By T. D. Thornton
Are partnership entities being rightfully considered in the voting for Eclipse Award for Outstanding Owner? That question is the gist of a letter that Lexington, Kentucky-based bloodstock agent Liz Crow sent out last week to eligible voters as the Jan. 2 deadline looms for Thoroughbred racing’s end-of-year honors.
Crow, who explained in the letter that she is writing on behalf of friend and client Sol Kumin, wrote that her purpose is to make voters aware that individuals who are involved in multiple partnerships might not have their accomplishments properly represented in the statistical breakdowns that accompany the year-end ballots.
“Unfortunately, for two reasons [Kumin’s] statistics are not counted or compiled in your packets,” Crow wrote. “The first is because he runs under a few different stable names. The second is that he owns many of the horses in partnership with other owners. As partnerships become ever more important in owning racehorses, I feel that we need to take a closer look at the accomplishments of these owners, and consider their achievements in a new light.”
Since first entering the sport as an owner in 2014, Kumin, a Boston-based equity hedge fund manager, has been instrumental in putting together multiple partnerships with two or three other people that are largely based on acquiring ownership interests in in-training racehorses.
Crow wrote that based upon her own research that is not reflected in the voting materials, Kumin’s various partnerships in 2017 (Sheep Pond Partners, Head of Plains Partners, Madaket Stables, Monomoy Stables) accounted for 26 graded stakes wins total, including seven Grade I victories. Both of those categories are more than double the graded and Grade I win totals of the next closest competitors.
The prevalence of partnerships can be seen in other high-end aspects of racing in 2017 too, Crow wrote: All three winners of this year’s Triple Crown races, plus the winners of the GI Breeders’ Cup Classic and GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, were collectively owned by more than one ownership interest.
“It is my understanding that because of the way racetracks report ownerships it is too difficult for DRF/The Jockey Club who are compiling the data for the packets to break out individual owner/entity statistics,” Crow wrote. “In the past, this might not have been as important, but as partnerships become more common than single ownership, it is clear the future of racing is shifting to the way Sol Kumin operates his stable. Several of the biggest operations in racing–Stonestreet, WinStar, Three Chimneys and Coolmore–all ran in partnership with other owners in 2017.”
In 2016, Kumin was honored with the New Owner of the Year award, which is sponsored by OwnerView as a way to recognize entry-level participants who make a positive impact on racing. But the more subjective criteria for that award are not based on the statistics-driven information that usually carries the voting in the annual Eclipse Awards.
“Everybody who owns horses knows how much work goes into running a stable,” Kumin said when reached via phone on Tuesday. “And at the end of the year, you take a good look at the finished product–what did you do well, what did you not do well, where can you improve? And I think when I look at the full body of work this year, I’m pretty proud of it. Then when I think about how we did it, I think we did it in a really impressive way.”
Kumin said that lobbying for Eclipse voting is not his style, but he does feel that it’s important for the sport to reconsider the increasing role that partnerships play in attracting now owners to the game.
“It’s hard for me to talk like this, because it’s not really my personality,” Kumin said. “But some outfits are able to go to a sale and spend $10 or $15 million, and we spend significantly less putting together partnerships.
“Moving forward, the voting criteria should evolve as the sport changes,” Kumin continued. “I think it would be great for the sport to recognize new blood, younger people with a different perspective, and new ways to approach the game differently, especially in a sport where things have been done one way for a long time. I think when you look at the biggest owners in the game, many of them are doing it differently.” [email protected]