BC Stables LLC: In Wayne We Trust

Brian Coelho, John Bellinger, and Wayne Lukas at the 2022 Keeneland September Sale, where they bought Just Steel | Keeneland


When Hall of Famer Wayne Lukas sends out Just Steel (Justify) in this year's GI Kentucky Derby it will be his first starter in the race since 2018. Lukas, 88, is a perpetual optimist, but even he had to be worrying that he had had his last Derby starter. It wasn't Lukas. Even at his age he never slowed down. It was the sport's top owners. Many wouldn't send a horse to an octogenarian, knocking on the door of 90, even one considered to be one of the greatest trainers ever.

What he needed was someone who so valued his experience and ability that they didn't worry about the age factor. And he found them. Lukas's most important owners are now Brian Coelho and John Bellinger, who run under the name of BC Stables LLC. Thanks to Lukas, they are about to achieve an important goal, to get a horse into the Kentucky Derby. Just Steel was purchased by Lukas and the BC team for $500,000 at the 2022 Keeneland September sale. He is 20-1 in the morning line, but is coming off the best race of his career, a second-place finish in the GI Arkansas Derby. He has a chance.

“I've known Wayne for 10 years and I liked him from day one,” Bellinger said. “He and I hit it off well. With business dealings and partnerships it's all about getting along with people more than anything. Wayne and I saw eye to eye. I didn't care about his age. What I loved was his experience. We moved quickly. We needed to buy some horses and I knew Wayne. I never doubted the decision to go to Wayne. There are other great trainers and they don't know me from Adam. I knew Wayne and he knew me. It was an easy move for me to make.”

Bellinger is based in Texas and he and his wife own several companies, the biggest of which is a laboratory business that tests food products. Coelho is from California and owns the largest cattle feeding operation in the state, as well as meat processing plants. The two had talked about going into racing for years, and finally decided to do so just prior to the 2021 Keeneland September sale.

“About four years ago, we were in a good position financially and we thought it was a good time in our lives to dabble a little bit,” Coelho said. “We got on the phone with Wayne one September and talked over a plan with the idea that we'd make a run and try to get into the Derby and try to get Wayne back to the Derby one more time. That day we bought four yearlings at Keeneland and here we are.

“I think that being in the sport ourselves we were looking for somebody with the experience who could not only train good horses but teach us as well,” Coelho continued. “We felt there was still opportunity with him. With the amount of time we have spent with Wayne and from his knowledge, what we have learned these last four years is invaluable. We had faith he could get us here and he has proven he can do that.”

Bellinger and Coelho were just getting started. They bought four more horses at the 2022 Keeneland September sale, including an Into Mischief colt that cost $1 million and a Quality Road colt that cost $1.15 million. Coelho said that he and Bellinger have about 20 horses with Lukas, including five yearlings bought at the 2023 Keeneland Sale. Coelho predicted that this year's 2-year-olds will prove to be the best group they have sent Lukas's way so far.

Both Coelho and Bellinger have witnessed first hand what it has meant to Lukas to be given this chance by the owners.

“Over the last three years, people who are close to him will tell us that this has revitalized Wayne,” Coelho said. “He's actually in a better place physically and mentally than he was a few years ago because of the opportunities we've given him. Wayne has worked his tail off to get us here. He knows we've invested a lot of money and put a lot of faith in him. He wanted to get here to this year's Derby just as much for us as for himself.”

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