Did You Know WPT's Jeff Lifson Played Rugby? Owned Part of G1 Winner Dream Rush?
Jeff Lifson (or “Liffy,” as he’s lovingly known) is West Point Thoroughbreds’ Executive Vice President of Sales and Operations. He joined WPT as a staff member in 2004 and currently resides in Louisville, Ky. with his wife, Louisville native Stephanie Collins, and their two children – Amanda and Josh.
Jeff is an Iowa native who graduated from Williams College with a BA in History (1986) and of Northwestern University with a Masters in Journalism (1989). He also made money in high school and college de-tasseling corn, was a ballet dancer for a good portion of his youth (from about 8-16 years old), played rugby in the scrum at Williams and escaped with his face and bone structure pretty much intact, and sang at Williams in a traveling singing group called the Springstreeters – the closest he ever got to living the life of a performer.
Q. How did you get interested in Thoroughbred Racing?
A. I moved to Louisville in 1994 from Kalamazoo, Mich. If you know anything about racing, you know Kalamazoo is not a hotbed. I was working as an anchorman and reporter for WHAS-TV and when you live in Louisville and your station happens to carry the Derby it’s sink or swim, embrace or deny. Either you get involved with what’s happening in your backyard on the first Saturday in May, or you take a vacation. I was given the opportunity to cover racing and I jumped at the chance - I tell people I got into racing at the penthouse level, not the bottom floor.
Q. Where’s your favorite racetrack?
A. I really don’t think I have a favorite track. I loved the old Gulfstream, I love the new Gulfstream. Keeneland and Churchill and Del Mar and Saratoga and Santa Anita and Belmont and Arlington are all places I love to be. The paddock at Delaware Park is just spectacular and it’s a mainline track but many of our Partners have never been there. Woodbine is great, too. What a facility, and they treat owners extremely well. Also, their buffet is beyond good. But I guess if I had to pick one, Churchill is home.
Q. So your favorite racing event is the Kentucky Derby.
A. Absolutely. Let’s say some aliens from some planet outside earth are dropped in for the day, and they’re racing fans, and they’re dropped in on a number of tracks for big events, including Churchill Downs on Derby Day - how are they not going to think, “Now that’s the way to do this.”
Q. Who is your favorite Derby winner?
A. The horse from the year of my birth - Northern Dancer, 1964. While there are no bad Derby winners, some are more obscure than others, but he almost took the Triple Crown and set the track record that stood until Secretariat and went on to be an influential stallion.
Q. Can you share a few “inside angles” for handicapping at Churchill?
A. If they stunk at Keeneland, take a second look at them at Churchill. They’re two dramatically different tracks and the turf courses are different, too.
Q. Tell us about a horse you’ve owned in partnership with WPT.
A. The best was our two-time Grade 1 winner Dream Rush, she was very classy. I remember when she sold at Fasig-Tipton and she walked in and did that head turn that the good horses do, checking everything out. She just stepped in, set herself almost perfectly, did the head turn, and pretty much said “I know you’ve been waiting for me, here I am.” She was the run of a lifetime. Thankfully I’ve been around some serious racehorses, Grade 1 winners, Derby Starters, and our millionaire Awesome Gem. But Dream Rush was a thrill to be involved with - I don’t think there’s been a more flat-out, talented, drill-you-into-the-ground speed horse in our stable.
Dream Rush winning the 2007 Darley Test (G1)
Q. Who are your favorite current WPT runners?
A. King Ting - he’s just a hard-trying horse that had an awful start to his career and he’s come back to be a very useful horse - and Belle of the Hall. How can you not love her? She was drop-dead gorgeous the moment we first saw her, like Audrey Hepburn.
Q. What’s your philosophy on owning race horses?
A. It’s not for everyone, but it is for someone who wants some incredible experiences and a few amazing stories to tell.
Q. What’s the best part about being involved with WPT?
A. My clients make this job worthwhile. Talking on the phone about a breakthrough one of our horses took, or enjoying dinner after a big stakes win is such a great experience with clients who become, in time, great friends.
Q. What keeps you going through the ups and downs of racing?
A. Drugs (laughs). Seriously, my family keeps me sane. It’s good to have family around with a lot of other pursuits you can dive into outside of the racetrack, and they keep me well-rounded.
Q. Anything else you’d like to tell the folks?
A. If you’re looking for any deep, dark secrets on Tom Bellhouse, I’m your go-to guy.
Jeff can be reached at [email protected]