LNJ Foxwoods A Power in the Making

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Larry, Nanci & Jaime Roth

By Lucas Marquardt

On Sunday, Aug. 2, things came full circle for Jaime Roth. The 35-year-old, who runs the upstart LNJ Foxwoods with her parents, Nanci and Larry Roth, watched as their first-ever starter at Saratoga, a 2-year-old filly named Nickname (Scat Daddy), stepped into the starting gate for the day’s second race. Entering the stall directly next to Nickname was Rachel’s Valentina (Bernardini), the much-hyped daughter of Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra (Medaglia d’Oro).

Roth couldn’t help but recognize the symbolism. Six years earlier, in 2009, she was a New York City-based professional, admittedly adrift in career aspirations, who was just beginning to follow horse racing seriously. A big sports fan who watched the Triple Crown series since she was a kid, Roth was intrigued by the reality show Jockeys. She was learning the names and stories of riders, trainers and horses. She was staying up late watching old race replays on YouTube, and was tuning in on Saturday afternoons to catch the week’s big races.

But it was a certain filly who really caught Roth’s attention. The charismatic, blaze-faced Rachel Alexandra was on a historic 3-year-old campaign that year, one that saw her register wins against the boys in the GI Preakness and GI Haskell and, in her piéce de résistance, against elder males in the GI Woodward at Saratoga.

“I just became obsessed with Rachel Alexandra,” Roth said. “I thought she was the coolest racehorse ever.”

Now, Roth was on racing’s biggest stage herself, facing the only daughter of the future Hall of Famer.

“I never in a thousand years thought that in our first race at Saratoga, that we’d be in against one of Rachel’s daughters,” she said.

As it turned out, Nickname would have to wait until her second start to break her maiden. She ran fourth after a troubled trip, while Rachel Valentina’s lived up to the hype, foreshadowing her GI Spinaway victory with a “TDN Rising Star” performance. Nickname, a $350,000 KEESEP purchase, came back to romp by 3 1/2 lengths at the Spa for trainer Steve Asmussen Sept. 2 (video).

Nickname’s win helped cap a successful Saratoga meet for LNJ Foxwoods. The Roth family also sent out the $800,000 2-year-old purchase Constellation (Bellamy Road) to her own “TDN Rising Star” win at Saratoga Aug. 9 (video). That juvenile miss returned to run third–to Rachel’s Valentina–in the Spinaway, and looks poised for bigger and better things.

The same could be said for LNJ’s 2-year-old filly Inheritance (Tapit), the $1.9-million topper at OBS April who ran a strong second to Big World (Custom for Carlos) in a salty maiden special Sept. 6.

The cost of those horses alone adds some intrigue to LNJ’s up-and-comers, and that intrigue hasn’t been confined to Saratoga this year. On the West Coast, LNJ saw their 3-year-old filly Super Majesty (Super Saver) tabbed a “TDN Rising Star” after airing by 6 1/4 lengths in a debut win against Santa Anita maidens May 24 (video). LNJ acquired Super Majesty for $400,000 at Fasig-Tipton Florida.

Later, at Del Mar, a private acquisition by LNJ, Dreaming of Anna’s 3-year-old daughter Dreamologist (Tapit), stamped herself as one to watch with a front-running, 3 3/4-length win in her route and turf debut Sept. 4.

The common thread between these horses is obvious–they are all well-bred fillies who didn’t come cheap. Which begs the question: how did Roth go from a casual observer to a diehard fan to leading one of the most promising up-and-coming operations in North America?

From Fan to Fifty Horses…

The answer to that question came by way of a chance meeting out at Del Mar in 2012. At that point, Roth was a confirmed racing junkie. Her and her future wife Olga had even made several trips to Kentucky to visit farms, including Stonestreet to see Rachel Alexandra. Just before the Keeneland September Sale, Roth booked a trip to see a friend in Del Mar, California. Her father knew a guy there who owned horses, and inquired about someone showing her around the backstretch. The guy said he knew the perfect person: Alex Solis II.

“At that time, after watching Jockeys, and I was thinking–‘Oh, I’m meeting the jockey Alex Solis,’” said Roth. “I was actually a little star struck [laughs].”

Instead, Roth met up with Solis’s son, a burgeoning bloodstock agent who had recently teamed up with another agent, Jason Litt. Roth and Solis hit it off, and as they chatted, Solis asked her if she ever considered getting involved in racing. If so, what would her goals be? “Please don’t say you want to win the Derby,” he joked.

Roth didn’t. Or, at least, she recognized that wasn’t a gameplan in and of itself.

“I didn’t need him to tell me that wasn’t realistic,” she said. “You don’t just buy a horse and win the Derby. But we hit it off because I wanted to be involved in a different side, which was the fillies.”

Roth came back from the trip inspired.

“Honestly, that day changed my life,” she said. “I was always a little lost before. I never knew what I wanted to do. I loved sports, and I was very competitive. I had gone to the University of Wisconsin, then got my masters in Sports Business from NYU. I worked at MSG [Madison Square Garden] doing PR for the Liberty and the Knicks, and really, I hated it. I hated being in an office setting.”

Roth approached her parents about launching LNJ Foxwoods (Foxwoods was the street on which she grew up). Her father Larry was a principal in the eyewear company Marchon, which he helped build into an industry powerhouse that eventually sold for $735 million in 2008. He was interested, as was Nanci, an animal lover. They invited Solis out to an eyewear convention in Las Vegas.

“Four days later, we owned four horses,” said Roth, who admits the whole thing almost didn’t happen. “I was actually going to cancel the meeting with Alex, but a friend of mine said, ‘Oh, do it. It’ll be fun.’ I didn’t go in thinking that we’d buy four horses, or that three years later we’d have 50-odd horses. I was just a fan.”

How to Build a Dynasty…

The blueprint Solis and Litt laid out for LNJ was straightforward. At the yearling and 2-year-old sales, they would focus on well-bred fillies who would ultimately join their broodmare band. They would also purchase a handful of mares to kickstart their breeding operation. Homebred colts would be offered at auction; fillies would be retained.

Solis and Litt immediately headed to September to put the plan into motion, and came away with four strong prospects, all big-pedigreed fillies. They included the $650,000 Fiji Moon (Indian Charlie), a half-sister to Malibu Moon; the $440,000 Burning Arch (Arch), produced by a half-sister to Pine Island (Arch) and Point of Entry (Dynaformer); the $165,000 Miss Super Quick (Rock Hard Ten), produced by a half to Super Saver (Maria’s Mon); and $150,000 Fleet of Gold (Medaglia d’Oro), a daughter of champion Fleet Indian (Indian Charlie).

LNJ had some success with all four. Fiji Moon debuted a winner at Laurel before suffering a career-ending injury. Burning Arch was a maiden special and allowance winner at Del Mar. Fleet of Gold earned black-type at Aqueduct. And Miss Super Quick broke her maiden at Del Mar.

They might not have immediately set the world on fire, but LNJ was off to a promising start. Importantly, all four joined LNJ’s broodmare band at Darby Dan Farm upon retirement, and all are now carrying their first foals. Fiji Moon is in foal to Tapit, Burning Arch to Medaglia d’Oro, Miss Super Quick to Distorted Humor, and Fleet of Gold to Malibu Moon.

LNJ would soon become a recognized force at the sales, even if the Roths maintained a low profile personally. They rarely attended auctions, and Solis and Litt generally deflected questions about them. The idea, explained Jaime, was to let the stable grow and to ultimately let the horses do the talking for them. In the meantime, they made several high-profile acquisitions.

At the 2013 Keeneland September Sale, LNJ went to $1.7 million for a half-sister to Horse of the Year Havre de Grace (Saint Liam). At the same sale, they acquired the $500,000 Mystery Strike (Smart Strike), who was produced by a half-sister to A.P. Indy and Summer Squall.

Now three, Mystery Strike debuted a sharp winner at Sacramento in July, then remained perfect in a Golden Gate allowance Aug. 23. “She’s a granddaughter of Weekend Surprise, and she’s 2-for-2 in Northern California with Jerry Hollendorfer,” said Roth. “She’ll be in a stakes coming up, and if she wins that, we’ll send her south and try her against better. She’s a serious blue-blood, so obviously she’ll eventually be retired to the broodmare band.”

LNJ continued to add top-class stock. At the 2014 Keeneland January Sale, they secured Life Happened (Stravinsky) for $750,000. At the time, the mare was the dam of the Grade II winner Vyjack (Into Mischief), but this year her daughter Tepin (Bernstein) emerged as a top-class grass filly, with her wins including the GI Just a Game S.

The 2014 Fasig-Tipton August Sale saw LNJ purchase the auction’s second-highest lot, a $1.15 million daughter of Tapit out of champion She Be Wild (Offlee Wild). The filly, named Propositioned, will ultimately join the Steve Asmussen barn. “During the breaking process, she was training very forwardly,” Roth explained. “She’s a great mover, but being a Tapit, she mentally needed a little time, so we gave her a little vacation, but she’ll head to Steve soon.”

LNJ hasn’t just focused on American pedigrees. In 2012, Solis traveled to the Arqana December Sale and purchased Goldikova (Fr)’s half-sister Gold Round (Ire) (Caerleon) for the equivalent of $672,152.

“She was 15 and they already had a lot of the family, so they decided to sell her,” said Roth. “We were just hoping to get a filly out of her, and we’ve gotten two–one by Dalakhani (Ire) and one by Redoute’s Choice (Aus).”

Gold Round has since been brought to the States and is currently in foal to Kitten’s Joy.

Last season, LNJ struck again overseas, this time at Tattersalls October. There, they secured the yearling Landikusic (Ire) (Dansili {GB}), a full-sister to Zoffany (Ire), for $1,182,027.

“When we bought her, Zoffany was just starting as a stallion for Coolmore, and this year he had three stakes winners at Royal Ascot,” said Roth of Europe’s leading first-crop sire. “She’s currently in training with Jim Bolger.”

From Australia, LNJ has purchased two mares, including Diamond Necklace (Unbridled’s Song), a half-sister to Shamardal who sold at the Inglis Easter Broodmare sale for $556,902.

For an operation just three years into the business, that’s an astonishing array of quality bloodlines. For Roth, it’s about building for the future.

“Alex and I have talked about this, and he always wanted to create a broodmare band like the Wertheimer brothers,” she said. “His dream for us is to create something like they have, but on a smaller scale. Something with top-notch quality where, in 10 or 15 years, we won’t have to go to the sale and buy, because the stock we’re breeding is better than most of what you could find.”

All About the Team…

Talk to Jaime Roth for any length of time, and it becomes obvious that the team-first mentality she picked up as an athlete in school has stayed with her. And Roth, who played soccer, basketball and lacrosse, is clearly proud of the team LNJ has assembled.

“I know how important it is to be around good people in this game,” she said. “I know I’m biased, but I think we’ve surrounded ourselves with some of the best. I feel so confident having Alex and Jason pick our horses. I know they’re not going to buy a horse just because it’s expensive. There have been many horses that we’ve wanted and they said no. But to me, they’re not just business partners. They’re like family now. I probably speak to Alex 15 times a day. Literally. And when we win, I get a phone call from Darby Dan, or I get a call from my friend George Hills, who does our insurance. Or from the great people at Mayberry Farm who break our yearlings. You feel supported by everyone, and that’s important to us. I’m a family person.”

Roth’s confidence extends to LNJ’s trainers. These days, LNJ employs Jerry Hollendorfer and Richard Mandella in California. The latter trains Dreamologist, who became the Hall of Famer’s first winner for LNJ.

“I love Richard–he’s such a good guy,” said Roth. “We were so happy to get that win with him with Dreamologist.”

LNJ’s East Coast-based runners–including Constellation, Inheritance, and Nickname–are with Steve Asmussen.

Roth acknowledges the controversy surrounding Asmussen in recent years, but said the more she got to know Asmussen, the more she trusted him and his program.

“It’s been great with Steve,” she said. “It took a while to find someone who would want to focus on us. We have really nice horses, and we want to be a priority. After Steve had the fall-out with PETA, Alex and Jason made a good move and talked to him. They thought he was a great trainer and knew he lost some clients. So they met him and loved him, and really, he’s been awesome from Day 1. He communicates, he’s honest, and tells you how it is, so your expectations are in line with how your horses run. And I know he cares about his horses so much.”

Roth says the welfare of the horse is priority #1 at LNJ, and going in, wasn’t ignorant of racing’s reputation in some quarters.

“Listen, I was a little iffy about getting into the business,” she said. “I’m an animal lover, and you hear stories that aren’t flattering. I think there are people in my life who still don’t quite understand it. Including one of my brothers, who is a huge animal-rights activist. As am I. I hate to have to feel like you have to justify it, because my family–and Alex and Jason–try to take such good care of the horses. I don’t think there’s anything we could do now differently. We always put the horse first, and we always will. That’s a part of LNJ I love.”

