a Hoist the Flag colt J.R. Sturgis bought instead of Combs's 1975 Keeneland July sale-topper Elegant Prince. The sale topper never made it to the races, but the horse Sturgis bought instead won the 1977 California Derby(G2) under the name....wait for it....Cuzwuzwrong.

Sadly, changes in the horse industry led to the demise of Keeneland July in 2001. Still, each July brings dreams of hot summer nights and memories of Cousin Leslie. - John Sparkman

Back to TopFORE! The West Point Golf Outing

Less than 48 hours after Drosselmeyer crossed the wire to win this year's Belmont Stakes, a battalion of West Point Partners and associates migrated north for the 2010 Golf Outing at, you guessed it, the United States Military Academy at West Point. A round on one of the most prestigious courses in the Hudson Valley yielded good fun and even some good golf.  So good that partner Al Zumpano actually scored a hole-in-one!

Seeing that Terry Finley is a West Point Class of 1986 grad, he was keen to get back to the Academy and show off the fantastic course to our partners. A foursome of Terry's West Point classmates also attended the outing. They had a great time, despite their golf scores.

We couldn't have hoped for a better day, weather wise, with highs in the mid-70's and picture perfect blue skies.

The day was all about fun, camaraderie, and supporting the USMA. Participants purchased raffle tickets for Army athletics gear, memorabilia, tickets to The Breeder's Cup, and days in both the Saratoga and Monmouth boxes. Proceeds from the raffle as well as the entry fees were all donated to Army Athletics.

The winning foursome of Josh Agentis, Nate Agentis, Joe Madia, and Al Zumpano received four tickets to the Army/Notre Dame football game at Yankee Stadium on November 20th, 2010. The foursome was 9 under par, greatly assisted by a hole in one by Al Zumpano on the 11th hole.

We are hoping to grow this event next year and continue to support the USMA and the future leaders of America. We are slated to host the outing next year on June 13, 2011.

Special thanks to the U.S. Military Academy, Steven Whipple, Doug Filis, and Bruce Cerone for helping to make our event a success.

Check out the photos below: