In 1993 I discovered West Point Thoroughbreds, a new company being pieced together by some guy I didn’t know, and his wife, to market fractional shares of high potential race horses. Embracing the dream of the winner’s circle is what most of our Partners are all about, I know I was back then, and I still am.
Now a full time WPT employee, watching and participating from the inside now, I see the time, energy and effort that go into getting it a little better every month that passes, the reach for excellence and results. That “guy” I referred to earlier is Terry Finley, WPT founder and CEO.
This is a story about the WPT team identifying and securing a “diamond in the rough.”
In a team meeting late June of this year our CEO took the lead and started talking about a horse he heard about who won two races at Indiana Downs. These meetings are mostly conference calls with no visual contact, and in this case the stone cold silence was palpable. You could sense all of us thinking in concert, “Can a really good and high potential horse come from Indiana?”
I don’t remember who broke the silence but the boss finally said “Watch the horse’s videos. I think you’ll be pretty darn impressed.”
Couple of days later we get together on the phone and there was a genesis of excitement starting up. “You know, it is Indiana Downs - but – he did some impressive things that you don’t see often with a horse just learning the game as a three-year old.” A consensus of let’s get deeper into this was just starting, so we set out to learn this horse’s story...
This horse was weak and sickly as a weanling - a baby who looked like anything but a racehorse. He landed in a Keeneland January 2010 sale as a just turned yearling and sold for a winning bid of only $1,000.
Two and a half years pass and he re-emerged in a maiden special weight going a mile on the turf in the Hoosier State. The public, who likely didn’t know much about this horse at all, dismissed him at 13 to one. If they knew the entire story he might have been 99 to one on the board. How much did he have to overcome to just get here?
He weaved through traffic to surprisingly win the race, by only a length, but drew away at the finish. Next start, only seventeen days later almost same story, but his odds were 1.90 to one and he again split horses and won going away!
It didn’t take long for the final decision to be made for WPT to make an effort to purchase this horse. Everything fell into place after that, and he became West Point stable’s newest horse racing partnership. When we shared the videos with potential investors and told his story, he sold out in 48 hours, a record breaking time frame for our racehorse partnerships.
Now, Indiana to Saratoga Springs is not all that far mileage wise but from Indiana Downs to a premier circuit is going from the 8th grade to the major leagues in one motion. Terry saw something special in this horse and believed he could make the leap.
The barely 16-hands tall bay ran in late August at the SPA and came flying late to finish less than two lengths behind some of the top sophomore turf runners in the country. He then headed to Delaware to contest the Kent (G3). Tough trip. Again, “some late gain” read the chart. His third start for WPT, and his first one on dirt, was encouraging. He was beaten only a length in an overnight stake at Belmont Park.
No wins under WP colors, but, with increasing confidence in his potential, he was pointed to the W.L McKnight Handicap (G2), a mile and a half on the turf at Calder. Unlike most American-bred horses, he looked and acted like he’d be one who could handle the distance. Tom Albertrani and Terry circled the race a few weeks out. Tom shipped him to Palm Meadows to complete final preparations.
On raceday there were eight in total set to run, all older or way more experienced than our entrant. Our now strong, leggy boy was the first to arrive in the paddock. He looked the part completely! The horse had attitude! At post time he is bet down to 11 to 1 (from his 20 to 1 morning line). When the gates opened Manoel Cruz rode as perfect a tactical race as you will ever see. In mid-stretch he was on the lead and actually drew off late to win by almost two lengths.
The weak and sickly young horse came 180 degrees to become a graded stakes winner! His name? Twilight Eclipse.
This is why we do this. This is why we always respect the efforts of the racehorse. This is the dream coming into full fruition. “We” includes the WPT team, partners, racing fans, trainers, jockeys and anyone who understands running for the pure joy of it- each loving the thoroughbred for their nobility, dedication, talent and desire. Dream on– make the impossible happen, believe it can and will happen! Let hope spring eternal! There are, God willing, many more chapters to come in his story!