She added, “I’m going to follow every single horse we sell. I’m going to know who owns it, where it races, and if it ends up in an $8,000 claiming race or in the hands of someone I’m not comfortable with, I’m going to get that horse back and do right by it. That was a promise I made to my partner–my wife now–who had some concerns when I got into the sport.”

Asked how Olga feels about LNJ now, Roth laughed. “Oh, she’s a huge part of LNJ now,” she said. “She was more upset than I was when Constellation ran third in the Spinaway. But hey, that was our first Grade I placing. It was great. And she’s been incredibly supportive. She knew it was important for me to find something in my life that I loved to do.”

As the person who convinced her parents to invest so heavily in the sport, Roth feels pressure for LNJ to be successful right from the start. But that pressure has been relieved by the great times the family has already had together in their short time in the business.

“I know they wouldn’t be in this if it wasn’t for me,” said Roth. “So I want the horses to do well because I don’t want them to second guess why we’re doing this. We’ve had some ups and downs, but we’ve also had some amazing things happen, too. It’s exciting, and it’s fun to doing something like this with your parents. It’s something different than just being their daughter, if that makes sense.”

What’s Next for LNJ Foxwoods…

The coming days and weeks will be interesting times for LNJ Foxwoods. After being absent from the sales sheets at Keeneland September over the first two days, Solis and Litt struck for three new prospects on Wednesday. They included a $650,000 War Front half-sister to the Grade I winners Executiveprivilege (First Samurai) and Hoppertunity (Any Given Saturday) (hip 555); a $600,000 Tapit full-sister to champion Hansen (hip 667); and a $500,000 Tapit half-sister to the graded winners Heart Ashley (Lion Heart) and Ashley’s Kitty (Tale of the Cat), and to the stakes winner Indianapolis (Medaglia d’Oro) (hip 522).

According to Roth, the three fell in line with what LNJ is targeting.

“Alex and Jason say they have to check every box,” she said. “First of all, they have to be a great physical. It’s important to us, for the money we spend, to have some family to fall back on. If we’re racing in the U.S., obviously speed is important, so we’re looking for a fast type. And we’re looking for a horse with a good mind. Jason and Alex can see a horse at the sale who has all the other attributes, but if she’s not acting right, she’ll be off the list.”

Friday at September, LNJ will wear the hat of seller. Through Darby Dan, they offer Hip 916, a Medaglia d’Oro colt from the stakes winner and Group 1-placed Hi Dubai (GB) (Rahy), a full-sister to Fantastic Light.

“We sold one horse last year, but we kind of look at this as our first time selling a horse from the LNJ program,” said Roth. “He’s awesome. I saw him two or three weeks after he was born, and even then he was a standout physically. I know Darby Dan was really high on him, and it’s a little bittersweet, but you have to sell. We have to bring money into the business, and run it as a business. I also want to be a good breeder. I don’t want to just keep all our horses. I want people to think that LNJ breeds great horses.”

In all, LNJ has 51 horses in total, including its new September purchases. There are 14 broodmares and 17 horses in training, with the rest a mix of weanlings and yearlings. Roth said the target goal is around 40, and said that LNJ could soon pare down its numbers by selling a few fillies.

On the track, LNJ has at least five fillies–Constellation, Nickname, Dreamologist, Super Majesty, and Mystery Strike–who could make their next starts in stakes company. Constellation is being pointed at the six-furlong GII Matron S. at Belmont Oct. 18. Nickname will target the GI Frizette S. Oct. 3. A big effort from the latter could stamp her ticket to the GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies.

Dreamologist is being aimed at the grassy Autumn Miss S. at Santa Anita Oct. 17. Super Majesty has a nearer target–she goes in Saturday’s GIII Dogwood S. at Churchill Downs.

As the stable develops on the track in the breeding shed, Roth said there’s another component to LNJ’s growth. “I’m trying to learn every day and trying to make myself smarter everyday about this business,” she said. Asked if someday she’d like to be part of the buying process for LNJ, Roth said, “I hope one day, maybe 10 years from now, I could go to the sales with Alex and Jason and pick out a horse that checks all the boxes they’re looking for. But really, it’s hard for me to look at a horse and see what they see. But one day I’d like to pick out a horse that’s already on their shortlist.”

Ultimately, Roth has bigger ambitions for LNJ Foxwoods.

“Fifty years from now, I want to pass this one to my children–if I have children one day–and I want them to love it, and to think it’s awesome,” she said. “I’d love to pass it one from one generation to another, and for Foxwoods to be known as a really great racing and breeding operation.”

 

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