After Lothenbach Dispersal, Pessin Looks To Regroup

Neil Pessin | Sarah Andrew

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For nearly 20 years, trainer Neil Pessin didn't have to worry about filling up his barn. His principal owner, Bob Lothenbach, kept sending horses his way. That included a Grade I winner in Bell's the One (Majesticperfection) and several useful allowance horses. Pessin was training a 22-horse stable and 19 of them were owned by Lothenbach.

“Bob was an excellent owner,” Pessin said. “He knew our field of expertise was training horses and his was the paper business. Anytime I asked for anything that involved the welfare of the horse he was on board for it.”

Everything changed in November when Lothenbach died suddenly at the age of 64. With the Lothenbach horses headed to a dispersal sale, Pessin was down to three horses and faced with the task of having to rebuild his stable, practically from scratch.

The only thing he knew for certain was that panicking was not the answer.

“I'm not nervous about my future,” Pessin said. “You can't worry about stuff you can't control. You just do what you can and hope for the best. I've learned that worrying doesn't do a whole lot except give me ulcers. Just take it in stride and see what happens. More people are worried about this than I am. We'll just see what happens. If an opportunity arises we'll take it. If it doesn't we'll see what the future holds. I'm not sure at the moment. Hopefully, we can survive. If not, we'll do something else.”

It doesn't look like Pessin will have to “do something else.” Out of the dispersal sale, which was done digitally by Fasig-Tipton, Pessin signed for five horses. They ranged in price from the $340,000 paid for Grade III stakes winner Happy American (Runhappy) to the $18,000 paid for maiden Hogslayers R I P (Union Rags). The horses will be owned by a five-member syndicate that Pessin put together in order to buy some horses out of the dispersal sale.

“Buying Happy American was pretty self explanatory,” he said. “There's a race coming up here at the Fair Grounds, the Mineshaft Stakes. The purse is $250,000 and the winner gets $150,000. He'll be one of the favorites. The $150,000 the winner will get would pay for almost half of him. He's worth it. He can compete in all the stakes around here. He can't beat the top horses, but if you spot him around he can be a very useful horse all year long.”

He also retained the gelding Kiss The Moon (Malibu Moon), who was bought by Anthony Spinazzola, who decided to keep the horse with Pessin.

That has left Pessin with nine horses.

The Lothenbach 2-year-olds will sell at OBS March.

“It's possible that I might buy some of the 2-year-olds,” he said. “If anyone is interested I'll go take a look at them. I bought 14 of them myself at the yearling sales. But if I don't have the money behind me to do it then I'm not going to be able to buy anything.”

He's had some feelers from owners interested in giving him horses and hopes some new horses will come his way from owners looking to compete at the Keeneland spring meet. But he's not going to go begging.

“I've never asked anybody for any horses and I'm not going to start now,” Pessin said. “Right now we have these five horses that we bought and three others in barn. I'll just have to go forward and see what happens. One way or another I'll be fine. You can't worry about what you can't change.”

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